In 2000, I started running a little bit here and there. I wasn't terribly consistent because I did a lot of different kinds of exercise too, so when I felt like it I ran. But the more I ran, the more I liked it and by 2005 I started running a lot more and entering races for fun.

That summer, I built my mileage to about 35 miles a week. I was having a blast until I started in with some terrible shin splint pain in my right leg. I tried to run through it, but soon I couldn't even walk without limping so I made an appointment with a sports medicine doctor.

The doctor had me stand in front of him with my shoes off. He saw that my arches collapsed while standing, so he recommended motion control shoes with some orthotic support while I ran. I went to the running store and got my motion control shoes and then went to a podiatrist who made me some of those hard plastic orthotics.

The podiatrist told me I should NEVER go without my heavy shoes and orthotics. He told me that I was born with a non-functioning arch and that there were no kinds of strengthening exercises that would help it.

Thus began my life of wearing heavy athletic shoes nearly everywhere I went. I never wore sandals in the summer and I never went barefoot because I was terrified of having my shinsplints come back.

The shinsplints never did come back, but from that point on I was basically injured continuously. Every time I built my mileage up and felt like I was making progress, something would start to hurt so terribly I had to take time off. More often than not, it was my right IT band that hurt.

Also during all of this, my feet and legs would ache frequently. I never considered that it was the orthotics making me ache, since the doctor told me they were what I needed. Instead, I spent money on different kinds of orthotics, thinking that I just needed to find the right kind of material and design for my foot.

But I never did find the right pair of orthotics. In the Fall of 2010 I ran my first half marathon. But right after the race, my right IT band became injured again. I was so disappointed that I was really ready to give up running. I had spent the last 5 years being injured and I couldn't bear the anguish of not being able to do what I loved so much.

Barefoot training on grass
The early stages of my barefoot training, after I'd been running barefoot for a few weeks.

But of course I just couldn't give up. I had been reading Pete Larson's blog and the idea of running in less shoe terrified me because of what I'd been told about my body. But I figured I had nothing to lose and after doing a lot of research, I ditched the orthotics in February of 2011.

At first, I could only go about 5 minutes during the day without my orthotics. But I slowly built up to where I could walk around my house all day without shoes. Then I added barefoot walks and started with just 2 minutes of barefoot running at a time.

By July, I was up to 45 minutes of total barefoot running at a time. After that, I felt like I had learned my new form well enough to try some minimalist shoes and from that point on I mixed barefoot running with running in some Vivobarefoot shoes.

Pre-race warm-up barefoot with the kids
Warming up with my kids before running a race together.

It's been a little over a year since I started my transition. I can run some nearly every day now and my IT band has never hurt again. It's hard to explain just how liberating this experience has been for me. I went from feeling that my body couldn't function on its own, to believing that I am strong and capable. It was a hard transition filled with many blisters and lots of learning, but it has been worth every bit of trouble.