15K Barefoot – and the Police!

I had a really good 15K barefoot run today, in lovely sunshine and at a comfortable slow pace. It was a balmy 17C, so I ran in just shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. (The forecast for the beginning of next week is for much colder temperatures and rain, so I’m soaking up all this good stuff while I can.)

I ran on the roadside when I could, but had to stick to the sidewalks for much of the 15K. That’s a drag, as the sidewalks are still covered in lots of little gritty stones. They’re not painful so much as annoying. The road, on the other hand, felt like butter under my bare feet. Once in a while, just for the heck of it, I ran through puddles and in wet, squishy grass – just like a kid!

About 2/3 of the way through my run, I had a brief encounter with the local constabulary. I’d been running on the sidewalk, with traffic coming towards me. Among one group of cars was a police car. They all drove by. A couple of minutes later, the police car came roaring back, pulled over to my side of the road (i.e., in the wrong lane for him, facing oncoming traffic), with his roof-lights flashing. The young cop at the wheel rolled down his window, and he and I had the following conversation:

Cop: “Everything all right here?”
Me: “Yes, why?”
Cop: “You don’t have any shoes.”
Me: “I don’t run in shoes.”
Cop: “Alright, then. Have a good one!”

And away he went, his lights still flashing, and with a little spray of gravel from his tires.

I really resent it when the armed branch of the State hassles people who are simply going about their business. But part of me understands that this is just typical cop behaviour, and there’s little I can do about it. I also recognize that, if I weren’t an older, white, middle-class male, this wouldn’t necessarily have been as goofy an interaction as it was.

The bottom line, though, is this – even a boy with a gun and a car with flashing lights on its roof couldn’t spoil what was a really pleasant barefoot run.



  1. What a fun little story to read! Glad it didn’t get confrontational, though I must wonder what they thought might be “wrong” with you. Maybe you were running FROM something? Anyway, that was a nice story to read on a Friday morning! 🙂

    1. I think the cop stopped simply because I was different. After all, I was wearing running shorts, a technical shirt, and cool sunglasses, and was carrying a water bottle. So I hardly looked suspicious. Just different.

      1. Maybe he thought something was wrong and you needed help, like someone mugged you and stole your shoes? Or maybe it was just the easiest way for him to see up close if you were really running barefoot…

      2. If that had been the case, Ryan, he could have stopped the first time he went by, and simply asked.

        By the way, I like your blog, Ryan, and have added it to my RSS feed. And thanks for the Twitter follow!

  2. I haven’t been pulled over by the police yet, but I’ve had a few cars slow down, and a couple roll down their windows to ask questions as I’m running.

    I’m hoping that within a few years, running barefoot won’t be seen as such an odd thing.

  3. I had that happen to me a few weeks ago! It was still much colder -just above freezing and still plenty of snow & ice on the ground- so it was understandable in a way, but it still surprised me because it was within half a mile from my home, the neighborhood in which I have been barefoot year-round for 14 years, and it was the ‘neighborhood’ officer (with a partner who didn’t say where he usually patrolled)! He said he hadn’t ever noticed me before (LOL, not my fault you didn’t pay attention -no I didn’t say that but I did think it, I’ve seen him pass through the neighborhood often enough ;-)) Also they said it was strange since I was running in regular clothes, but I’d just taken up running -it was right after that Harvard research hit the wires, that inspired me- and I was on one of those beginners schedules of 1-2 minutes running alternated with 1-2 minutes running, and that at those temps… I switched to tights & sports jacket the week after as soon as I had just a little bit more running in the schedule! So I guess it wasn’t that weird, and they were nice enough about it. I later send him a link to an article in one of our national papers which featured an article about going barefoot, including a full-page picture of me taken at a local bus stop. It’d been published just two weeks before that incident; I guess he doesn’t read that particular paper any more than he looks at people’s feet unless they happen to be running 🙂

    They sure were nicer about it than an officer at the train station some years ago who was really rude, said I was lying when I said I always walked that way, no one did that and I certainly couldn’t be going to work like that, and he pretty much yelled at me while looming over me really close. He gave up & let me continue on my way when I remained calm, but that was an unpleasant encounter. Turned out someone was worried to see a barefoot person at the train station thinking I might be crazy and jump -fortunately such extreme foot phobia is rare here and while I travel by train several times a week that was the only time anything like it has happened.

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