Thursday, March 5, 2009

Barefoot Wednesdays

I was looking through old posts, and I don't think I ever blogged about my barefoot running phase.

You know, that phase where I was all over this site and all into the idea of shoeless running. That phase when I tried to do a barefoot track workout at noon in a Southern California spring and blistered my feet so badly that I could barely walk for a week. Yeah. That phase.

The phase ended shortly after I incapacitated myself with my own stupidity. But I've always kept barefoot running in the back of my mind.

Two things happened this week that brought it once more to the forefront. First off, there was an article in Triathlete about running in minimalist shoes. Second, I went to an all-day clinic on Functional Movement Screenings, and the presenter (who, as many professional fitness clinicians are, was an asshole) made a few remarks about how humans weren't designed to run on mattresses (incidentally, he didn't look like he had done any running in the recent past).

That reminded me of how good running barefoot felt (when I wasn't rubbing all the skin off the bottoms of my feet, of course). And the biology seems to me very sound, although I suppose it really depends on your point of view. If you believe that humans were meant to run, then of course you think we should all be able to run barefoot; natural selection didn't take Nike Shox into consideration. On the other hand, if you believe that most people weren't meant to run, that it takes a specific kind of genetics and biomechanics to make a good runner, then why the heck are you on this site anyway?

All that to say that I've instituted Barefoot Wednesday. I had been doing my track workouts on Wednesdays, but I've moved those to Thursday so I don't have to do them alone (because they suck). Which leaves me with two cycling classes on Mondays, recovery on Tuesdays, and a serious yen for running on Wednesdays! Enter barefoot running.

I begin with an easy (shod) mile. Then I find a grassy knoll, remove my shoes, and proceed to alternate running and walking in the grass (5 x 1 minute running + 2 minutes walking). My feet are tender. They weren't too happy about all the dry, prickly, dead grasses stabbing between their toes. I even have a couple of cuts on my feet from some really sharp grass.

But you know what? Without shoes, I land perfectly on my midfoot. I don't overstride. I get better extension after my toe off. And it feels awesome; I feel like a good runner.

So I'm going to keep running barefoot. I'm going to work up to where I can run a 5k barefoot. And then maybe I'll switch to a very minimal training shoe (either one of the special "minimalist" offerings coming into the market or a lightweight trainer/racer). Or maybe you'll see me running barefoot at my next sprint tri, ahead of the rest of the pack because I didn't have to change my shoes in T2.

Also, I once ran into Barefoot Ken Bob at a race. It was the CSULB Reverse Tri. Saw him, noticed the lack of shoes and blackened toes and humongous beard. Sort of put it together from there.

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