There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.
- George Sheehan

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Toe Shoe/"Barefoot Running Shoe" Asshattery

Dear manufacturers:

Just because you put separate toe pockets on a shoe, that does not make it "barefoot" or even "minimalist" or even useful.  (&#(&%ING STOP IT.





Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Fila Skele-toes (LOL) "Voltage."  A shoe which is trying to be both a Vibram FiveFinger AND a Nike Free at the same time!
http://www.finishline.com/store/product/fila-skele-toes-voltage-mens-running-shoes/_/A-72114?productId=prod685370

Useless and stupid.  The whole point of having separate toe pockets is so the toes can actually move.  Thus enable natural function of the foot.  Put a lot of rubber underneath there and any sort of cushioning at all, and suddenly your toe pockets don't bend well or flex at all.  Thus completely negating having the toes separated.  And at that point, you just look like a jackass.

And don't think that I'm on the Vibram FiveFinger bandwagon, either.  Their recent trend of footwear is not unlike what you see above.  The Bikila, TrekSport, Komodo, etc, are all "performance" shoes, but also are far less flexible and less minimalist that the earlier models like the Sprint.  I bought my Sprints because they're just about as minimalist as you can get - a layer of rubber and a strip of fabric.  I had almost full range of motion with my toes and had a lot of flexibility in my feet.  I had a pair of Bikilas for a short time, and the toes barely moved at all.  The whole shoe was stiffer.  Needless to say the Bikilas went away and I have zero interest in any of Vibram's recent attempts at "barefoot running shoes."

Which leads me on to another rant:

BAREFOOT RUNNING SHOES DO NOT EXIST.  IF YOU WEAR MINIMALIST SHOES AND SAY YOU'RE A BAREFOOT RUNNER...YOU ARE WRONG.

I won't even say sorry here.  If you wear Vibrams, or Merrells, or racing flats, or whatever else kind of minimalist shoe - awesome! :)    I love you, I do!  I know it probably doesn't sound like it in this post, but I truly do.  However, you are NOT running barefoot.  You are wearing shoes.  Ergo you are not barefoot.

I realize this sounds like semantics to some, but to me there is a world of difference between running truly barefoot and running with any sort of foot covering/shoe, even the most minimalist.  Only those who have run barefoot long enough will understand and appreciate the point I'm trying to make here.  Everyone else will probably just get pissed off.

It angers me because the people that go out and buy Vibrams or other minimalist shoes to join the movement and call themselves "barefoot runners" are hurting the actual barefoot running community.  Because when those so-called "barefoot" (but actually very much shod) runners get injured from doing too much, too soon, and not properly training and educating themselves, then they often blame "barefoot running," which gets construed that all barefoot running is bad.  When in all reality, most REAL barefoot runners know that truly barefoot is the safer way to go in most instances, and especially when first starting out.

That, and I REALLY HATE when I explain to someone that I run barefoot, and they ask me how much I like my Vibrams/Merrells/whatever shoe.

*headdesk*

"Natural running" best describes both minimalist and barefoot running, in my opinion.  But for Pete's sake, if you run in minimalist shoes, please don't say you're a barefoot runner.  There's no dishonor in saying you run naturally or run minimalist.  But saying you're a barefoot runner when you're clearly wearing shoes is NOT a turf battle or glory struggle between barefoot and minimalist runners.  This is simple English.  It just honestly looks stupid because you are clearly wearing something on your feet. 

That is all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Treadmills

My last couple of runs have been inside due to heat and humidty.  I don't normally run on treadmills - I avoid them at all costs, actually - but in this case it's been handy.  Convenient air conditioning = awesome!  Consistent and very comfortable running surface = spectacular!  Monotony of a 40+ minute run, looking at the exact same thing the whole time = shoooooooooooooot meeeeeeee.

I seriously have running ADD.  I get bored so easily.  That's why I love running barefoot outside.  You have to pay attention.  Plus, every step is like a little anatomy lesson.  It's fascinating.  Also, I like actually going somewhere.  It's a feeling of accomplishment.  It's very difficult to get that on a treadmill.  Now I know why people call them dreadmills.  Holy cow.

The fun part, though, is having people in the little gym with me and not saying a word.  It's pretty amusing wondering what they're thinking about the crazy girl on the treadmill with no shoes.  Here's a video:

video



Barefoot Running:  The Sanitation Debate

This hasn't affected me yet, but I keep waiting for someone to say "Hey!  You can't run barefoot on the treadmills!"  And when asked why, they'd reply with something to do with it being unsanitary.  I'm sure it'll probably happen before my stay here is over.  And it's something I completely DO NOT understand.

I've heard stories about barefoot runners being disallowed from treadmill and indoor track running because it was "unhygienic."  It makes NO sense, folks.  I wash my feet between one and three times a day, depending when I run and how dirty they are.  When was the last time you washed your running shoes?  I can 100% guarantee that a barefoot runner's feet are infinitely cleaner than the bottoms of people's running shoes, and will be washed regularly, especially after exposure to a running surface.  The hygiene argument against barefoot running is completely idiotic. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Interested in Barefoot/Minimalist running? Watch this. :)


GREAT informative video by Michael Sandler of RunBARE.com.  Worth watching, and full of important tips for the new barefoot and minimalist runners!!  :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Disbelievers

It's always amusing and frustrating to speak with shod runners who know nothing about barefoot running.  Some of you guys and girls are genuinely interested, while others are perfectly incapable of hiding your disgust.

Work on that, seriously.  It's obnoxious.

I was having dinner with some other folks awhile ago, and we got on the topic of how I got into barefoot running (we're all runners to some extent).  I went through my story, and everyone seemed to be listening.  But even then, I could tell that there is an inherent disgust for what I do.  And it kills a little part of me.  How do I know?  Because barefoot running used to disgust me too.  People just cannot hide their feelings for the idea of running around with no shoes.  It's a look of disgust, disbelief, and maybe even a little bit of "Ok, you're nuts, I'm not going to listen to you anymore."

