Since I started incorporating Healthy Living into my blog, I decided to share about running and my footwear, as promised earlier.
“What the heck are those???” you ask, after gawking at the ugly pair of toe shoes. Those are minimalist running shoes that are similar to running barefoot. I’ve decided to embark on the adventure of transitioning into barefoot running. Have I gone crazy? It might look like it, but, I have my reasons. After much research and blog stalking and forum discussing, I decided it was something I wanted to try. To those of you who saw my earlier blog post about them, here is your update.
I’ve been a runner for many years, and have always suffered from knee pain and swelling when I started training harder. I heard that barefoot running, because it’s a different approach to form, could eliminate knee problems. I bought my first pair of Vibram’s in May with some birthday money. I run on soft trails in these for the time being.
My second pair of kicks, are similar to retro running shoes. They are minimal, hardly any clunkiness, slightly cushioned, and very lightweight. I wear them for running on cement and other hard surfaces. Because my feet and calves aren’t used to running with such minimal cushioning, I have these to help me transition.
Before you read further, I want to say that, although I am loving my minimalist shoes, they aren’t for everyone. This blog post is not intended to turn all of you into barefoot runners. This is simply my journey and what I have found to work for me. If you are happily running, injury free, then by all means, keep doing what you’re doing!
The barefoot approach: “The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised. Many experts believe the shoes we wear not only cast the foot in a protective form, but also weaken our foot and leg muscles, leaving them underdeveloped and more prone to injury. And while there are many occasions where traditional footwear is essential for protection, safety, and security, it is equally important to stimulate and exercise the foot in a more natural state on a regular basis.” source
My experience with barefoot running: I love it! Is it different? Yes. Is it frustrating? Yes. But is it worth it? I think so. I’ve been running for a few months in my five fingers. And while it has been frustrating transitioning, it has been worth it. I’m still not completely there, but, I’m happy. Since running form has to change to transition into barefoot running, it’s a bit frustrating. You have to start out slow and easy, running with a forefoot or midfoot strike instead of a heel strike. That’s frustrating when you want to be able to run your normal speed and mileage. I was running 6 miles comfortably at a 10min mile pace before I got my vibrams. That’s when my knee problems escalated and I had to take a break. That’s when I decided to switch. Click here if you want to read more about transitioning before you read the rest of my post!
Slow and easy does it. I learned the hard way. My first run felt GREAT! I can’t explain to you the freedom I felt. Light, springy, like I was flying. I meant to only run a mile because I knew transitioning was suppose to be slow. But I got lost on the trail and accidentally ran 3 miles. The next day I could hardly walk normal my calves were so sore (for a week)! I took a break from running, and when I started up again, I started with lower mileage and a slower pace (on soft trails). I worked my way up to 3 miles with a 10min mile pace over the next month. I felt great! Then I did something stupid. I ran a mile on pavement. My calves felt just fine the next day, but this time my foot’s structure hurt. It felt more like a bruise than a break, so I took a break from running for three weeks. Then magically, it was all better. Thank the Lord it wasn’t a fracture (or worse)! So now I’m still taking it easy, not pushing my limits too much. I purchased my New Balance shoes last week and ran 4 miles (11 min mile pace) in them on the pavement, still running in my forefoot strike. I probably should have only done 2 miles, because my feet are a little store this week. But, they are making it much easier on my feet to transition. My calves are a tiny bit sore, but they held up well! I can tell I am making progress. If only I wasn’t so stubborn!
Update 02/11/11 – I recently got a hold of the new Merrell Women’s Pace Glove, a Vibram + Merrell Minimalist shoe. And I LOVE them. Read my initial review here!