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From Shoes to Unshod, and My Love Affair with FiveFingers in Between (The Finale)

by Christine Skelly » on Apr 13, 2011 2

This is part 4 in a series on transitioning to barefoot running by Christine Skelly.  You can read Part 1 herePart 2 here, Part 2.5 here, and Part 3 here.

The next experience was a few days later, and was equally as impulsive. Being in college, I unfortunately exemplify the student with a strange sleep schedule and was awake at 7 in the morning after a nap had thrown off my ability to sleep. So I viewed this as the best opportunity to feed the chance I never felt I had to test out barefoot running, an idea that I had in the back of my head.

Certainly not ideal conditions.

But then again, life is not always ideal. Still being March in coastal Virginia, the weather provided an especially windy March morning with a balmy temperature of 40 degrees. Now, if you read some of the barefoot forums (which I did afterwards) they tell you: Do NOT go running in too cold of conditions. But like I said, I never ease into anything, I usually jump in both feet first, especially in this case.

40 degrees and Chesapeake Bay wind whipped at my feet as I stood outside contemplating the sanity of this venture. Sanity got left in the cul-de-sac as I headed down the sidewalk along my neighborhood of condos before reaching the beach. The concrete was unpleasant. Tough. Unforgiving. Like the evil school teacher who you never forgot from your childhood. After only a few minutes I reached the beach and had lost all feeling in my feet. Looking at them pre-run, they were ghostly, but now they were bright red, angry at me for undergoing this strange form of punishment. I was able to run maybe a bit over a mile, or a mile and a quarter (12 minutes) since my stomach started hurting and I was beyond frozen. But despite my sweat and red face, my bold venture had felt like a warm up. I was in no way tired or winded, but I received the same runner’s high.

I continued for the rest of the week running every single day for 18-22 minutes (~2 miles) and remained thoroughly impressed with the fact that I could now run more than 15 minutes and not be reduced to a helpless bag of mush by the time I was home.
I was shocked by 3 things most in this week-long experiment:

1) I could run longer and not get tired.

When I began doing 20 minute runs, I often times would feel like the run was cut short and was only a warm up (I returned to spend time with my family) and that I could have gone much longer, and my body felt that these short runs were only a tease of what it could really perform.

2) The immediate results in my physique.

The day after I did my wimpy 12 minute run I felt my calves become unlike anything I had seen before. They were like puppies that had evolved overnight into wolves: beasts ready for battle and more than eager to serve their master. The results blew me away: muscles like that had taken me more than 2 weeks to get in my FiveFingers, and that was with dreaded squats and lunges. How did this new phenomenon wake the untapped potential my body had never known?

3) I wanted to run.

I needed to run. I woke up every day and it was the first thing I wanted to do. My puppies were scratching at the door eager to go out and take their morning rounds. The want to run was the most surprising of them all because running was not a task, it was not even a tool to achieve an aesthetically desirable physique. It was play time, and we all know you will pursue something over and over if you enjoy it, rather than dread waking up to your shoes in the morning.

The last effect was a pleasant freebie. I was always so exhausted every night from running I would fall asleep around 2 a.m. and wake up no later than 9:30 a.m. without an alarm the next day, something I have never experienced since I have always been a night person.

I was spoiled this week that I began barefoot running since I always had sand to run on, and not the concrete jungle which I normally reside in during my schooling.

The different terrains certainly make a difference, and the jungle fought back the time I ventured out in it without any protection. But that is for another time.


Has anyone ventured out barefoot and has any good stories?
Or even tried walking part of the day barefoot? What do you like or dislike about it?
If you have any questions, I can try to answer them!


  1. Tommy

    April 14th, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Hey Christine, Great story! I have been wearing Vibrams for the past year or so, and started experimenting with pure barefoot running in 2011. My experiment was on a business trip. I am from Atlanta, but was in Arizona for a week and the temps in January felt like late spring weather. So, one morning at 6am as I was running through the town in my VIbrams, I thought, “I’m in a town where no one knows me, it’s warm out, and the sidewalk seems quite smooth…why not?” I ran barefoot for the first time (aside from beach runs) and it was amazing. Had to watch out for cactus since I was in AZ, but other than that, it was blissful.

    Since then, I am just taking my time transitioning by running in Vibrams, finding a barefoot-friendly area, losing my shoes, and working in a shorter barefoot run as part of my regiment. I run better, more consciously, my form/gait/posture have improved, and I get lots of comments on my calf muscles from folks.

    So, outside of running, do you spend most of your time in bare feet, or do you think going barefoot more often (when not running) is healthy? I am not a fanatic about it, but I do try to be barefoot when life allows (working from home as a writer helps). I don’t go grocery shopping in bare feet or anything, but at home, on walks, etc, I try to not confine myself to shoes if I can help it.

    Thanks again for a great story, and best of luck!


  2. Todd

    June 16th, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Hey Christine, great series of articles. I’ve been wearing VFF’s for almost two years now and absolutely love them. I’ve recently been going barefoot 80% of the time. Going to stores and such I’ll still put shoes on but, when I’m around the house or going to friends I am barefoot. My family is scared I’m going hippie on them but, I love the feeling of being “free”. The connection you gain with the Earth is indescribable. I’ve been trending the ways of minimalism for about a year now and losing the shoes was my next step. I haven’t been able to handle running in bare feet, yet. My driveway is gravel and the roads we live on are quite rough so it’s still a bit out of reach. I have notice though that since going barefoot around the house and such that the calluses on my feet are becoming thicker and I’m able to withstand rougher terrain. I’m hoping by end of summer to be able to comfortably run without my VFF’s.
    It’s good to see that so many people are trending towards the natural way of running now. Keep up the great articles and thank you.



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