Treading a new path: Noe pursues shoeless adventures

by Abby Fergusson
Sports Editor

Whether it’s due to injury or boredom, many runners have turned to barefoot running to liven up their routine.

For sophomore Erica Noe, a member of the cross-country and track teams, barefoot running has turned into more than just a hobby.

Sophomore Erica Noe has been barefoot running for almost two years. It has helped her become more physically and mentally tough.

“I loved the sound of something that was more natural and better for me; plus it just sounded fun,” said Noe.

For runners like Noe, barefoot running or “barefooting” has turned into more than just running barefoot.

“It’s a style of running that goes back to the basics and helps you naturally self-regulate your own running, therefore creating less impact on your body,” said Noe.

Noe started in a more unconventional way than the average barefoot runner.

“I started in the middle of a Maine winter, snow and all. So I began in socks,” said Noe.

This coming January, Noe will hit the two-year mark of barefooting. Her inspiration to begin came after her oldest brother read a book by Christopher McDougall called “Born to Run.”

“It started as a new way for me to bond with my brother and try something new, but has since grown into so much more,” said Noe.

Noe has seen firsthand the positive effects of barefooting.

“I was sick of injuries. I used to get bad shin splints in high school, but since starting barefoot running, I have had no major injuries. I feel more agile and ready to run,” said Noe. “My muscles feel less sore and it feels less taxing and more natural to run because my body is allowed to move the way it was supposed to without being limited synthetically by excess cushioning and structure.”

The NCAA prohibits runners from running barefoot in meets, so Noe has turned to cushionless minimalist shoes.

“(They) give the protection of a shoe with the feeling of running barefoot,” said Noe.

Although it has been physically taxing, Noe has come to realize its importance.

“It takes time and effort to get used to barefoot running because it is a totally different style, and as any runner will tell you, it’s extremely difficult to change your form. But as I gradually made the change, I realized how much it is worth it,” said Noe.

Noe has learned a lot about herself both mentally and physically while barefooting.

“It has taught me a higher level of self-discipline and the power and strength that lies within a deep connection with your own body and self as well as with your surrounding environment,” said Noe.

Noe has also passed on her wisdom from barefooting to fellow runner Kristen Ballard, a senior.

“After reading some of her run journals, she talked up the perks of injury prevention and foot freedom. I had to try it and now I’m addicted,” said Ballard. “Nearly everything I have learned about barefoot running since has been the result of Erica patiently enduring my interrogations.”

One of the most important things barefooting has done for Noe is renew her love for the sport after feeling burned-out from running year after year since she was 6 years old.

“When I started barefooting I rediscovered why I love running so much,” said Noe. “It brought a new challenge and adventure to something that had become so routine for me. It’s an adrenaline rush. … I continue to do it now to get back to that feeling but also because I love the way it feels. It’s a sense of oneness with the trail or road and with yourself that I can’t find anywhere else. That type of deep connection is so encouraging and it pushes me to keep going with every step.”

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