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If you give a friend ‘Born to Run’

If you give a friend the book Born to Run, he’s going to stop wearing shoes. If he stops wearing shoes, he’s going to go grocery shopping in his bare feet…

Baby steps

Baby steps

That’s the foot of my newest recruit, headed to Kroger without shoes.  The sock line gives it all away. You can tell his stomper hasn’t seen the sun this summer, but a few barefoot runs, a little melanin and he’ll look like a natural.

Playing catch up

So far it’s been a great summer for barefooting—so great in fact, that I have neglected blogging. I appreciate all those who have checked in and asked how I was doing. Here’s a recap:

Free at last!

My youngest child took off his shoes after the last day of preschool and hasn’t put them on since. That’s a full six weeks without shoes. I’m anticipating a tough transition when he returns to the shod world in August.

Putting on his socks and shoes for the last time until fall.

Putting on his socks and shoes for the last time until fall.

Kicking it around town

We’ve been all over in our bare feet, including a museum, a baseball game, shopping and out to eat. My kids’ friends are often with us and they usually end up barefoot, too.

Out to eat in our bare feet

Out to eat in our bare feet

Swim. Bike. Run.

I finished my second triathlon. I participated as part of a relay team, as well as an individual. It was during this race last year that I broke my foot and ended up hobbling across the finish line. I am happy to report that this year I sprinted across the finish on two healthy  feet.

My triathlon buddies. I wore two timing chips. One for me, and one for my relay team.

My triathlon buddies. I wore two timing chips. One for me, and one for my relay team.

Of course, no one wore shoes for the swim portion of the race. I laughed at all the normally shod folks gingerly walking down to the water like they were crossing a tile floor covered in Legos. I wore cycling shoes for the bike portion—I have yet to try barefoot biking—but after the ride, I tore off those shoes and hit the trail. Some people actually thought I had just forgotten to pack my running shoes and was running barefooted, so I didn’t have to forfeit the race.

The Shoe Police

Over the weekend, I had my first encounter in a long time with the Shoe Police. I was out with my husband, celebrating our half anniversary (yes, we do that), when I was told by the server that I had to put on my shoes. Really?! Normally, I politely resist and am eventually allowed to continue what I am doing without anything on my feet. However, not wanting to embarrass my husband who hates a scene, I did not argue. Instead, I simply stood up and walked out.

We've been married 14.5 years. Happy half to us!

We’ve been married 14.5 years. Happy half to us!

And now you’re caught up.

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Take your paws to the pavement

Beezus, my 11-month-old standard poodle, my daughter, and I all love running without shoes.

Beezus, my 11-month-old standard poodle, my daughter, and I all love running without shoes.

It’s Cinco de Mayo! The day we celebrate when Mexico… OK, I have no idea what we are celebrating on Cinco de Mayo. May 5, for us gringos, is just an excuse to eat nachos and get drunk, right? But before you get completely sloshed on those margaritas and mojitos, let me tell you that today is also International Barefoot Running Day. Barefoot runners all over the globe are congregating for barefoot running events.

Here in Mississippi, the celebration has been pretty quiet. In fact, the only barefoot running event I know about was when my running buddy and me took our paws to the pavement for an easy three mile run. My daughter, also barefoot, joined us for the first few yards.

I say there’s no reason you can’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo and International Barefoot Running Day during the same 24 hours. So, take off your shoes and socks and go for a run or a walk and feel the earth beneath you. Then come home and hit the queso dip and tequila like there’s no tomorrow. Descalzo Día feliz!

My feet could use some waffle-stomping traction

Before and after with Verity Violent. (I have no idea who that guy in the corner is, but he's had that badass warrior tattoo long before the invention of obstacle course races.)

Before and after with Verity Violent. (I have no idea who that guy in the corner is, but he’s had that badass warrior tattoo long before the invention of obstacle course races.)

Rope burns on my hands, scratches all over my arms and legs, and I’ll be blowing gritty brown boogers for the next three days. Yes, I just completed my second Warrior Dash. I scaled walls, jumped over fire and sniper crawled under barbed wire through splishy-sploshy mud.

Last year was the first time this race was in Mississippi, and knowing what fatties we all are here, I am pretty sure the folks planning the event were just taking it easy on us. I came home after that race so energized that I went out and ran another four miles. This year, I was toast.

The most challenging obstacle for me was scaling the “Vicious Valley.” The task: pulling myself over four towering plywood A-frames. I managed getting over the first one, but the second one was covered in mud, and for the first time during the race, I wish I had on shoes. My bare feet were giving me no traction. I kept getting close to the top and then I’d lose my footing and fall. Over and over I tried, and every time my feet would slip on the mud. After a line of people waiting for a chance to try started forming behind me, I decided to just move on to the next obstacle. Toward the end of the race there was yet another plywood wall to scale. I wasn’t going to give in so easily this time, and I managed to find enough mud-free patches to keep my footing and get up and over. Yay!

If I could do it over again, I would tie a pair of Vibram FiveFingers around my waist and slip them on before tackling the A-frames. I think they would have given me just enough leverage against the mud to keep me from falling. I also would not have had that Miller Lite after the race, on an empty stomach and just before getting on a bumpy school bus headed for the Warrior Dash parking lot. No, seriously. What was I thinking?

One Day Without Shoes

toms
In case you missed it, April 16 was the annual “One Day Without Shoes” event sponsored by the touchy-feely shoe company Toms. The day was meant to raise awareness about Toms feel-good marketing strategy: buy a pair of cheap canvas loafers for at least three times their value and Toms will ship another pair to some poor kid in the third world.

