Woman’s run to shoe the world an amazing feet
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A broken toe while training for a marathon a couple of years ago opened up a new world to 18-year-old Rae Heim, and sent her on a mission.
Heim, of Carroll, Iowa, has spent the better part of the year running barefoot across the United States to raise awareness and collect donations for Soles4Souls.
The organization takes donations of “gently used” shoes, and provides them to poor people in 128 countries around the world, as well as in the U.S.
TreadZ shoe and clothing store in downtown Glenwood Springs has regular shoe drives for Soles4Souls.
Heim set out from Boston in April, and is hoping to arrive in Manhattan Beach, Calif., by Nov. 14.
She was in Glenwood Springs for a two-and-a-half-day layover, from Wednesday through Friday, and leaves today for a 20-plus mile run to Rifle.
Along the way, she stays with host families that have learned of her trek and have opened their homes.
If you’re traveling the highways and back roads of western Garfield County this weekend and see a young woman pushing a stroller along the shoulder of the road with all of her supplies, that’s Heim.
“I run barefoot so other kids don’t have to,” is Heim’s mantra.
Along the way, she speaks at schools and to youth groups and other organizations about her special journey, and about the work that Soles4Souls does.
“In countries like Haiti, kids can’t go to school unless they have shoes,” Heim told students in the Carbondale Girls on the Run and the Access Roaring Fork middle school after-school cross country programs on Thursday in Carbondale.
“A pair of shoes can really change a kid’s life,” she said.
Heim discovered her passion for running about three years ago. She ran high school cross country when she was a junior, but her calling was to the longer distances. She began running half marathons and marathons.
Heim said she started running barefoot about a year and a half ago, after she broke her toe while training for the San Francisco Marathon.
She lost a toenail in the process, and lacing up a pair of shoes became painful. So she decided to shed her shoes and run barefoot instead.
“I haven’t gotten hurt since then,” Heim says, showing off the heavily calloused bottoms of her feet. “For me, it just feels more natural.”
Barefoot, or “minimalist” running has become popular in recent years since Christopher McDougall’s book, “Born to Run,” came out in 2009. The book tells the story of a tribe in northwestern Mexico’s Copper Canyon, the Tarahumara, known for their long-distance running using makeshift sandals, or no shoes at all.
The minimalist running movement now promotes a “less-is-better” approach, especially for those who have a natural running physique.
Heim said she has read “Born to Run” multiple times. But it was ultra runner Marshall Ulrich’s book, “Running on Empty,” that served as her main inspiration.
Ulrich’s book chronicles his 3,063-mile, 52-day run from California to New York, during which he averaged more than 400 miles per week.
“It sounded like a lot of fun to try something like that,” Heim said. “I’m not doing 70 miles a day, but I figured I could at least do 20.”
After some adjustments to her weekly schedule early on in her journey, Heim settled into a routine of running four days and taking two days off, with shorter days during the week and longer weekend runs.
She’s made it this far running barefoot about 95 percent of the time. During the heat of summer when the pavement got super hot, or when she encountered roads littered with a lot of debris, she would wear the toed “Five Fingers” shoes.
“I have learned to listen to my body, and to take it easy when I need to,” Heim advised the gathering of young runners in Carbondale. “Mainly, keep having fun with it.”
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