Barefoot marathon

Why do people walk barefoot to embassies, what is a blister formula, what are the sneakers manufacturers silent about, who is howling in the park, and how to get a new sensory organ?


My barefooted running story has started over 40 years ago when I took first steps, ran over the room and crumpled pillows.

Then I was running barefooted a lot on carpets, on grass at picnics and on the beach. Thankfully, we were living not far from the seaside and been going there every day by commuter train. I remember this levitation sensation when I was running barefooted along at the water’s edge, imagining myself as a seagull.

But childhood humbly fell behind, barefooted run’s happiness reached only rare nightmares, and unity sensation with the nature seemed tramped in asphalt by hundreds of various shoes.

Next, I remembered about those miraculous sensations I experienced on my own wedding. It was favoured by a pair of shoes bought on the cusp where my soles squashed by vice.

Fluff it! Footwear. And here we are with my darling, stamping barefooted on the central avenue in the crosshairs of photographer.

And then again socks, insoles, slippers, flip flops, boots, leg warmers, high boots, felt boots and shoes.

The third attempt to run barefooted was called “Pauper Triathlete”. Is it necessary to have money in order to do a triathlon?  Turned up that is not, and to prove it I went through “Olympian” (1,5 km swimming, 40 km cycling, 10 km running) almost without outfit, and the last leg I ran barefooted wearing flip floes.

Then, excoriating soles, I didn’t wriggle way into barefooted philosophy run and wore sneakers again.

But despite all unsuccessful attempts, somewhere deep in my inner space stuck an inexplicable hankering to get rid of layer between me and the earth. Probably, was pulling to land. And having a single possibility walk barefooted, took off the shoes, blessing out from the feeling that I am a wild person who doesn’t need to hide his soles behind insoles.

The knee

A few years passed, till one day… No, not like that… When someday…or, rather a horrible day, although maybe a wonderful one… Basically, I slid and fell on the knee straight away on the edging. Ooooohhhhh……I was howling in the park, unable to stand up.

My knee was swollen and ached a lot. I hardly crawled up home and fell on the bed. I was looking at the ceiling, not knowing that today is an unusual today. But exactly that day was the inception of my way to the barefooted run.

With the time knee recovered, but the pain didn’t leave me yet. As soon as I put weighting it started to ache. MRT “brought good news”, Jumper’s Knee. How doctors explained to me- it was for a long time. Physiotherapy + therapeutic exercises + heat soak + time = chance that I will get rid of the pain.

Diligently I did everything, so after a month knee didn’t ache that much, and I rejoiced. Too early. On the north pole, when I was fighting for the pedestal, knee reminded of it. But the result was much more important, and I was running through the pain. Second place and lame leg-that’s what I brought from the pole. I couldn’t run after all.I grew sad. Couldn’t imagine my life without a run. But the pain didn’t let me run. And I decided to rest knee for a month and just go for a walk.

It was May, the sun was shining, and I was walking in the most beautiful park out of all in our country- Dendrarium. And just then I thought: “What if I am going to walk barefooted?’. In a few minutes, sneakers were hiding behind the tree and I was walking along the wet grass covered with dew and felt an incredible sense of liberty.

But the grass is not eternal, and I crossed onto warm asphalt, then plumped into puddles of water, then stones, then planch, then land… All coatings are different and every has its own “character”-temperature, shagginess, humidity, smoothness. Seemed like a whole new world has opened to me!

And here I am, standing outside my house, simpering and holding sneakers, realising that I don’t want to wear them anymore.


This is how I removed footwear. Not like for an hour or a day. I have one singularity which brings me as bonuses, as problems. I am a perfectionist and if I have something in mind, I will dive head foremost. That is why I removed footwear, completely.

I was walking barefooted everywhere: at work, in shops, at the meetings, in cafes and restaurants, in the ministry, in parks with kids. I even came barefooted to the USA embassy with the official visit.

This is how me and Mishka created a tradition: to go barefooted to buy ice-cream, sit at the edging, squint and observe people passing by, at the same time licking plombiere.

It is hard to believe, but I even slept barefooted.

Whilst one footing to buy an ice-cream, I realised that I want to run Kishinev’s marathon without any footwear. Informing this “joyful” new to the coach Leonid Shvetsov I didn’t expect to get approval, but wrongly. He didn’t even support me, but decided to join me and run it together with me!

Workouts started. And it was amazing-newly I became a fresher in running and just getting to know myself from the beginning, as 6 years ago. There I ran the first shoeless “five” and haven’t wrecked my feet. There I speeded up to 15 km per hour and gained a callus. Cured it and again back to the street- “Tenner”, half marathon…

It is hard to believe, but I even slept barefooted.

Whilst one footing to buy an ice-cream, I realised that I want to run Kishinev’s marathon without any footwear. Informing this “joyful” new to the coach Leonid Shvetsov I didn’t expect to get approval, but wrongly. He didn’t even support me, but decided to join me and run it together with me!

