Tuesday, 27 November 2012
This time though, I felt a bit braver, and I didn't avoid the staring eyes of all those folks waiting in their cars for the lights to change, wondering why on earth this woman was crossing a roundabout in running gear but with shoes in hand instead of on her feet. Instead, I looked at their faces.
It was a great laugh, and my husband and I were thoroughly amused to see so many double takes and wide eyes. For once, instead of feeling conspicuous and self conscious, I just enjoyed the moment. It was a great feeling, and brightened my day. I hope it brightened the day for those who saw me, running barefoot and laughing.
Saturday, 24 November 2012
It felt quite liberating to splash through the water - though I was quite wary of the fact that I had no idea what was under there, so my tread was very light. The water was probably a couple of inches deep in places, and it felt very cold.
The remainder of the lane was quite difficult to negotiate. As there had been water running across it, it was covered in debris - small stones, gravel, twigs, leaves, mud and even small branches. It meant I needed to slow down the pace (even more than usual), but it certainly helped me concentrate on form. Once out of the lane, I ran along a tarmac road, which I always find tougher if it's wet, but I continued on to the main road.
I considered putting my shoes back on, but with a bit of encouragement from my other half to just keep going, I did exactly that. It wasn't that my feet hurt, just a mental barrier of running barefoot along a trunk route from the M4 into town.
The M4 rounadabout was a challenge. It was made more pedestrian friendly just before the Ryder Cup in 2010, with the addition of small, firm gravel walkways between the numerous sets of lights. In the past, I would not have even attempted these sections bare foot, but the stationary onlooking traffic is a great motivator, so I padded along and crossed over the roundabout in 3 places, avoiding looking directly at any of the drivers and passengers.
All in all, 2.2 miles in bare feet. A triumph for me, not just because of the challenges of the terrain, but also overcoming the mental barrier of running in such close proximity to busy traffic and the public glare.
And my feet... well, here they are: A little muddy round the edges, but not a single scrape or cut. Aren't feet brilliant??
Sunday, 18 November 2012
Last night though, I read an article in the Barefoot Running magazine I receive via email. It was about running barefoot in cold weather. A few days ago, I went out in my VFFs with very cold feet, and it hurt. My old stress fracture site ached, and my ankle just didn't feel right. This article quotes Barefoot Ken as saying 'numb feet are dumb feet' - and this certainly rings true.
So, I opted for my Vivo Barefoot shoes this morning and set off. After almost two miles, my feet were really toasty warm, so I took a route high up along some pretty country lanes, and I took my shoes off.
I intended to run around a mile or so, and put my shoes back on before hitting the main road again, but my feet felt great, plenty warm enough, my soles felt tough and strong, and so I kept them off all the way home.
I had a few odd glances, and my first ever look of complete disgust from a woman gardening, wrapped up in coat, hat, gloves and wellies. But I'm really pleased, because I've just clocked my longest barefoot run (2 miles) and on the coldest day of the year so far. Happy days.
Sunday, 11 November 2012
Saturday, 10 November 2012
Yesterday, we ran through a local village, along a long and windy country lane. I started in my TrekSports, and once we were on the lane, I took them off and ran barefoot. My first experience of squishing in mud was encountered (rather nice), and we stopped to chat to a couple and their dogs, who acted like running barefoot was perfectly normal, and they didn't even acknowledge the shoes in my hand.
After 1.4 miles I rather relunctantly put my shoes back on for the main road, but I rather think I could have gone a bit further. My feet had felt very comfortable without shoes.
Towards the end of the 6.5 mile run, I took them off once again, making a grand total of 1.95 miles in bare feet - a further to date.
Today we did a rainy 3 miler. Again I started in my TrekSports, but they really rubbed in the rain, so taking them off was less of a risk than leaving them on. In fact, it was a pleasure to remove them just under a mile before we got back, even though the ground was wet - something I usually find harder to run on.
Good progress then - it certainly helps having a supportive partner to encourage me to take off my shoes and not worry about what everyone thinks.
Monday, 29 October 2012
So now I want to start improving my speed. I suppose I feel that if I don't push this aspect, I'll never improve my distance or my overall stamina, because I'm a great believer in the notion that if I'm concentrating on one particular element of my running, a lot of other elements improve without me noticing. So far, I've concentrated on technique and I'm hoping that if I now concentrate on speed, the technique stuff will just fall into place without me thinking about it.
Today I went out - just for a short 2 miles as time was limited - and did some Fartlek work - running slowly followed by bursts of speed. I wore my Garmin, and hit the lap button at every changeover, but I didn't set a goal pace, I just ran hard for 150 - 250 metres, then ran slow until I'd got my breath back for the next burst.
When I first took up running (shod), I followed pretty much the same pattern. Once I felt I'd got to grips with getting out the house and running for 3 miles or so without dying, I started to build in a variety of sessions - Fartleks, hill work, speed work and tempo runs. It was only at that point that my running really improved. Switching to barefoot and minimalist running took me back to those early running days, and now I've grasped the basics, I feel the need to do a bit more.
