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A journal of running, healthy food, mountains, bikes and technology by Julia Revitt

As a birthday present I received a wedge load of running and fitness books that I'd asked for. I've just finished one of them 'Born to Run' by Christopher McDougall and am re-reading it immediately! I'm intrigued by the idea of barefoot running – won't it hurt my knees and hips, won't my feet get cold, what about stones?

'Born to Run' is already a legend of a book amongst runners so I was desperate to read it. It's not just a book about running but also a manual for life and a fascinating travel story. One of the themes of the book is that of barefoot running. Barefoot running is gaining popularity as runners are rejecting the cushioned 'comfort' of traditional running shoes in favour of minimal shoes or no shoes at all!

Common runners complaints such as plantar fasciitis were virtually non-existent before the advent of the modern running shoe. The theory goes that all that extra cushioning allows us to run in a way that is not natural – namely landing on our heels. You just cannot do this in bare feet – give it a go across your kitchen floor and you'll see what I mean! The design of running shoes has allowed muscles in our feet to wither away as they are no longer needed.

To run barefoot or in shoes that offer minimal cushioning and do not raise the heel, you have to land on the middle of your foot. You also have to engage all of your muscles, tendons and ligaments. This is how humans should run.

There are shoes that allow the feeling of being barefoot but protect your feet from sharp objects – the most obvious example is the Vibram Five Fingers with it's bizarre toes. Even Google's CEO Sergey Brin was spotted wearing VFFs during a presentation!

So, as you can imagine if you know me at all, I want to give this a go. I'm not going to splash out on any new footwear yet because you have to get into this slowly so you don't damage your feet.

Here is my plan…

  • I am starting to walk barefoot around the house to get used to the feeling.
  • I have also added the 'Mexican Wave' Pilates exercise to 'Working the Arches' which I have performed daily for a couple of years (and to which I attribute the cure of my Plantar Fasciitis).
  • Luckily, my new Northface Singletrack shoes are not too cushioned so I can stick with them but my next pair will be even less cushioned and built up.
  • As for cold feet – I always have cold feet so am not going to worry about it. Maybe as I wander around with no shoes on my circulation will improve as my muscles build and I will get warm feet!

I hope to eventually be able to run full time in minimal shoes and maybe barefoot on soft surfaces but I will take my time. Watch this space!

 

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Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ian #
    September 20, 2010

    I like this blog! Well done on the decision to try barefoot. Sounds like you are being careful and sensible about it. The longest I have run barefoot is about 11 miles with no issues whatsoever on the beach. I can appreciate the practicalities of using shoes though. I only wear very minimal shoes to run in now – most of them aren’t recognised as “running shoes”.
    I’m also in the process of making some Huaraches just to see what it’s like to wear and run in them!
    I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure you run with good technique though. Some people naturally start to do so as they go barefoot because it hurts not to! However, some people are so locked in to the false perceptions created by years of cushioned shoes that they continue to run like that and get injured!
    Great blog, I enjoy reading it!

  2. September 22, 2010

    Great post Julia. It’s good to see you’re taking a sensible approach. Slow is best. I agree with Ian – think about your technique and any ways to improve form.

    Good luck and happy barefooting!

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