I ran barefoot in the woods.

I was in there for over an hour. It started off with a suggestion from a barefoot friend who thought I should do some barefoot hiking in the woods just to get my feet used to being naked outdoors. So that was my plan.

It was cold this morning and the ground was covered in frost. People were heading to work in their winter coats when I left my place. I wore my shoes for a 2k sprint to warm up my core first. By the time I got to the woods I had worked up a bit of a sweat. I found a secluded tree and took off my shoes and socks. I buried them under the tree in a pile of leaves and took off into the woods in bare feet.

The wet, frosty leaves were a bit of a shock on my toes. But my core was warm so I could keep going. I got my feet even more wet when I went through a mud puddle that I wasn’t quick enough to avoid. There wasn’t much breeze, but even just the wind hitting my feet with the movement of running felt cold. I tried walking instead but that was much worse. So I ran.

I noticed a very distinct difference in the temperatures of different natural objects. Here is my list of coldest to warmest:

  1. Wet leaves
  2. Mud
  3. Packed dirt on the ground
  4. Loose dirt on the ground
  5. Dry leaves
  6. Wood

Wet leaves were freezing and abundant. But thankfully so were fallen logs or trees. Whenever I felt my feet going uncomfortably numb, I would find a log and stand on it. Within a few seconds, my toes would feel warm again. It was a strange discovery. I did wear long pants that I had originally planned to use to wipe off my toes or cover my feet in case I got cold. But my toes felt much warmer on the wood than under the fabric of my pants. So my pants stayed rolled up for most of my run.

I didn’t go fast. I was too busy watching my step and trying not to snap too many twigs under my feet. I practiced running light and running quietly. I was extremely pleased when I passed two people walking three dogs and they didn’t even notice I was there.

I ran like this for over and hour. I did a trail and a few hills. Then I finally looped back and found my shoes. I put them on for the 2k sprint back home. I wanted to see if I could maintain good form in my shoes and whether or not I would feel a significant difference.

My socks felt warm and soft, and I did a good job at keeping great form with the shoes. But I stopped three times to examine my shoe because I was convinced there was something stuck to my heel. It felt like a mound of mud stuck on the bottom of my shoe. Like I was running on a little ball of something. But each time I stopped, I didn’t see anything. I looked on the outside of my shoe, on the inside of the sole (I thought maybe some leaves had fallen in there), and I even took off my socks to see if I had any dirt stuck to my heel. Nothing.

I finally realized that I was feeling the gel insert that was part of the heel of my running shoe. Because I was still landing with my forefoot, my heel wasn’t used to making contact with something so soon, and it felt weird. I had never noticed it before running with shoes, but it was really obvious going directly from barefoot to shoes. It was uncomfortable.

When I got home it was time for a warm shower. I actually sat down and scrubbed my feet. It felt like a massage. But it took some grooming to get all the dirt out from under my toenails.

In related news, I registered for a 10 mile race on the 21st. I’m going to try to run it in my VFFs. I’ve already covered that distance so I’m going to try to focus on improving my speed for the next couple of weeks. I’ve also been going to the woods almost every day, slowly getting to know all the grooves and inclines. I almost feel like I own them.