Chapter 17: Being barefoot


I was in pain and living in a desert with no access to physical therapies. I knew what was wrong. It was plantar fasciitis, the familiar heel pain that had taken months of rest and shockwave therapy to resolve previously. I was teaching English in Qatar, the year after my first degree and running was my release. I didn’t hold out much hope of a resolution. A friend back in Ireland sent me a magazine article about the benefits of barefoot running. I had nothing to lose. I drove to the only grass park in the country, took off my shoes and ran for 15 minutes. The second time I did this, my pain had vanished. At the time, to me, it was a medical miracle. On return to Ireland to start my PhD, I enthusiastically told my professor what had happened on my middle-eastern adventure. He was sceptical but he agreed to allow one of his final-year undergraduate students to investigate the topic as part of their research project. In short, we found that runners ran differently when barefoot, especially at slow speeds. This study has since been published. Later, I encountered more runners who experienced the immediate resolution of plantar fasciitis from barefoot running, I published their data as medical case reports. Recently, I observed adolescents in New Zealand happily run distances of up to 3,000m barefoot on a hard tartan track. I also published this observation. During my consistent streak, I ran up to 20 miles at sub-3-hour marathon pace barefoot. It is fair to say that being barefoot played a significant role in the resolution of my running injuries.

Have you ever breathed a sigh of relief when you’ve come home after a long day and kicked off your shoes? Have you ever noticed when you are barefoot on the grass of a park or the sand of a beach, it inherently feels good? Have you ever observed a toddler scream because they don’t want to put their shoes on? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you inherently understand your evolutionary legacy…

Come back Friday June 18th for an extract from Chapter 18: A little less information. Pre-order the kindle version of the book now on amazon, out June 28th 2021.