Friday, October 16, 2009

oh how many feet you meet

In July I wrote about fighting the urge to sit on the couch. About getting out and enjoying the outdoors, breathing fresh air, and generally being more active. I think we've done reasonably well these last few months. We haven't been camping, but there's been a lot less video game playing and a lot more time outside — even if only in our own backyard. The kids still watch too much TV, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

For myself, I committed few years ago to make regular exercise part of my life. My family history is littered with men having heart attacks (and occasionally dying) in their 40s and 50s. I intend NOT be one of them. For a little over a year my main exercise has been training at an amazing private gym called Myogenics Fitness. They aren't giving me anything to say this, but for any of you who lives within driving distance of West Hollywood, you owe it to yourself to check them out. Their program is 30 minutes of incredibly intense weight training with a personal trainer once a week. Tack on some nutrition coaching and that's it. There's no other exercise involved, and the results are pretty remarkable. I'm not genetically predisposed for rippling muscles so I don't look that impressive, but I honestly think I'm in as good shape as I was when I used to work out 6 days a week. The only reason I don't weigh less (and consequently look better) is I cheat too much with the food and wine. Sue me.

So, while Myogenics is great, and I recommend them, as of last week I stopped going. Great though they are, it's private training, they take one client in the gym at a time, and it ain't cheap. I bought a year's worth of sessions in advance, and when they ran out I couldn't justify buying more while I still have essentially no income. So, as of now, I'm on my own.

If you've met me or seen pictures of my feet on Twitter, you know I have a thing for odd shoes. More specifically, I wear almost exclusively what I call barefoot shoes. For me these take two forms. There are my relatively normal looking (but in fact revolutionary) Vivo Barefoots from Terra Plana. I have three pairs of these, and unless you look really closely you wouldn't know these were not "normal" shoes. My wife has two pairs, and also loves them. 

My other barefoot shoes, pictured here, are impossible to miss, and so far my wife hasn't bought any. They're called Vibram Fivefingers, and they are anything but normal looking. They have toes, a thin flexible sole, and are as close as you can get to being barefoot while still having some protection from the elements. I have two pairs of these, and I want more. I almost never leave the house in them without having at least one conversation about them with a complete stranger. "What are those? (They're barefoot shoes) Are they comfortable? (Yes) Do they have any arch support? (No) Are they socks? (Not really)" Etc. A certain NY Times columnist referred to them as gorilla shoes.

If you've been paying attention, you might have seen Christopher McDougall making the rounds plugging his new book Born To Run. I haven't read the book, but it sounds like an amazing story. Thing is, even without reading his book I'm convinced about the benefits of barefoot, or at least minimalist footwear. Ever since I read this New Yorker article about how shoes are ruining our feet and generally doing us harm, I've been on a quest to find alternatives to traditional shoes.

Until this week, though, I wasn't sold on actually running in my minimalist shoes. It wasn't the quasi-barefoot part that put me off — it was the running part. I don't like running. I have never liked running. Running hurts. And not just the muscle soreness that comes from hard exercise. I'm OK with that. Running hurts my back, and my hips, and my knees, and my ankles. But two things changed my mind, or at least started to. First, there's being broke and stopping my personal training sessions. I now need to create my own exercise program. Second, there's all this discussion of barefoot running. Largely inspired McDougall's press blitz, suddenly everybody's talking about running barefoot. 

In one of many "I love the interwebs" moments, I've discovered this great and (mostly) supportive online community of barefoot or minimalist runners. Sites like and, and a discussion group on minimalist running have opened my eyes to yet another great community of people online. Like any group of humans, there are the bad apples — people who want to tear others down instead of build them up — but of those I've seen on other sites, not the ones linked above.

So this week I started running in the Vibram Fivefingers Classics pictured above. First I walked/ran 2 miles. My quads and hip muscles were sore for a few days, but no joint or back pain. I let few days go by, and yesterday I ran 2.5 miles. Now my calves are sore, but no joint pain, and my quads and hips feel much better. I plan to keep extending my distance until, well, I don't know what. The thing is, running this way isn't like any running I've done before. The sites above have helped me learn things about running form I never knew, so the running isn't as punishing and jarring as what I've always thought it had to be. And I'm still learning. So far, this kind of running is fun. I don't know where it will take me, but I'm enjoying the journey.

But this isn't a fitness blog, it's a dad blog, right? Yes. Mostly. I refuse to be pigeonholed! But in fact this does relate to dadhood. First, it's about what I wrote about back in July — being active. It's about doing things for recreation and fun that are physical, outdoors, and generally unlumpish. Second, it's about staying healthy so I can play with my kids now and for years to come. And about setting an example for them to become healthy and active themselves. And, finally, it's about community. Like blogging and Twitter and all of the amazing people I've met through those avenues, there's a whole world of runners and barefooters and other wacky folks to connect with out there. I don't know how much we have in common, but I'm excited to find out.

So, while I don't intend to turn this into a barefoot running blog, I may update you from time to time on this toe-wiggling adventure of mine. And if you too are a runner, barefoot or otherwise, I'd love to hear from you. Take off your shoes and stay awhile.



  1. I'm not a runner. (You know me, so I'm sure this doesn't come as a huge surprise.) I never liked running for the same reasons you mention the addition of bouncing breasts. (Sorry, it had to be said.)

    But while your blue footy things just (still) look odd to me, I'm all for you doing whatever makes you feel good, and wearing them obviously does! I applaud your initiative in finding another way to stick to your fitness goals.

    If barefoot running could eliminate the pain in it for me, I might even be willing to give it a try. Eventually. So I look forward to hearing how it goes for you!

  2. wow those look very odd but i think they fit my lifestyle. I like to be barefoot. all the time. Watching tv. barefoot. cooking. barefoot. anything. barefoot! If Im at home im barefoot. Do they come in pink?

  3. I would have to agree with Maura! For any fairly well-endowed woman, running is simply NOT an option! =) Although they make sports bras, anything larger than a C-cup just does NOT work!

    I do love being barefoot though and spend as much time as possible that way! With the exception of work, which requires leather, closed-toe shoes, I am either barefoot or in "barely there" flip flops. And while I do LOVE me some killer heels (something I wouldn't expect you to have a fondness for, Michael) I am always SO happy to take them off!

  4. Oh how I love my fellow toe shoe wearer! I want to get the FLOW next. I have the classic an sprint.

  5. This post reminded me of an article I just read about running:


Hi. This blog has moved to If you'd like to comment on this post, please do so over there! Thanks.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Clicky Web Analytics