If you don’t have shoes, it won’t be a problem: The second annual Boston Barefoot Running Festival has returned to Boston, inviting the masses to run naturally with other barefoot enthusiasts.
The festival, which will take place September 13 to 15 and is sponsored by the New England Barefoot Runners, will include workshops, races, socializing, and opportunities to connect with other barefoot runners in the country.
Most of the festival takes place in Cambridge and the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Artesani Park in Boston, with a race around the Charles River. In addition, many of the presentations take place at MIT. On Sunday, there is a 10K barefoot race in Gloucester at Good Harbor Beach.
Preston Curtis, the event director for the festival, said the idea for the festival came about a few years ago when barefoot running’s popularity grew amongst running and health groups. He said the idea of running barefoot intrigues people, and that once it draws runners in they find it hard to return to traditional running shoes. He said the festival is becoming a place where people can gather and participate in barefoot running as veterans or for the first time.
“You have the chance to experience the whole event with other like minded people where it will be constructive, and not in a situation where someone will feel excluded or singled out,” Curtis said. “It’s a good way to learn about the basic, fundamental, natural way of moving your body.”
Curtis said that one of the hopes of the festival is that people will come and try out minimalist or barefoot running to broaden their horizons, understand their bodies, and learn some of the potential benefits of running without shoes. Many runners, once they run barefoot, realize that running naturally has an amazing impact on the body, lessening foot, knee, joint, and leg pain in a way that shoes cannot. He said that some of the best voices in barefoot running will be present to offer their wisdom and knowledge.
“The grassroots people that are really into it are all coming,” Curtis said. “The guy who put barefoot running on the map [Ken Bob Saxton] is coming. The event is open to the public, but it still has the community feeling as well. It’s very open minded, we’re encouraging other people to come.”
Jennifer Kosinchuk, a member of the New England Barefoot Runners, said she has been running barefoot for two years. She said that she was surprised by how running barefoot improved her ability to run as well as improved running as an experience.
“It’s very gentle to the body. You respond to all the nerve endings on your feet, which you can’t feel when you run with sneakers,” Kosinchuk said.
Keith Salustro, a resident of Newton who has been running barefoot for three years, attended the Barefoot Running Festival last year. He said the experience was great, and it was encouraging to be around other people who felt shoes did not need to be a necessary part of running.
“You learn so much by hanging out with and learning from people who have been doing it for awhile,” Salustro said. “You get these different points of view, and together it turns into a lot of valuable information in a short period of time.”
Salustro said that he thinks everyone should try running barefoot—or at least minimally—and that the festival is a great place to do it. He said that he was surprised to find that he didn’t feel like he was missing anything by not wearing shoes, and that he hopes other people will come and learn about barefoot running perhaps give it a try.
“You don’t really give up much by giving up shoes. You make running fun again because you feel the ground, and you feel like a little kid again, running in bare feet,” Salustro said.
For more information, a complete schedule, or to register, visit the Barefoot Running Festival’s website.