It's disappointing.  It's fine if you don't like barefoot running, but honestly, don't knock it until you've tried it.  I'm glad I did, because it changed my running career.  I just don't understand why people feel the need to be so judgmental about what we do and do not wear on our feet.  I was guilty of this, but I changed my tune after I stepped out and had the guts to give it a shot.

The typical questions came up too, such as the old "What about stepping on glass!?"  ...What about glass?  Seriously!  Shod runners:  do you want to know the true secret about running barefoot and avoiding the danger of glass?  It's wisdom painstakingly passed on from barefoot runner to barefoot runner, and is reserved for only those who prove themselves truly worthy of this knowledge.  Here we go:

JUST DON'T STEP ON CRAP YOU DON'T WANT TO STEP ON.  Period.  This is not difficult.  Amazing, I know.

Nevermind the fact that I've seen glass only THREE times now in my year of barefoot running.  Three.  Does that sound like the imminent danger that every single shod runner seems so deathly concerned about?  No.  And even then, you use the highly engineered visual acquisition and guidance system you were born with (your eyes) to see it and step around it.  Glass is the first thing non-barefoot runners always bring up, and it's such a non-issue that I have to outright laugh at them sometimes.

It really seems that some shod runners must be totally out of touch with their surroundings when they run.  Is that the case?  Do you guys totally tune out when you go out for a jog?  Because it's seriously like magic for me to mention to some people that you can simply step around an object.  That you don't have to run through something uncomfortable like pebbles, glass, etc.  Wow.  It's amazing to me how out of touch some people seem.  They must get out there and roll through whatever with the nearly inch of rubber/foam/gel between their feet and the ground.  That's cool.  Enjoy your run.

Then there was the mention of stepping on hypodermic needles.  It's always been a joke for barefoot runners to mention, but someone actually seriously asked me about stepping on needles....all I have to ask is: WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU PEOPLE RUNNING!?  No, I don't make a habit of running in the slums, though apparently some runners do.


What else...I guess that's it.  I had a nice morning run along the beach.  The concrete sidewalk was perfect, and the scenery was new and interesting.  The sand's sort of a jerk when there's a lot of it to run through on the sidewalk, but for the most part the run was great.  The only issue was trying to breathe and relax in high humidity.  YUCK.  Guess I'll get used to it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunday's Run

Seven mile barefoot run on concrete at 6am.  Not a scratch on my feet.  Had a running buddy.  Had fun!  Not every run is perfect, but most are pretty close!!  ;-)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Barefoot Running Style Lessons


"The human foot is a work of art and masterpiece of human engineering." - Leonardo DaVinci

This video was put out by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella of Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking (http://trtreads.org).  He is a family practitioner as well as a USAF Reserves Lt Col, and serves as the USAF Marathon team coach.  His center and website are wonderful sources of information for natural running, whether barefoot or in minimalist footwear.  Check out that website and see all the amazing info he's got to offer.

This beautiful video is a great example of the peace that can be found out running when it stops being a chore.  It's a lovely thing to watch, and has many words of wisdom.

Key points from the video:
Running is not a battle between you and your body.
And it's not about running barefoot...it's about barefoot running style.  (ie. running naturally, even in footwear)
The harder the surface, and the less between your feet and the ground, the softer the landing.
Get strong in the right places.
Get loose in the right places.
Be in balance.
Progress slowly.
Your feet are the messengers...listen to them.
Do not overstride.
Relax and breathe.
Run and have fun.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not every run is perfect

Yesterday's run was proof that on some days, you just don't have it.

I went out for an easy 30 minute run Friday afternoon (had to rush back to see the Bruins win the Stanley Cup!!), thinking that it was going to very straightforward.  Unfortunately, waiting until the late afternoon on hot days to run barefoot can really hurt.  Literally.  I didn't realize how hot the concrete would be.  Holy cow!

Normally the high turnover rate (faster running cadence) means that hot surfaces aren't really a problem.  My feet aren't on the ground long enough to really cause any damage when the concrete is warm.  But not today.  Wow...right off the bat I had serious doubts about whether or not I'd be able to even do five minutes on the running trail, it was so hot.  But soon after, I settled down and felt well enough to carry on.  I wouldn't get too far though before I changed my tune. 

I only completed about 20 minutes of my run barefoot before I had to put my Vibram Sprints on and finish.  Why?  Because the heat was beginning to cause "hot spots" (aka the beginning of blisters) on both my feet, making the run rather uncomfortable.  This was a great example of why carrying some sort of footwear (heck, maybe even socks!) on runs is important.  You just never know.  I run with a waist pack that fits a water bottle or a pair of Vibrams nicely, plus some other pockets for my keys, cell, band aids (very useful sometimes), and whatever else I need.  Comes in handy when I'm a few miles away from my car.

Also, running in the Sprints (my favorite type of Vibram FiveFingers) again was a nice reminder.  I don't like running in any shoes now, but it's necessary to on occasion.  It's amazing how muffled the ground feel is, even in something as minimalist as the Sprints - and they are extremely minimalist!  The feedback you get from your skin is so incredible, and is the perfect teacher.  I found myself focusing on form, speed, and landing softly so intensely in the Vibrams, while barefoot I don't need to.  It's a significant difference between barefoot and "barefoot shoes."  They are not the same.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Sound of Silence

Thud.  Thud.  Thud.  Thud...

Oh, here they come.

THUD.  THUD.  THUD.  THUD.

Yep, right behind me...

THUD!  GASP.  THUD!  GASP.

Enjoy your run, folks.  

Yep, I hear that script a lot when I'm out running.  It never ceases to amaze me how loud some people are when they're out for a jog.  I was running at the gym once, on the indoor track, and was perfectly shocked when I heard some man approaching me, slowly gaining on me, and I first noted he was behind me when he was about 30-40 off.  I heard this guy running 40 feet BEHIND me.  That's not natural.  It happened again today when I was outside on the concrete running trail, only not quite as extreme.  This guy I probably heard only 15-20 feet behind me.  But still!  And this guy didn't have terrible form - he seemed to be landing midfoot in his Addidas running shoes rather than slamming his heel.  But it's quite incredible how hard people run, and how much work that really is.

