Thursday, November 24, 2011

Barefoot Running

There's been a particular popularization of barefoot running and minimalist running in the last few years. Although I commend the rejection of overly cushioned shoes, the rise in injuries as a result of jumping into barefoot running too quickly is problematic.

I have read Born to Run, and after I did I, just like many others, decided to give minimalist running a go. I too quickly transitioned to far more minimalist shoes before my calves, glutes and feet were ready for it, and I developed debilitating shin splints. That took a while to bounce back from, and now I've taken an altogether different approach to what I have termed barefoot, or minimalist "movement". You shouldn't be a minimalist just while performing the act of running, you should be a minimalist walker, hiker, and eventually runner.

I've got a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, although I prefer my New Balance Minimus trail shoes, and I wear them while walking absolutely everywhere. That's how my second attempt at minimalist running has started out. I've now noticed that I prefer the ground feel and movement of these minimalist shoes while walking around town far more than I do my clunky road or trail shoes, or even flip-flops, which cause bizarre biomechanical movements. I've been using them for hiking as well, and they are fabulous. I feel very light on my feet rather than how I would usually feel in hiking boots: clunky and like a box monster.

Secondly, I've also been running barefoot as the w/u and c/d of my track session - our track in Wanaka is a 400m grass track. I then slip back into my running shoes (yes, the rather cushioned Saucony ProGrid Ride).

At the moment, that's where I am at. I very rarely go for a 20-30' run in my NB Minimus trail shoes, mainly because my calves are REALLY still feeling it after that run. Best take it slow, rather than regret it later.

I have noticed that here in Wanaka there is a huge portion of the population (most people, in fact) that are barefoot walkers. At our run group, there is always one or two that do the track session in VFFs. Rugby practice and drills are mainly conducted barefoot. Pickup games in the park are barefoot, for the most part. The kids at school play outdoors and run around barefoot in spring, summer and fall. Those that wish to wear shoes, do. They are neither encouraged or discouraged from barefoot or shoe-shod play. Walking around town you've got many people walking around barefoot, and in the summer months, I'd say a good 20% of the people shopping for groceries at the supermarket are barefoot. Although I love that I can do that here, I'd never be comfortable doing so in a proper large town or city. The hazards of large city streets on your feet and health are overwhelming.

Where do I want to transition to with the barefoot movement? I never want to be an actual barefoot runner. I always want some form of protection on my feet, particularly from thorns. I would like to see myself use the NB Minimus trail shoes more often on the trails, but that still requires plenty of calf strengthening. I'd like my regular run shoes to be a bit less cushioned with a more neutral heel-to-toe drop. I'm just not there yet. And I'm definitely not rushing it.

On another note, here are some pretty pictures from an early morning ride with the girls:

1 comment:

  1. Totally true. People jump into it too quickly. Kudos to you for taking it slow and learning from previous errors.
    It's funny that after I finished Born to Run I didn't really see it as a 'barefoot running' message. It did inspire me with regards to ultras and trail running though. That's for sure.

    You're strategy to incorporate both cushion and minimal shoes is a smart move. I see so many people at the store who just jump into without paying attention to the notion of "taking it slow". And then they complain of injuries. Or better yet, there are those who have injuries and switch over and complain that they are still having injuries.
    I think people miss the point. It's very rarely about what we have on our feet. I'll make a bet that at least 75% of the runners I see during the week are not BALANCED runners. And they surely don't listen to their bodies.
    If anyone is balanced, it's you! So I hope you enjoy whatever form of running you like and that's comfy for you :)
    You're right, I would want to avoid thorns too... haha
    I really hate shoes with clunky heels, they get in the way of my running, but I still don't mind some cushion. Companies seem to be doing an either/or type of thing. Either you have a well-cushioned shoe that has a big difference in height from heel to toe and is likely a bit of a clunker, or you have a minimalist shoe with very little cushion and little to no heel to toe difference in height.
    What's with the extremes !?
    Let's keep our running, our sports extreme, but do shoes have to be catering to such differet extremes without middle ground?
    I see a bit of change coming, but a lot of it caters to what's trendy, unfortunately.

    I'm done talking!
    I miss you! And love love love your photographs!