Herz bares his soles for the run

Michael Herz completed his first barefoot half-marathon recently in Illinois. Shown with Herz is a pair of Nike Free running shoes, which he says are the closest thing to running barefoot with actually going bare.
Michael Herz completed his first barefoot half-marathon recently in Illinois. Shown with Herz is a pair of Nike Free running shoes, which he says are the closest thing to running barefoot with actually going bare. Photo by Jessica Williams.

One Huntington resident knows his feet better than the back of his hand, as the saying goes. That's because he runs mile after mile barefoot.

Dr. Michael Herz just received his anger management therapist license in May. He hopes to open an office in town. He has lived in Huntington since 1988, moving here from Chicago.

He's been training barefoot for three years after he heard about barefoot running on the Internet.

Herz has even discussed this with his physicians and, he says, "they have no problem with it."

He completed his first barefoot half-marathon in Highland Park, Illinois on Sunday, June 14. He placed 856th out of 1,366 with a time of 2:05:41 and a pace per mile of 9:36.

His longest barefoot run prior to Highland Park was on May 10. He ran from the Huntington Municipal Airport on Ind.-5 toward I-69 through Majenica and back, for a total distance of 13 miles.
He says no one he knows runs without shoes. But he also says it's on the rise.

"It's getting to be more and more popular because you run a lot different ... you have a lot less pain (after the initial pain from getting the feet conditioned)," he says.

He suffered knee and back pains while running with shoes. Doctors that have looked into this say running with no shoes is better for you because you don't rely on shoes to support your body. Herz compares it to wearing a cast.

"If you break your arm, you wear a cast for six weeks. You take it off and all the sudden it's real weak. It's the same thing with shoes, you put shoes on ... and it gets worse and worse and worse (strength wise)."

"Born to Run," a novel by Christopher McDougall, discusses the benefits to this type of running. McDougall talks about how we are taught to run heel first, so when runners wear padded shoes, they can't sense the ground as they run and they tend to stomp harder. This leads to more injury and pain, McDougall says.

Herz's goal is to run a marathon in every state. Herz has also run three times in Iraq at a military base, but not barefoot because it's not allowed.

After spending so much time running barefoot, will Herz ever go back to shoes?

"I don't think so," he says.