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Falling into a new season (with an old blog post on my barefoot beginnings)

August 29, 2018
fall color on the North Kaibab Trail

North Kaibab  Trail in the fall

Fall is in the air . . . back-to-school time, new beginnings . . . and I continue to remain grateful for NOT having to go back to school as my retirement wanders into year two. But I’m still feeling nostalgic–especially as six of my seven grandkids* have gone back to school recently. The following post is a product of that nostalgia; it was published almost five years ago on the Barefoot Beginner blog.

My First Barefoot Steps
By Thea Gavin, 54
Orange, CA
(written for Barefoot Beginner and first published 12/10/2013)

My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . probably didn’t happen when I was learning to walk. Back in the late 50s, station-wagon-driving parents were big on Buster Brown shoes with Eisenhower-stiff soles to “protect” babies’ feet. Yikes. (What’s even worse: in the 70s, I put my kids in shoes right away, too . . . which is one more parenting mis-step that I’m trying to atone for by encouraging my grandkids to lose their shoes when Grammy G comes for a visit.)

My first barefoot steps . . .
. . . in “nature” might have been at the beach, where even proper parents couldn’t force shoes onto all us kids hyped up by listening to Boss Radio 93 KHJ and then running wild in the waves.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
. . . were definitely at the beach – Corona del Mar State Beach. I have vivid memories (was I ten or twelve?) of running full-tilt over the jetty of giant boulders that poked out hundreds of yards into the very heart of the Pacific Ocean (at least it seemed that way to my younger self). My game was to hurtle myself from rock to rock and just let me feet find their way . . . it worked then, and it still works now when I barefoot trail run; I just “hurtle” a bit slower these days.

My first (intentional) barefoot hiking steps . . .
. . . happened in January of 2010; I was at a bird-watching event and noticed two young men in their early 20s wearing homemade wool pants and no shoes. I elbowed my big-booted friend sitting at the campfire next to me and we chuckled at those crazy kids. It was winter; why were they barefoot?

Why were they barefoot? I couldn’t stop wondering, and when I got home, thus began my descent into the convoluted internet labyrinth of all-things-barefoot.

The next day I went for yet another rehab hike at my “usual” 1.8 mile dirt loop; I was six years into my quest for recovery from a variety of running injuries fueled by my desire to run 50 miles the year I turned 50. I was 50-and-a-half. And not running at all, per doctor’s orders.

I carried a pair of old sandals in my little day-pack, just in case. There was no just in case. The cracked clay—and its scattering of rain-released grit—was a revelation. My feet hummed and vibrated for hours afterward.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
were interspersed with walking on this same trail. A lollipop loop, the “handle” from the parking lot was decomposed granite, a sole-shocking challenge that has morphed from “ouch!” to “meh” over the years.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
did the same thing for me that they seem to do for almost everyone: they made me feel like a kid again. Hills pulled me to their summits; rocks beckoned me to jump off them; mud invited me to squish around; soft poof-dust sang like Springsteen: “Baby, you were born to run.”

And the odd, after-run “buzz” of my soles was the strangest part of the initiation. That has diminished, but I continue to suffer, with fellow members of the church-of-the-enlightened-barefooters, the odd looks and hilariously inane comments of ignorant shoddies, including the classic, “Barefoot, huh?”

My first barefoot running steps . . .
turned me into an exuberant evangelist who wanted to share the barefoot love with everyone I met on the trail (and I only do trails; cement sidewalks do not interest me). I am now older, wiser, and silent unless asked specific questions by people who seem sincerely interested in opening their minds to new ideas.

My first barefoot running steps . . .
were almost four years ago. I continue to work through gait/mechanics-induced pains that pop up when I increase the intensity and/or duration of my runs. I continue to learn about my amazing body, including what to fuel it with, and I look forward to running barefoot until I am chased down and eaten by a mountain lion who thought I was a deer, moving so gracefully through Orange County’s wild hills at twilight.

* * * * * *


muddy feet.jpg

*Did somebody mention grandkids? Here’s how you turn them into shoe-resisters . . . this one is only three years old and has been taking her “first barefoot steps” all her little life. She already knows that after a tough day at pre-school there’s nothin’ like a little mud-squishing. #crazygrandma


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