What happens when a barefoot runner is presented the opportunity to run a rugged mountain ultramarathon? Every barefoot runner is eventually faced with this dilemma- what happens when you are faced with a run over terrain or in conditions that are not barefoot-friendly?
I’ve faced this dilemma many times. Sometimes I choose correctly; sometimes not. When I was selected in the Western States lottery this weekend (read Shelly’s account here), I immediately began considering my options.
1) Run the race barefoot. This allows me to maintain efficient form and save energy. Tempting, but a bad idea. Based on the accounts of Leif Rustvold’s run last year in Vibram Treks, the vast majority of the course is definitely too rugged to run barefoot, especially for 100 miles. Based on my own barefoot 100 miler attempts at Burning River, I know it can be impossible to run at an adequate pace over very rough terrain.
2) Run the race in huaraches. I like this option, especially given some of Ted McDonald’s recent improvements to Lunas. The problem- some of the course is run through snow and ice, and I sometimes drag my feet when the fatigue of night sets in. The chances of busting up my toes at night may rule out Lunas for the entire distance.
3) Use minimalist shoes. This is an acceptable option, too. Minimalist shoes will provide good protection over any terrain. The down-side: minimalist shoes introduce the moisture variable. Keeping your feet encased in shoes traps sweat, which is a problem over 20-30 hours.
What to to, what to do?
Luckily, I found a perfect pair of minimalist shoes, and Ted is developing some Lunas that will be ideal for the terrain and climate. My tentative solution- use a combination of all three. Some parts of the course will allow for barefoot running, which will save energy. When terrain gets rugged or temps soar, I can use the Lunas. This will keep my feet dry and provide enough protection to avoid slowing my pace. After dark, I can switch to the minimalist shoes. Moisture will be less of an issue, and the added protection will help prevent serious injury.
That’s the plan thus far…