How did I get on? Overall, I hit an average pace of 8.56 minute miles. This is great because it means I should be able to hit my previous shod distance PBs with a bit of training. In the short speedier bursts I managed to hit speeds of 8.05 minute miles - 8.30 minute miles. Granted, these were really short distances, but the fact that my legs will move this quickly is great - it's something I've wondered about as my cadence has increased dramatically and I wasn't sure I'd be able to move my legs fast enough to get the speed.
What I need to do now is increase the speedy sections to up to 0.5 miles, so I think perhaps it's time to plug some training plans into my Garmin and push myself properly. Doing this completely barefoot will need to wait until warmer days, I think winter training will be minimalist, with barefoot easy runs thrown in for good measure, and barefoot training will be a Spring challenge.
Sunday, 7 October 2012
Yesterday (Saturday) I dropped my son at his gymnastics class and got chatting to a fellow runner. I told him I've been running almost exclusively barefoot or minimalist for some time, and he made my day by asking "Doesn't it hurt?" and "What if you step on dog poo?". No-one has blatantly asked me these classic questions yet, so it made me chuckle. When I got home, I tried my new Vivobarefoot Evo's for 0.8 miles, which I found really comfortable - just a slight bit of rubbing on the left big toe, but I think these will make a great substitute when barefoot's not an option, or for days when I'm keen to keep a low profile and look 'normal'!
Today (Sunday) I've run just over a mile without any footwear. The weather is getting colder, and I thought it would be interesting to see how my feet fared on the cold pavement. Air temperature just under 8 degrees Celcius, and the pavements were noticeably warmer on the sunny side of the road, but my feet coped admirably and have suffered no ill effects. I did notice that the ground seemed more gravelly and ouchy today - I'm not sure if that was the cold or the fact that we've had lots of rain...
My OH graciously agreed to accompany me on this run, forfeiting his own pace to match my slower one, and I was very grateful for his company when a bus pulled up and offloaded it's passengers just as we ran past. Pity there weren't any trees to hug I guess!
Sunday, 23 September 2012
Anyway, on Friday, my OH persuaded me to go for a run with him, so I put on my VFF Classics and we did just over 3 miles together. I pushed the pace to keep up with him in his trainers, so ended up with a respectable 5.8mph - not bad considering I haven't broken the 10 min mile pace on more than one occasion.
Today is Sunday, so I got up and out early (ish) to avoid too many people, and did a nice 1.3miles in bare feet - my further BF run to date. Temperature was around 11 degrees C. I kept it slow as I knew I wanted to increase my longest distance, so only 12 min miles, but I can report no aches and pains or sore feet of any kind, so I'm more than happy.
On the VFF note - what I did notice was that whilst my thighs burned whilst I was running (I've not done 3 miles for some time), I had no post run soreness, even the following day, so I'm convinced my step was light and my form was good.
My OH has asked me to run a 10k with him in mid November, and I'm now toying with the idea of doing it in my Fives.... Just a thought at present, but it's been ages since I've worn trainers for running now!
Sunday, 9 September 2012
According to my (unwritten) schedule, I was to up the distance today to 0.8/0.9 miles, and this meant heading out towards the main road, away from the safety of the estate. I was in a different mindset, that being "I want to do this, but I wish people wouldn't stare". This is different to how I've felt before, when I've felt self conscious to the point of embarrassment, rather than annoyance.
Anyway, I set off, shouted a cheery good morning to the ex-policeman at the end of our road who was washing his car, and headed out. My feet felt great. Weather was a cool but sunny September morning.
At the start, I could feel my feet scuffing as they passed under my body (ie at the back), so I adjusted my form slightly, and that quickly disappeared. Cadence felt good, not too fast but definitely close to 180 (if not faster).
The main road was fine - no encounters, and still my feet felt great as I turned back into the estate, just slowing a little over the very gravelly section by the bridge. I ran past the old lady with the dog, who had shown great concern at my exploits several months back, and as I passed her I said "morning, it's the mad lady with the bare feet", and she said hello back and asked "aren't your feet cold this morning?".
Got back to the house feeling like I could easily have run further. 0.93 miles, with my fastest pace to date of 5.4mph (11.08min/mile). I can only describe the pace here as finding the "sweet spot" where everything just seemed to click into place. Lovely.
Friday, 7 September 2012
I ran 1.9 miles in these, and then 0.3 miles in bare feet at the end.
What I noticed was that since I've been running exclusively in bare feet for a few weeks, my VFF technique seemed better - shorter steps, faster cadence, and better foot position. It was lovely to go a bit further, but towards the end I really wanted to take them off and 'free my feet' (sorry, sounding very hippy there!), so I did. Interestingly, whilst I thought my VFF technique was pretty good, I instantly noticed that my heels were going doing more in bare feet - ie a ball of foot touch quickly followed by a pretty much flat foot, with toes and heels down together. I also noticed my stride shorten instinctively.
I think not wearing VFFs for a few weeks has been good for developing my form, but I can certainly still go further (and feel way less self conscious) in them than in bare feet (at the moment)!
Friday, 31 August 2012
This involves sticking at a comfortable distance for a few weeks without any pain or injury before upping the distance by approximately a quarter of a mile and repeating the process. This was always sort of in the back of my head, but I was not really keeping track of my progress and tempering the distance increases perhaps as much as I should. I was reminded of this process after reading the "Lose the Shoes" plan on Runnersworld.com.
So, here's the progress so far:
25/8/12: 0.5 miles - 7 mins 2 seconds
26/8/12: 0.52 miles - 7 mins 7 seconds
27/8/12: 0.53 miles - 7 mins 0 seconds
29/8/12: 0.5 miles - 6 mins 32 seconds (on account of having to run away from lots of people I knew!)
31/8/12: 0.61 miles - 8 mins 21 seconds
I'll now stick with the 0.6 mile distance for two weeks (and here's the reminder to myself) ie mid September.
The last run on the list (today's) was a fantastic run. It's a beautiful, cool but sunny morning and my feet felt really good and strong. I could have easily been tempted to do more!
Monday, 20 August 2012
However, I'd developed a small bruise-like pain on my right heel - outside or lateral edge, underneath my ankle bone. When I was running on the second day (a 2.5 mile run, first 1.5 in Vibrams, last mile barefoot) I could feel pain developing quite rapidly in this area. It scared me a bit because it reminded me of the pain I got when I had my stress fracture. I slowed for the last 400 metres or so, and iced the area on my return.
I little later I could see a small amount of swelling in the area. I did a bit of research and found an excellent website for pinpointing foot pain. It is either posterior heel pain (though this seems to present much more at the very back of the heel), or more worrying - a developing stress feature of the calcaneal. Another classic symptom of this is that that there is pain in this area when the achilles is 'pinched' on both sides simultaneously - something that I can definitely confirm.
That was the 17th August. I've been good and rested my foot now for a few days, and whilst there is still a little pain, it's much improved. Symptoms now are only noticeable when I walk - on flexing the ankle to lift the foot up at the end of each stride - or if I squeeze the area. I'm not limping.
So another little set back. I think, as runners we accept that our running life is never straightforward - except for the lucky few. Have I been put off running barefoot? Certainly not. In fact, as I drove down a local road the other day, I commented to my daughter that it looked like it would be a great road to run down barefoot, because it was a little bit rough and gritty, and I thought it would feel nice on my soles. It's frustrating to wait, but I know it'll be worth it.
I thought it was important to make this post, because I'm guilty of raving about how great barefooting is, but (for me at least) it's not a quick route to faster and longer runs.
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
I've checked with all my family that they aren't embarrassed (a bit tongue in cheek on my part - I'd probably do it anyway, but it's lovely to have their support). My friends just think I'm a bit wacky. I don't suppose it really matters what anyone else thinks.
My feet felt fantastic, the ground felt lovely, and when I got back there was not one single ache or blister. This is the way forward I think. 0.88 miles and rising.
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
I ran just under two miles in my Classics - pretty slowly as I had my son in tow, but as expected, my feet felt great. None of the twinges of my stress fracture were present, and I loved my final 0.3 miles in bare feet at the end. Great to be running again.
The following day I did a four mile run in my trainers. This certainly felt like hard work - whether because of the break from running, or because I've only been wearing very light shoes for two weeks, or because I'd had a short run the day before, I cannot say. The following day, my thighs and calves were all very achey, and I really noticed the hip pain which I suffer from, which I've not had for the two weeks off running, nor had it returned on my VFFs run.
Today I've been for a two mile run in Classics, followed by 0.3 miles barefoot. Much nicer than trainers, and I averaged around 9.40 min miles which is by far the fastest I've gone in minimalist footwear.
I'm thinking of signing up for the September 10k, and wonder whether I should go for a fast time (52 mins or so) in trainers, or whether to just go for any time, but in my Classics.... Decisions, decisions...
Whilst I was away, I spent a lot of time in very busy places, sometimes in queues (for those hairy scary rides), sometimes in cafes or restaurants, or just cooling down with an ice cold drink. I used the opportunity to entertain myself with a few games of "I Spy Vibram FiveFingers". Surprisingly, I didn't see that many - of all the tens of thousands of people I must have seen, I would say I only spotted a dozen or so people in VFFs. I also noticed a slightly greater number of people wearing Fila toe shoes - with one split for the big toe and a separate pocket for the remaining four. Interestingly, a Google search for Fila Toe Shoes reveals that Fila actually make five toed shoes also - very similar to VFFs but at a much reduced price - something for me to research at a later date.
But I digress... by far the most popular footwear at the theme parks were trainers (not surprisingly) and the rather strange (at least to me) practice of flip flops and woolly black socks. I think this is an American trait, and may be perfectly normal to some, but in 36 degrees and blazing sun, I can't think of anything worse than woolly socks.
I did dare to wear my Classics on two days in the parks - once at Universal's Islands of Adventures, where we spotted a couple of girls curiously pointing to my feet and whispering whilst queueing for the new Harry Potter ride, and on another day when we went on an Airboat ride (very practical for that) followed by a wander around Downtown Disney, where a lad said "I like your shoes, Mom" as he passed me on some stairs.
I had thought that not running for a couple of weeks would cause the skin on my soles to soften a little, but I need not have worried... a number of days in water parks where we wore nothing on our feet all day, and only wearing a pair of Birkenstocks (or my Classics) the rest of the time meant my feet had an excellent workout (and we must have walked miles each day) and were raring to go on my return to the UK.
Friday, 13 July 2012
I set off in Classics. The road was very gritty and muddy after all the rain we've had, with little rivers of water flowing here and there. Once my feet were warmed up, the cool puddles felt lovely seeping through my VFFs.
A little earlier than last week I took off my Classics. My pace slowed, but my soles again felt strong and there was no discomfort from the grit on the roads. I enjoyed listening to the quiet 'slap, slap' of my feet on the wet tarmac.
As the route progressed, the tarmac got rougher, though less covered in debris, and gradually the soles of my feet began to notice the sharpness of the surface. Not that it was painful - I just became aware that I was starting to feel it.
So I pressed the lap button on my Garmin, and saw that I'd done 0.8 miles in bare feet. My furthest to date. No scratches, bruises or other untoward ailments. I put on my Classics and continued home.
Last night I looked at my feet and they seem to be filling out. I've always had very shallow feet, with bony toes where you can easily see the metatarsals stretching out along the top of my foot. Now they seem more solid. At the joints of the second and third toes to the main part of my foot (ie the base of the toe), the flesh is fuller and more muscly looking - this is where my stress fracture occurred, and I think the strength is now building from the training I'm doing. There is definitely more flesh under these two joints on the base of my feet. It amazes me how our bodies can change with practise and repetition. We are lucky beings indeed!
Friday, 6 July 2012
|Where I ran today - Image from Google|
|Narrow lanes - Image from Google|
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Today I've been for just over 2 miles in my Classics. Again, for the last 0.3 miles I took them off and ran barefoot. Overall, I managed an average pace of 10.06 min/miles. This is considerably faster than I was doing only a few weeks ago. I'm discovering that whilst I like my Classics (and there's no way I could go as far completely barefoot yet), I feel much more comfortable when my feet are bare. They don't feel restricted in any way (even my FiveFingers are a little restricting), and I feel more confident that I can avoid injury when my feet are bare. It's like they are communicating with me as I run, and this feedback is definitely more muffled even when I've just got FiveFingers on.
On another note, I have had a little Top Of Foot Pain this week on my right foot (hence the five day break from running). This is still apparent, albeit it very minimal. Interestingly, I notice that when I get back, there is almost always a bit of redness on my second and third toe joints (highlighted on the pic - excuse the terrible nail varnish, I really must take it off!).
I think this is a throw back from my stress fracture. It's not on my left foot. I guess there must still be a bit of weakness there, so I do need to be careful.
Sunday, 17 June 2012
On Friday evening I went to a friend's 40th birthday party. At the dinner table, I enjoyed a conversation with a neighbour who had been approached by someone who was 'concerned about Clare'. Turns out she has seen me running barefoot and is very concerned about me stepping on something sharp. I then had a brief discussion with my dinner companions (also fellow runners) about the virtues of barefoot running, which was nice because I'm still a little bit self conscious about doing it, if I'm honest.
|Well, just in case you didn't believe me!|
Saturday was a day of chilling.
Today, I did a couple of miles in my Classics, followed by 0.3 miles barefoot as usual, and then took my son to a gymnastics competition. Unusually, I was sitting at the front, just 5 feet or so (if you'll pardon the pun) from the tumble run. From this excellent position I was able to study the form of tumblers and vaulters aged 7 and 8. I noticed some interesting things. Firstly, that when walking or jogging around, the children instinctively raise their toes before the balls of their feet contact the ground (something I mentioned in my last blog post when I fell over). Secondly, when the tumblers did their routines, which included cartwheels, handsprings, forward rolls, tuck and star jumps, it was really noticeable that they constantly wiggled their toes, using them all the time to minutely adjust their balance. I even took a video (which if I get time I'll try and post) where it is easy to see just how much toe movement goes on in the simplest of activities (not that I'd call a cartwheel simple - I can't do them for toffee!).
I used to find my feet horrible - awkward shaped toes, peely skin, yucky nails. Now I feel rather proud of my feet and all they can do. Clever little things :D
Friday, 15 June 2012
As I recovered and ran on, bravely, as if I'd meant to do a quick press up en route, I pondered some barefoot running theory that I've learned over the past months. Firstly, that included watching a video explaining about how your foot should meet the ground and perfectly equal your forward motion, so that the impact and the contact is as gentle as possible. Secondly, I recall reading (Ken Bob, I'm sure) about how it helps to flex the toes upwards as your foot falls to the ground, thus spreading the toes and balls of the feet before your body weight forces them to spread. This can help avoid friction. This would have certainly helped avoid stubbing my toe, too.
No real damage done, thankfully (just my pride!). It's the first time I've ever fallen over, shod or otherwise. It would surely have hurt an awful lot more had I not had my FiveFingers on, but the question is this - would I have fallen at all if I hadn't been wearing them as there would have been no rubber toe to stub.
A good run though, and by far my farthest in Classics to date - 3.85 miles.
