“There's nothing neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.”
One of the first things a barefoot runner is asked by any shod runner they encounter is, “What about glass!?!” I admit, I was a bit worried about this myself when I decided to try barefoot running. In my first weeks of walking, I managed to pick up a tiny crumb of glass up near my toes. No big deal, my dad picked it out for me (yep, 40 years old with my foot in dad’s hands to have my boo-boo fixed, LOL). He gave me a raised eyebrow, “Are you sure this is a good idea?” look, but didn’t say much else. The next month, when I had kicked it up a notch and was running, I picked up another crumb of glass. Keep in mind, on both occasions it wasn’t a big enough piece to stop the run, and I definitely wasn’t bleeding. I was beginning to think this would be a monthly occurrence and began contemplating a shift to minimal shoes instead of barefoot. As the month rolled over, I was expecting my next piece of glass to follow me home. When I felt the expected prick, I hunted around with a needle and tweezers for days, but never found anything. Hmmm, phantom glass.
I was holding onto the hope that the barefoot runners groups were right, and once I learned to step lightly, I wouldn’t exert enough pressure when contacting the ground to push glass through the skin. It seemed reasonable enough, since one can gingerly pick up bits of a broken glass from the kitchen floor without shedding blood, but the thought of my running lighter than the bone shattering heel stomp I grew up with left me a bit uncertain.
The good news is, since then I have not picked up another piece of glass in my feet! I’ve never lacerated my foot on a shard, embedded a crumb, or slit a plantar artery. Glass has not been an issue. I have been poked pretty harshly by a stick buried in the grass (which is why I have an aversion to grass – I cannot see through it) and I have had a uncomfortable run-in with a sweet gum ball, but in over 350 barefoot miles, I’ve never had to limp home from an injury that would have been prevented by shoes. I occasionally feel a bit of a prick and pause to brush off my feet, but nothing goes through the rubbery, smooth skin that has developed on my soles.
Fast forward to this past week. I was out running and thoroughly enjoying the warm pavement as my mind drifted through the bizarre month I had come through, when I suddenly noticed I was running through the remnants of a brown beer bottle. It didn't catch my attention right away as the glass was dark brown and in the shade, but glancing down I saw the tattered label with bits of glass stuck to it and realized I was surrounded by glass for 3 feet in every direction. Thankfully, I didn't stiffen or change my form when I realized it, or I probably would have hit the brakes and slammed my foot into the pavement. I simply stayed my course and waited apprehensively for the inevitable prick of pain heralding a crumb of glass breaking the skin barrier. Nothing happened.
I have looked into the abyss and no longer fear the sharp teeth of glass. I can stand proud with my fellow barefoot runners and honestly say, the histrionic warnings of the shod are poppycock. Okay, I already knew that, but it is fun to say “poppycock.”