Sunday, April 3, 2011

Barefoot Running. Vibram Five Fingers. Running Shoes. In that order.

Alas, I have a new fitness endeavor. Barefoot running.  Not just wearing the Vibram Five Fingers, mind you - I am speaking of complete, naked-toed, barefoot running. 
True, I've been a runner for (ahem) decades, but this is a feat (pun intended) I've been wanting to try, and make a part of my regime. 
And yes, I do love to run; running is my therapist. So this is not too far off my beaten path. (Ha! Another pun.)
Studies have shown that those (rebels like me) who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid "heel-striking," and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, we use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience. DO you really believe the shifty cross-eyed shoe salesman who tells you a "high arch" shoe is what you need? STOP! What YOU need is a stronger foot, NOT a stronger shoe. How about orthotics? Have you bought into that nonsense too? (Sorry to all the Podiatrists out there.)
Runners who don't wear shoes when they "hit the road" have an completely differently stride and strike. You will just see that by taking off your shoes and walking down roads and sidewalks. Note the way you walk. Even notice when you are at home and walking barefoot?  See the difference? 
We have become such a culture of SHOES. Aren't YOU ready to take them off?
We tested this theory this weekend, a girlfriend and I, by ditching the shoes and walking (and slowly jogging) barefoot on an airport taxi-way. (Yes, a taxi-way. Nice even surface, though rather warm.)
My "puppy pads" on my soles are quite tender after being pampered in the Vibrams, even though I anticipated I would have an easier time since I wear the Vibram Five Fingers at least five days per week, all day. Now, I have one blister on my left heel - but not your typical blister. A morphed water blister deep in the heel, and one on the side of my right sole. I believe the blisters formed when we just stood on the hot blacktopped taxi-way, comparing the difference in the way the earth felt in bare feet and then in our former shoes..
Most people today, the naysayers, (I'm laughing now. You just can't hear me..) think barefoot running is dangerous and will hurt, but actually, you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. But slowly, and with practice.  All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the outer skin of the foot. And build new calluses! Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes.
Running barefoot or in minimal shoes is fun and uses different muscles. If you've been a heel-striker all your life, or are just an inefficient runner, you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles. 
The next time you are ready to lace up your shoes, how about taking them OFF, just briefly, and feel the earth beneath your feet?

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