So I’ve been doing the minimalist running thing for a couple of months now, and I can say it’s been a mix of good results and new challenges.
The good results: It’s helped change my running form to something healthier and more sustainable. I’ve also found that without the significant support of traditional running shoes, my legs have had to work harder to get me going. Translation: Stronger legs, particularly my already outsized calves.
All of this has been good. So good that I accelerated my mileage in minimalist running shoes quite a bit. I’ve taken them out on trails, and rugged ones at that. My longest run on the minimalists shoes has been 6 miles on highly technical trails.
Now for the bad news. I’ve experienced some soreness and pain in my feet, particularly on the upper portions. The level or soreness and pain is high enough to alter my stride, so I had to back off and run in more robust shoes when I hit the trails. I’ve been told I’ve tried to do too much, too fast. I believe it.
Enter barefoot running.
Seems counterintuitive, but I truly feel the key to overcoming injuries like this will be to improve my stride and strengthen by legs and feet.
I do not believe the answer is going back to shoes with lots of cushion, motion control and support. Call me crazy.
I’m not sure I’m ready to start doing the barefoot thing on pavement. Places where I go seem to commonly have broken glass and such. I’ll pass on that. But in my reading, I learned that Stanford University’s track team had its athletes run barefoot on grass to strengthen their feet, improve their form and cut down on injuries. From what I’ve read, they’ve had success in those areas.
There’s a park I sometimes go to for quick trail runs. Tulsa’s Haikey Creek Park has a 1.3-mile trail loop that is quite a bit different from my favorite trail haunt. Its trails are mellow, non-technical and relatively flat. The loop circumnavigates a rather large green space or mowed grass.
The green space is where I did the barefoot thing.
Some initial impressions:
- Similar to running in minimalist shoes, barefoot running really works the calves and forces you to run more upright, with shorter strides and eliminates heel striking. It’s harder work it first, but that means strengthening is happening.
- Foot fatigue came quickly, but not too much. I was able to pound out some miles the next day without any issues related to the previous day’s barefoot exercise. This is good!
- The bottoms of my feet started to feel hot. The friction of hitting and rubbing against the ground contributed to this. At that point, it was time to stop.
All told, this lasted about a mile after a short trail run on regular running shoes.
I think I’m going to add this into my training on a weekly basis, while also continuing to throw in workouts in the minimalist shoes.
I’m looking forward to seeing if my foot strength and overall fitness improves.
Have you tried barefoot running? Is it working for you? What are your experiences with it? Let me know!
On Twitter @RMHigh7088