Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Running Barefoot

I have been toying with the idea of going minimalist for a year. It started with those forefoot/mid foot landing shoes by Newton that went viral amongst running friends and then seeing those nice looking Vibram Five Fingers and the now-very-usual minimalist shoes has sorted made me want to "jump into the bandwagon". But myself being myself and being skeptical about the whole idea.
Running barefoot? Is that for fashion or because to be "accepted"?
Hard to tell really. So, for the past few months, i have been toying with the idea and it started with me going barefoot in the park - very much against wifey's wish as she fear for my safety.
Let me start the article/discussion today with a caveat :
Barefoot running is not meant for SPEED. It is for endurance.
Going naked In Kalimantan
On record, i have likely to clock almost close to 26miles or a marathon distance (42km) running barefoot on various surface. The well paved park which is kinder on the sole, but the park have small pebbles and small fruit or seeds that might give you a jolt. The wild trail, which provides better foot-to-ground feel but you just have to get used to the icky feeling especially on muddy terrain. The crusher run road, which gives you the acupressure and acupuncture pleasure (or pain, take your pick) in South Kalimantan. The asphalt, which really does up the pain factor up by a few notches.
Papa got me new shoes. Brooks Ghost4 for Junior
Growing up, all of us has ran in the house and how many of us actually enjoyed the simple feel of feet-to-ground while sprinting up the stairs and jumping over furniture? And how many realise and remember that we never ever land heel first?
Attempting Barefoot walk on crusher run - damn jolting to the system
The 80's gave birth to a whole new marketing of shoes where the promotion of "cushioned" heel pad convinced many that a "good shoe" should have enough padding to "absorb" the impact. If that is indeed true, then you will see many runners down with knee or joint injuries. The opposite seems to be true.
Sole victor: Ethiopian athlete Abebe Bikila runs barefoot for victory in the Rome 1960 Olympic Games marathon. (Caption and photo from Mirror.co.uk. article on 100 Days to Olympic)
Again, running do not give you bad knees. A few other factors and bad forms does. And by bad form, landing too hard on the heel with your knees locked straight thinking the shoes will "absorb" your landing is one of the main reason why a recreational or amateur runner get injured and could not run anymore.  If that is not convincing enough, how about some studies that was done back when typewriters were used to write report (aka the 1980's).
for the full report, click here
What this really meant is that even with expensive running shoes, one is more prone to injury if they run and land "heel first". While the study also note that barefoot running and landing heel first creates the most load impact, One need to be very conscious about landing heel first when running barefoot as studies too, has shown that most barefoot runner will land mid or fore foot. Heel strikes are a rarity. Another study done by Harvard documents pretty well the impact of shoe and barefoot running. The study was very neutral and leave a lot of deduction to the reader to justify their preferences - especially if one strikes forefoot.
Full report can be obtained here
Proponent of barefoot running will tell you that you should, ideally, land mid foot or forefoot - which eliminates the heel strike; which ties back to most article and research you can find on the Internet. While running with shoes is still my main preferences, i am starting to develop the liking for the naked feel. In those miles i clocked, i certainly felt one thing he day after - the calves hurt. Essentially, that tells me that i have not been using my calves when i ran with shoes and barefoot running allowed me to utilises them to either balance or to harness the "spring" at the calves to propel me forward.
Personal Choice, really
1. You will strengthen your legs muscle, tendons and ligaments which has been underused due to over-reliance of running shoes.Here are some benefits of running barefoot, which i (personally) believe could be the real benefits:
2. Learning the most basic form of running which is to land forefoot, which in return helps with injury prevention especially to the Achilles tendon (as you will tend to stretch it more running barefoot) or even plantar  fasciitis.
3. More real feel on the ground. You will notice all minimalist shoes has one aim - with very low (or zero) drop at the heel that makes you standing, walking or running as close to barefoot as possible. We heel strike because most modern running shoes has thick heels.
4. It is free. Running don't get anymore simpler than this. Next is to run topless.
Tortured By Choice
The bad thing about this would be the pain associated with stepping on something sharp, blunt, uneven. But i believe over time, the feet will get used to it. I aim to run barefoot at least up to 10km once for the next few weeks to build resistance and strength.
However, please be reminded and be well aware and informed that not everyone could run barefoot the same way. We are all not born the same way and we all have different bio-mechanic. Read this article. It is an interesting outlook and offer a differing opinion to to Harvard study.
Excuse me while i go and create more calluses on my feet. See you all on the road.
*all images used in this posting belongs to tristupe.com as shown in his instagram account, unless stated otherwise.

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