Sunday, June 13, 2010

Free the Tootsies!

Barefoot running. It's gaining in popularity. Bring up barefoot running in a conversation with runners and it can be a hot topic. For the most part, runners are very loyal to their shoes. As with most anything, when the traditional way of doing something is questioned or changed, camps form and sides are taken.
I've said it before and I'll continue to say philosophy of running is, "if it works for you, then do it." If someone has had 30 years of injury-free running in shoes, then I doubt he's doing anything wrong. And on the flip side, if someone has had injury, after injury, after injury running in shoes, then switches to running barefoot and suddenly is injury free, then it would appear that he's done something right. If it looks like a peach, and smells like a peach, it must be a peach.
The latter scenario, just happens to represent what happened to a buddy of mine Josh—Barefoot Josh. Josh has been running barefoot about a year and he's logged around 1,000 miles. (His barefoot miles don't include runs in which he wears socks, Vibram Five Fingers or other minimalist shoes.) He's also run a marathon and several shorter races barefoot. To read more about Josh's journey into barefoot running [click here].

Josh shared his love of barefoot running as well as proper barefoot running technique in a workshop at my fitness studio—RunnerDude's Fitness. I myself am a "taker and a maker"....I take bits and pieces of techniques from here and bits and pieces of knowledge from there and make my own home brew of running that seems to work for me. Because of a nerve problem in my right forefoot (Morton's neuroma), I'm not able to run barefoot. I guess, I could try running with one foot shod and one foot bare, but I'm thinking that may not work out too well. I may yet give one of the minimalist shoes a try, but until then, I've been incorporating many of the running form techniques advocated by barefoot runners into my own running, such as a shorter stride, more of a forefoot/midfoot strike, and a lighter more lifting motion of the foot instead of pounding the ground.

The one thing I'm not able to experience nor are minimalist runners is how true barefoot running can help a runner figure out what he/she is doing wrong by learning to "read" what their feet are telling them with each foot strike. Josh does a great job of explaining this in his workshop. Your feet become little sensors kind of like the ones in the fancy cars that tell you when somethings in the road ahead of you or when your tires are going flat. Your feet sensors can give the barefoot runner immediate feedback so that he/she can immediately make changes while running and hopefully avoid injury.

So, is barefoot running for you? Only you can tell. Give it a try and see what you think. Start slow and go short. Work your way up in distance and speed. Be patient. You may be surprised with the results.

Check out the video clip below taken from Josh's Barefoot Running Workshop at RunnerDude's Fitness.


Junk Miler said...

I think your readers should know that you gave it a shot anyway - that's pretty cool.

I was clear as mud at times, so if anyone has questions, go ahead and ask them. My writing is a little more succinct. Just a little.

Thanks RunnerDude for hosting!

Boris T said...

Great read! I've been making a steady transition to minimalist and barefoot running over the last year after a serious bout of Achilles Tendinitis.

No matter what your preference I'd recommend that everyone actually try putting in some miles barefoot or in minimalist shoes before making up their mind. I'll have to give Josh's blog a good one over as well.

Relentless Forward Commotion said...

great post! I couldn't agree more with the whole "if it works for you, then do it!" approach.

Jeff Pickett said...

Love the topic Thad!

I'm not barefoot, but definitely minimalist. I have had my VFF's for about 6 months and I love to run in them, especially trail run. There is something so primal, so natural with running, with less support. Due to low arches, running the CHI or POSE method with the VFF's has eliminated my overpronation issues because I no longer run heel to toe.
Anyway who has not tried it should definitely give it a shot.

Avocational Singer said...

I had to stop running because of a bad case of plantar fasciitis. When I stopped running for six months, I put on a bit of weight, and the pressure just from walking (and maybe putting more weight on the "well" foot) caused me to develop a little metatarsalgia in the other foot. When I was better enough to start running again (recently) I used the Vibrams, but wanted to try some barefoot in order to get a better technique. I have been thinking that this will help the plantar fasciitis problem, but was worried it might not be good for the metatarsalgia. I read that an error in technique of barefooting, slapping the feet down, instead of treading more softly ("like you're sneaking into the kitchen at night to steal some cookies") would make a difference.

So, to make a long story less long -- I have been working up to some barefoot running and it has not hurt my metatarsalgia, and in fact it feels like it's getting better.

I'm at the bottom rung of learning about this, but thought I'd share.

Unknown said...

Barefoot running scares me. I first saw someone running barefoot during a tri and thought he was crazy; this was 15 years ago.

I accept it and respect it but it's definitely not for me; I'm just a bit too old and conservative.

Barefoot Tyler said...

Great post. I really like how you go by the same motto as me: if it works, do it. Barefoot running has worked for me. I have had no reason to wear shoes.

Barefoot Tyler said...

btw Barefoot Josh rules!