Sunday, 10 June 2012
I've been running for about six years. For the first two years, I suffered terribly with shin splits. In hindsight I think this was due to bad form - big heel striker and far too much overstriding (I thought this was how you were supposed to run). At that time, I read a lot about barefoot running, because I was looking for anything that might help with my problems.
Gradually, my form improved - painfully slowly, and I built up strength in my shins and calf muscles which also helped. For the last couple of years I've had no shin splint problems. Along the way I've picked up various minor injuries - thigh strain, dodgy knee, sore ankle - and I've been for physio and rested, then picked up again. Trainers have been good to me on the whole.
But always in the back of my mind I've had a fascination with the idea of barefoot running. I really can't explain why. I wanted a pair of Vibram FiveFingers, but couldn't justify the expense. I hoped I might get some for my 40th, but I didn't. Last summer I read Born to Run, and by October, I'd persuaded myself that several years of Googling Vibram FiveFingers needed to end: I needed to have a pair of my own. I got them for my 41st birthday.
I built up really carefully, starting out with a quarter of a mile, then half a mile, and so on, until over a four week period I'd built up to just over 3 miles. Then one wintry day at the end of November, I set out for a 3.5 mile run, but my feet were freezing. I expected the top of foot pain I experienced to disappear after my feet had warmed up, but a mile in it just kept getting worse, and after half a mile of walking and gentle jogging, I knew I had done some damage. Turns out I'd got a stress fracture in the second metatarsal of my right foot. Ouch :(
I duly rested, and watched my other half go out running every other day. As I couldn't run, I read about running instead, and in particular I did more research on barefoot running. I couldn't understand how I'd got a stress fracture when I'd been so careful. I read Ken Bob Saxton's Step by Step guide to barefoot running, which was one of the first books I downloaded to my Christmas Kindle. I conversed with a fellow forum runner who had had an almost identical experience on switching to FiveFingers. It began to make sense. Whilst I had built up my distance slowly, the FiveFingers were tricking me into thinking I could run further than my feet were ready for. The only way to truly build up distance would be to run completely barefoot.
Late in January, when I decided it was time to try a very short run for the first time in almost six weeks, I wore my trainers. I felt that I needed the support, and I was incredibly nervous about injuring myself again. You'd think that my experience with VFFs would have put me off barefoot or minimalist running for life, but it only served to make me more determined. Perhaps determined is too stubborn a sounding word - it was more about being curious. After a couple of weeks in trainers, I ran a short distance in my FiveFingers and it was ok. Shortly after that, I took my first, very self conscious steps outdoors in bare feet. That's where this blog really begins.
I now run barefoot at the end of every shod run I do, and I also bought a pair of FiveFinger Classics which are thinner than the TrekSports to enable me to increase my distance on rougher surfaces. Do I think barefoot running is the holy grail to avoiding injuries? No, definitely not. It hasn't made me faster, and I cannot run as far as I can (and still do) in trainers. But I have started to love the freedom I feel when my feet are in direct contact with the ground, I've built up my confidence in being seen barefoot in public, and my feet feel stronger. In short, I think it's added a bit of spice to my running, and brought me a fresh challenge. It is for those reasons that I will continue to run barefoot for the foreseeable future.
Saturday, 2 June 2012
I already have tougher skin around the balls of my feet, the outer edge and the heel - it's not calloused, just a bit thicker and stronger than other areas (see the grey lines on the pic). Since I've been barefoot running, I've noticed that a new area is beginning to toughen up - the area inside the dark circles. It's as though being barefoot now allows this area to contact the ground, because my feet can spread out much more than when they're inside shoes.
After a longer run in FiveFingers (around the 2 mile mark), and then a short stretch of barefoot (0.3 miles), I began to notice last week that I'd developed a sore spot in this area, not quite a blister, but nearly. So I've been very sensible, exercised restraint, and that area is now thickening up - not just the skin, but in fleshiness too, as if my feet are learning to develop in areas that they've never needed to before.
It's interesting looking at my feet and seeing how they are changing. It's subtle, but definitely happening.
Today I ran a mile and a half, the last 0.6 miles in bare feet. The skin is now happy and not at all sore. Progess :)
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
At 1.45 miles, I planned to take off my Classics and run the remaining 0.3 miles barefoot (as usual). I was curious to see if the pain got worse without the shoes, but was surprised to find completely the opposite. No pain at all.
The pavements were lovely and warm, and I didn't feel at all self conscious today, and because the TOFP went away when I took the shoes off, it felt easier running barefoot than in shoes! No aches and pains now. Just can't wait to up the distance really!
Monday, 14 May 2012
Yesterday I went for a run. I was a bit short on time (roast dinner waiting!) so I ditched the 3-miler shod run I had planned in favour of a one-miler in my new FiveFinger Classics (which I've been wearing in over the past week walking around).
The Classics are thinner than the TrekSports, so I needed to get even closer to a barefoot technique than I had in the TrekSports. It's still not the same as running completely barefoot though. So, after two thirds of a mile (and once back away from the main road and in the safety of my side roads), I pulled off the Classics (much quicker than taking off trainers) and ran the last third of a mile in bare feet.
