Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Running: I'm putting my sole into it!

Not long ago I blogged about the site I use to track my running and exercising, DailyMile. Well, I've also started using DailyMile to track my running gear.

I've got 42 miles on my Camelback hydration backpack (wonderful for longer summer runs!)

Camelback hydration backpack

My Asics have 296 miles on them.

Asics GT-2140

But I'm most excited about some gear I've just started using this week. I have about 2 miles on these:

barefoot running

Yes, of course I've been using my feet for every mile I've run, but now I'm starting to use them just as you see them here.

That's right, I'm venturing into the exciting world of barefoot running.

No, this isn't a belated April Fool's Day joke! Sure, barefoot running is still on the fringe in modern America, but humans ran barefoot for a long time before shoes were invented, and in parts of the world, barefoot is still the norm. It seems to be gaining popularity in the U.S. too!

I started getting intrigued by the idea of running either barefoot or in "minimalist" shoes that mimic barefoot running, as I heard from others online who love this type of running. At first I just read with interest, even as I planned to purchase another pair of running shoes. But the more I researched, the more I realized it was something I wanted to try.

You can find lots of information online about barefoot running, but the basic idea is this: Our feet were made to be barefoot; shoes are a (relatively) modern invention. When we run barefoot, our running form naturally improves. Many believe that those who run barefoot are therefore less likely to suffer from running-related aches, pains, and injuries, though studies need to be done to confirm that hypothesis.

Many runners also use minimalist shoes, designed to mimic being barefoot while still protecting the soles. I will probably get some of these funky-looking Vibram Five Fingers. If the ground is too cold, too hot, or particularly difficult to run on, I'll still be able to run with proper form in Vibrams. But this article convinced me to start out totally shoeless. By letting my sensitive soles feel the ground completely, my form naturally improves. Proper form is more gentle on the feet, so our bodies naturally try to figure out what that proper form is when our feet can feel everything.

So twice this week I've gone outside and done warm-up walks and short runs, barefoot. I've run on both the asphalt road and on concrete sidewalks. My soles need to toughen up, and I'm still learning to have a better running form, but so far I love it! My feet feel so light, and in this hot weather my whole body is cooler when my feet are free from shoes. I like the feel of not striking the ground first with my heel. (Running shoes encourage a heelstrike.)

I'm easing into it, so that I don't injure my muscles or the soles of my feet. Over and over, I have read that it's wise to make the transition from shoes to barefoot slowly. But yesterday when I had run barefoot for 14 minutes and I put my shoes on to finish my run, I was shocked how awful the shoes felt. My feet felt heavy; my body felt hot; running just felt suddenly harder. It may take several weeks for my body to be ready to run only in bare feet or minimalist footwear, but I am so excited to get to that point!

People tend to have a lot of questions about barefoot running--safety, mechanics, just-plain-weirdness, etc.! This FAQ is really helpful if you'd like to read more.

I've always put my heart into my running. Now I can put my sole into it too!


Call Me Cate said...

I'm at the "ouch" place when I think about it but I can totally understand how it would change your foot-strike. For all the miles Joe has put in, he's never tried barefoot.

Hank Greer said...

I tell people I'm wearing the shoes my mom made me. :-)

Sasha said...

I need to do a little research- I've got high arches and the ortho doc said that's what caused my stress reaction injury in my foot in Spring 09. I am wondering how I would do without arch support? Off to read your links!

Jennifer said...

I took up running again in May and just finished my first 5 mile race on the 4th (and won my age group...ok so there was only one other person but a win is a WIN and my medal is awesome!) Heard a lot about the barefoot running and Vibrram and tempted to try it out. I definitely believe it's better for form and I'd love no more blisters. Just trying to figure out how to try it without looking like a freak..perhaps I'll start at the beach!

Tia said...

This is a totally unrelated comment, but you have really pretty feet!

Kara said...

You just sent me on a whirlwind of Google links to read more about barefoot running - I'm so intrigued!

*Monica said...

I have a friend whose husband has some vibrams and loves them