Friday, October 29, 2010

Barefootin’

When I was a kid, I thought I had blackheads on my ankles. Specks of dirt were ingrained in the pores behind my ankle bones, and I thought they were permanent. At night, however, some of their permanency lost their hold and became affixed to my sheets. By washday, the foot end of my bed was lower from the weight of dirt ground into my sheets.

Barefootin’ was the way we lived during the summer in Minnesota. Rich, black dirt begot thick, healthy grass and clover that felt luscious underfoot. Of course the dogs felt that way too, so when we rolled in the grass we first looked where we were rolling.

As the population grew, so did asphalt, concrete, and less porous surfaces to walk. Our opportunities to walk barefooted became far fewer and more treacherous. It seems disease runs rampant, so any crack in the skin is a breach to test the immune system.

A recent story in the Colorado Springs Gazette talks about the trend toward barefootin’,* so I immediately asked my trusted friend of 25 years what he thinks of the idea. He runs almost daily, training for almost every race in the Pikes Peak Region and beyond. Always an excellent athlete, Don ran the 2009 Boston Marathon in 4:00:08!

Here’s what Don, who now sells running shoes, has to say about running shoeless:

The vast majority of people are not going to be running barefoot anytime soon. No worries there! We do get lots of requests for the Vibram FiveFingers** shoes, but we don't sell them. I have VFFs, as do a couple other footwear associates, and we often wear them to work.

Many people seem interested in them because they are unique; however, most people don't seem to understand that the VFF requires a much different running technique than is typically employed. Since there is no cushioning, people who run with the standard overstriding, heavy-heel striking method will receive instant feedback that these shoes can't be used in that manner. They require a forefoot/midfoot landing with the foot being almost directly under the body. This is the same way a foot would strike the ground if a person were running in place. Forward momentum is made by a slight lean, and instead of swinging the foot forward, the knee is moved forward with the lower leg/foot hanging down—sort of like a much less pronounced lunge.

After I mention these things to people, they seem less interested. Plus the typical shoe buyer seems more interested in the color of his or her shoes than if the shoe is a good fit for running style and gai and the VFF tends to be kind of ugly.

For me, the VFF is utilized as a training tool to reinforce good running technique. Because they require good form and weigh almost nothing, I often find myself running faster than normal. Due to this I tend to use them for my speed workouts.

Our ancestors who ran barefoot didn't have to deal with modern hazards. Concrete, asphalt, and all kinds of debris make barefoot running something most people won't be doing. I see broken glass on almost every run as well.

There is a movement toward minimalist footwear. This article is one of many. Runners World magazine had a lengthy article in November’s issue.*** There are other shoes that look more traditional but are designed to be used like the VFF.

That may have been more than you wanted to know. Anything else?

* http://www.outtherecolorado.com/latest-blogs/kicking-the-shoe-habit.html
** http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/
*** http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-240-400--13691-0,00.html

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true!

    ReplyDelete

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