Barefooters typically run silent.  I sneak up on animals all the time because they don't hear my coming until I'm right up on them.  The only thing I hear when I'm out there is the sound of my breathing and my car keys rattling in my pocket.  It's extremely relaxing.

The point of all this?  If people learned to run lighter, I think they'd also learn to run happier.  They'd spend less energy.  They'd suffer fewer injuries and less fatigue.  Running would probably be more enjoyable.  That's why I stick with barefoot running.  Yes, it's interesting and keeps my mind occupied, but it also keeps me running sounder (healthier).  I think if people weren't terrified to take off their shoes every now and then and at least try some barefoot training, they'd see the benefits too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Running through puddles

video

Had a great barefoot run today on a local concrete running trail.  The surface is such a joy after some of the surfaces I had been forced to run on the last few weeks.  Unfortunately, the weather's been wet and unpleasant lately.  After sitting on my butt long enough, I decided to test my barefoot running skills by chancing some wet concrete.  Why not, right?

Wet surfaces usually are a little more unforgiving, as the moisture softens the skin and makes it more likely to incur injuries (ie. blisters, scrapes, etc).  Running in wet conditions is usually a great test of running form.  I figured after nearly a year of barefoot running, it was time to give it a shot.
Thankfully, by the time I got out there, the trail had some dry spots.  But I did have plenty of opportunities to get my feet wet!  Several puddles plus strips of wet concrete gave me enough test.  I'm beginning to think that barefoot running and minimalist running is getting more accepted, or perhaps people just don't say anything anymore.  I encountered several folks on my run today, which lasted about an hour, and no one said a word about me not having shoes.  I don't know...I guess I don't usually mind it.

So yes...after about an hour out jogging through puddles and on wet surfaces, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the condition my feet were in.  They looked awesome.  If anything they were cleaner than usual, haha.  It was a nice feeling knowing that my running form is to a point where moisture isn't a problem.  It's a huge confidence booster.

Overpasses....yuck.
I hate running near roads.  Why?  Because vehicles tend to kick up pebbles that always land on the sidewalk.  So running next to roads or under an overpass always makes me grit my teeth and just get through it.  Luckily, since I've been running through my neighborhood lately and therefore have spent way too much time stepping on pebbles, I have a new appreciation for how much cleaner the surfaces under overpasses are on this running trail.  They're still no fun, though.  Definitely the only hazard on that trail.


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Running Impact Research Presentation by Dr. Irene Davis - PLEASE WATCH! :)

 Fascinating stuff!!  This is a four part video series on YouTube of a presentation by Dr. Irene Davis, Harvard Medical Center, and her research on impact forces in running.  She presents awesome data that really adds some hard evidence to the ongoing debate of barefoot or minimalist footwear vs. traditional running shoes.

 I'm loving this information.  I wish I had seen this when I first started running.  I know I said to watch the other video in my last post, but if you're limited on time, check these out please!  This is the definitive scientific presentation that I've seen thus far.  Brava, Dr. Davis.

Video one: heel striking, midfoot striking, forefoot striking, tibial g-forces, stride turnover and injury rate, shoes and their tendencies to increase pronation, etc. 
Video 2: Cushioning in shoes and the related stiffness in joints, landing impacts based on hardness of surface, price of shoes/ related injury rates, plantar faciitis and foot strength, why do podiatrists treat the feet the way they do?
Video 3: How humans are structured to run, running injury distribution and rates, case studies, "If we were meant to run, why do we get injured doing it?"

Video 4: Question/Answer

She also reiterates the need for people to educate themselves and take it slow when going barefoot or minimalist.  Hooray!

Interview with Dr. Irene Davis, Harvard Medical Center

Whether you love running shoes, minimalist shoes, or no shoes at all, you should really check out this interview about Dr. Irene Davis, and her studies:


"It is important for everybody to be willing to be let go of their dogma"
"The truth today may not be the truth in 50 years from now"
"You need to be open and willing to change your mind about some things"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The "Transitional" Shoe Debate

Barefoot is the new buzzword for shoe companies.  Anything they can throw out there that is slightly lighter and even vaguely marketable toward the minimalist crowd is promoted as such.  Conventional running experts and coaches, as well as some podiatrists, even agree that less shoe is a good idea for some.  Most of them will argue, though, that in order to go from a conventional running shoe to something more minimal, you have to step down gradually through the use of transitional shoes.

For example:  If you're running in a typical 12 oz trainer with 30+mm of heel height and a drop of  ~12 mm (seriously...how these things became mainstream I'll never know), a transitional shoe might be somewhere around 9oz, have a heel of maybe ~20mm, and a drop of around six or seven.  Hypothetically speaking.  So for example, if someone is in a Saucony ProGrid Triumph 8 (just picked it off of Running Warehouse, sorry Triumph fans), a transitional shoe might be a Saucony Cortana (or Nike Free Run) with the end goal being the Saucony Kinvara (7.7oz, 4mm drop).

But is this gradual stepping down of shoes really necessary?  And is it truly the best way to go about it?  We may never know.  Personally, I wouldn't bother.  And that's not because I prefer running barefoot.  I honestly don't care what people wear, so long they're running safe, healthy, and happy.  But if you're in one of those in heavy trainers with all that material between you and the ground, and you want something a little bit more minimal (no matter how minimal), I would encourage you to consider using some barefoot training instead of a transitional shoe.

Why?  Because the less shoe you wear, the more important running form becomes, and the stronger your foot needs to be.  A heel striker in a conventional running shoe will likely still be a heel striker in a Kinvara or Nike Free 3.0.  And a weak foot won't get the type of conditioning it needs in another trainer.  Transitioning from a big trainer shoe to something lighter and more flexible really can be just as simple as taking your shoes off for a couple minutes at a time.

