Blisters made marathoner shed shoes

Blisters made marathoner shed shoes

By Dennis Fiely
The Columbus Dispatch
June 27, 2005

Marathon runner Ken Bob Saxton, who has been competing barefoot since 1997

His unadorned feet never fail him.

Running shoeless on pavement, Ken Bob Saxton finished 13 marathons last year with no significant road scars.

"I picked up some splinters here and there, but I just pulled them out and kept going," he said.

The 49-year-old resident of Huntington Beach, Calif., is the nation's pacesetter in the barefoot-running movement.

He began barefooting in 1997 after shoes blistered his feet so badly that he had to walk the final 5 miles of a marathon.

"Where were my shoes protecting me from?" he said.

Saxton continues to run one marathon a month and promotes barefoot running on his Web site:

"During the past two years, the size of our discussion group has blossomed and the attitude of runners has done a complete reversal toward acceptance," he said.

Saxton advises novices to start slowly.

"Don't focus on meeting your distance goals. Focus on learning how to run barefoot. It is different than running in shoes."

Rocky fields don't deter Saxton.

A computer technician at California State University-Long Beach, Saxton usually works in his bare feet.

"I wear shoes a few times a year, to get on an airplane or go to Home Depot," he said.

Other runners often ask to inspect the bottom of his feet.

"They're surprised to see that they are not hard and thick or all cut up," he said.

Running barefoot, he contends, ensures proper technique.

"The nerves in the bottom of the feet tell you to run more softly. If you are pounding, you are not running correctly. It is only comfortable to pound in shoes."

Dr. Greg Berlet, a Columbus foot and ankle surgeon, said Saxton's feet have been conditioned over several years to run shoeless.

"It is difficult to transfer his experience to the average runner."

Barefoot Rick's