Okay, it’s not a revolution, but folks are running barefoot. They have found that tossing their shoes out have helped them run with fewer injuries. I’m not talking about Kenyans, Tarahumaras or any other culture where running barefoot was a way of life, I’m talking about Brits, Yanks and other countries who bought into the Nike, Adidas, Asics and other brands of running sneaker marketing campaigns.
If you’ve had a chance to read one of my other running posts (there are few), my muscle pain caused me to do some research before purchasing new running sneakers. After performing my research, I realized that my problem just might be my running sneakers. The continual heel-toe running method of running is a recipe for injury. Yes, high tech sneakers serve to cushion and soften the impact of the heel hitting the ground, but it seems that it’s not enough. Runners need to pick up the pace and get off of the heel.
A Little Running Shoe Experiment
I’ve read the studies and have spent years wearing traditional running sneakers. Although I’m not an avid runner, I have run a few miles in my lifetime and I know how my knees, hips, shins have responded (they get angry over a period of time). If tossing the sneakers away can prevent such injuries why not give it a try?
What do I really have to lose in running barefoot? Well, not really totally barefoot. I’ve decided to go minimal. I want just a bit of protection between my foot and the ground so I decided to purchase a few pairs of water socks/shoes.
Amazon sells them for $14.99 but I was able to get a few pairs on a sale at Dicks Sporting Goods for $9.99. They don’t provide any foot support but they offer some protection from pebbles, small rocks and glass. After I read how one runner was able to put 1000 km (621 miles) on one pair of water shoes, I decided I truly have nothing to lose.
Everything I’ve read about running barefoot is to start slow. There are a number of reasons for doing a little at a time. First of all it takes some getting used to. I found that running in water shoes automatically changed my running gait from running heel toe to running on the forefoot (not quite on the balls of my foot or on the toes). Running on the forefoot caused me to run a little faster (or so it seemed). I’m not a very fast runner, but it seemed that my pace picked up just a bit.
It’s not difficult for me to start slow because I’m only doing about 2 miles every other day right now. So, integrating minimal support running wasn’t so hard. I ran some and walked some just to get used to the new feel. After my run, I realized that I had engaged different muscles running “barefoot” than I did when running in sneakers. The muscles weren’t angry. They just wanted to let me know that I had discovered them and woke them up.
I’ll continue to run/walk 2 miles every other day for a few weeks until it becomes comfortable to run the two miles without event. As my chiropractor says, health and exercise is a lifelong commitment. I don’t have to go from 0 to 60 in one day.
In the meanwhile, I’m working on strength/stretching exercises to help ease the transition from wearing sneakers.
For more information on barefoot running, check out these sites:
- Barefoot Running University
- The Running Barefoot
- Science Daily: Running Shoes May Cause Damage to Knees, Hips and Ankles, New Study Suggests