As a child I suffered from a mild case of asthma. I was always very active and somewhat athletic so I didn’t let it slow me down too much but there were two circumstances in which it really bothered me. Swimming and running really flared up my asthma. I could sprint short distances without a problem but it was endurance running that got to me. To me the thought of running for fun was ludicrous! Who in their right mind would go and run of their own free will, without a middle school gym coach forcing them to do it?
At age 12 I joined the Boy Scouts of America and began doing a lot of hiking. Our troop did a 50 mile hike every year. The first one I did about killed me! I didn’t know how to pack and I had canned food that made my pack weigh as much as I did! I felt like I couldn’t breath most of the time and I was sick of walking in the back of the group. For some reason though, I loved it. There was a sense of accomplishment that I got from finishing something so hard at such a young age. I imagine running gives people similar feelings. That trip made me stronger both physically and mentally. The next year I realized that not only were my legs and back stronger but my lungs as well. I continued to hike and ride my bike and I found that it didn’t take long before my asthma was as good as gone! I know a lot of people naturally grow out of it but I’m confident that backpacking helped it along.
With my new-found freedom to breath I decided to go out for a run with a friend who loved it and… I still hated it. It was terribly boring to me. I didn’t like the constant pounding on my legs. I was out of breath and I couldn’t really enjoy my surroundings. After hiking through the woods I found running in the city to be dull. I was self-conscious about how I looked. It just wasn’t fun. I could get a good workout doing other things and I could have fun at the same time. I played soccer for a few years in high school (you know, the sport that makes you run more than any other sport out there!). Luckily I was the goal keeper! :) Unfortunately the coach still made me run laps with the rest of the team. Running around the school a thousand times got terribly dull. I found that I wasn’t really cut out for organized sports. I didn’t like how unfriendly the competition made people.
As I grew older there came a time when I was so busy that sometimes I just needed to get out and get some exercise. I tried running with my wife and found it to be less tedious than I had in my youth but it was still boring and I found that my knees would ache after a while. I bought some inserts to add to the padding and that helped… for a little while. Again I decided that I could snowshoe, bike, hike and do all of the fun things I like while getting a good workout.
Now I fast-forward to about a year ago. As an avid outdoor enthusiast I realized that I needed something different for footwear for the next summer. I searched high and low but couldn’t find anything that I liked and was in my budget. In my search I discovered VFFs and I liked the concept but I wanted the tops of my feet to be open. I wanted sandals! At that point I decided I had had enough and was going to make my own sandals. I continued to research the concept of minimal footwear. It just made sense to me. I have thought for a long time that we as a society are over doing it with technology trying to replace nature. With extensive trials and some research, eventually, Unshoes were born.
I found that although there are some others out there who want minimal shoes for hiking, most people that go minimal are runners. Needles to say I have become more interested in running as a natural result of that fact. I live a few blocks from the local university where I teach a class and take classes. (I’m teaching while working on a second degree.) I rarely drive because I think that’s dumb and because by the time I find a parking place I could have walked there twice. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) I find myself late most of the time so I need to run to get to class on time. One morning I was pretty late to a class that I’m taking so I ran the whole way. I walked in the door and my teacher asked if I walked because my cheeks were red (yes it was very cold outside). I informed him that I didn’t walk, I ran. Then I suddenly became surprised. I had run all the way to class without walking at all and I was not out of breath! I probably have terrible form compared to all you barefoot runners out there, but being conscious of my form and using a gentle forefoot strike changed everything! My knees don’t ache, I can feel the ground underneath me so it has become less boring, and it doesn’t run me into the ground!
Now I am finding that I am running instead of walking because it is just more effective. I run back and forth to class and while I’m out for errands. Now that it’s not just a chore I believe I am understanding why people run. As human beings, we were designed to run. It isn’t some unnatural torture method that it used to be. I am still better at a good sprint but I can probably run twice as long, if not more, than I used to be able to. I would still much rather go out and run on a trail out of town but at least I don’t hate it anymore. Since I began creating sandals less than a year ago I have learned a lot about myself. I never thought I would consider myself an entrepreneur, product designer, or a runner. I now know otherwise.