Saturday, November 28, 2009

barefoot running on trails

While my friends were cycling and running around White Rock Lake Saturday morning, I ventured out to Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano for my first trail run in my Vibram fivefingers.

I had worn them for a couple of weeks, ran to and alongside the Chisholm Trail near my home, and walked and ran in them on my parent's farm while there for Thanksgiving. But, I had not taken them out on true trails.

I chose the well-worn mountain bike trail at Arbor Hills for my test run. It was closed to bikes because of the mud, but I jumped on anyway knowing I would leave few if any tracks.

I made two loops (with a double loop about half way). I ran for an hour and 7 minutes total. The terrain was varied with exposed roots, rocks, mud and leaf cover. I was cautious at first, but I had gotten the feel of the non-shoes before so it was just getting familiar with this trail. The rocks, of course, slowed me down the most, and the deeper troughs left by bikes were difficult but no different than running in shoes. You can run on rocks in these things--you just run lighter over those parts.

Leaves covered some objects which I stepped on, and strikes to the instep were the worst; but, the foot has a way of recovering in a way the pain subsides fairly quickly. No sticks between the toes, and the mud did not stick to my fivefingers like it does to shoes. I never stopped to rake mud off my feet like I do with shoes.

At the end of the run the balls of my feet were somewhat sore, but no blisters or hot spots on my feet. Wearing and jogging in them two weeks plus prior was the key. I even dropped my car off for an oil change on the way home and jogged on the concrete to the house. No problems.

Don't try running barefoot on trails unless you have trailrunning experience. Foot placement is everything in trail running and more so with bare feet. I concentrated more than usual, but eventually got into the rhythm of running trails as time went on. Going uphill was easier than in shoes, but downhill slowed me down. It's mental, and I'll gain confidence as I learn how to increase my speed without fearing stepping on something.

All in all, it was a great first run, and I'll do it again. You can run barefoot in these "shoes"--even on rocky trails.

My meditation as I ran was the Psalmist's praise: He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. (Psalm 18:33) A song I have sung many times before on trails.

I set two goals today: Grasslands 50 miler in March and Wheeler Peak in May in my fivefingers.


Jeremy said...

good post. Always an adventure running barefoot on trails. I avoid it though my belief is in barefoot is best. I run in the backwoods with cactus and there is no way I am running barefoot there and FiveFingers are even an adventure so I have "zeroed" out my running shoes. See more on my blog at

MikeS said...

Gene - sounds very interesting. Which FiveFingers are you wearing?

Thinnmann said...

Just don't go crazy with the VFF's on trails. I broke a toe when I kicked a root really really hard, wearing VFF's on a trail. I admit I was talking, not paying as much attention as I should have been. But fatigue, visibility, going fast - it all presents that possibility. Lesson learned: I am not going to use the VFF's on trails with roots and rocks from here on in. But good luck!

faithrunner said...

Thanks for the posts and comments. I'm sure cactus would limit my desire to run barefoot, too! MacDougall said he had broken two toes himself. So, I guess it comes with the terrain you are running. The trails at AH offer plenty of opportunities for injury, so, I won't be wearing the VFFs for speed, that's for sure.

Mike, the link to vibram's five fingers is