Friday, January 7, 2011

Why I started Barefoot Running...part 1

In the past few days I have been asked quite a few times why. Why I started barefoot running. Am I just crazy, are there benefits, etc.... Here is my story with some barefoot running info thrown in. I'm doing this in two parts because I started typing and it got really long.

Part 1

Last Jan. I made a New Year's resolution that I was going make me a better me...I had a few health issues I need to take care of and then I wanted to run a 5k. In July 2010 my mom lost her job so she was available to babysit all the time so I could do the couch to 5k program.

I started the program and it starts out running for 60 seconds and then walking for 90 seconds that first week. I was so out of shape that I could not even do that much. I pushed through and kept at it. It was always hard and I was sooooo slow. It felt like my legs were lead. Those first few weeks my pace was about 17 minutes a mile. I literally could walk faster than I could run. My runs kept getting harder and harder and my knees hurt and my hips hurt. By week 5 of the 9 week program I decided that I should go out and get fitted for 'real' running shoes at a running shoe store.

I went and tried on maybe 20 different pairs of shoes and an hour later I left the store with my very own shiny orange and magenta running shoes. The next day was my day to run so I got up at 5:30 and put on my beautiful new shoes and I went out the door. I did my normal 5 minute walk to warm up and then I started running. Everything was okay for about 2 blocks. Then my toes started to get tingly. I kept going not thinking anything of it. By the time I got about a mile away from home my feet were completely numb. I thought I had laced my shoes too tight. I stopped to re-lace my shoes.

I started back up and they were still know the numb I'm talking about. If you sit just right on the floor you cut off all blood flow to your feet and you can't feel them anymore and it is like having a piece of meat attached to your leg....yeah, that kind of numb. I stopped again and took the laces out so they didn't go over the top of my feet at all in case I was cutting off blood. Still no good. Walking didn't help so I took the shoes off and turned around to head back home.

Once the feeling came back to my feet I ran home carrying my pretty, shiny, magenta, orange, and useless shoes. I made it home feeling better than I ever had after a run. NOTHING hurt. I felt energized. I didn't make a connection to being barefoot though. I took those shoes back to the store and spent another hour getting fitted for a different pair.

Pair of Shoes # 2....same result...still no connection in my head. Back to the store for yet another pair of shoes.

Pair of Shoes # 3...same result plus some blisters. This time the shoe store told me I had tried on every pair of shoes that they sold and I was out of options. They suggested seeing a doctor because of course it must be a problem with my feet.

I started researching my options at this point. I found the runners world forums and stumbled into the Barefoot Running area. I think that is when it clicked for me. I spent about a week figuring out how to "do it right" and not get injured. There are lots of how to sites out there.

I was still so new to running to begin with that my transition to barefoot didn't take anything extra on my part.

Some of the benefits of barefoot running are improved alignment of the entire body (this comes from not having a heel rise from shoes) Most running shoes have arch support and a HUGE heel rise....some can be up to an inch. Also, you heel strike while wearing shoes which sends shock waves up your legs to you knees and hips. This is why so many runners have problems with these areas. When you are barefoot you land forefoot or mid foot and the arch of your foot acts as a shock absorber. All that force never goes to your knees and hips.

The arch support is not needed. In nature the arch is the strongest structure on its own, it doesn't need support. By adding that support to your shoes you are allowing the muscles and tendons to stop doing their job and become weak. This in turn causes you to over pronate and then the shoe store tells you you need motion control shoes or stabilizing shoes. It is a vicious cycle.

There have been lots of cases of flat footed individuals starting to go barefoot all the time and suddenly they have an arch. I know in my case my arches have gotten even higher as my feet get even stronger.

Issues that are 'common' for runners are non-existant with the barefoot running crowd, for example, runners knee, plantars facitis, shin splints. And for me the hip pain went away.

Of course barefoot running comes with it's own concerns. If you start too fast and push to hard you can cause stress fractures in your feet. It is easy to avoid if you just build up the muscles and tendons in your feet slowly. I think I transitioned so easily because I have spent the last 3.5 years barefoot almost 100% of the time. I had already built up my muscles and tendons. You know if you are pushing it too much if the top of your foot hurts or feels like it needs to crack. You take a couple days off and go a bit slower.


Okay, I need to go to bed so I'm stopping here for now. I will pick up where I left off tomorrow!

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