Just a couple of minutes at the end of your regular runs can make all the difference.  You can still maintain your regular mileage in your old shoes, but maybe twice a week or so for several weeks, take your shoes off for a cool down period at the end of your run.  Learn how to run lightly barefoot, and get comfortable with good technique like the midfoot landing, lifting the feet, cadence, etc.  This not only teaches your brain what to look for and to apply in your new shoes, but it helps condition your feet.  Gradual strengthening of the feet in this fashion will better prepare them for the workload of lesser shoe.  And you'll learn to run all over again.  After a few weeks of that, start easing into your new choice of footwear.  Maybe rotate those with your old shoes, and continue you barefoot training sessions.

Not only that, but just being barefoot (or in socks) around the house as much as possible can help.  So can using a golf ball, scrunching towels/pillowcases, etc with your feet.  Learning to exercise your feet like that can help increase strength and dexterity.

Just my two cents.  I honestly think the "transition" shoe is a bunch of marketing CRAP fed to runners who might be looking to explore the benefits of running in less shoe.  But people are constantly being told by shoe companies and running "experts" in magazines that barefoot is dangerous out in the man made world, and instead they have to use transition shoes.  B.S.  A little bit of barefoot training can educate and condition a runner to adapt to a more minimal shoe better than any transition shoe could.

Photos and videographic evidence! :)

I've been out for awhile with a strained back from a self-defense course I took, but here's some things left over from my last run.  First, a little video:

video


People are also curious about what barefoot running does to your feet.  While most folks assume nasty, thick callouses develop, and that the skin becomes very tough like leather, that's not usually true.  Most barefoot runners' feet are actually very soft.  Mine are.  It's the best kind of exfoliation out there!  ;-)

So here's a pic of one of my feet after a 50 minute run (concrete/asphalt):

And after it's been washed off:


My feet after a 60 minute run (concrete/asphalt):




So as long as my form is good, I avoid blisters and scraping, and the feet look fine.  The pads of my feet have become a little thicker as they should, and as a result my foot is wider than it used to be, but aside from that, no issues! :)

Getting Started with Barefoot Running

I do a lot of talking on this blog, but to put it simply, here are something to keep in mind if you're considering trying barefoot running:

1.  Start out barefoot.  That terms gets used a lot with all the minimalist shoe options out there claiming to be "barefoot running shoes."  Don't even bother with them.  Take off your shoes and get ready to go.

2.  START SLOW!  Let your skin be your guide.  Meaning, when you go out running barefoot, and your skin starts to feel irritated, then you're done.  By only doing as much as your skin allows you to do comfortably, you won't stress the inner structure of your foot and do actual damage.  Your skin and foot pad will gradually increase in their ability to handle the workload, as will the muscles, bones, and soft tissue in your feet.  That's why starting off in shoes like the Vibram FiveFingers can be so dangerous - you can't feel the ground, and therefore can't feel when you've done too much and injured yourself.

3.  Run on hard surfaces.  Yes, the non-barefoot running "experts" claim that barefoot running should only be done on grass.  But smooth concrete is a barefoot runner's best friend.  Harder surfaces give the best feedback, therefore your form will be easier to correct.  Grass also hides hidden dangers that you could easily see and avoid on concrete.

4.  Lift your feet!  Runners used to conventional shoes and heel striking might be under the impression that you have to push off with your toes.  Instead, think about lifting your feet off the ground and allow momentum to carry you forward.  If you push off your toes barefoot, you will stress your feet and tear up your skin.  If you push off in minimalist footwear, you risk injury.  Lifting the feet is key.

5.  Shorten your stride, increase your cadence.  Quicker, shorter steps help the foot land under the body's center of gravity, rather than out in front of the body and on the heel.  A midfoot/forefoot landing under the body greatly reduces the impact forces on the body.  Think of your body coming to a screeching halt every time you heel strike and the impact forces that would cause.  With a shorter stride also comes higher cadence.  A recommended rate is 180 bpm.

6.  Allow your heel to "kiss" the ground.  Some people new to barefoot or minimalist running (especially in the Vibram FiveFinger community) think that you have to "run on your toes."  NO!!  The landing should be under your body on the forefoot or midfoot, but the heel should briefly touch the ground afterward.  Midfoot first, heel second.  When that heel touches the ground, the arch flattens out and absorbs a great deal of the shock.  If you ran only on your toes, your calves and Achilles would take that beating, and that leads to some very painful injuries.

Example and explanation of barefoot running, by Michael Sandler of RunBare.com:


Some initial advice and drills:


Check out Barefoot Running University, Barefoot Runners' Society, and RunBARE.com for great resources on getting started with barefoot and minimalist running.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reebok's idea of "natural running"....LOL.

Well, Reebok has officially jumped on the "natural running" bandwagon with their new RealFlex.  It's the company's answer to the Nike Free and Saucony Kinvara, both of which have been popular models.  But like Nike and Saucony, Reebok's "reasons" for the shoe and its super technology only make me sit here and laugh at it because a couple of them are flat out WRONG.

Check out a review and videos on BirthdayShoes.com.  In the video, Reebok's representative makes several good points about the mechanics of barefoot running and how they are beneficial.  I applaud Reebok for acknowledging that and wanting to embrace it in their shoes.  However, that's just about where the praise ends.  Claims that humans can't run barefoot on man made surfaces like concrete is ABSURD!  Where do you think I do all of my barefoot running?  On concrete.  In fact, barefoot is the only way I can run on concrete without getting any top of foot pain (which yes, can eventually lead to a stress fracture).  Barefoot keeps me safe, and good concrete is the absolute best surface to run barefoot on (in my own opinion).  I am protected by those dreaded impact forces (as the video mentioned) because I can feel the ground beneath me, and have learned to step softly.  I can't do that in any type of footwear, even the most minimal.  That's why I prefer barefoot on concrete whenever I can.

So we've got Reebok claiming that barefoot in the man made world won't fly.  False.  They go on to say that running barefoot down hills doesn't work either because you HAVE to land on your heel.  Also a big fat false.  When I go downhill, I shorten my stride up and allow my momentum to carry me down the hill.  As a result, I maintain my midfoot strike and have no issues.  It's all about technique.  I think the majority of people would be outright shocked to discover what their body is capable if used correctly.

