I really do love to run. I love to get out there and lose myself in the rhythm of each step that hits the pavement. Even though there are a ton of trails here, I am a flat surface runner. I like tracks and treadmills the best, but will settle for a road or sidewalk. The less I have to trip on the better, but not only that, I can just go, one foot in front of the other, and get into that zone where I don’t have to think about the next turn or a rock or whatever that might distract me.
The “zone” is my ultimate goal when running. It’s that state of mind where my mind starts to drift from my body and I come up with ideas, make lists, solve problems, and so on, and I can run forever. My body takes over while my mind is in a meditative state. I usually don’t think about any pain I feel or how long I’ve run or where I’ve run. I just go and zone out.
Recently I stopped running for quite a few months because of a calf injury. It was so devastating because I was really getting into it and starting to feel good. But it hurt me, so I turned to yoga and walking for a while. But I was missing that zone and the fitness I got from running so I decided to start back up. But I didn’t want it to hurt me again and I kept asking myself, why should it? Running is a natural thing for us to do, we were made to do it. All we need are our legs, feet and a surface, so why was it hurting me?
I am a natural born minimalist. I live in sundresses and flip-flops in the summer, jeans, Ts, and comfy boots in the winter. But mostly, I’m barefoot or wearing big fluffy socks, and if I could, I’d run barefoot. Well, why cant I? This thought just kept nagging at me, just run barefoot, like our ancient ancestors did before shoes even existed. If its something we are made to do naturally, wouldn’t the injuries be minimal? So, of course, I did some research, and here’s what I came up with.
I read several articles and an article Harvard did talked a lot about foot strikes and compared shoe runners to foot runners and the possibility of injuries related to this. I always felt that I was a heel striker in shoes, but I had no idea barefoot. So I did some personal tests, I got up in my living room and started jogging in place barefoot. Results: forefoot strikes, no pain, but, not really running. So I headed out to the long stretch of hallway that connects the apartments in my building, and just jogged steadily up and down. Results: mid to forefoot strikes, no pain, but I needed to try some distance to really test this. So out to the sidewalk I went, barefoot, and started jogging.
I started out with midfoot strikes, assuming because that was closest to what I was used to when running with shoes, but after a little bit, I started forefoot striking naturally. My stride was a little shorter too, and even a little choppy, but it felt good, natural. But I was totally paranoid about glass and little rocks that might stab my freshly pedicured feet. It was totally distracting and I knew I couldn’t REALLY be barefoot running in this modern glass ridden world. How do modern day barefoot runners do it?
One of my favorite websites is NerdFitness.com. Despite the diet they use, I love everything about these guys! They are total nerds and totally fit, and they have a lot of articles about barefoot running. One of them mentioned a shoe called Vibram. It’s those five-fingered shoes that I’ve seen people walking around in. They are slightly disturbing to look at and I had no idea people used them for running!
So off to the Vibram website I went and browsed. The more I looked and read, the more I was digging these minimalist shoes! I was really starting to get excited. Can I actually run barefoot while wearing this shoe? So, off to my local REI I went to check them out. I tried on several pairs. They even have little toe sock you can wear with them if it’s cold out. I walked around the shoe area and felt so comfortable and light on my feet. It was like being barefoot, but protected. I was sold! So I bought a pair on clearance and a couple of those little socks, a Yoda Lego flashlight key chain, and my running life was changed forever.
I cant believe the difference I feel when I’m running. My running is so different now. I feel so…free, and it makes it so much easier to get in my zone. And you know, there is no specific technique when you barefoot run. You just run the way you run naturally. That’s the way it should be. I don’t have a long beautiful stride like you see in Nike ads, but mine is short and choppy and just perfect for me. And as for the foot strikes, it actually varies when I’m out there running, but I don’t really think about it so much anymore. I just go.