Let me preface this by saying I am not an expert on running, in fact I am a super amateur. I’ve been running all my life, but never for the sole purpose of running. Barefoot running has been getting more and more popular in the last few years, in large part thanks to the best selling book “Born to run.” So I’ve been getting more and more into running recently, mainly because I wanted to diversify my exercise from primarily soccer playing all the time. I had tried running in the past, but it never took, mainly because my knees would bother me, or ankles, or it was just boring/unpleasant.
I decided to give running another shot, mainly because I’d been reading up on “pain free running” (or Chi Running) and this barefoot running movement. I figured I would start with a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. So I fired up my browser, found a local store that sold them (there are 2 near me – footworks and venezia), and went to try them on.
I started out with a pair of classics (the only style they had in my size), and proceeded slowly. My first run was like 6 blocks; 6 fun, incredibly smooth blocks. At first I noticed my lower back hurt, mainly from leaning forward in my run, and my calves and feet were sore. My lower back bothered me the same way it had when I played hockey as a kid (roller hockey, not ice, this is florida after all). Now when I say my feet were sore, it wasn’t the bottoms that were sore from lack of padding it was the tendons which were sore from being weak. The same type of sore you feel the next day after a good workout.
After slowly ramping up distance and speed, I grew more and more comfortable with the forefoot method this forces you into. Though after having played soccer for 20 years, I’ve always been used to forefoot running more than heel striking. Which could be why I’ve never liked distance running in the past, and always preferred sprinting.
On a recent trip to San Francisco I snagged a pair of VFF KSOs, which are surprisingly hard to find. I picked them up mainly because they were better suited for running, and the Bikila model wouldn’t be out for another few months. KSO stands for “keeps stuff out”, and basically is reference to the top area being covered and not looking like a pair of girls chinese style slippers (i’m sure there is a proper name, I just have no idea, and don’t care what it is).
So after a few months of running in these shoes, I have to say I am thoroughly impressed with them, and happy about my decision. I’ve now run two races in them, which I admittedly had not run a timed race since 5th grade. I’ve also logged more miles in these things than I had in the previous 2 years of owning my last pair of running shoes.
Tips for getting started with Barefoot/natural running:
– Start slow – don’t try and run as far as you could run with your old sneakers.
– Don’t be alarmed that your legs and feet hurt at first, that’s your muscles being used in new ways
– Don’t worry about looking goofy, all innovative things look strange at first
– Stretch, though you should have been doing that anyway. Make sure you stretch your calves and feet (google tips), before and after running.
– Enjoy the run!
I’ll follow up in a few weeks or months with more running updates. If anyone wants to send me a pair of bikilas, I wear size 42. 🙂