The RealFlex looks like another over-engineered piece of footwear.  The sensor pods (really??) look very appealing to those looking for the next advancement in shoes, but I don't think they're necessary, and contrary to the idea of "less is more" when it comes to running shoes.  The shoe even has a substantial heel on it, which for me, was a huge reason why I heel struck in shoes and caused myself injury.  Lifted heels on running shoes encourage heel striking.  That's why a good "natural running" shoe would have a minimal drop, or no drop at all.

In my mind, the Reebok RealFlex looks like just another running shoe.  It's probably lighter and more flexible like the Free, but in the end, they're all still running shoes.  I have no problem with that.  If anything, I'm somewhat excited about this, because this gives runners in traditional trainers a lighter option (thought not as light as the Kinvara or Free) and hopefully a path to healthier running.  It means that major shoe companies are embracing the idea of less is more, and encouraging a more natural gait.  I just wish companies would stop selling them through lies/false information.  But I guess they still have to sucker in people to make a profit.

Oye.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yahoo needs to do its research too.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_weekend/20110408/ts_yblog_weekend/do-the-latest-fitness-shoes-work

The insistence on some podiatrists on the need for rigid, padded stability shoes is mind blowing, it really is.  I was a poor runner and suffered injuries from running, and all the doctors did was prescribe stability shoes and orthotics to "properly align" my foot and body.  And all they did?  Make it worse.

Some docs are starting to get it.  Others are still so blind to the idea that the human foot was made to function without shoes that they can't even fathom something as simple as barefoot or minimalist shoes.  Some even set up blogs defaming barefoot running, when they're getting money from shoe companies for advertising and promoting their products.

Awesome.  Don't even get me started on Yahoo's half hearted attempts at reporting anything.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Barefoot running and the need for education

Barefoot Bounce: UNC student falls for barefoot running, but romance is fleeting


Here's an article from Greeley, Colorado (I've been there!), about a UNC student who was a former barefoot runner.  No, barefoot running's not for everyone, but if you're going to do it, at least made SOME attempt at educating yourself about form, cadence, training plans, etc.  Learn the biomechanics of it all.  Just by looking at the pictures I can tell he's probably overstriding, which puts a lot of unnecessary stress on the body, and a great deal of friction on the skin. 

I could go on, but I won't.  The kid tried, and for that he gets some respect.  But the other part of it is setting yourself up for success by getting educated.  Check out the Barefoot Runner's Society and Barefoot Running University for some basics.

As for the article...well, given its underdevelopment and tone, I can't help but feel like it's meant to spark some debate in the area, maybe even prove that BFR should be looked down upon, I don't know.  It's very hard to tell.  Not a piece of journalistic brilliance in any case.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Barefoot or shoes? It doesn't have to be "all or nothing."

I greatly prefer running barefoot to running in any type of shoe, but I'm certainly not blind to the fact that not everyone feels the same.  I know that barefoot running is, and very well may always be, a fringe activity.  But I, like other barefoot and minimalist runners, know that it doesn't have to be all or nothing.  There has been a lot of discussion over at the Barefoot Runners' Society about whether or not the "barefoot running movement" is going about it the right way.  It's easy to be purist and preach "barefoot is the only way to go," but maybe it should be "try less shoe."  I try not to preach at all; if someone's healthy and happy running in shoes, then great.  If someone expresses interest in trying barefoot or minimalist, then I'll talk to them as much as they want.

But it really doesn't have to be one side or the other.  Yes, I think the vast majority of "traditional" runners (those in typical modern running shoes and trainers) would greatly benefit from stepping down to a simpler, lighter, and more flexible shoe.  A little education in running form, and less cumbersome choice in footwear is a good choice for most.  So here are a couple of options:


Nike Free - probably the more recognizable shoe trying to appeal to the "barefoot" runner.  I consider this a "reduced running shoe," and not minimalist, because it's really a stripped down trainer.  Minimalist, in my opinion, is something more akin to the Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell Trail/Pace Gloves, and ultra light racing flats with 4mm drop or less.  The Free, on the other hand, weighs much more and has more midsole padding than anything of that sort.  It is lighter, more flexible, and contains fewer gadgets than most of the trainers on the market today.  The various models feature different levels of heel-toe drops, with the lowest being the Free 3.0 (the lower, the better!).  Lower drops encourage a midfoot/forefoot strike and get runners off of landing on the heel.  I applaud Nike for taking advantage of a potential opportunity, and creating a simpler and very functional shoe that does encourage a healthier stride.  Would I run in them?  Not unless I have to.  But I have seen and heard some success stories with the Frees, and so long as they have a positive impact on people's running, that's the most important thing. 


Saucony Pro Grid Kinvara - The Kinvara is yet another shoe company's attempts at getting in on the minimalist pay day.  While advertised by Saucony as a "minimalist" shoe, the Kinvara is yet another reduced running shoe.  Weighing in at just over 7oz, it's a very lightweight trainer with a wide and very stable landing area.  It also features a 4mm drop.  I had a pair of Kinvaras last summer, and while I didn't run in them much, I ran enough to know that they are a HUGE improvement over the traditional trainers I ran unsuccessfully in during 2009.  The low drop encourages a natural midfoot strike, and the light, airy mesh upper allowed great airflow.  I really think that Saucony got it right with the Kinvara, as here is a shoe that appeals to the traditional runner that might insist on a certain amount of material between their foot and the road, and yet the shoe does encourage a healthy stride.  Having said that, and being a barefoot runner, they did feel like foam boats.  If I had to run in them I could, but I still prefer less (ie. ultra light racing flats) or nothing at all.  Still, if you're a runner used to heavy trainers and are looking for a graduated step down to less shoe, the Kinvara is a great bet.  It was one of the hottest shoes on the market in 2010 for good reason.  It could be more flexible, but in that respect it's very appealing for those looking to transition to less shoe, without going minimalist.


