Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My dirty secret

I have been running barefoot.

There, I admitted it.  Now before I make it out to be this big thing, I have been keeping it confined to the treadmill and only for about 20 minutes at a time.  It will be nice to get outside and try some real running but frozen rain and cold really aren't my thing.

So how did I come around to barefoot running?  I've been interested in it since I first heard about it but at first I considered it a fad.  One of those things that the media hypes up, because they are the media, which eventually just  fades away into the background.  The original proponents of it didn't really help their case by justifying it as the way that humans have always run and that our foot is a marvel of evolution.  Ebola is a marvel of evolution too but I don't want to get anywhere near that thing.

Eventually though, I began to weed out the obvious "Yeah us!" BS and focus on what the people that were taking a serious look at the subject were saying.  The first thing I found was all about footstrike and to make sure I wasn't landing on my heels.  I began to pay attention to this and to really focus on having a better stride.  A few months of work and I could say that it had become second nature.  Good progress, now what.  I still wasn't ready to go totally over and start buying up Vibrams and Nike Frees; so I got a pair of Newtons instead.  They further reinforced that I had a decent stride (at least I think I do) but they certainly weren't an answer to all my questions.

I was still getting injured, even though they were all minor injuries they continued to occur and   Proponents of barefoot running all claim that losing the shoes are akin to a magical elixir for stopping injuries.  Now I didn't believe it was that simple, but at this point what did I have to lose?  The final break (not literally!) for me came after reading several articles that put the whole idea of going barefoot into easy to realize benefits.  Simply, lose the cushioning and protection of the shoe, make the foot work the way it should and the muscles will get stronger.  Stronger feet equal better balance, better propulsion, more flexibility.  All things that can make me a better runner.  After all, If I want my biceps to get bigger and stronger I don't use a brace to immobilize them.

Ah, it all seems so clear now.  This doesn't have to be about a whole Zen-like lifestyle change or radically changing everything about myself; it can be used as a way of making myself a better runner.  Just like hills and tempo runs and core work, etc.  And it if it helps to avoid injury all the better.  At the very least maybe it will bring back all the fun of a kid running all over the place in barefeet.

Reading about other's experiments with barefoot running has certainly spurred me along and steered me down this path.  I'm not going to be ditching all my shoes and going crazy just yet though; everything has a place and a time.  But I did go try on some Vibram KSOs today.  Very interesting but they are pretty much sold out of the black in my size for the next several months.  So if you know anywhere to pick some up, let me know...

1 comment:

  1. I think you went about it intelligently. The problem seems to be when people who have been shod their whole lives read Born To Run and decide they will run barefoot forevermore. I agree that the premise totally makes sense, though.
    There are other ways to work on balance and form/skill too--. I just read Bobby McGee's Magical Running--and then his book called Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes. Very good stuff. He does a lot with form, balance, core--and argues it is essential to work on this if one wants to run well. And he is no slouch in terms of his coaching-- He works with Salazar out in Colorado with that dream team that includes Goucher.
    I have the Frees. They weren't much of an adjustment for me b/c I have a forefoot strike anyway. But I think we talked about that.