Wow, January has flown by as we rocket into February, 2011! If you’ve been following me you know that I ran my first marathon at Walt Disney World on January 9th! It was so exciting! Now that I’m back from sunny Florida I thought I would devote a blog post to a “new” running craze that’s sweeping the nation, Barefoot Running.
If you are a walker or runner you may have heard about a book called “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. I got a copy for Christmas and read it cover to cover immediately. The book has been touted to have started the recent craze in barefoot running & walking. The book is excellent and I would recommend it to anyone regardless of their activity level. The writing is great and the story which revolves around a lot of good information is superb. Have I said enough? It’s a good book.
Anyway, in the book a runner named “Barefoot Ted” mentions a type of “shoe” he wears for a little extra protection when he is on terrain where he might run into glass, extreme heat or other hazards. He normally runs without any shoes at all. The “shoes” are called Vibram Five Fingers or VFFs for short.
I did my research after reading “Born to Run” and the information/data I found makes sense to me. Of course, I majored in Movement & Sport Science back in college so I can read the ever so exciting research articles and make an informed opinion a bit better than the average person who isn’t used to the science lingo. I don’t work in the Exercise Science Industry now, but the knowledge is still there. I call it “My Hobby Degree”!
Basically, modern day running/walking shoes do a great job of supporting our feet with stability control, extra cushion, etc. Modern day shoes do this so well that the numerous muscles in our feet as well as the tendons and ligaments don’t have to work as hard as our cro-mangnon cousins’ and therefore become weaker since we aren’t using them or using them much less. Use it or lose it, right?
Backing this up is the fact that since the 1960s-70s when athletic shoes started showing up on the scene (Thank you Phil Knight & Coach Bowerman!) you would expect a decrease in the number of running injuries that plague our activities….nope! Zero decrease in running injuries with the modern day running shoe and its plethora of advances across its 30-40 year history. And here’s a kick in the head for you! There is a direct or positive correlation between the cost of a shoe and the occurrence of injury. That’s right folks…the expensive ones are related to an increase in injuries. This makes sense since the more support the weaker your feet become.
Now, do NOT take my word for it. Go read, research, find your own research articles and build your own opinion. Feel free to look all this up, but at the root is the fact that modern running shoes allow us to heel strike more which not only slows us down, but also delivers a heck of an impact to our ankles, knees, hips and everything else while contributing to many an injury. Chances are if you are a runner then you will have some sort of running related injury in the next 12 months assuming a regular training schedule the most common being overuse injuries like ITBS. (See my earlier posts on my ITBS issues)
Soooo, am I going to throw away my $100 pair of Saucony’s? Absolutely NOT! I bought a pair of VFFs and I am using them as a training tool the same as I would a dumbbell, spin class, tempo run, or heavy bag. Each week as a part of my normal marathon training program I walk, jog and run in my VFFs to help strengthen my lower legs and concentrate on correcting my running form. With my minimal VFF use to date I find that I can’t heal strike comfortably in them…I have to “run right” or run the way I am made to run which is with a forefoot or midfoot strike.
My suggestion is to keep an open mind, check it all out for yourself and if you decide, buy a pair of VFFs and try them out as a part of your regular training plan following all the recommendations that go along with the product first of which is start slooooow and taper from there. 🙂 Personally, I ran a half mile in my VFFs last week and have walked for 20 minutes on a treadmill in them. I’m slowly building up my endurance and lower leg strength. I even wear them to work sometimes (an option not everyone has, but I do)
I plan on running a 5K this summer in my VFFs and I’m excited to see how they feel!