Weather is snow problem! Meet Israel’s barefoot running sensation

TikTok celebrity athlete Barefoot Rom reveals the secrets behind his success as he prepares to run the Jerusalem Winner Marathon


He’s a TikTok celebrity and former Israeli special forces soldier who promotes a positive body image to young people around the world — and does it all barefoot.

Be it snow, rocks or the hot sand of the desert, Barefoot Rom — as he calls himself — says he can run on any terrain, but you will normally find him running on Tel Aviv beach.

“We do not need shoes, it’s a gimmick. I have run so much now my soles are hardened and I do not feel a thing, not even glass. Even in the snow your body knows how to regulate itself,” he says.

Next week, Barefoot Rom, 27, real name Rom Carmi, will be taking on another challenge. He will run in the half marathon of the Jerusalem Winner Marathon, organised by the city’s municipality, which he says is a very tough race. “Jerusalem is on hills, to run a marathon in Jerusalem is not an easy task.”

The International Winner Marathon will take place on March 17 and 40,000 participants are expected to run the special trail, which will feature including important landmarks in Jerusalem such as the Supreme Court, the Israel Museum, the president’s residence, the Walls of Jerusalem and the Armenian Quarter, David Citadel, Khan Theatre, and the Sultan’s Pool.

Barefoot Rom decided to take on running when he was a child because he was overweight. The passion continued right through his army days, when he served in the special forces of Sayeret Nahal, until today. It has become a way of life for him.

“When I was released from the army, I came across a video of [Ethiopian marathon runner] Abebe Bikila when he ran barefoot in the marathon in the 1960 Rome Olympics and came in first place.

"I said to myself that if in 1960 they ran barefoot, why in 2020 are they not running barefoot? I started running in the New Year with barefoot sandals and then I switched to completely barefoot.

“Growing up on Kibbutz Yotvata we all walked about barefoot, if we worked the fields or milked the cows, despite the cowpats, we were still barefoot.”

“I get recognised by Israeli kids because of TikTok, they wait for me as I do my Tel Aviv run and they run with me and film me. I run about 50km a week.”

Barefoot Rom says that his social media has attracted a lot of attention from young people and that he uses his platform to promote a positive body image.

He says he tries to help people avoid being “harmed by the environment, by all the false advertisements that tell us how to look. It’s a project where I photograph myself or someone else photograph me and I write a post about a social issue such as body image and more.

“I am tired of these TV shows showing us how we should look. Social media is very extreme and I have noticed how my generation does not have much confidence.

“Barefoot running changed my life, it gave me back my passion for running. When you run barefoot, you are much more connected to the ground and the environment, you exercise muscles that you don’t exercise with normal shoes.

“We were born to run barefoot; we were pushed a consumer product that we don’t need.”

The Mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Lion, says: “As the marathon ‘celebrates’ its bat mitzvah, Barefoot Rom brings along a brave, demanding and challenging mission, and we are delighted to have him take part in the event, alongside tens of thousands of runners from Israel and around the globe.”

Israeli podiatrist Vernon Lever says: “Barefoot runners do report more calf and achilles tendon injuries, as well as significantly more plantar fasciitis problems.

"This suggests that people who transition too quickly to barefoot activities may overload their muscles and tendons. I do not personally recommend barefoot running for the masses.”

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