Last week, I joined my family for some time on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. We stayed in a house that was only accessible by driving with a 4×4 vehicle on the beach, so when I went out for a run, I had only one option. Run on sand.
Having just bought some new Brooks Ravennas, I wasn’t keen on filling them with that devil beach grit known as sand. Thus, when some of the beach house residents and I popped out for a morning run, I left my shoes on the porch and ran barefoot on the beach.
The dry sand shifts around a lot, tiring your ankles and calves, which work to keep you stable and upright. To avoid this, my running partner and I started on the firmer wet sand, which has a more dramatic slope towards the water. This puts extra stress on your knees. We ran an out-and-back route, so I’m just going to hope that I evened myself out.
I think there is some romantic notion about running barefoot on the beach: the wind in your hair, the surf lapping at your toes. At the very least, there’s the image of a busty Baywatch lifeguard bouncing her way to someone’s rescue. Trust me when I say that neither is accurate. With strong winds off the water, I had to charge down the beach to keep myself in a straight line, legs pumping and arms flailing. And when my sunscreen started to run, I was forced to squint my watering, burning eyes. The resulting picture was neither graceful nor sexy.
To avoid potential injury, we kept the run short, but I still felt tightness in my left ankle when we got back. However, I was most surprised by the abrasions on my big toes from the sand. The boyfriend, who ran even longer, came back with raw toes and spent the rest of the day wincing and grimacing. They never show you THAT on Baywatch.
Notice my dog in the background. He is always barefoot.]
I returned victorious from my first barefoot beach run, if not a little squinty, sore, and wind-blown. Would I do it again? Probably, if I had to. But that stretch of concrete sidewalk outside my house never looked so inviting.
(“Nobody will know what you’re talking about,” says the boyfriend, “They will be like, ‘What is beach?’ because they live in the Midwest.” Just kidding!)