Running Barefoot

Last summer and fall, as I took my daily 20-30-minute walk during my lunch break, I noticed someone running barefoot several times a week. The first thought to cross my mind was: What about rocks, broken glass, tin cans, gum, even bird droppings? Why was she doing it and was it safe? Oh, well, I thought, it’s none of my business what other people do with their feet.

One night this spring, while driving home from work, I saw what looked like a UI student running barefoot, and, the next evening, I saw a group of students running barefoot. Since then, I have noticed barefoot runners several times around the UI campus. What is going on—a barefoot phenomenon?

I tried to do a little research on the subject and some of the sites I visited were so technical that it was a little above my head. Some explained “the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes” in great detail. The gist was that barefoot runners land on their feet in a way that avoids a jarring impact. One site said to remember the three-times rule (one barefoot mile = three miles in a shoe). There’s even a site called runningbarefootisbad.com.

One interesting fact that I found while researching was that in the 1960 Summer Olympics, Abebe Bikila won an Olympic gold medal for Ethiopia running barefoot.

As a child, I would “go barefoot” all summer, only donning shoes for church on Sundays, but I guess I have gotten soft in my old age and prefer to keep my feet nice and clean and cut- and bruise-free. As far as others running barefoot, I revert to my original opinion—it’s none of my business what other people do with their feet!

Jane Kirsch
Programs Assistant

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