Barefoot running is so different from shod running that it’s practically a new sport.
— Ken Bob Saxton, “Barefoot Running Step by Step”
Running on pavement without shoes is tricky, according to barefoot guru Ken Bob Saxton. The uniform surface may feel smooth at first but offers less feedback than a rocky trail. You might think you can get away with bad habits developed while running shod, like slipping, skidding, or scuffing your feet. But if you do so while barefoot — even by a tiny degree — that friction will accumulate over a few miles until your soles are too sensitive to continue (think of rough pavement as a kind of coarse-grained sandpaper and you’re dragging your feet across with the full weight of your body. . .). Some people can run barefoot on smooth surfaces, like sand, grass, sidewalks, the surface of a track, or super-slick asphalt, Ken Bob observes, but rough pavement or gravel defeats them. And that, I’m afraid to say, is a good description of me.
To practice my form and hopefully improve it, I showed up at the Gardiner 5k Classic Run/Walk a few days ago, to attempt my fifth barefoot race on a course that includes both smooth and rough asphalt and also a mile of gravelly trail. . . .