Running Through and Through

barefoot nike

Day #65: Maybe I’ll just run right through my old shoes and eventually land on my bare feet

When I can see daylight, I’ll know I’m close. Holding my old Nike Air Pegasus’s up to the window, I just see darkness – tattered upper and torn rubber… Not there yet. Maybe tomorrow’s run will do it…

[Quick disclaimer: to be sure, this is not science that I am exploring during the next several paragraphs. Also, to be transparent, I do not work for your bare feet, nor mine or anybody else’s, and so I stand no financial incentive to beckon on their behalf. Truth be told regarding the other end of the spectrum, I also have no problem at all with running shoe companies, be they the traditional descendants of Coach Bill Bowerman or the newest minimalist thingies.]

In short, I am exploring an idea here: Why can’t we transition to barefoot by running and running and running our old shoes into the ground until the very soles of our feet find pavement and dirt?? In this way, we would skip the requisite 3 months of transition, the expense of transitional shoes, and some injury pitfalls to boot.

barefoot tar

Like all veteran runners, I have heaps upon heaps of war-torn, dead and dying shoes laying all around my house. I remember years ago when my wife and I were first “combining” our belongings as we set out as newlyweds. I had pairs of old trainers that literally encircled me in one memorable old photo. Those embattled boots were sent off to Kenya. The rage, then as well as now, was to send our worn-out shoes to the impoverished in countries around the world. Countries like Kenya and Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Ghana – countries who repeatedly excel in distance races on the track and on the roads at the Olympics every 4 years…

So, what gives? We give our shoes to those in need — and though our worn-out kicks are useless to us — and often blamed for injury in many Americans — these same shoes are gifts to the poorest runners on the globe. Add to this intriguing reality that barefoot running has popped up as the new craze, and we are left scratching our heads.

I am not meaning to blow the whistle on shoe donations intended to simply clothe the poor. But I am sounding the alarm on those who would gift poorer runners with worn-out trainers. If they are too worn for me, they are too worn for any, I say.

And while I am on this subject, when are our shoes worn-out anyway? Do they expire like milk? When do they go from passable to useless? Racers to loafers? Tracksters to tax write-offs?

“When I can see daylight, I’ll know I’m close. Holding my old Nike Air Pegasus’s up to the window, I still just see darkness – tattered upper and torn rubber… Not there yet. Maybe tomorrow’s run will do it…”

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE new shoes! Guilty! I was first in my family – of us four brothers – to whimper for the shiny, glittery, feather-light trainers, tennies and spikes. The shoe companies had me in the bag. I was – and most likely still am – their target consumer. But, I am rethinking things these days for two reasons: 1.) My achilles injury of a couple of years ago (which had me out for a full year!) came on quickly — in the matter of a few months — just at the time when I changed from my adored Nike Pegasus’s to bright green Pearl Zumi’s. See, I told you that I am that consumer. 2.) The second red flag that flared for me was the grand pendulum swing from traditional shoes all the way to barefoot running. If no running shoes are best for me; if my old, favorite racers are better for me than my more clunky (but still adored Pegasus’s); if less shoe is the new preference and no shoe the aim; then, I am beginning to reason, why aren’t my worn-out, broken down, threadbare-uppered, treadless shoes okay for me, too?? Why should I ditch or donate my $100, 3-month-old trainers, and why shouldn’t I, instead, train right through them? Literally right through them!

barefoot shoe

I began to research this idea, and I know what you’re thinking. A litany of remonstrances:

1. You might be thinking: “Back off the shoe companies! Their products may be the cause of a generation of injuries, but don’t think you can train in their broken-down off-spring! Do that and you are asking for more problems!”

To which I respond, am I promised more problems than the 6 month jail-term I served in one of those immobilizing boots – after my last affair with over-cushioned, control shoes? I’ll take my chances.

2. But you’re not finished: “Your rant on shoe donations; that’s going too far. Back off when you get to the threshold of charity!”

Point taken. I am all for giving to those in need. Without question. I simply ask why my discards are good enough for others… In truth, they seem to be good enough, indeed, given that many of those impoverished runners go on to elite careers. Maybe -it stands to reason – the shoes are actually fine for training…

3. You continue: “You’re taking on a cardinal law of running: good shoes are the key to healthy running, and training in broken-down shoes is the chief cause of injury in runners.”

Yeah, I am taking that on that wisdom. From my research — which, again, is not scientific and is scantier than a pair of Nike’s “Footstickers” — it seems that the vast majority of running injury comes from training too fast.

4. And your final volley: “Just back off! What’s eating you, anyway? Probably some other issue in your life that you are working out through writing this misguided post!”

Possibly. Nice psycho-analysis.

Nevertheless – remembering my initial disclaimer – I might just hold off on buying that new pair of Pearl Zumi’s or Vibram TrekSport’s. I think I’ll see just how long it takes to run right on through my many pairs of dying trainers. My theory is: when toes finally meet asphalt, they will be ready, prepped and calloused for the Nirvana of barefoot running.


Or maybe I will stop typing and just run on over to the local running store to get my quarterly dose of glow and squeaky lowers to pacify this waffling soul;)

Best — and however you run, enjoy!

~Coach Patrick

Related wisdom:

“Never Run in Old Shoes”

“How Much Time to Transition to Minimalist Footwear?”

“The Painful Truth About Trainers: Are Running Shoes a Waste of Money?”