In fact, he just wanted to see if it would help him heal from injuries sustained in a serious accident.
In spring 2006, Sandler was rollerblading on a Boulder bike path when he suddenly swerved to avoid colliding with a toddler who had wandered onto the path. Avoiding the toddler sent Sandler into a crash that broke his leg and pelvis in multiple places. Doctors told him he’d never run again. But that didn’t stop Sandler, a longtime pro athlete who was used to overcoming pain and obstacles.
“I got to the point where I was off crutches, and trying to figure out how to start running again. But I just couldn’t get balanced no matter how many custom shoes or orthotics I tried. So I took off my shoes,” said Sandler. The first day, he ran barefoot 100 yards, then went home and iced his feet. After a few weeks of short distances, ice, and rest, Sandler realized something. His feet were adapting and he was feeling great. Today, he runs barefoot 10 to 20 miles a day.
He and wife Jessica Lee, also a barefoot running devotee, began teaching others how to ease into the sport (‘ease’ being the key word) and as its popularity grew, they decided to write a book. “Barefoot Running: How to Run Light and Free by Getting in Touch with the Earth” has done great, released just as Christopher McDougall’s bestselling book “Born to Run” was hitting its peak and sparking interest worldwide in running with no or minimal footwear. Sandler and Lee recently completed a five-month, 132-city book and barefoot running clinic tour that took them across the U.S. and Canada.
”I’m doing something I love, and helping other people,” Sandler said.
Another graduate, Anton Krupicka ’05 ran cross-country and track at CC and also enjoyed running in the mountains, and now he makes his living as a professional mountain ultramarathoner. He has been at the top of his field for the past five years. Krupicka also goes to grad school at the University of Colorado as a master’s student in the geography department.
Of the 150-180 miles per week that he logs, only about 30 of those are truly barefoot. The rest of the time, he wears extremely lightweight, low-to-the-ground shoes that he says allow his foot to function as naturally as possible. Krupicka also got into barefoot running to try to overcome injuries.
“Despite wearing custom orthotics and heavy motion-control shoes, I was developing stress fractures at an alarming rate. I began running barefoot as a means of conditioning and strengthening my feet and lower legs,” Krupicka said. “It’s completely changed the way I run. I’m lighter on my feet and more efficient, two things that are extremely helpful in running fast on mountain trails and in staying injury-free.”
You can follow Krupicka’s running adventures on his blog.
Kiran Moorty ’07, Julian Boggs ’08, and Alex Nichols ’08 all ran cross-country races barefoot as Tigers. Boggs placed third at the 2006 NCAA Cross-Country National Championships while racing barefoot.