So after the Half I did what I always do after a race- I completely stop running. I can see I improve over the months & years but I would probably improve a lot faster if I didn't lose all motivation to run every few months. I ran 8 miles a few weeks ago and 3 miles today.
The 8-miler a few weeks ago ended in quite literally, bloody disaster. I ran on a really rough trail (cheap and seal asphalt) after having done little barefoot running in the month or so before that.... because I ended up running my 16-miler and half in Merrell Trail Gloves and what do you KNOW when you don't condition your soles you can get blisters when you run 8 miles on rough surfaces. I looked like an idiot hobbling, whining, EXTREMELY slowly for the last 2 miles to the end of the trail after I totally thrashed my soles. Some other British runners who my running partner and I had passed even got to see my shame and suggest, "Maybe wear some trainers next time?" Yes. Probably next time I will wear some "trainers". I wanted to yell at them that I had run nearly twice this distance with no pain before but its useless... but once you're the insane barefoot runner who runs until her feet are slinging blood splatters all over your ankles there isn't much you can say.
You see, I've only been running for a few years. I am by no means a running expert. I started running in Vibram Fivefinger Sprints with the Couch to 5k program in March 2011... by the time I was running ten miles I had some pain in the tops of my feet (where the straps were) so I took my shoes off. It felt great. I learned about barefoot running and decided to see how far I could take it. In August 2011 I started building up to 3-4 miles and I had blisters. I read about form... a million things... high cadence, soft feet, relaxed legs, lean forward, etc... and it got better. I could run 6-10 miles easily barefoot for a couple of years. I stopped wearing shoes. I still got injured. A few times I bloodied my big toes and though about putting shoes back on but even the minimalist Vibrams weren't as comfortable as being barefoot. Even my everyday walking around shoes became uncomfortable... anything with a structured sole or the slightest heel was uncomfortable. It wasn't that big of a deal. I wore ballet flats and flip-flops and continued to run barefoot.
I also continued to have bad experiences. My first half marathon was a trail race. Filled with sticks and tiny rocks and root and slabs of rocks and more roots. By mile 9 my feet were bruised to hell and I put on my Vibram Bikilas to finish. It was not a fun race. I decided to at least wear minimal shoes for trails longer than 10ks. Trails weren't always miserable barefoot- mud and soft pine needles on dirt are actually quite wonderful to run on barefoot. I broke in minimal shoes on the road and started running more 50% shoes and 50% barefoot. My last half was in shoes and it felt great, physically. I don't think they are quite the right shoes (Merrell Trail Gloves) because they give me achilles pain I don't have when barefoot but I also don't have to constantly be looking out for surface dangers that I would need to be wary of when barefoot. I ran my 3 miler today in Vibram Bikilas and it felt pretty good.
I feel like the barefoot running community is not as upfront about the injuries that come along with it. Sure, you probably won't have shin splints or as many knee problems and for me it was the most comfortable way to run for a long time. But after the blister fiasco from the 8 mile run a few weeks ago I have to wonder if I'm just trading some injuries for others. I think I will probably always do some mileage barefoot because I still enjoy it but my running goals aren't based around that anymore. I want to go farther and faster. I am about to start training for my first marathon- Big Sur 2014. I'm sure I could do it barefoot; I think I might have a little more fun and achieve loftier speed goals if I put some (minimalist) shoes on. So that's what I'm doing for now.