INOV8 F-Lite 195 -   This UK company has a lot of choices for those looking to run in less shoe.  The 195 features a 3mm drop from heel to toe, and weighs a whopping 6.8oz.  Other Inov8 options include the Road X-Lite 155





Somnio NADA - Now THIS is what I'm talking about!!  If I wasn't already very happy with my Mizuno Wave Universe 3 racing flats, the Somnio NADA would be my next shoe.  A combined 6mm thick midsole, zero drop, and only 4oz...these seem like the perfect racing flat.  There's a slight toe spring (upturn of the toe), but the reviewer wasn't impacted by that.  I will consider these in the future.



So....

What to consider in a reduced running shoe or racing flat?
Look for a light, flexible shoe with a drop of less than 6mm if possible.  The toe box should be wide and roomy, to allow your toes to splay (spread out) as they naturally would.

Other shoe possibilities include the Saucony Grid A4 racing flat, Saucony Kilkenny cross country flat, and a plethora of other options available for review at BirthdayShoes.com:
http://birthdayshoes.com/barefoot-running-shoes

Another fun barefoot run

So today I decided to head out for another run, barefoot, and enjoy the beautiful weather. :)    It was a little warm, so the concrete was a little hot, but other than that I couldn't complain.  The best part was I didn't get stopped by the cops this time.  ;-)

I found a new game, too.  Normally I run on sidewalks, but when that is too rough or there is no side walk, I've taken to running on the road, on the concrete part of the curb where it meets the asphalt.  When a car approached me, I jumped up on the curb and ran on the curb itself.  It was oddly amusing!  Sort of like running on a balance beam.  Yet one more way for me to interact with the terrain and play around while running.  Definitely keeps things interesting, that's for sure.

I was out for an hour again, and experienced more interaction with other runners and passers-by.  I can always tell that drivers slow down to check out what the heck is going on with this crazy barefoot girl.  Between them and some of the people I passed on the sidewalk, I'm sure I turned a few heads.  That's not at all why I run barefoot, but it's one of those side-effects that you have to learn to accept.  Just keep running...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Barefoot Running Research

There still is not a lot of definitive scientific research out there today to support whether shod or barefoot running is really better in the long run.  Thus, neither side can stand up and say for sure that shod or barefoot is better than the other.  What I can show, though, are some research studies dealing with various topics within the barefoot running world.  The most famous is the research done by Dr. Lieberman at Harvard University.  His study reveals some surprising and very encouraging stats regarding foot strikes, impact forces, etc between shod and barefoot runners.  I encourage you to flip through his extensive website to learn more, as there is just so much interesting information to cover in a single blog post:

http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/

This video sums up Dr. Lieberman's research and provides some good visuals:

A recent study by the University of Massachusetts made a few of the following conclusions:
  • Midsole cushioning in shoes doesn't do as much as people think it does
  • There seems to be little difference between minimalist shoes (in the case of the study, shoes with 4mm drop, so not Merrells or Vibram FiveFingers) and highly cushioned running shoes in terms of shock absorption (unfortunately, test subjects landed on their heels in both types of shoes)
  • Barefoot runners had lower impact forces than both the "minimalist" shoes and highly cushioned shoes
Unfortunately, there were issues with this study.  The runners were not experienced barefoot runners, so they did not apply a midfoot strike in their minimalist shoes.  The "minimalist" shoes used were not as minimalist as they could have been.  But despite the flaws, the study does support the fact that barefoot running seems to be lower impact than shod running.  And it also supports the idea that minimalist runners really should learn to run barefoot first, and then apply this different style of running to their minimalist shoes in order to lower the stress on their legs and feet.

Is barefoot truly better than shod running?  Like the article said, scientifically speaking, we still don't know.  It works for me though, and that's all I care about.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great run!

I'm out of town for work at the moment and in a new area.  I've been trying to scope out a decent barefoot running route for a few days now, but was worried given the old concrete sidewalks in the area.  They're very rough, torn up and cracked, and over all not pleasant to run on.  I tried last week, but ended up only making maybe two miles before I had to put my Vibram FiveFingers on and call it a day.  But today I finally put some of my local observation to use and found a good route with concrete ranging from great to fair condition.  All in all, it made up for a one-hour run and it felt awesome!

...probably because a year ago I couldn't fathom running for an hour straight.  Now it just sort of happens, and I love it.

I got a lot of inquisitive stares from fellow runners and the drivers as they went by on the road.  I also got stopped by the police!  I've heard of this happening to other barefoot runners, but I hadn't experienced it yet.  The guy was completely nice about it; he seemed concerned that something had happened to me (because who in their right mind would run without shoes on?).  But I quickly cleared it up, we both had a laugh, and he continued on.  I guess I'm a "real" barefoot runner now that I got the attention of the police.  ;-)

One female runner I passed on the latter half of the run made me chuckle to myself...as I was running toward her, I saw she was staring at me from the other side of the road.  And unlike most runners, she couldn't keep a poker face.  There was a look of confusion, then absolute disgust on her face as she passed, trying not to look at me.  I saw her laugh to herself as she went by too.  I noticed her long, awkward stride, tired expression, and her hunched over frame, and the only thing I could think of was "Well at least I don't look completely miserable in my running, Lady!" 

I might look like a crazy homeless athlete, but at least I'm now going along happy and actually enjoying myself.  Running looks like such a chore to some other people.

I also think the most important part of this for me is that running is now fun.  It's all fascinating to me, yes, but I also have a good time out there.  I came up on some parts of the sidewalk under trees, so there was a lot of "tree debris" like acorns, leaves, etc I had to avoid.  I felt like these were mini-obstacle courses in a sense, and I loved it.  I was smiling as I was bouncing around on the sidewalk, choosing my steps carefully and stepping lightly.  And I thought, "I bet most runners never have this experience."   You shod runners are probably thinking, "Hell no we don't have that experience!"  But I rather think you're missing out.  Having to occasionally dance around stuff like that adds so much more to my run.  The different terrain (concrete vs. asphalt, road markings, etc) all add a whole new dimension and spice to what might otherwise be nothing but a metronome type of run.  It's an interaction with your environment that I think a lot of people are missing out on.  It's just a really cool experience.

And no, I'm not a tree hugger.  I just had a fitness test on Monday where I wore my flats, and every step felt the same.  Boring!  I think I am just the ADHD of runners.

Want to Run in Minimalist Shoes? Run Barefoot First.

I honestly think that minimalist running (shoes such as the Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell Barefoot line, Terra Planna Evos, etc) would work for the majority of people, but the problem (again) is the time it can sometimes take to get there. I see some people jump into a pair of Vibrams and end up hurting themselves two weeks later because they just either don't know to take it super conservatively, or aren't patient/disciplined enough to do it. I love my Vibrams (the four pairs I own ought to prove that!), but the biggest problem I have with them is that they are not truly like running barefoot. I found out the hard way that they deprive you of the important sensory feedback you get from your feet, and allow you to do too much, too soon. When I go barefoot, I know when to stop because my feet tell me to; usually it's the skin on the bottom of my foot telling me it's had enough. That is well before the internal structures of my foot become fatigued. That's why I now believe barefooting is actually safer, especially for someone new to minimalist running. It provides an excellent base to work off of later.

So now if I know of someone interested in trying Vibrams, I always advocate going a month or two barefoot first. I've found that ending regular runs (in shoes) by doing the last few minutes barefoot is a good way to ease into it. It'll teach people proper barefoot form to apply in their Vibrams, and start conditioning their feet for the workload. I didn't do that when I first started wearing Vibrams, and as a result I wasn't educated well into form and wound up with a few minor injuries. Wouldn't have happened if I had just been patient and done some barefoot running first. 


"Barefoot Running Shoes"... NOT The Same as Barefoot Running!

With the popularity of minimalist shoes such as the Vibram FiveFingers, and new lines of so-called "barefoot running shoes" such as the Merrell Trail/Pace Gloves and the New Balance Minimus, there is a trend of comparing these pieces of footwear to actually being barefoot.  I am guilty of this too.  When I was running exclusively in Vibrams, I would often say I was running barefoot.  But that was before I started running truly barefoot.  So as a true barefoot runner and as someone who owns several pairs of Vibrams and racing flats, let me say this:

Running in "barefoot shoes" is NOT the same as running barefoot!

It's easy for folks in these minimalist shoes to say they're running barefoot - there is little/no support in these shoes, they're flat and very flexible.  Essentially they're just a glove for the foot to keep it protected.  However, this does not equate to running actually barefoot.  So much of running barefoot is based on the feedback one gets from skin contact with the ground.  It influences form, cadence, and impact.  These minimalist shoes don't allow for that feedback.  Sure, barefoot technique is very important in minimalist shoes because of the lack of cushion, but the two are not the same.  I can say that because I have done (and still do) both.

Bottom line: shoes are shoes.  Wearing even the most minimalistic shoe and saying you're a "barefoot runner" is misleading.

Dispelling Some Barefoot Running Myths

There is great debate in the running community whether running in shoes or running barefoot is better.  I'm not going to bother with this argument right now, because I believe it is different for everyone.  For me, being completely barefoot is the best option.  For others, that's not the case.  I always tell people that if they're happy and healthy running in their running shoes, then don't change.  Classic "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," situation.  For me, I was constantly broken running in shoes, so I had to change.  But I do want to shed some light on some misconceptions most shod runners tend to have when it comes to running barefoot.  Due to the increasing number of articles on barefoot running, there are so-called running experts (who have probably spent most of their lives in running shoes) who are spreading some incorrect information about barefoot running.  This is all based on my personal experiences.


"Barefoot running MIGHT be beneficial, but ONLY on surfaces like grass or sand.  People weren't meant to run barefoot on hard surfaces."
Not so.  Barefoot runners today compete in marathons, even ultra marathons over man-made surfaces such as asphalt and concrete without injury.  Sure, grass and sand are great "comfort" surfaces, but they have their own issues.  Grass, like sand, is soft and doesn't provide good feedback.  This muffled feedback prevents the runner from fine tuning their form.  Incorrect form can lead to injury.  Concrete provides instant feedback, and as a result, the form is easier to correct.  Also, grass hides what lies within it.  Non-barefoot runners are too concerned with stepping on the all-present shattered glass (something I have yet to see while running barefoot), but grass can easily hide such a danger, as well as rocks and other debris.  Grass can also hide uneven ground, which might also lead to injury.  One can easily see any debris or dangers ahead on concrete, though.  For me, running on clean concrete provides the smoothest, safest, and most comfortable run while barefoot.  I couldn't run on concrete in any type of shoe without shin splints (running shoes) or foot pain (minimalist shoes like Vibrams), but I can go for miles and miles on concrete while barefoot.  Go figure.

"You have to be biomechanically perfect to run barefoot.  Everyone else needs shoes!"
Also not the case.  I actually think it's the opposite.  I think people who naturally have good biomechanics and good running form are the most successful in shoes.  I have terrible running mechanics in shoes because I can't feel the ground beneath me.  I run totally goofy in shoes, and THAT is why I get injured in them.  The raised heel, millimeters upon millimeters of EVA foam, rubber, gel, and whatever crap is in the shoe...all that throws my stride off.  The improper mechanics from that bad stride is what eventually gets me in trouble.  That feedback I receive while barefoot keeps me honest and my body automatically knows what to do.  Barefoot running isn't for everyone, but I do think the majority of people would definitely benefit from even a little bit of barefoot training. 

"I over/under pronate, therefore I need special shoes."
Sometimes I wonder how much of that statement is inspired by misguided doctors or shoe stores pushing  a product.  People insisting on motion control shoes, stability shoes, preventing overpronation and all that other stuff...I can hardly believe it.  There is no one correct way to run, even barefoot.  There are principles to follow, but even then, no two people will run exactly the same.  People will strike the ground in different ways, and yes, landing on the outside of the foot is natural for some, and isn't something that necessarily has to be forceably correctly through motion control shoes.  I sometimes land on the outside of my foot while barefoot, and it's perfectly natural.

