Barefoot Running – the Soul of a runner

Posted on January 10, 2009 by

My running story started back when I was in my teens and my bike broke. I had a crush on a girl that lived across town and started running in my Converses to go see her. After I realized I couldnt fix my broken bike frame and didnt have the money to buy another one I started not only running across and around town but out of town until I had to turn back due to dehydration or the threat of frostbite feet depending on the time of the year.

My parents eventually bought me another bike (one with gears this time) and I forgot about running until High School Crosss Country came along and I longed to run with others.
I didnt know it at the time buy riding a bike in Converses really atrophied a lot of stabilizing muscles in my hips, legs, ankles and feet. As the Cross Country season went a long and we moved into indoor track to ready for Spring Track I begain to struggle with blisters. Never had them before….

Eventually the pain of uncomfortable feet led me back to cycling.

Late in my High School years a bicycle race team discovered my natural endurance and abiility to fast over long miles into head winds.

Fast forward 3 yrs into my bicycle racing career I wake up one day from my now normal 500 mile per week racing and training schedule feeling over trained and decide at the end of the season to take a break and go back to running again to freshen up my head and body.

30 days into my return to running I’m doing runs of up to 18 miles at a time 2-3 times per week with 8-12 milers in between with no desire for rest days.

60 days out I decide to go run the St. Louis Marathon. I end up with a finishing time of 2:32:30 in my first attempt at a formal event. (At that time that was 2:30:30 off qualifying for Boston!) I started to have dreams of becoming a Super Start in the running world at that point.

After a week of recovering from the soreness of the above effort I decide to up my distance and speed to get even better! More hills, more fartlek….

Long story short; I knew nothing about over running the heals of shoes and just ran my shoes until my socks showed through on the heals or my toes wore though at the front tops of the shoes.

A couple months of this and my right knee self distructed. Did I mention that the Mid West of the USA has quiet a bit of snow in the winters and lots of rain the rest of the year? The signifigence of this is the roads are very canted or sloped to provide for runoff of melting snow and pouring rain.

The down side is that running on the same side of the road daily can lead to severe structural imbalanced throughout the whole human musculoskeletal system.

After trying many different shoes to cure the problem I returned to cycling out of frustration and a need for my endurance fix without joint pain.

Fast forward 35 yrs or so I am realizing that no matter how exotic a bike I built and road I had a nagging feeling that I no longer wanted to ride bikes nor got much satisfaction out of it even if I road 160 miles in a day.

The straw that broke the Camels Back was when my new $12,000.00 custom built carbon fiber wonder bike decided to disentegrate at about 43 mph on a 7% downhill in route to work one morning 2 yrs ago.

After scraping my flesh up off the asphalt and hitching a ride home with a passerby and having to lay on my non bloody side in the back of their Honda CRV I knew I was done with cycling. Never again would I rely on machines to get me across the planet unless it was absolutely necessary or an emergency.

I got my money back on the wonder bike and my physical wounds healed over time. The ache in my soul for lung busting aerobic threshold endurance rides did not go away.

After researching to death the idea of what kind of bike I’d like to build to replace the rig that committed suicide the thought came to me to give running a try again.

I bought a pair of $120 Asic Nimbus Gel shoes and off I went. In all of a mile or so I realized my right knee was still thinking that running = self destruct.

I rested and walked until the irratation would go away… or at least almost.

I managed to use that process to get me up to 12-17 mile runs but these runs always ended in severe foot, ankle, shin, knee, hip, shoulder and neck pain.

I thought that if I just dialed in the right kind of show or orthotic I’d be perfect and could run forever on auto pilot!

I was going through a $120 pair of shoes every 3 weeks. I was wearing out the heals in that little bit of time and with only about 25-40 miles per week!

