Barefoot Running

by Josh

hangin out

Here’s an artificial need that you most likely bought into:
You need shoes in order to run.
Something fancy with a thick padding and pronation support.

Back when I did my first marathon in Prague, I started training in my cheap old  trailrunning shoes.
It was allright most of the time, but  I was training a lot and my experience in running distances above 10k was nearly nil.
Soon, a rubbing, throbbing pain started developing in my left knee, especially after a run >20k.
I figured – as a lot of people probably would – that it would be a good idea to buy a new pair of shoes.
So I went and got a threadmill analysis of the way I run and bought a pair of rather expensive shoes with al lot of strange-sounding features (x500, wave-tread, gender-gel).
I was immediately pleased with what I believed to be great shoes.
Of course they were an improvement on the old ones – or so I made myself believe.
Cognitive dissonance is a strong force. Especially when spending a lot of money on something that is of little actual value, pretty much any argument will do to justify our purchase.
So my knee got worse.
I figured that I just had to get used to the shoes and blamed my inexperience.
I finished the marathon in a whopping 5:20h and by the time I reached the finish, I had to hobble.
And hobbling was what I did for the next three days (or five weeks when I tried to run).

In my stint in NZ, I came across a truly fascinating book called “born to run”.
It is about the Tarahumara natives in Mexico that run hundreds of miles for the sheer fun of it.
They run – of course – barefoot and the author makes a point that I find a rather strong one.
Why the heck should we have to rely on the shoe industry to enable us to run, when our feet, ankles and legs have evolved for 6 million years to do exactly that?

I was intrigued and I got myself a pair of the mentioned “glove-like” shoes.
They protect the feet from glass etc. but have virtually no cushioning.

I remember my first cautious run in the hills of the Banks Peninsula.
It felt light, surpisingly easy and fast.
When I went for a run in my earlier mentioned shoes, I knew it would be the last one.
They felt heavy, uneasy and clumsy – like I was running in heavy boots.
Running barefoot is incredibly light and swift.

It’s been three years now, and I never looked back.

I often hear from people that our ancestors didn’t have to run on asphalted streets, which is fair enough.
But with a proper technique (small stride length, increased stride frequency) this is no problem at all.

When I did my next half- and full marathon the knee problems were gone and I could walk away victoriously.

Barefoot running is the shizzle and I recommend you give it a go.

(I use Vibram Fivefingers and I think they’re awesome.
Make sure you get them from an authorized retailer, there’s tons of low-quality counterfeits out there. I have no affiliation with Vibram)