Barefoot or Bust

I’m sure many girls facing the challenge of 6 months of traveling with one backpack fret over the question- What shoes do I wear?

I’ve been struggling with this for a while and have run the gammet of options. Boots, tennis shoes, nice sandals, crappy sandals, athletic shoes, slip ons . . .one of each? There are so many options to choose from and then you have to think of functionality and how to match with different outfits. After a lot of googling, reading, and temporarily hoarding tens of millions of shoes in my online shopping carts, I think I’ve reached at least a partial solution.

I took these scenarios into consideration:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Hiking
  • Showering
  • To dress up
  • To dress down

To start, I’ll say that I was inspired by a book. Following several recommendations by several people, I dove into Born To Run. This may not seem relevant to shoes so let me explain. I ran track in high school and in the end, grew to hate running and everything about it. In fact, before I changed my mind the last few months, I probably hadn’t run in close to 5 years. This book inspired me, the people in the book inspired me, and so I started running again. This book taught me that running should be something enjoyable, not a chore. It’s a form of transportation to see the world. And as springtime in Chicago started to bloom I decided I wanted to start exploring the city. Running was the answer. Once I discovered how much I love running and also realized I wasn’t just doing it to work out but to actually explore my little part of the world in a new way, I worried that during our travels I wouldn’t be able to continue on in my running journey because of the shoe dilemma. Packing running shoes, casual sneakers, sandals, etc., is just too much. So I went back to the book and in doing so found my answer.

Barefoot sandals.

The book follows the Tarahumara tribe down in Mexico who run for miles and hours on end and they do it all with a little sliver of rubber strapped to their feet bottoms with some string. That’s it. They don’t have fancy running shoes with swooshes in different shades of neon. All they have are the basics. And barefoot running is turning into a thing (or maybe not). And so I jumped on the band wagon.

There are several pros to these ‘shoes:’

  1. You can make them yourself
  2. They are simple and cute
  3. You can pick your own colors
  4. And they’re cheap (~$25)

I attempted to make these shoes twice. The first attempt I bought these.

These come with the side holes already punched and the general shape of the foot already cut. You just have to punch the hole between your first and second toe, trim it to fit and tie it up. I had an issue with these, though, because my feet are really narrow and my heal kept slipping because the pre-cut side holes didn’t hold my foot in tight enough. Not wanting to give up on my only hope for functional and multi-purpose shoes I bought the real-do-it-yourself-ers to give it another go.

They actually just send you a square of rubber which you then trace your feet on. Then you cut them out, punch holes in them and lace up them up yourself. That way, they should be completely customized to fit your feet. I also liked these because they had the light caramel/cream/neutral option, which I thought would work with my color palette better.

These ended up working out perfectly for me. Another thing to note is that you can tie these up in a million different ways. I made my way up but you can see different ways to do it here.

The great thing about how I tied mine is that they can just slip on and off so I don’t have to tie and re-tie them every time I put them on.

I’ve run in these shoes a few times already. It definitely forces a different running posture that is better for you but it takes a while to train your feet to run ‘barefoot.’ I’ve had a few blisters on my toes but I’m slowly building some nice little toe calluses and I’m hoping to run over 5 miles in them soon. This whole barefoot thing is great. You can feel the earth under your feet, the cracks in the pavement, the soft grass bending under your weight. My heels turned black and dirty from the muddy puddles on the sidewalk- they make me feel like a kid again.

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