Sunday, April 21, 2013

Feet are awesome (Why I run barefoot.)

I am a barefoot runner.

photo credit sheknows

A little background
Though I ran track in high school, I've never considered myself A Runner. I don't get all bouncy when I think about increasing my mileage. I don't have solid calves. I don't love hills. I don't love a quiet morning run through the country. I don't think running is relaxing or like meditating. I would choose almost any other aerobic activity over running if I could. But running does get me in shape, and I can do on the treadmill it in my basement. So I run.

How it started
"Hon, I think I'm going to buy a new pair of running shoes." I said to my husband one day. I'd been just barely eeking out a few 5k runs on the treadmill in our basement and I could feel my shins and my knees complaining (as they always do when I get on a running kick.)

"That's fine with me," he said. "But you may want to read up on those Five Fingers. They really do seem to help with proper form."

I rolled my inward eyes. Can't a girl just buy a new pair of shoes without doing research? Plus, those shoes look pretty ridiculous.  I would have to be convinced that there is a major benefit if I was going to make such a major fashion sacrifice.

Ha, fashion. OK, that's not really my major concern, ever, but they are silly looking and expensive, too, so I wasn't going to just take his word for it.  I looked at the site he sent me, and decided I needed more time to think about the whole thing. I refrained from buying the cute, new, normal shoes at Khol's, and I decided to test the barefoot theory.

The Theory (Simplified)
What's the thinking behind barefoot running? Here's my simple summary:

Feet are designed to run.
(Ok, many say feet "evolved" to run, but I will set aside that debate for now.)

Running, like any sport, is a skill, and there are ways to do it more efficiently. Running barefoot allows our feet to receive instant feedback, and based on that feedback, we naturally adjust into a healthier stride. (Think lower-impact, more efficient, less injury-prone.)

First attempt
My first thoughts, "Well, that seems plausible. I wonder if it feels much different?"
I kicked off my shoes after a short (in-shoes) run on the treadmill, lowered my speed, and hopped back on barefoot.

It felt different. Easy. Great.
And one more thing- it was quiet. The treadmill was humming, but that was the only noise. And I realized, when I run in shoes, I make quite a racket.

I had been an elephant.
Barefoot, I am a gazelle. Or something.
The treadmill had stopped shaking, and I could hear my music.

I decided to give it a try for a month.  I took the experts' advice to transition slowly, running at first for only ten minutes at a time, and increasing gradually while constantly paying attention to my own body.  I discovered muscles in my feet and ankles that I never knew I had before, and I got a few minor blisters.

Fast Forward four months
Last week, I ran eight miles barefoot.
And the weirdest thing? I loved it.  I even smiled a few times during mile six, mile seven, mile eight.

I have not had a single shin problem or knee problem since I shed my shoes. After the initial adjustment for my feet and ankles, I have been steadily adding distance to my workouts. Steadily and eagerly. Before, I could coax, drag, force myself as far as 5k, but I couldn't fathom doing much more. Ever.

Now, I find myself just... going. For the joy of it.

Wow. I sound like A Runner.

And all because I shed my running shoes.

Here are a few things I've learned along the way

  • If I put shoes on my feet, muting the feedback they give me,and do what comes "naturally," I will clomp along like a drunk elephant. And I'll hurt myself, too.
  • Feet are amazing. Mine may not be pretty but they are amazing. They can run eight miles now! They can tell me (now that I have ears to hear) how to correct my running form making it safer, more efficient, and even quieter!
  • The best thing I can do for my body is listen to it.  I have found this to be true in regards to whole foods and clean eating. Why should I be surprised that this is also true in regards to exercise?

So, when I realized I was all in, I bought a pair of "barefoot running shoes." I use them outside to protect myself from sharp objects, but as often as I can, I run barefoot.

I realize there is quite a bit of debate on this topic in the world of runners, and I won't say I have researched every possible angle. But I do know this:

My body loves running free.

Care to learn more? Here are a few places to start.
Do your own homework, and most importantly, listen to your own body!

The Barefoot Running Debate
The Once and Future Way to Run (NYTimes)
Running form (video)
Video: The Barefoot Professor
Barefoot FAQ
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
(Watch this clip about the book- it really was a great story in its own right!)

Weak and Lovely- Read the series here
Join our facebook group for extra support!

Do you have any questions for me?
Have you ever tried running in bare feet?

1 comment:

  1. You've inspired me to give barefoot running a try (on my treadmill)! haha

    I always go barefoot walking around, if I can, and wear minimal footwear, save for my cowboy boots every once in a while.

    I've had a desire to barefoot run, but never got the courage up. Part of me is worried that the whole house will shake as I run, and I'll look like an idiot.

    But I think I'll do it!

    Thank you for this inspirational post, and sharing the good news about feet! ;)

    Many Blessings,
    Moriah Jordan Miller


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