Friday, December 11, 2009

Barefoot running ...with Barefoot Ted and Hiko!

The Seattle sky was a cloudless blue and the bright sunshine had warmed the air over spectacular Volunteer Park to a balmy minus five degrees Celsius - balmy!? What am I talking about, it was flippin' freezing, and we weren't even wearing any shoes! It didn't matter because we were with Barefoot Ted whose infectious joy, energy and love of life and running not only warmed the air, but seemed to even thaw the frozen ground! We were there for a coaching session with Ted and anyone who is truly curious about what our feet are built to do, or is just fed up with getting running injuries, needs to meet this unbelievable athlete.

Many first came to know "Barefoot Ted" in Christopher McDougall's incredible eye-opening, jaw-dropping book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Amongst the zillion things he has done, Ted ran with the Tarahumara and a handful of the worlds best known, super-elite, trail runners, including Scott Jurek, in the unforgiving, wild, and harsh terrain of the Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyons) in Northwest Mexico's Sierra Madre. You can read about this in the book - guaranteed to give you a rush! This past August, Ted ran the Leadville Trail 100 - a hundred miles, in twenty-five hours and fifty-five minutes, on rugged trails at elevations of 10,000 feet plus, high in the Colorado Rockies. And Ted skateboards too: last year he set a world record in Ultraskate IV in Seattle by skateboarding an impossible-to-fathom 242 miles in 24 hours. Oh yeah, did I mention that he did all this, barefoot.

Barefoot Ted is as close to a guru ("one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others") as anyone I have ever met - and sheesh, that's the vocation (sort of) I'm supposed to be in! His eyes sparkle, his words are passionate and filled with the contagious energy that only comes when one speaks of that which gives great joy. Ted's a super-athlete but clearly loves to share his hard earned knowledge with neophytes so that they too may experience the liberation that comes from a fresh and outrageously obvious (in retrospect) paradigm in the sport of trail and road running.

So what was a middle-aged, wannabe barefoot-running couple like us doing with Ted. Well, 'cause we're pretty convinced that this whole matter of barefoot running is tantamount to the discovery that the earth is round (yup, a lot of disbelievers then too). I've already blogged Born to Run (and the mid-foot landing) and the awakening that came to Christopher McDougall as he investigated the nature and evolutionary journey humankind has taken. McDougall's conclusion? We were, physiologically, born to run. So why do so many folks dislike running? Because it hurts. Why does it hurt and so frequently cause injuries? Because we don't run the way nature intended us to run. How, then, did nature intend us to run? Barefooted, or at the very least, with minimalist footwear - that means NO cushioning, NO support, and NO stability control. Yikes!

So off we went to meet Ted in Seattle, wearing our Vibram FiveFinger minimalist footgear and trying to keep a lid on a ton of nervous excitement. Ted was awesome. He talked, we listened. He talked some more, we drank up his words. Ted showed us how to run without making a sound and how stride and cadence can greatly reduce the possibility of injury. Our barefoot coach showed us how to jump on a concrete staircase from step to step to gain balance and strength - we'll need a lot of practice there! We ran up the 106 hollow, metal, stairs to the observation deck of the 103 year-old water tower - trying not to make a sound. Both Barefoot Ted and Hiko the Husky seemed to accomplish this without even raising their respective heart rates!

The time seemed to fly but this long-awaited event is not something to be understood as an item on a "bucket list" - although after reading Born to Run, meeting Barefoot Ted was certainly on our list of things we just needed to do. Items on the "bucket list" are usually ticked off and then it's on to the next experience. The time with Ted was different. It was the beginning of an adventure that will bring discovery on the trails and running routes as we transition to more and more time in minimalist footwear. Clearly, our feet were made to be free so that their miraculous structure can transport us, unfettered, to a greater awareness of the magnificent Creation (and the giver of that gift) beneath and around us. There's a growing mountain of evidence that what Ted is teaching is sound physiology and biomechanics. To quote Christopher McDougall, "Barefoot Ted was right."

Thanks Ted, we had a great time. We'll spread the word, and we'll be back.

D and J


  1. Glad that you had this awesome experience. And I do believe you!!I think I will wait til spring though to have my lesson on how to run....not as brave as you two in this cold weather.

  2. very cool! you met BFT.. another good resource for barefoot benefits:

  3. Hi L, why wait for spring, we can start indoor training anytime!

    Hey "electro" - thanks for dropping by and sharing info on the website. It's a great resource indeed and I have it bookmarked - first impression was the list of benefits - barefoot vs running shoes. The former sure outweighed the latter - I think the word is getting out!

  4. It was great meeting both of you guys too!

    I really feel blessed to live so close to Volunteer is an excellent place to conduct my Introduction to Barefoot Running classes...even when is below freezing :-) long is the sun is shining.

    Looking forward to meeting up with you again in the future...especially as I start to explore my new world via human powered boating.

    Best Regards, Barefoot Ted...who prefers to eat his fuel and grow his shoes.

  5. Thx BFT! Awesome park to have right next door. Looking forward to official launch of! Yeah, we're kind of partial to "human powered boating" but I'll bet you'll be kicking it up a notch! Smile.

  6. Great stuff, guys! I'm envious.

  7. Next time we go, you gotta be there Andy, you'd love what BFT is teaching! It's self-propelled sport the way it all the beginning!

  8. Hi: Where I grew up even though we had shoes for going out we always went about barefoot at home and in the yard and even in school when we had races (better known as track & field)we did those barefoot. We would also go to the parks, take off our sneakers and practice our running, high jumping etc. barefoot. Welcome to my world. It sure is a different feeling, but you must remember to cream your feet to avoid calluses.
    I still sometimes walk about the house barefoot.

  9. Hi J!

    I'd love the idea of living barefoot where you grew up - totally cool and just about the perfect climate for barefoot running all the year round! And the warm ocean too - wow!