No one will be surprised, I’m sure, when I state that some surfaces are more friendly to a bare foot than others. While practice makes for an excellent social lubricant in the foot-ground relationship, some stuff will always be a challenge in one way or another. Usually, the challenge doesn’t last for a whole race, so each barefooter has to come up with their own pleasant/unpleasant ratio of acceptability when deciding whether to sell out to Big Shoe.
For instance, if there’s a 0.1mi stretch of gravel in a marathon that is otherwise decent pavement, most barefooters would eschew the shoe. Ridge to Bridge, mostly on loose gravel of the nastiest sort, will likely never have a barefoot finisher, unless someone way more skilled than me is looking for a challenge. Most of us will set our BAREometer (oh, that’s good!) somewhere in between, sliding one way or the other depending on objectives. Ultimately what this means, is that there are going to be plenty of times a barefoot runner will be running on an unpleasant surface in public.
How should the barefooter deal with the situation? Act like it feels good? Like it’s no big deal? Being an ambassador of sorts, he’s not going to want anyone to think he regrets his choice to go shoe-free.
Or maybe he should suck it up and carry some flip flops for anything uncomfortable the ground throws at him. Then he not only has a cushy ride, he avoids the EXTREMIST label.
The answer to both of these options is no and no. I mean, do what you want, you’re your own person and really, who am I? The one with the right answers, that’s who. The best thing for an Ambassador of Shoeless Slogging to do is to whine and complain.
Why? Because it’s honest. It’s the truth. No propaganda, no spin. If you fake like it doesn’t feel bad and people believe you, they will assume being abnormally tough is a requirement to run barefoot. If they don’t believe you, they’ll think you’re an idiot.
As for option flip flop, I think it’s overly sensitive. Too sensitive of foot and too sensitive to the judgement of others. Besides, you’re missing out on a lot your feet have to teach you. And who wants to carry flip flops around all the time anyway? Might as well put them on and leave them on. On a side note, I would also question the wisdom of dulling every pain that comes your way.
I say complaining about the rough times is best. Because then, when you finish a marathon and answer “Great!” to the question, “How do your feet feel?”, your word is believed by those who know you’ll complain about a tiny rock.