It was a sunny day, the pavement was warm under my feet, and the ground felt great. Slightly scratchy, warmth from the earth, and the quiet 'pad, pad' of my feet. My feet felt strong, my soles felt tough, but sensitive, the pavement seemed less scratchy than on previous runs. It was liberating and fun. As I ran through my front door, all I could say was 'lush', because that's exactly what it was.
I woke up this morning in a really good mood. I'm definitely making progress, and I'm almost craving the feel of the ground on my feet. I think I'm turning a bit hippie! Can't wait to go a bit further. I might even be brave enough to hit the main road soon!
Thursday, 10 May 2012
If you look it up in the dictionary, it means something like "the sense of how your own limbs are oriented in space" or "the body's ability to sense movement within joints and joint position". I suppose it's about what your body feels like when you move it.
Advocates of barefoot running say that it's only when you have nothing on your feet that you can truly experience proprioception, and I'm sure I've read anecdotes that imply that it's addictive - once you've felt it properly, you feel that trainers 'muffle' all those sensations.
I think I'm starting to agree. I'm no scientist and will not cite references for the above comments. What I will say is that I've noticed that when I now run with trainers on, my feet seem to get hot, and I really notice the way that the soles of my feet slide up and down (only a tiny bit, but there none-the-less) inside my trainers. My socks feel woolly when I wear them. On my last two shod runs, I've actually taken off my trainers for the last 300 metres and run barefoot. I've almost craved the sensation of the pavement on the soles of my feet. And it feels nice - like having a foot scrub (not that I'd like a foot scrub really!). Today, I was even able to feel the gaps in the block paving that makes up our road outside.
I'm still not fully body aware - I'm trying to relax and keep my cadence up. The difference is in my feet at the moment - and I wonder if that will gradually extend up my body as I do more.
Sunday, 6 May 2012
When my mile lap peeped at me, I was amazed to see a time of 7 minutes 40 seconds. Granted, it was a little downhill (about 50ft according to Garmin), but even so, I was very surprised.
Not quite trusting the Garmin, I went out again today with the sole intention of trying to repeat the fast mile, but on the flat. I took a slightly different route, out for 1.6 miles and then set a new lap and pumped my legs. It felt great to turn up the speed (well, apart from the splitting lungs and burning thighs!), but I really wanted to see if could hit another sub 8 on the flat.
My time came in at 7 mins 35 secs! This is fab. I haven't trained to go particularly fast - although I did do a series of short, fast runs over the Easter hols, but nothing at this pace. In fact, I've rarely hit less 8 mins 30, so this difference seems quite amazing.
Could my barefoot 'drills' be the cause? Has my technique improved as a result and given me the edge I've lacked ever since I started running? Maybe, or maybe not, but the evidence definitely shows that my speed has improved.
For the last 400 metres or so on warming down, I took off my trainers and ran barefoot. My feet felt great, the ground felt great, and I didn't even mind the two lads on their bikes laughing at me! I love running :D
Friday, 27 April 2012
So I did just under 5 miles in my trainers with a 9 minute mile pace, and on the return leg I found myself wishing I could feel the wet tarmac beneath my feet.
When I got home, I took off my soggy trainers, and ran 0.4 mile in my bare feet. The wet ground felt lovely and cool, but I was considerably slower than on some of my previous barefoot runs - only doing just under 14 min miles. I think this was because the heavy rain made it more difficult to see the ground clearly, and there seemed to be lots of debris - small stones, twigs, puddles and so on, so I was more careful. In fact, I would say that it also felt less comfortable - which I think was because of the rain - it seemed more abrasive than when it's dry.
Anyway, only a couple of odd stares today. Another runner who I see quite often, who usually smiles at me, but stared right down at the floor as she passed me as if to say 'I have no idea what you are doing, and I'm afraid to ask', and a van driver, who seemed to slow down as he passed me. Or maybe I'm just paranoid!
Sunday, 22 April 2012
|The Once and Future Way to Run (NY Times Video)|
I noticed on my barefoot run today that when I go over the really rough pavement (only 30 metres or so) at the end of my road, I instinctively return to the 100-up arm movements, as they seem to counterbalance my footfall and make it lighter and swifter, and therefore less uncomfortable on that gravelly section.
At the halfway mark today (0.25 miles) I began to stop focusing on 'relax, relax, relax, cadence, stones, glass, people seeing me' and all the other things that fill my mind when I've been running barefoot, and I started to look further ahead, properly relax into the run, and think about technique as a gentle, fluid motion. I think it started to fall into place. It wasn't quite a Eureka moment, but it was definitely an 'ah, this is how it's supposed to be'.
The pPlan for next week is to concentrate on barefoot only, just short distances, with rest days between. This will stop shod running interfering with technique (if indeed it is).
My cautionary words today though are to keep an eye on my big toe (right foot), which feels a little achey in the bones. When I prod it or wiggle it there's nothing to find, but when I take the first few steps after sitting, it just doesn't feel quite right. I need to watch that.
Thursday, 19 April 2012
I'm getting braver! Today it was almost 11am when I ran (I failed to sneak out before everyone was up). The window cleaner spotted me, as did a man and his son who got out of their car and looked curiously at my feet, and another runner who passed me in the opposite direction. I even stopped and had a chat with the postman, who said that he's seen many people out running, but never anyone in bare feet.
