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2 MILE-3200 METERS
Extreme Barefoot Running - Taking Barefoot Running to the Trail
By Rick Morris
Since you're reading this I assume that you have already jumped into the world of barefoot running with both bare feet. On the other hand I suppose I should never assume since the quasi acronym of assume; it makes an ass out of u and me, often holds true. If you haven't already began the training necessary to toughen up your feet and legs for extreme barefoot running you should hit the home button and take a look at the more basic barefoot running information. Don't even think about barefoot trail running until you have mastered barefoot running on more tame and forgiving surfaces.
You probably already know that barefoot running on grass and debris free roads has a lot of great benefits along with a few additional risks. Running on the rough, tough, uneven, steep and debris filled trails throw even more barefoot running hazards your way. Even the toughest of feet can feel the pain and suffer the unfortunate consequences of sharp stones, thorns, loose gravel, bumps, dips, drop offs and the occasional toe jamming roots and rocks. Does that mean you shouldn't run barefoot on the trails? Not at all. I do it all the time and love it. There is something very aboriginal and untamed about barefoot trail running that even surpasses the feeling of freedom you get from barefoot road running. But those great sensations can come at a cost. More than once, I have returned from a barefoot trail run with bruised and bloodied feet. Is it worth that risk? To me it is, but you need to decide for yourself.
If you take the leap into extreme barefoot trail running here are a few tips to help you get back to home base as unscathed as possible.
Prepare Your Body
Obviously, the surface of most natural trails are rougher, sharper and more uneven than smooth grass or paved road surfaces. Make sure you toughen the soles of your feet by training on smooth road surfaces before graduating to smoother urban trails and finally on to full blown backcountry trails. Once you can run on roads and urban trails without discomfort you should be ready for the backcountry. Also do lower leg strength training exercises on a regular basis to improve both the strength and proprioceptive ability of your feet and lower leg muscles.
Bring Your Shoes
It would be a really bad day running if you were to be at mile 6 of a 12 mile trail run and end up cutting your foot on a sharp stone or breaking a toe on a root. Throw your shoes in your trail running pack. If you run into trouble or just have a case of sore feet you will be able to put on your shoes for a more comfortable run home.
Your shoes will get you home but they won't treat cuts, sprains, bruises or breaks. It's a good idea to carry a first aid kit even when performing shod trail running, but it's especially important when trail running barefoot. Make sure your kit includes athletic tape to temporarily secure a jammed or broken toe, bandages for cuts and scrapes, antiseptic ointment to prevent infection, wipes to clean a wound and an elastic wrap for sprains or to wrap your foot. Also throw in some pain relievers and anti inflammatories. I know from experience that a cut on the sole of your foot and a sprained toe really hurts.
Start Short and Slow
For your first extreme barefoot trail run I would avoid going out for a fast 12 miler. Start out short and slow. Do only a mile or two barefoot at an easy pace for your first outing. If you have a longer trail run planned, throw your shoes on after a couple of miles and finish with your shoes on. As your barefoot fitness and experience grows you can extend the distance and increase your aggressiveness.
Do It For Yourself
Finally, don't go for a barefoot trail run because it's become the trendy thing to do or to impress anyone else. Only take on the barefoot trails if it's something you really want to do and experience. Barefoot running is great and it makes you a more holistic runner, but it does have hazards; so do it only for yourself.
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