Name: Jeanne Davis
Location: New York City
Profession: SAHM (stay at home mom) to 2 very active girls aged 1 & 3
So what are the top 10 reasons why you should let your child go barefoot?
10. Kids are natural born runners. They love to run & move, let them do it the way they want to
9. Less boo-boos. They will barely trip barefooting -- but when they are in thick soled shoes -- they seem to trip a lot more.
8. Builds up their natural foot strength.
7. It encourages them to listen to their bodies.
6. They pay much closer attention to their environment & where they step.
5. Think of all the money you will save on fancy footwear!
4. Barefoot on the playground makes them more coordinated and improves balance. (If you don't believe this -- try doing tree pose in sneakers).
3. Helps stave off obesity and all the ills that go along with it.
2. You have a live-in running partner.
1. Joy -- Next time you are in the park, watch a child run around without shoes. No pain, no HRM, no watch, that is true happiness.
Did you push your 3-year old to run around barefoot?
I really never encouraged my daughter to run barefoot. In fact, it is something I tried to hide & discourage at first, which of course made her all that more curious. I was afraid she would cut herself or I'd get funny looks & comments from other parents. Eventually her natural curious ways proved to me that it would be really wise to allow her to run barefoot. I got painful shin splints and stress fractures almost every competitive season of my life due to heavy heel striking, "supportive" shoes, and orthotics. I soon realized that the best thing I can do for her is to NOT interfere in the process of her developing her natural running form. Her body is teaching her how to be a runner better than I ever could.
What about safety?
Since Lily is only 3, we had a lot of discussions about running "with your piggies out". It is important to be careful. If it hurts your feet, put shoes on. Now, when we go on the cinder bridle path, she says, "the little rocks don't hurt anymore -- I can run on them now". When she gets tired, I encourage her to go just a little bit further. We'll repeat a mantra like, "I can do it, I can do it" for just a little bit longer.
The great thing about kids (especially young ones) is that they have no choice but to put all of their energy into everything they do, and when they are spent, they literally cannot make themselves go any further. So we really don't have to worry about overuse injuries.
What's your story?
I've been a runner for over 20 years. I started running when I was 12 and I really haven't stopped much since. I had an amazing high school cross country team & coach who really took the sport seriously. This was probably the most motivating experience of my youth. I ended up surprising myself by becoming a much faster runner than I ever thought possible. Running kept me focused & happy and taught me that I can set goals that I may not really believe possible, incrementally work towards them, and eventually succeed. I continued running at a Division 3 college. Running continued to be my focus and stress relief when I was a navy officer serving on board ships in active war zones during Operations Enduring Freedom & Iraqi Freedom.
How did you end up running this way?
When I started running again after I had my second daughter I was plagued with severe pelvic & hip pain anytime I ran longer than 3 miles. I got checked for all the potential maladies (i.e., PID, pelvic fracture, cysts, tumors, etc.) and was fortunate not to have any of those. During the MORE half marathon, I was telling my old running partner about my pains and she suggested I try barefooting. She had just started running occasionally in VFF and thought it was really helping her form. I got a pair of VFF and immediately felt an improvement. Running barefoot forced me shorten my stride and to keep my hips under my spine. This prevented me from heel striking & taking too big steps, thus reducing the shock treatment I was unnecessarily putting my poor pelvic region through.
Do you run barefoot or with minimalist shoes?
Both -- it just depends on the surface. I never hesitate to put VFF on when I see a surface that may irritate my feet
How long have you been running this way?
Since April 2010, so 5 months. I started out only doing a few miles a week barefoot or in VFF. Now, I do all my running barefoot or in VFF. I did 2 triathlons this summer including the Westchester Toughman Half Ironman completely barefoot and I put my VFF on for the trail & gravel portions. The other triathlon was the Anthracite Olympic Tri in Jim Thorpe, PA. I was the only minimalist shoe runner there and I got a lot of support from the teenagers at the water stops!
Interesting observations / anecdotes from your time barefooting?
My 3 year old loves to run barefoot too. I love watching her run in her natural state. Kids have such beautiful running form and they experience great joy from it. What surprises me is the stunned reactions and objections I've encountered from others when they see her running around barefoot on the playground or street.
Also, kids & teenagers totally get it - they think minimalist shoes are "cool" and never hesitate to say so.
Why are you coming to the NYC Barefoot Run?
I'm a member of the Barefoot Runners NYC meetup. One of the things I love most is the amazing people I've met in my running barefoot adventures. The people tend to be interesting, open-minded, and bold. They all tend to be living lives they are excited about. This is a very inspiring & motivating part of my life.
What are you most excited about?
Running the race with my 3 year old. She is so excited to run the race where everyone's "piggies are sticking out"