I’ve been going barefoot since 2009 – walking, running, hiking, training, playing, and just otherwise being barefoot for the vast majority of my lifestyle. It’s been great and I love it, but that’s not what this post is about. You see, in that time, I’ve had to adapt my social skills to include a large selection of quick responses that must be ready at a moments notice. If you’re already a barefoot runner, then you know exactly what I mean. You just never know when someone is going to publicly announce their opinion about your feet, and it’s immensely satisfying to be able to respond to these poorly thought-out remarks with flair. And let me warn you, these foot-stalkers can come out of nowhere!
Case in point. I was running with my dog on one of our usual routes, a portion of which is frequented by walkers, runners, and cyclists. It was pretty cold that day, and it was raining with a thick, foggy haze, too. Then it happened. A single humanoid figure started to appear in the fog ahead – walking toward us. My dog, Ronin, perked up immediately, raising his imposing posture to appear as large as possible (not hard for him) and directing all of his attention on the mysterious, approaching figure with a “let me at ’em” expression. I whispered “easy boy” and reminded him that he had already eaten breakfast that day.
It was at this moment that something just told me that I wasn’t going to get past this person without receiving at least a small dose of teasing – maybe it was the high-tech shoes he was wearing, or his awkward stride, but deep down, I knew what was about to happen. I was going to get the “treatment.”
I prepared myself as best I could with only the few moments I had. As we got closer, I could see that it was an older gentleman with a cheerful smile, which quickly turned to a scowl as he said to me, “my word! Your feet must be freezing,” to which I responded, “daaaa, guuhhh, duhduhduh – yeah.” And we kept running past him – hardly breaking stride. Needless to say, it wasn’t my most shining moment, but I was now determined to succeed next time this happened! So, I literally spent the rest of my run thinking about what I should have said (does that make me weird?). Next time, I wouldn’t be caught off guard!
Well, next time didn’t take all that long to come around, this time on a hike up Mount Lafayette in the NH White Mountains. It was a beautiful day – sunny with a gentle breeze to cool the sweat on your brow. Now, if you’re a barefoot hiker, then you know how many comments you’ll get if you are traveling a popular route, especially on a day like this. I’d estimate that roughly half of everyone you encounter will at least mention something about your bare feet. Most of the time, people are just curious and ask you a few questions. Sometimes, you’ll even get a raving fan. Some lady even told me I was her hero once. But not everyone is so positive and uplifting. It’s only a matter of time before you encounter a bad apple, but this time I was prepared. I had done my research, and I had dozens of quick snarky responses ready-and-waiting for the unsuspecting prosecutor. Whoa to the man who dares to defy my bare feet!
That man was now approaching. Beneath that day pack was a slightly overweight, middle-aged man with walking poles that looked to be made of materials used on spacecraft. Although these things were clearly high-tech, they didn’t seem to be helping very much since his legs were visibly wobbling. He was also huffing and puffing with an occasional grunt on his way down the mountain. It didn’t cross my mind that this guy would actually insult a complete stranger. It never does. As we drew closer, I said hello, to which he wryly blurted out between gasps, “Another barefoot wacko! (gasp) What are you homeless or something?” And he kept walking past. I turned, calculated the infantile hostility with laser-precision, and after a brief moment to collect my thoughts, I responded with just as much immaturity, “walking sticks, huh, what are you handicapped or something?” He paused in stride for a moment, but didn’t turn around, and I continued my ascent up the mountain.
Now, that was pretty clever, and I had a perpetual smile plastered on my face the rest of the ascent, but obviously that probably wasn’t the best way to respond. Who knows, he could have just been having a bad day. It certainly looked like it. But these stories do help us to learn and grow (and laugh), and that’s why I share them here.
So, without further adieu, I want to leave you off with a primer on barefoot runner lingo. If you already are a barefoot runner, or are thinking about going that route, then these videos will be invaluable to you. Now, let the laughter begin!
Note: this is Steven Sashen of InvisibleShoes.com. He seems like a great guy and actually sent me a couple pairs of his huarche sandals to review (once the snow melts and it warms up a bit, my review will be published here). Stay tuned for that!
Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say
Sh*t Runners Say To Barefoot Runners
OK, now that I’ve wiped all of the spit off my computer monitor because I’ve been guilty of saying many of those things myself, let’s wrap things up.
Nowadays, when people ask me about my bare feet, I usually just say something short and quick to assuage their curiosity and let me move on (unless they are truly interested, at which point, they will get a brief history of the world). And on those rare occasions that I encounter someone who is authentically worried about me, and truly must know where my shoes are, I simply respond by looking them straight in the eye, pointing up to the sky, and saying with a nod, “up there.” That seems to eliminate their concerns immediately – every single time.
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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach