The most common question I get from people about running in sandals on trails is “Don’t you kick your toes”. My standard response to my shoe shod fellow runner is “Do you?”.
Why would wearing sandals suddenly make me more prone to kicking my toes against rocks? In fact quite the opposite is true. I kick my toes less in sandals than when I run in shoes. I’ve previously broken my left big toe while road running in shoes. Running in sandals makes you run with care. That doesn’t mean slowly it simply means you are mindful of where your foot is about to land and you’re mindful of the trail ahead. That’s something every trail runner should be doing.
Over the weekend I ran a very technical and rocky trail. The area is part of the Witwatersrand Ridge and made mostly of hard erosion resistant quartzite. It’s sharp edged to say the least. As you can see from the accompanying pic there is not a mark on my toes. Shoes lull you into a false sense of security and get you into unbalanced positions which often lead to injuries like rolled ankles and stubbed or broken toes. Sandals on the other hand keep you honest. You will know the second you start compromising form because it hurts. The feedback to your body is immediate and so you adjust and correct your form long before a problem develops. My foot catching on a rock no longer results in a big tumble or a painfully stubbed toe because I’m running balanced. All that happens is the back foot catches slightly, the front foot carries the body weight and my back foot seems to bounce lightly over the obstacle. It hardly breaks my stride most times.
Running in sandals keeps you mindful. There is no room for laziness or distractions. It also allows you to keep your tone nails looking beautiful. Even painted.
My thanks to Andrew Barnes of T-Rockets who is constantly striving to make the perfect running sandals.