"It's too dangerous.  I'd be too worried about stepping on glass."
That's one of the first things I hear from anyone when barefoot running comes up.  I have been running barefoot for nearly a year, and I have yet to see broken glass.  It's out there somewhere, sure, but it's far from the nuisance that everyone else seems to think it is.  Small rocks are a bigger problem, but again, on concrete, any debris is very easy to see and avoid.


"Barefoot runners are out to change everyone else into barefoot runners too."
Barefoot runners are not out to burn your damn shoes.  I don't care what you wear, as long as you're happy.  So just don't hate on me for choosing NOT to wear shoes.  Going barefoot doesn't make me a better runner than you, so don't act like wearing shoes makes you a better runner than me.



That's all for now.  I'm sure I'll have more.

Barefoot Background: Why I decided to ditch my running shoes

Welcome to Barefooting It - my personal blog about my journey with barefoot running.  There are many, MANY other barefoot running blogs out there, most by runners with many more miles on them than myself.  But I have been asked so often about my own experiences with barefoot running that I decided to go ahead and establish a blog.  I also need something to share my great experiences with, so this media shall be it.

So why did I start running barefoot?  A year ago I wouldn't have been caught dead running with no shoes on.  I thought it was dangerous, completely unnecessary, and perfectly crazy.  I won't lie - I didn't think much of barefoot runners because of those reasons.  But at the same time, I knew I couldn't really speak because at the time I was struggling to just run two miles.  Eventually I discovered barefoot running and found out that it is the best option for me to keep me running further, longer, and with less injury.

I used to run all the time as a kid.  I remember having a racing club in the third grade, where all my friends and I challenged each other to races around the playground over several predetermined "tracks."  But somewhere between elementary school and high school, I lost that desire to run.  Fast forward to high school, where we had a running course for several weeks in the dead of winter.  All the running (after not running in years) over frozen ground destroyed my shins.  That was the last time I had any prolonged running regimen.

I've always been the athletic type, having ridden horses competitively since I was seven years old (later I rode professionally).  I also played ice hockey on a regular basis.  I was fit, but by no means "running fit."  In 2009, I moved and decided to start a new career.  I also decided to start working out, as I was no longer riding up to nine horses a day.  So I started the Couch-To-5k program in my cheap running shoes.  After running into my old nemesis, shin splints, I remembered why I had given up on running years ago.  On the advice of several runner friends, I went to a local running store and got fitted for some expensive running shoes.  I rested, then tried the same program again.  I suffered for weeks trying to run through the pain of shin splints, only to have to stop, rest, and try again a couple of weeks later.  Doctors and sports therapists were no help.  I was getting nowhere!

Introduction to Minimalist Shoes and Vibram FiveFingers
I struggled all through 2009 trying to just start a running program.  I could barely run a mile without getting fatigued or sore, and anything over that was going to lay me up for at least a couple of days.  I was desperate.  Then someone recommended I try the funky Vibram FiveFingers for running. They explained how they eventually overcame their shin splint issues through shoes such as VFFs and the Huarache sandals.   So I tried a pair of Vibram KSOs and immediately fell in love with this new concept of barefoot/minimalist running.  I understood the mechanics of barefoot and how it differed from running in typical running shoes, but I did not yet want to run barefoot.  The VFFs seemed like the perfect solution.  But not for too much longer.

Transitioning to Completely Barefoot
Unfortunately, I still struggled for months.  Were the VFFs better for me than running shoes?  Absolutely, and by a large margin.  My shin splints had completely disappeared.  But I still had minor injuries due to bad form.  I had to run as if I were barefoot, but I had never actually run barefoot.  My body didn't know what to do or how to do it.  I strained my calves, Achilles, and got sore in the metatarsal region of the foot (the dreaded "top of foot pain" or TOFP).  Yes, I could run up to four miles now, but I was still hitting road blocks.  I was still frustrated.  So eventually I ended up switching to racing flats (nice, nearly flat shoes with only a 4mm drop, with thin and flexible sole) instead.  It was right about then I decided to try going a little barefoot for the heck of it.  Much to my surprise, I loved it!  I loved the feeling of the ground and how that feedback affected my form right away. My body instantly knew what to do, and immediately my whole perspective on running changed. I wanted to go out and run now, it wasn't some chore I had to accomplish.

Gradually the distances I ran barefoot increased. Initially, I did short stints barefoot at the end of my runs (the majority was done in my flats), then I started splitting my easy three mile runs between the two. Eventually, and just because I was feeling good that day, I did the majority of one run barefoot much to the chagrin of the local traffic. It seemed that once I went over two miles barefoot, that my form dialed in and I was good to go. I went three miles barefoot a few times, then edged up to four. Held at four, then finally edged up to almost five.  Eventually I did five miles, then six miles, completely barefoot, and completely happy. They were great milestones for me, because this time a year ago, I could not even fathom going five miles (let alone six), or even wanting to try.  I was struggling so badly to do a mile and a half, but six miles was fun and almost effortless.

I'm not fast barefoot. If I have to run for time, then I put on my Mizuno Wave Universe 3 racing flats (pictured at right) and go. But if I just want to go out for a jog and don't care how fast or how far I go, then I am certainly barefoot. I just find it so fascinating that someone like myself, who once thought it impossible to run comfortably, and was recommended for orthotics, could make a transition to barefoot running and be successful. The body is an incredible machine. I was a student of anatomy and physiology in high school and college, so how the body operates is a captivating subject for me. My barefoot runs are interesting, because as I go along, I can't help but wonder at how well it all works. I find that when I start to tire, that I just have to step back mentally and remember that I was out there running on CONCRETE, barefoot (something that non-BFR's say is impossible), and was totally fine. Then I don't feel nearly as tired because it just seems like a small miracle for me.

So that's why I run barefoot.  Because I feel great and it allows me to run longer distances injury free.   Much more to come in this blog.  :)