One day like with the bike I realized that if I didnt find a real and perminant solution to my heal strike (more cushioning?) and the pains shooting up and down my body after every run that were supposed to leave me feeling euphoric my running efforts would be in vain and die a short death as I remembered the Podiatrist from back in my marathoning days telling me that if I kept on running I would need to have my right knee replaced.

It was at this point that I literally got on my knees and asked God to guide me through to a non surgical solution that would allow me to run pain free for the rest of my life. I absolutely did not want to have to get back on a bike!

It was 30 days to the day in my now hobbling efforts at running that I woke up at 130am to the sound of a voice telling me to “Go for a Run!”

It was so clear and sounded like it was coming from both inside my head and from everywhere in the room… Yet my wife lay there sound asleep next to me!

I slipped on some shorts and a shirt, my running shoes and not knowing how far I was going or when I would return I slipped on my Camel Bak and headed for the door.

Just after getting out the door when that same voice said, “Take off the shoes!” I stopped in my tracks and said, “What?” and as clear as a bell….”Take off the shoes!” was stated again.

I was so awestruck by this that I simply reached down and took off my shoes and socks and stuck them in my Camel Bak! It was as if somehow I knew this mean running with no shoes! I thought this is crazy and might take me 100 yards!

3 miles later I was so euphoric and I could feel that the twisting in my right knee was nonexistance! I knew then that it was God that was hearing and answering my prayers! Then I realized that the soles of my feet were getting tender and it was time to head back home.

It was this day that the vail was removed from my eyes as to how important feeling through my feet was supposed to be and the price I had paid for “Cageing” my feet for so many decades.

I came home feeling elated and ready to accept sleep to allow time for my feet to recover.

I woke up remembering the Kenyon’s who I had heard of in my teen years who ran barefoot and decided to google “Barefoot Running” and that’s when I discovered I was not alone in this madness tainted with gladness! I found Barefoot KenBob Saxton’s site

I bought a pair of Vibram Fivefingers as transition shoes for the days when I needed to rest my soles so they could either grow more skin or soak up the bruising they would endure until I learned to land gently and to watch where I put my feet along the paths of my runs. (Running with shoes does encourage one to go blind to what you will run over in the way of rocks, glass, nails, sticks, etcetera resulting in a foot strike and over striding that pounds the you know what out of feet and everthing attached to them.)

Then I found his email address and emailed him for insight about the pattern of problems I was coming from thinking he would have some special wisdom of “Do this and do that” kind of feed back.

Instead his wisdom was as simple as the comment, “Barefoot Running forces correct biomechanics!”

This hit me like a ton of bricks! I’d spent decades studying the biomechanics of cycling and the perfection of the bike frame but had never even considered that their might be a blue print for perfect running built into the body itself! That’s when I also realized that I like millions of other runners had been subtly snow jobbed by the commonality of our societys snow blindness to why we wear shoes in the first place.

Most assume that shoes are as nessecary as oxygen when it comes to being ambilatory across even a few feet of the land outside of home. No one really questions it or the price paid to the feet and the rest of the body over time when foot, ankle, leg, hip and above problems show up from repetitive movement and duration of time from being paralized in shoes can cause.

Never the less… 3500 barefoot miles and a year later I now consider my feet, legs and hips to be 96% restored to proper health and function. I well pasted the Ultra mark for solo barefoot runs now and am headed for the 100 mile in a day mark. I’ve logged a few 100+ mile weeks this past fall so I know that barefooting is both doable, sustainable, and continues to be very pleasurable and healthy.

Something even larger than all that to me is that it has taught me the value of questioning anything that is stagnant or repetitively and destructively painful in my life and to ask God to show me ways of changing or coping that are outside the box of what my mind normally looks for.

To learn more about Barefoot Running go to and began to absorb as much as my Soul could absorb about barefoot running. there are links to many other barefoot sites and blogs on my page and you will find most everyone you contact in barefoot running circles are very friendly and open for

PS: my right knee is absolutley perfect and regenerated now!

Erskien Lenier
Corona, CA