I was recently asked if there was anyone for whom barefoot running is not suitable and it got me thinking. First of all, it's always advisable to get checked out by your GP if you're thinking of trying barefoot running, particularly if you have an existing medical issue.
Aside from that though, is there anybody who just really shouldn't run barefoot?
My contact and experience with barefoot runners is that the majority are a very relaxed bunch of people. They take life as it comes, focusing on enjoyment and giving and not really worrying about what other people think of them. Conversely, those struggling with barefoot running and finding themselves with injuries tend to be quite driven people who want to achieve quick results.
My intial response then to the question of suitability was that people who are unable to adapt their mentality to being a bit more chilled out are perhaps not best suited to barefoot running. It requires so much patience and perseverance. There is an absolute necessity to stop and rest if any niggles arise and a continous and honest acknowledgement of the state of your body and the willingness to rest is essential.
Having thought about this further, if I am honest, I should admit that I am one of those driven runners who really don't want to have to stop because their body tells them to. As a consequence to this mental attitude, I have had more niggly problems associated with barefoot running than David, for example, who is happy to run but equally happy to sit and watch tv! His transition to barefoot running was seamless - he literally took it in his stride and has had no problems whatsoever. Yes, he started from an advantageous place with his background in martial arts and dance giving him a natural, flowing way of moving, but it must be recognised that his laid back approach to it all has been a real bonus.
So, did I rule myself out of the barefoot running game due to my "stressy" nature? Absolutely not! In fact, it's because I don't like to give up on something that I have maintained my barefoot running and........I was going to say "conquered" it but I think it's actually the other way around. Barefoot running for me has been, and continues to be, both a physical and mental exploration, so that as I continually tweak my movement patterns to create better flow and efficiency, I'm also more aware of having relaxed my attitude towards it all and letting my body lead the way a bit more rather than allowing my obstinate mind to constantly override it.
So, is the answer then that barefoot running is for everyone and that it can teach you how to become a more complete runner? I think it probably is. I do maintain that a person needs to be willing to participate on a more spiritual level and some people can tap into this capacity more easily than others. But we can all find that part of ourselves eventually if we take the time to look for it.
So, my conclusion is that no one should be ruled out. The ones who are stressed out and find the transition the hardest are probably the ones that need it the most!
Happy barefoot running - EVERYONE!