Workouts started. And it was amazing-newly I became a fresher in running and just getting to know myself from the beginning, as 6 years ago. There I ran the first shoeless “five” and haven’t wrecked my feet. There I speeded up to 15 km per hour and gained a callus. Cured it and again back to the street- “Tenner”, half marathon…

I was waiting for workouts like we used to do, like 10000 asphalt-trainer kilometres didn’t exist, like I never spilled my lungs onto the edgingdidn’t get frostbittendidn’t have a heat strokehypoglycaemiacramps, and like I was never turned inside out on the finish line.

I fell from running anew.

Just this time I decided not to make freshers mistakes and began to train promptly. So, the rule number one- expand the distance not faster than 10% a week.

Muscles, sinew and skin needed to adopt to a new weighting.

Warm-up is obligatory, to stretch the calves and Achilles’ tendon. If possible, do a leg massage, because body forgets the sensation of relief from the childhood, muscles tightened, sinews crackled, and articulations got rusted.

Feet skin is a separate story. In order to look after and not to wreck it, listen for signals: if there is a burn feeling, chafing, need to stop running and lowering the volume, if the outside is too hot or raining, staying at home. The main blister formula – blister= friction+moisture+heat.

I actually got some blisters, I really wanted to run fast. But it wasn’t as deadly as comparing with MDS, these blisters were super cute. In that case you just need to poke callus so the liquid will come out and slowly walking, after a week you be running like nothing happened.

After 2-3 months it won’t matter, which coating, temperature and how long will you be running. The skin will become thicker and widely pliant, as our organism adapts is like a miracle.

Sneakers are evil

The most unexpected things what happened with me that summer, my knee had stopped aching, although I was running barefooted 200 km in a month. I started examining this question and surprisingly detected that sneakers are the shortest way to traumas.

Sneakers manufacturers are trying to make it more comfortable, so they are expanding amortisation for foot: gels, trampoline springs, air-is coming into play, in order to be soft and safe. Advertisement shouts:” Our extra expensive boots will provide super protection!”, “Run through the clouds!”. And runner feels protected, he runs like its comfortable in these shoes, -straightening leg and hammering it into asphalt with his heel.

Such a blow surpassing body mass thrice, at the beginning beats heel, then the air blast is reaching knee joint, and then pushing coxal and reaching loins. Existing observations are showing that as the more protected leg feels wearing sneakers, as more powerful it hits the ground.

Apart from that, variation between heel and toe is leading to shortening Achilles’ tendon and gastrocnemius, as you are almost running in high heels. And short, not stretched Aheel is being traumatised more often.

If, however take off the sneakers and run, a little miracle is happening-your heel is not even reaching the ground!

Barefooted runner’s leg looks like a chain of trampoline springs-it lands first on the toes and the ball of the foot, then gradually shins and thigh muscles are toughening, arch of the foot twists, accumulating blow’s energy.

When leg finishes, landing and started pushing away from the ground, all that energy gives back to accelerate jolt and the next step. This gigantic trampoline spring is the biggest miracle of the human’s body.

Amortisation’s work could be traced easily: try to jump with the bend knees on the same place. If you jump correct- you won’t hear hitting the floor. The legs will work exactly how is it described above: fingers, toe, arch, legs muscles and finally heel. It is because humans solely  have formed without footwear.

As an addition to muscles change, barefooted run is lowering oxygen intake, which leads to speed increase. Was discovered that the barefooted runner oxygen intake is about 4% lower. I was already writing how sneaker’s weight is influencing speed-


Barefooted run brought me so much joy that I literally became an ambassador-tramp. I convinced to take off shoes those who I met on the way-friends, partners, people passing by and colleagues, even organised for them a round in the park in terms of Marathon preparation.

And how could you miss our favourite yearly round across vineyards – Purcari Winerun! Already became a favourite dusty back road. Before the start, me and Vadim assembled a team of boys, took their shoes off and showed them 10 km of the most beautiful places on the South of Moldova.

On the way over swilled water, ate watermelons and grapes. At the finish line, teens were happy- new experience, new senses, exhausted soles and a beautiful medal!

A very bubbly video about wine round in Moldova- Winerun:

Many were looking at me like at a crazy one, somebody considered me eccentrical, and somebody luvvie.  And just only a few tried to walk/run barefooted, realising how great it is. The first follower became my son-despite all mum’s protests, he took off his shoes, and became walking everywhere barefooted and “drag mud home”. Them my friends joined me-first Eduard, with whom we ran sometimes, then Vadim. Seeing how it drives me mad, my colleagues made me an unusual Birthday gift- tramp movie:

The sixth sense

I almost discovered a new organ of senses sole. What a huge number of sensor receptors are inactive, but I felt it when started running barefooted. It was a brain’s eruption- what it is, where do you get so much new information, what is happening?

How would you explain feelings, when you are running through warm, smooth asphalt, partially sanded?  And when you are running in the park in the morning through the wet grass dew? Or, for example, have you tried running through thick mud, while with every step slush is leaking through your toes? Or in a chilly day, how does it feel, to find a heap of elm fallen flowers and to warm your barefooted legs there?

