Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Running (almost) Barefoot



This morning I decided to drive down to D.C. and because my very understanding boss was ok with me shifting my hours, I had time for a short run this morning.

It was the perfect morning for a jog. The sky was sunny and blue and the temperature was cool, but not bitter; it was essentially the warm up period for a 60 degree F day. There were just enough patches of snow on the lawns to make it reflective and beautiful, but with none on the cement to hinder the run.

I decided to try out my Vibrams. I have had these secret weapons in my possession for about a month now, but because you cannot wear socks with them, I have consistently ruled it too cold. Today my verdict changed.

Like most other recent purchasers of these "five-fingers," I, not long ago, finished the book Born to Run. This book is far too interesting and compelling to sufficiently detail it here. (And I recommend it to any runner, wannabe runner, former runner or "I will never be a runner"-latent runner). In one sentence, the book convincingly claims that humans evolved to run long distances, and they ran those long distances, obviously, barefoot. Our foot was designed for that.

As the bearer of many a running injury, I was quite intrigued by these theories and tentatively jumped on the barefoot running bandwagon, at least in terms of buying the "shoe."

Running in these five-fingered "shoes" was a whole other experience. It was disconcerting and fascinating all at once to feel pebbles underneath your feet, and to realize that 99.9% of them didn't hurt.

And your stride magically changes. Just as the book insists, the shoes allow your feet to run and land in its natural way. Humans instinctively run leaning forward on the balls of the feet. You virtually never land on your heel. Running heal-to-toe is just a convention your foots adapts when wearing sneakers. And it's true! I couldn't believe it.

It was utterly fascinating to me, that after 10+ years of running, I had no idea what was natural for my foot... It just makes me revel at how good we have become at covering up what is natural, of complicating that which could have been simple.

I don't know, and don't think, I will give up my running shoes entirely. (We have gone through a lot together). And, like all things, you have to practice barefoot running to strengthen your foot for long distances. Even if it is natural, it takes work. But I will definitely incorporate it into my routine, if nothing else than to make my toes feel special. Toes never get their own personal space.

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