Yes, I am cynical. The Toms campaign reminds me a little of Nestle and other baby formula companies who pushed their products on the third world, getting mothers who would otherwise be breastfeeding, to switch to formula. Trendy shoes and powdered formula are first world luxuries that have got to be low on the list of needs in the third world. Might as well send them a DVR while we’re at it, so they’ll never again miss an episode of True Blood. Or maybe a Keurig. A single-cup coffee brewer is practically a necessity! Who wants to brew a whole pot if you only need one cup?

Of course, as shoes go, Toms are pretty good. They are flat, flexible, and offer minimal support. They are much better than say, Asics Gels, or some other overly-cushioned and supportive athletic shoe. Plus, the ones with glitter and sparkles are *gulp* even cute. And if the “One Day Without Shoes” event gives people the courage to try public barefooting, then I am on board.

A friend from high school decided she would try out “One Day Without Shoes,” and I was pretty excited to hear about her experience. She is a socially-conscious, earth-loving, artistic and free-spirited mama, who, surprisingly, never tried going out barefoot before Toms designated the day. On April 16, she hit Lowes, the orthodontist, her daughter’s school and jujitsu class in her naked soles. In a Facebook message she said, “I was very aware of my surroundings. When I parked at the school to get my kidlets for jujitsu I opened the door and looked down FIRST to see what may have been vomit. I did not step in it!!!!”

“One Day Without Shoes” is supposed to help people feel empathy for those poor kids who don’t have anything to put on their feet, but I wonder how many people who participated in the event instead found the experience really enjoyable. My friend did: “It was fun! I think I will go barefoot more places. Felt good to be connected to the ground and to slow down for each foot placement!”

Those are her cute feet pictured above. With feet like that, who needs shoes?

Color me barefoot!

Before and after the race... My Xero shoes... And running into an old friend in her Vibram FiveFingers

Before and after the race… My Xero shoes… And running into an old friend in her Vibram FiveFingers

Last night I dreamed my foot was hurting. I tossed and turned, fretting over the Color Me Rad race. Do I run anyway? Should I play it safe and skip it? Maybe I should just go and cheer on my friends. I was so relieved when I woke up and realized my foot was feeling  just fine.

The Color Me Rad 5K was the first race I have participated in since my stress fracture last June in the Heatwave Classic Triathlon. During the race, volunteers throw packets of colored corn starch at you and spray you with paint. Runners are supposed to wear white so that by the finish line you like you rolled around in a giant bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Sounds rad, right? Running with friends and being silly was totally rad. Dealing with corn starch in your nose, mouth and eyes, not so much. It was kind of like going to the beach. It’s so fun while you’re there but when you take a shower afterwards you say, “How in the world did all this sand end up there?” Same thing with the corn starch.

This race was also my first time running any significant distance in my new Xero shoes, huarache sandals similar to the ones worn by the Tarahumara indian tribe discussed in the book Born to Run. They are essentially 4mm of rubber tied on my feet with some nylon laces. I opted for my Xero shoes, instead of going totally barefoot, because the City of Jackson is not known for its well-maintained streets and my soles have been spoiled by the paved trail and smooth streets of the suburbs where I normally run. During the race, I heard a lot of people say things like, “She’s running in sandals!” and “Look at her! Is she running in flip flops?” Never mind the guy in the fat Elvis suit. Or the fact that every single runner was covered in corn starch and half the runners were wearing tutus and rainbow-colored socks up to their knees, my little strappy running sandals made me the oddball.

 Next up: Warrior Dash. Can’t wait!

Video

In defense of ‘socks’ education

I may be an avid barefooter, but I do support the wearing of “socks.” I mean, if you are going to put your foot in a shoe, please wear a sock. Socks don’t offer 100% protection for your foot, but it is pretty irresponsible to wear shoes without them, especially if you plan to wear other shoes throughout your lifetime. Surprising, but not all people know the proper way to put on a sock. This video shows you step-by-step.

It’s actually against the law to discuss sock-wearing in Mississippi schools. My son just finished up a two-week abstinence program in his school, where he learned to save shoes until marriage. Socks and other foot protection were not addressed at all. I am OK with this for 5th grade curriculum, but Mississippi’s teen pregnancy rate is evidence that sock wearing and other foot protection is an issue that shouldn’t be ignored in the upper grades. Why can’t socks be discussed in the classroom in a matter-of-fact sort of way? Give them information about socks and other forms of foot protection, and leave the moral implications to the parents and religious leaders. Just because they know about socks, doesn’t automatically mean they’ll choose to wear shoes before they are ready.

So, do I think teenagers should be wearing shoes? Heavens no! But I know many teens will put on shoes anyway, and if they do, I hope they know to put on socks first.

As if I care… OK, sometimes I do

That’s me at the Titan Tone Up kick-off

Hello? Is there anyone there? Are any of you reading this?

If you have wondered (or cared) why I have been neglecting my barefoot updates, it is not because I haven’t had anything to say, or because I gave up barefooting. What has kept me from doting on my blog as much as I’d like is the Titan Tone Up—a six-week fitness program that we just launched last week at both my son’s and my daughter’s schools. I’ve been working on this program since school started last August and like most things I endeavor, it was a lot more work than I had anticipated. This column was published today (and written by me) about the Titan Tone Up program. If y’all are interested in learning more about it, take it look.  

That said, the one thing that has gotten me into shoes these past five months is the Titan Tone Up. In planning this program, I have had to contact numerous local businesses to ask for donations. Except for when I met with the owner of a taekwondo academy, I have worn shoes for these meetings, because nothing instills confidence in a person asking you for donations than bare feet, right? I wish! “Who is this shoeless woman asking me for 1,500 water bottles? She says she’s with the schools, but she’s probably just some deranged vagrant.”

My quick response when people ask me why I am not wearing shoes has always been, “Because I don’t like wearing shoes, and I no longer care what other people think.” But of course, when it affects my kids and their schools, I do care. So, I suck it up.

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