These outstanding feelings brought so much joy that like it or not you start looking for it everywhere and adding to your “collection”.

And this is me after 4 months of workouts, ran more than 700km barefooted (maximum 27km), didn’t cause a blister and realised that am ready for the Marathon. I was waiting for it with the same temptation as for the first sex- with aspiration, worry and a fear not to goof up. And the wait is over.

42 barefooted kilometres

The morning was very clear, sunny and breezy, and the most important- dry. Running through plashes 42 km barefooted and leaving after yourself a trail of blood from ripped blisters wasn’t part of my plan. Me and Lenea ate porridge and hoppingly went to the city centre.

It was around 7 degrees at night and asphalt frosted feet- but cold is not a barrier for the skin, the most important is that it won’t be heat- blisters are appearing immediately. Although there is not much good about the cold, but anyway, barefooted run is a summer distraction as in the autumn you want to wear something warm already.

And here we are in the centre. In 2018 our marathon was dedicated to disabled people topic-at the same time with young runners have participated dozens of people in wheelchairs, who arrived from different countries, and also local homebodies who were helped by volunteers to run from 10 to 42 km. To sum it up, Marathon for All. We were included in an irregular people category who were running barefooted and showing that there is nothing impossible and if you are not like others and looking for new senses.

That day me and Leonid were important people in the marathon. We peacemakers, for 4 hours, going to set the pace for the fastest run for beginners’ marathoners, for those who want to run the distance faster than in 4 hours. Couldn’t fail somebody and we needed to run it exactly in 4 hours, no matter what.

Around thousands of people, many foreigners, flags, music, smiles, sun, mood is set to positivity, and legs for the long road. We shake each other’s hand; I feel that came back to the past. Behind my back are two dozen of Marathons, ultras, multiple days, but now I am stranded at the start of my first marathon in Paris and shivering from cold and obscurity. What will happen to me after 30km, am I going to die, legs will fall off, will I be able to make it, won’t give up? Now I have the same thoughts and it is becoming gratefully.

Shot, and we started running. Splat-splat, splat-splat. Music, serpentine, everyone is shouting-the start of the marathon has been always epic and differs from the finish line with the runner’s mood. Like cardinally.

I hope it is not us… We are dragging along flag “4:00” and slowly are covered by runners. Around 10 people attached to us, trusted our experience and promises that we will lead them to the finish line faster than in 4 hours.

Half marathon has passed humbly-asphalt warmed up and soles stopped being numb. Keeping still pace-5:40 on km, the mood is outstanding, pulse is low, footsteps lie before me, sun is shining.

“Surprises” started on 27 km. Although, usually surprises at marathons begin around “30”. I felt…no, not the feet skin, and no, not the heel, no, not the knees… And overall…full of power. I felt calves. It started slowly throbbing. My experience suggested that this is just a beginning, tension in calves is not passing that easy, but why the calves, it never bothered me before, what happened?

Although… I trained the whole summer on plane routes and here are hills. Not big hills. But still. And as I am running on my sole forepart, can say almost on my tiptoes, calves are straining. Plus, the distance, plus pitches, plus speed! Get it!

And on 32km I am running through the pain. Leha is next to me jumping off, of course, his experience and mine is incomparable. Well, not the first time to bear, and calves-meat, will heal up. Running, moaning, not pacing the temp, as we are followed by dozens of people and we have to complete it in 4 hours. Deep inside I am thinking if we are going to manage, but telling to the guys:

-Heeeey, why did you leave down the dumps? One more hill and then down, to the finish line! Hold the fort!

I feel like my legs are turning into wood sticks. The last hill literally killed my calf muscles. Now every step is a pain. But not supposed to stop, finish is in front, people are behind.

Barefooted French is passing by, we are waving, anyway is a colleague to us. However, barefooted death Dji is pursuing somebody, Klopot is taking a piss. Smiling, and as always, it helps.

The last kilometres are so hard: calves are like two burning rocks, feet skin starts burning and I am switching on a separate technique for pain and crucifixion.

The finish line is near. A few people remained with us and we are accelerating through the pain. We are catching a wheelchair and pushing him to the finishing gate on the red carpet. Gotcha! 3:59!

Barefooted marathon is behind.

Hugging, looking at the feet- shiny, smooth, without blisters, like a on a baby. As run another marathon. Even so human is an incredible creature, could get used to everything, the only question is how much time and power you will need for it.

But my calves are burning, I didn’t pay attention. Next year need to run barefooted on hills. And while I’m going to masseurs, falling on the table, clamping medal between my teeth and flying…

….again, I am a 7 years old boy who is running barefooted on wet sand and feels like a bird, not uptight by gravitation, footwear or society rules.

I am just flying over the earth, not feeling my legs. I am free.

Mentioned projects:
Chisinau Marathon Wine Run
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