Forays in Barefoot Running
barefoot running exercise running warrior spirit
Here are my thoughts on the whole thing.
Feeling the ground makes a huge difference in how I run. I had tried picking up a new gait with Vibram FiveFingers, but quickly injured myself. Too much too soon, I thought, so I backed off, and tried again. Almost immediately, I was injured again. I couldn't seem to last even a hundred yards without terrible shin splints. This wasn't how it was supposed to happen.
The problem, I realized, was that the minimalist shoes were requiring me to run with a new gait, but preventing the soles of my feet from providing me the feedback on how to do that. I was trying to run as if barefoot, but I was still landing too hard, which was worse than running the old way with padded running shoes. By going totally unshod, I found that I tended to run much more lightly.
The other thing about barefoot running that was a little surprising is how fun it is. I used to run cross country, so I was one of those sadists who enjoys distance running. When I went to minimalist shoes, running actually became a chore, and it took me a while to get past the frustration of injury and trying to run with correct form.
Now that I'm running barefoot, I want to trot out the door at every opportunity. There is a sense of freedom that you can just run out your front door, with no preparation. The distinction between me just sitting around and me running is more seamless, or even nonexistent.
Something about feeling the ground makes it addictive. You are gliding over the earth, not bounding, clomping, or speeding. Just floating, touching down ever so lightly to take that next leap. It's a little like flying in that it is a delicate balance between falling and soaring.
Going totally barefoot also seems to have gotten me past thinking too much about my form. It really hard to run with poor form when you're barefoot, because it hurts. So I don't even have to think about it. I just run. If I do something wrong, I get instant feedback, and my feet take care of themselves. With the minimalist shoes, I didn't get this, so I was constantly thinking about my position, which just made me cramp up and always eventually led to injury.
It feels good to be running again. After two years as a CrossFitter, distance running has faded, but it still calls to me. It is too central to my self-definition to forget for long.
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Run on, Brave Warriors!