Taking on a new challenge: barefoot running

22 Feb

A few weeks ago I was at the gym and spotted a girl running in her socks on the treadmill. At first I just thought it was odd and imagined she had left her running shoes at home and when she got to the gym decided to run anyhow. But I kept thinking about it. I decided to do some readin’ up on the Internet. I found tons of information about barefoot running. Most of it either highly in favor of it or highly against it.

For the last two months I’ve been having some awful arch pain. Luckily, it is only when I am doing something high impact. And since I sit at a desk all day, that is pretty much only when I exercise. Unluckily, it hurts. A lot. I started taking Jazzercise classes in January but it hurt so bad I had to quit. I was perfectly capable of doing it, and I felt completely lame for not being able to keep up to the older ladies in the class. The only thing I’ve found I can do is the elliptical.

SIDE NOTE: what do you call using the elliptical machine? Ellipticalling? Ellipticizing? I do know it’s not “running on the elliptical.” But that is the term I have heard most often.

But my favorite form of exercise is jogging. I’ve never really been fast or that great at it, but there is nothing like a run to make you feel better and to get a great workout. My arches really hate it more than anything else though. Unless my arches make a comeback, my days of shod running are pretty much gone. Apparently, those who endorse barefoot, or minimalist, running, sing praises about the human foot. They propose that our feet are actually pretty miraculous and there’s no reason we can’t run on them without the extra help of shoes and padding and laces. In fact, they think that shoe actually changes the mechanics of your run, therefore causing runners to be less efficient, and actually causing many common injuries. In essence, shoes have acted as casts and atrophied our feet. They just don’t perform the way they could. After lots of seraching, I found this video, The Barefoot Professor, by Harvard professor, David Leiberman.

I am now persuaded to try this approach, which is  completely new to me. I will not ignore the warnings of barefoot runners to take it slow. They warn that your feet, ankles, and calves need some serious strengthening to support running barefoot running. I’ve started doing some feet stretches at home and walking around barefoot a lot more. I usually go barefoot at home, so that part isn’t that new to me. This morning, I walked about .1 mile on the treadmill (after a painful ellipticizing session) and didn’t feel any pain or anything unusual. So I decided to run for just about .15 miles at speed 5. Just to see what it felt like. I concentrated on not landing on my heel and taking shorter, quicker strides. The first thing I noticed is that it did not hurt like my arch pain hurts, but I could feel the tendons in my ankle straining in a completely different way. It felt great, like a deep stretch. I also felt like I was propelling myself forward better than I do shod. Probably because the motion is more forward than an up and down bounce. The difference is very subtle, but I think it is also very important.

All my observations may be completely wrong, but I think I’m going to like this. I’ll be going very slow because the last thing I want is a serious injury. Alec and I also both bought the KSO Vibram FiveFingers so we can run outside. Alec has never been a runner, never enjoyed it, so it will be interesting to see what his perspective is.

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