This week is another doozy, so I apologize for my inconsistency. Luckily, I married a very reliable man, and here he is to entertain you!
As you’ve all my wife’s previous blog posts, you’ll know that we try our best to make a regular habit of going to the gym; and if you’ve ever gone to a gym, you’ll know there is plenty of people watching to be had. But one of the more interesting sights we’ve seen is the increase in popularity of the Vibram Five-Fingers; more and more members have shown up with these foot gloves to burn off a day’s fast food lunch on the treadmill. In addition to the attention Vibram has received, I’ve also been hearing more buzz about the barefoot running trend and after months of shoes ads and noticing a few passers-by hoofing it, quite literally, down the street in their bare feet, I decided to give it a go. Not to mention, that I’ve spent a few years as a barefoot water skier, so any other sport that you can do shoeless seemed right up my alley.
Before I kicked off my shoes for a jog, I took the time to research barefoot running, to ensure that it wasn’t just a senseless trend and to ensure my safety when I did go for it. The spark of the movement began with a study done at Harvard found here. I won’t dive into all the nerdy details, but the gist of the article outlines two concepts. 1: our bodies were DESIGNED to run and do so without shoes. 2: Running shoes teach us the wrong way to run and therefore are harmful to our health. When I found out that a multi-billion dollar industry and a staple of our GDP was created to the detriment of our health, I was taken aback. You might as well toss the running shoe industry in the pit with Big Tobacco and fast food.
The main difference between running barefoot and shod is in the way your foot hits the ground. When running in shoes, it’s almost guaranteed that your foot with strike the ground heel first, releasing all of your body’s energy and weight into that initial landing of your heel. This puts a lot of stress on your ankles and knees; and wasn’t until after the birth of the modern running shoe in the 70’s, that running injuries started to appear. When running barefoot, it’s the ball of your foot that strikes the ground first, while the tendons in your feet, ankles and lower leg not only absorb shock, but act as a spring and pop your weight into your next step. This method reduces the amount of force hitting your foot from nearly 7% of your body’s weight, to just over 1%, quite a difference when you eventually realize what the 6% gap makes in reducing injury.
Now inspired by my findings as well as training for the Tough Mudder, which I’ll discuss in a later blog cameo(Blogeo!?) My next step was to invest in a pair of shoes that were designed for running barefoot, rather than designed to cause injury. Rather than buying a pair of Vibram’s ( the individual toe thing kinda freaks me out), I went with a pair of Merrell Trail Gloves, which incorporate a sole made by Vibram and design for healthy barefoot running, but with the rest of the shoe made by Merrell, so I know it would outlast any other shoe I’ve ever owned. They’re a perfect cross between the feel of a regular show, complete with a wide toe box and arch support, but with the rubber skin of a Vibram sole which keeps your feet parallel to the ground as if you weren’t wearing any shoes at all. After my purchase, I was so excited to run barefoot, that the first two days I switched between barefoot and my Merrells on a couple 4-5 mile runs. Big mistake! Just as you take on any kind of training, it’s important to gradually increase your distance/weight/etc.; I should have started out with a half mile and worked my way up from there. Needless to say, for the next few days, the tendons in my legs were mighty sore. I then started from scratch and have now worked my way up again to 4 miles running barefoot.
I can definitely say now that I’m HOOKED on running barefoot (or with barefoot running shoes). I feel healthier and more jacked up about running than I’ve ever felt in the past. Barefoot running feels as free and primitive as the most basic human instinct. To let go of the shoes and run into the wind, untethered by modern society becomes an urge. Just make sure to do the research before you go off into the wild unshod! There are plenty of videos and online articles to help you with your new endeavors.