No soreness - although the section of pavement about 200 metres from the house is seriously gravelly and rough, so it's a great reminder of the required technique. I even took great pleasure in running through a small puddle which felt lovely and cool on my warm, tingly feet.
There's no pain where I had my stress fracture when I'm running in bare feet (in fact, there's more when I'm wearing my trainers), but I am still being uber careful. Relax, relax, relax, bend the knees and keep that cadence up!
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
2 miles shod today, followed by 0.4 miles in bare feet. More people have seen me out, and the more that know I'm just a little bit mad, the easier it gets. Today, it was the old lady with the dog, who was very concerned about the welfare of my feet and quizzed me about cuts and other dangers. I chatted to her for a few seconds and continued on my way.
Three weeks ago I told my next door neighbour that she might see me out in bare feet. The following week another neighbour saw me out without shoes, and reported this odd nugget of information back to my next door neighbour, who in turn reported that yes, I have been running in bare feet, and that it's supposed to be good for my form. Apparently this news was met with a "she must be mad" look.
I quite like it - and the more people that see me, the less of a surprise it will be to everyone.
I do wonder sometimes why I'm still persuing this - after all, I did have to take six weeks out after my stress fracture, which - although it was in VFFs - was as a direct result of this weird obsession with minimalist running. Maybe it's just a fad, but it does feel really nice running without shoes on - a bit scary, but oddly pleasant. And once I've mastered the technique (if you ever really can), I'll make use of my VFFs again.
Sunday, 11 March 2012
Ran a lovely 6.3 miles today across the Old Severn Bridge. It's a bit noisy with the cars hurtling past on one side, but on the other side it's uninterrupted views up the River Severn.
Having said that, I spent most of the time deciding which stretch of path I might do barefoot on the way back. Most of it was fairly smooth tarmac but with a healthy spattering of gravel. Chose the spot I thought would be best. My feet would not be visible from passing cars, and I wanted to avoid a downhill incline as I think that would be harder on the feet.
On the return leg, I paused at said spot. Looked at my feet, checked there were no cyclists approaching, and promptly bottled it! What if CCTV picked me up and saw me remove my shoes on a bridge where the barriers over the edge are nothing more than waist high railings? I'm sure they would think I was a jumper and send screaming lights after me.
So I ran on in my trainers. What a wimp I am. Will I ever pluck up the courage, or should I just stick to my trainers? After all, they've served me well so far ...
Was seen by a fellow runner having a sneaky smoke at his front door though, so I made some banal comment about not having any trainers, and then a minute later made another one on my return!
Three and a half minutes of barefoot in total.
The pavement is essentially smooth but with a sprinkling of gravel stones here and there, so a few spikes to contend with. I concentrated on relaxing, keeping a fast cadence and relaxing again. It seemed to work - a few sharp ouches, but nothing that bothered me too much.
Sunday, 4 March 2012
I think I've blathered on about running barefoot so much, that when we got back, he suggested we both take off our trainers and run to the end of the next street.
It's only about 300m all in, but we did it. I felt like a naughty school girl, running outside without my shoes on. I tried to relax and maintain a fast cadence. Actually, it wasn't that difficult - I naturally took very small steps, and unlike when I was running in my FiveFingers, I found that my foot went down ball first, then pretty flat straight away. This would obviously help avoid a recurrence of my stress fracture, which I believe was caused by running on my toes in my Fives.
The pavement was fairly smooth, just little bits of gravel here and there, but they didn't hurt at all. Not sure I'd have said the same if we'd gone much further, as it gets a lot stonier further down.
So, I've achieved my first outside run in bare feet. I've lived to tell the tale. I'm working on building a reputation as the mad woman who runs barefoot. It's a start.
Friday, 24 February 2012
I've been doing lots of research on the subject. I've been doing 100-ups. And every time I go for a run in my trainers, I finish it with a series of reps up and down the side of the house in my bare feet. Ok, this probably only amounts to about 100 metres in total, but it's a start. I've also increased my cadence signficantly. Oh - and I should mention that I obsessively analyse every part of my running route looking for potential 'quiet' places where I might eventually be brave enough to take off my trainers and try a barefoot run in public.
What I have noticed from these small but significant changes are that I don't seem to have so many aches and pains after a run (perhaps this is down to the fact that I've only done sub 4 miles for a while). However, today I ran the furthest I've done for a while - 6.5 miles, and I felt great. Legs felt springy, nothing really hurting (yet) like I'd usually feel after 6 miles. The only niggle I've got is around my ankle joints - they just feel a little tired and well-exercised. I'm convinced this is down to my increased cadence and gentler footfall. I've also noticed that I'm much faster running downhill - I think I'm losing that 'braking' effect from not having my knees bent enough.
Hopefully, as the weather improves, and more people are out and about in sandals and flip flops I'll feel confident enough to actually run down my road without shoes. For now, I'll hang on to my secret squirrel technique, lurking between houses and scouring quiet country lanes!
Saturday, 21 January 2012
When I got home, I took off my trainers and ran up and down the side of the house a few times. My bare feet felt fine (though it is only a smooth surface). Then I realised that the neighbours opposite would have a great view of the side of the house, so I went inside.
