Running in Naked Feet

Running in huaraches makes me feel light and ageless for a little while. Going at an easy pace, breathing only through my nose, I can go up and down hills for a mostly-easy hour. That’s why I run in these odd-looking things.

“You run in that?!” is a typical remark when someone sees my running sandals, resembling flip-flops with an ankle strap. Huaraches, or running sandals, are one type of minimal shoe: a flat rubber sole and nylon straps or leather laces holding the sole to the foot. That’s it. Toes, arch, and heel are exposed to the world, to flex and air out as necessary.

Do my feet identify with nudists or thong-wearing Brazilians? I dunno, they’re just my feet and the least sweaty thing after a slog in hot, humid weather.

A running journey with a late start

I started running at 37 or 38 years old, when the kids were old enough to use the bathroom by themselves. After a painful start using regular running shoes, everything hurt. And as I lay on the kitchen floor contemplating surrender, I decided to investigate running form and different shoes before concluding that it was just me—running wasn’t right for my body.

Learning curve

  • Chi Running by Danny Dryer
  • Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
  • Barefoot Running Step by Step by Ken Bob Saxton
  • Barefoot Running by Michael Sandler
  • The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard

After reading a bunch of books, I ran around my neighborhood barefoot for a while. But it feels stupid to step on a rock and yell, “OW” when going about without shoes. It taught me good form, though. Vibram Five Finger shoes looked like feet gloves but they forced me to take light, short steps. The smell and the hastle to put them on convinced me to switch to simpler huaraches.

author running in the park away from camera

Huaraches made me stronger

Wearing huaraches for walking and running strengthened my weak ankles (I was always tripping) and forced my flat feet to develop an arch. Flat-footers are told we MUST use arch-supported shoes, but exposing my feet to no-cushion, no arch-support, zero heel drop footwear worked out well. Except for trail running on slippery Hawaiian mud when I wear Inov8s, my feets run exclusively in the open air.

Like a back and torso doing more work sitting on a Bosu Ball or posture-improving chair, running sandals encourage all the foot muscles to activate. So, although my foot still looks flat as a board, if I run through a wet spot, even in my huaraches, you can see an iconic footprint. Weird!

Benefits of running or walking in huaraches

  • Running without cushioned soles forces the foot to work and get stronger.
  • It’s like getting a foot massage that hits all the pressure points.
  • Running sandal are often cheaper than traditional running shoes and last longer because of the lighter footfall from thin, uncushioned soles.
  • My running form is natural and upright because of my footwear: relaxed shoulders, tucked-in hips, shorter steps.
  • There is less wear on my knees because my whole leg acts as a force-absorbing spring instead of just my lower legs.

I don’t

  • Retie my shoes
  • Find socks
  • Replace my shoes more than once a year, running < 40 miles/week

No

  • No athlete’s foot
  • No soggy, sweaty socks
  • No chafing, usually
  • No heavy, wet shoes in the rain

I do

  • Adjust the straps on a new pair
  • Shake out the occasional pebble
  • Use bandaids on chafe spots of new sandals until they soften up
  • Pay more attention to the ground in front of me because stepping on large rocks hurts
old Shamma and Luna sandals
I just retired my trio of footwear: Shamma All Browns (top row), Luna Monos and Luna Venados (in black). The heel areas were worn thin on all. The tread had worn off on the Monos. Sad to say goodbye.

What I wear

I’ve been running and walking in Luna Sandals for about ten years. I walked the Honolulu Marathon in a pair. My husband observed the first models resembled Jesus’ sandals. Now I rotate between Luna Winged Monos for hills and dry trails and Shamma Sandals for walking and running on sidewalk.

There’s no magic pill for easier or better running. However, wearing huaraches instead of built-up running shoes has allowed me to continue running in wet and dry weather, tropical and mild winter weather, weight changes, middle age, short and long distances, and over a variety of terrain and elevation changes. It has helped me avoid typical running injuries and pains, except for trip-and-falls, without being costly. Huaraches have been good to me and my feet.

Now, I am a slower runner, and I run for the experience instead of for speed. However, one year, a fast runner won or placed highly in several local races wearing Luna Sandals as well. So it is possible to run competitively in them.

Good luck on your running, health journey.

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