Saturday, April 30, 2011

Barefoot Running

My life can be divided into two parts: Before Knee Troubles and After. Before, I ran marathons. I never stopped to wonder if a hike was too steep. I never worried over an unexplained twinge.

It's all different now. I don't run as much, or as far, or as fast. I use trekking poles when I hike. I worry.

Ever since I developed plantar fasciitis awhile back, a horrible hurtyfoot that lingered for eight soul-destroying months, I've ben curious about so-called barefoot running. One of the theories surrounding PF is that we wear such cushioned shoes, our feet , arches and ankles get weak. Wearing minimalist shoes helps avoid heel strike and lets us run the way we were built to--barefoot. This strengthens the foot, takes less energy and by avoiding heel strike, which very few of us would do without cushioned shoes, may prevent injuries like PF or collapsed arches.

I decided to get on the bandwagon. I bought a pair of Merrell Pace Gloves. The first thing I noticed was how light they are.

I picked a route: Lakeshore Drive, three miles.
Feeling a little nervous about this endeavor.

I started to jog slowly. It felt--different. I didn't feel the heavy plop of shoes.  I think I'm a heelstriker, and with these, you just can't. It was almost like running on my toes.

I could feel the ground under my feet, every little ripple of it. I don't know how running on rocks would work. On a smooth dirt road, it felt different, but not uncomfortable.

The outcome? I wasn't any faster. But it felt easier, less effort. Because I landed on the ball of my foot, I was propelled forward.

When I had PF, the PTs insisted that I needed orthotics to correct my "biomechanical problems." I tried the  expensive, stiff soles for a couple of weeks and gave up. What if all I've been told is wrong? What if you are really meant to run as close to barefoot as possible? What if your feet know what is right all along?

After the run I went online and read some tips. First of all you are only supposed to start out with a quarter mile at a time. Oops. No wonder my calves feel like I've climbed Mount Everest.

I think I'll stick with it and see what happens.


  1. Minimalist shoes are something I've thought about trying on trails runs. Road running barefoot would probably be too much for my joints (and my poor IT band). Hubby recently bought VFFs and I'm getting a little jealous. I'll probably cave in soon.

    But your trail looks beauuuutiful. I want to come run with you!!!

  2. Karen, I thought about VFFs, I'd be curious to know how he likes them. I wouldn't road run either with them..trails and dirt roads only.

  3. I prefer a compromise. I have VFFs but just don't love running in the them. They're great for lifting at the gym though. I prefer a minimalist lightweight shoe that isn't "barefoot" -- for road something like the Saucony Kinvara and for trail something light like the Innov-8 Roc Lite. I like some shoe protecting my footsies and I like a little bit of cushion. I just do.

    BTW, I had PF for awhile and frozen water bottles rolled under your foot are great. It eventually just went away for no apparent reason (it came on for no apparent reason too).

  4. Karen - I use the Saucony Kinvara too - really the 'best' running shoe I've worn over the years - lots of minimalist feel, but with cushioning too - nice on road or non-technical dirt...


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