Today, I put on my FiveFingers and did just under a mile. I was extremely careful, being vigilant for any signs of TOFP (top of foot pain). There was none, just a slight stretching of my achilles. I tried to remember all of the barefoot running hints & tips as above. I tried to run silently and effortlessly. It seemed to work reasonably well.
I did notice that I had no calf pain which I had definitely experienced in my previous FiveFinger outings. I think this is because I make sure the whole of my foot touched the ground, and I didn't focus on staying on my toes like I had done pre-injury.
On my return home, I once again took off my fives and ran up and down the side of the house completely barefoot. I was relaxed, gentle footed and it felt good. My neighbour's blinds were shut so I felt a little less silly. I think this is the way forward for me for the time being.
Saturday, 14 January 2012
My memory held out, prompting my feet to move, and pushing away the familiar flutters of anxiety before any run, and off I went.
Of course I was scared that there would be pain. I remembered Ken Bobisms... 'relax, relax, relax', 'bend your knees', 'it's like you're cycling'. I hummed Rizzle Kicks 'Mama do the hump' - the only plus 180bpm track I've found so far, and I ran.
It was a great feeling. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I relished every second. I noticed a minor twinge halfway, so I took heed of Ken and walked a few metres to check it was nothing before continuing.
It may have only been 3/4 of a mile in total, but it was an epic run for me. It marked my return from injury, my return to something I love, and to something that fills me with pride.
I will take it easy for the next few weeks, but today has been a great day for me. I've loved, and lost, and am loving again. How lucky am I?
Saturday, 7 January 2012
This morning, I remembered that down the side of the house we have a thin strip of very sharp gravel between the house and the fence. We are quite overlooked by neighbours, and there is a touch of embarassment factor that goes with wandering around barefoot (I can see the neighbours twitching their curtains and commenting on the developing madness of the woman next door). So under the pretext of righting the garden chairs which had blown over in the recent wind, I went out with nothing on my feet and trampled around on the gravel.
Well, I say trampled. Obviously Ken says I should bend my knees and 'relax, relax, relax'. I tried to spread the weight of my body on my feet, but I have to confess I found it mightly difficult to relax. It was downright painful. This is good - according to Ken - it will help me learn to move efficiently. I'm not yet convinced. When I got back indoors, I simply thought 'I could never run on that'.
Maybe I'll have another go later. PS - I should stress that in fact I only stood on the gravel and lifted my feet up and down a few times. Trampled would be entirely the wrong word (Ken, I hear ya!).
Thursday, 5 January 2012
As I've been unable to run, I've spent most of the Christmas break reading about running, or looking longingly out of the window wishing I could be out there racing through the wind and rain.
Having been good enough for Santa to bring me a Kindle, I decided to download Barefoot Ken Bob's book "Barefoot Running Step by Step", which I have been reading avidly for the past few days. It's been a bit of a revelation (and I haven't even finished it yet!).
Firstly, there are a few paragraphs about the transition to barefoot running using Vibrams. The paragraphs could be describing me:
"Although running on your toes can seem fun and exhilarating for a while, it can lead to stubbed toes, blisters, and metatarsal stress fractures (a too common malady particularly striking in beginning Vibram/minimalist footwear runners"Here, Ken Bob is talking about the 1-2-3 (ball, toe, heel) technique. This is ringing bells in my head. I'm having a lightbulb moment. I was running on the balls of my feet only. When my calves were aching a bit (Ken says if they're aching, you need to tweak your technique, or stop), I did lower my heels a little more, but I thought this was wrong, and would produce a shock impact, so I tried really hard not to put my heels down at all. In fact, the foot should land with the ball a split second before the heel or toes follow, thus reducing impact whilst then quickly spreading the weight across the whole foot.
The next interesting thing is that Ken says you should learn to run barefoot with nothing on your feet at all, and on the most uncomfortable surface you can find. That way, you will learn to create the most gentle running experience possible, in order to avoid any pain. It is this technique that leads to significant improvement in form.
The last thing I want to mention at this stage is cadence. I've read before that a good running cadence is 180bpm, and I've even once or twice tried to find music tracks with the right bpm to run to, without success. Yesterday, I had a proper look for this beat, and the reason it's difficult to find is because it is phenominally fast. At Ken's suggestion, I took to my exercise bike this morning (not one of my favourite activities), and I tried to pedal at 90rpm (the equivalent of 180bpm when running). I was astounded at how fast it is. I certainly worked up a good sweat in the 10 minutes I did, something I've never really done before on an exercise bike - I was clearly just plodding along before at around 60rpm.
The question now is whether I want to pursue this barefoot lark. I know my friends and relatives will think I'm bonkers. My OH is supportive, though concerned about the combination of feet on stones and broken glass, which I too would be worried about - though a little less now I've read some of Ken's book.
Ideally, I'd have a hidden bit of gravel in the back garden where I can make a start in private. Perhaps the winter isn't the best time of year either - I could certainly get away with running up and down the road with my son barefoot in the summer.
|Barefoot Ken's feet after 10 miles of gravel|