Monday, January 10, 2011

Barefoot running (an update)

It's been over six months since I decided to start running barefoot.

And it's been almost three months since I have actually run without shoes on.

I got a stone bruise or something on the bottom of my foot in October, and it took a long time to heal, so I was wearing very thin shoes to protect the area. By the time I was healed, winter had hit. And honestly, I'm just enjoying my Vibram Five Fingers KSO shoes (VFFs) so much that I haven't had the desire to go out and run on bare feet, even on warm days.

So these days, I'm not a barefoot runner; I'm a minimalist shoe runner. Many runners who use VFFs say they're "running barefoot" since these and similar very-thin-soled shoes are meant to mimic being bare. But having done actual barefoot running, I can tell you that barefoot and minimalist running don't feel the same!

I enjoy not having to be quite as vigilant about where I put my feet when I'm wearing my VFFs. The thin rubber sole protects against small rocks, twigs, etc. I also like being able to run long distances without having sore soles afterward. That's possible with bare feet, but it takes a long time to build up to that point. I really appreciate having shoes on when it's chilly outside. And I think with light shoes like VFFs, I run faster than I did in my old running shoes.

Once summer comes around, I will probably once again do some barefoot running. To me, it really is fun, and it's a great way to remind one's body how a gentle running form feels. I also love how cool my bare feet feel on a warm, humid day!

But I'm guessing that even in warm weather, my longer runs will probably all be in minimalist shoes. My long runs usually include some "off-road" portions when sidewalks aren't available and there's too much traffic to run on the asphalt. I don't think I'm willing to put in the time it takes to accustom my feet to lots of rocks, twigs, and acorns, though I think the people who run technical trails barefoot are inspirational!

Despite my fondness for my VFFs, I'm glad that when I ditched my heavily-cushioned running shoes, I spent several weeks running exclusively barefoot before I started (occasionally) introducing minimalist shoes.

Being barefoot helped me to more-easily transition to a gentler running form. I have to think more about keeping my running form proper when I'm wearing VFFs, and it may have been harder to learn this form if I'd gone straight to the VFFs.

Also, bare soles naturally limit running distance, by making it uncomfortable to run too far. This allows muscles, bones, and ligaments that are being used in whole new ways to strengthen gradually, and that may help prevent "too much-too soon" injuries. I brought my mileage way down when I started running barefoot, and when I started using minimalist shoes, I continued to build my mileage gradually. I avoided injuries such as stress fractures that way.

Bare feet and minimalist shoes probably won't replace heavily-structured running shoes any time soon. But more and more companies (even the big ones) are coming out with minimalist shoes, and I don't think this is a trend that will go away any time soon. Whatever you like to wear (or not wear) on your feet, I'm just glad the options are growing!


Anonymous said...

This is a little bit random- but when you run barefoot does that damage your feet? I am always using the pumice on my feet after just about every shower or bath to keep them soft, I wondering if barefoot running would be tough on the feet?


Amanda said...

I stubbed my toe during my long run last week and all I could think was, "thank goodness I had my vibrams on because that would have hurt." Then again it might have been a form issue that I needed to address.

I wish my area was more feet friendly, I'll probably be destination running when I take the vibrams off, choosing an ideal location to run :)

Call Me Cate said...

I'm glad you're trying different things and figuring out what works best for you.

Eternal Lizdom said...

Merrell's are coming out with a minimalist shoe with a Vibram's sole on Feb and I want a pair!!! I've done some barefoot drills to get the connection to my body but have been working my way down to more and more minimalist wear.

Claire Green said...

I've been wearing VFF Classic for quite some time now and I love them. I agree with you that VFFs don't completely emulate barefoot feeling but maybe about 90 percent and then 10 percent because of its thin rubber for protection.

However, I think Zem Gear is the only shoes so far that can totally mimic the feeling of running barefoot. I've read it from this site Zem Gear: Barefoot running shoes - and I'm thinking of getting one. Barefoot running is great especially its health benefits.

I hope you have a wonderful day! =)

C. Beth said...

Claire--I actually used ZEMs for awhile and LOVED running in them. However, they aren't made for running, and my running style wasn't gentle enough for their very thin/weak soles. They got holes in them really quickly. However, they're coming out with a running shoe within the next few months or so and I may be getting it. I'm very excited about the ZEM running shoe & the Altra Eve, both being released soon.

Sandra said...

I find your posts about running, whether barefoot or minimalist, really interesting. When you get to be my age, you will reap the benefits of the healthy habits you established when you are your age. Keep up the good work!