Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Running Barefoot? Say "No!" To Transition Footwear

Still remember what I said on my VFF entry?  Let me refresh your memory.  It is not because you don a VFF or a minimalist footwear, you can now go out and declare yourself a barefoot(-style) runner.  Why do you think you purchased a minimalist shoes?  So you can run harder and faster?  So you'd stop heel striking?  Because a famous person wears one?  What was your rationale shelling out thousands of Pesos for a pair?

Think again.  Running barefoot isn't a fad.  Its a lifestyle

Going shodless teaches us to correct our running form and biomechanics.  It changes us.  We learn how to run without getting hurt.  We learn how to take each stride lightly.  Remember that, experience is always the best teacher.  If you are running or learning to run barefoot-style, then why wear shoes?  It just defeats the purpose as it nullifies your senses

"But this is Manila, are you seriously telling me run barefoot?"  There are many places to run safely.  Go and run around the track.  There's Pasig (PhilSports) and Marikina (Sports Park) oval track.  Some schools have a track and field oval.  University of Makati has a world-class oval open to both residents and non-residents.  You can also try on a treadmill unless your gym necessitates you to wear shoes

Be creative.  The possibilities are endless.  There's a reason why we were given billions of neurons inside our head

I bumped into an article written a year ago by Barefoot Ken Bob on his thoughts on wearing transition footwear.  A bit long but its worth of your time.  Here it is --

The Problem
Think of trying to sing a song while wearing earplugs deaf. Sure, you can sing, and sure, it doesn’t hurt your ears, but that doesn’t mean you’re singing on-key… If you were singing on-key, it won’t hurt when you sing, and can hear what you’re singing.

Likewise with footwear… You’ll be able to learn how to run “on-key” much sooner, when you don’t block your soles from feeling the terrain… If it hurts, that’s because you’re running off-key. If you block that feeling of pain, you’re blocking the message your body is trying to tell you, that you should be changing your tune. Therefore, you are ignoring the best advice you would have received today … outside of this post 

The point is, the purpose of so-called “transition” footwear, is not to help you learn how to run barefoot. It is to protect you from the pain of becoming aware that you have not, yet, learned how to run barefoot – essentially, it is protecting you from, your goal, of actually learning how to run barefoot!

If this was no danger, I wouldn’t mind so much. But, if you have been wearing shoes most of your life, depending on them for support and protection, then your feet are going to be weak. That might not be so bad, in and of itself. But, now, let’s put those weakened feet under a whole lot of stress, by running without the support of your normal shoes – the support you have grown dependent on, and with only a fraction of the feedback that would tell you to change the way you are running.

“Oh”, you say, “I can feel the ground, while wearing my transitional footwear, just as if I were barefoot.”

If that were true, then why did you just spend any amount of money for your “transitional” footwear? Isn’t it because it hurt to run barefoot? Or, at least it hurts to run barefoot, the way you are trying to run barefoot. If so, then you are blocking the message from your soles that wants to emphasize to you, that you need to change the way you run, BEFORE you start running greater distances, or faster speeds. It is the pain, that is the message! It is the pain, that is the teacher! It is the pain, that emphasizes the importance of changing. It is the purpose of the “transitional” footwear to allow you to run further and faster than you are ready to run!

Without the pain, without this emphasis of this message, you could go out and run several miles, without realizing that you are not ready to run several miles – and that’s probably exactly why you bought those brand new, expensive, “transitional” shoes. And that’s exactly why I get dozens of comments from folks whose feet are injured as a result of trying to learn how to run “barefoot” in transitional footwear!

If you want the full benefit of Running Barefoot, not just the foot strengthening, but the immediate feedback, which emphasizes, with each and every step, how urgent it is to change your running technique, and how important it is, NOT to start running several miles, until you have, at least, somewhat mastered a much gentler technique – even gentler than what the transitional footwear will allow, go BARE foot, literally – not “barefoot” as the term is used to sell footwear.

When you can run barefoot, comfortably over gentle surfaces, and not uncomfortably over most every kind of surface which you hope to run on, then, and only then, are you ready to attempt to run, with MINIMALIST footwear, blocking a large portion of the message your soles are trying to send to your brain. But, then, you won’t really need minimalist, or any other kind of footwear, except in extreme cases, like if you want to run hundreds of miles over very harsh terrain!

In addition to taking off the minimalist footwear, listen to the pain from your injury. Most likely you are pushing your foot, or more specifically, the ball of your foot into the ground. If it hurts, try changing the way you walk, or run, so as to not aggravate the injury. Then you will probably have eliminated the cause of the injury (pushing your foot into the ground).

A hint, it has to do with lifting your foot, your whole foot, and while your foot is on the ground, try to keep the entire sole of the foot on the ground, to distribute your weight over a larger area. This will be extremely helpful when you start walking or running BARE foot on rough surfaces.

HINT: that is an excellent place to start learning – but there is no need to run miles and miles on a rough surface when you first start out. Just stand and practice relaxing your feet, and feeling the difference between pushing your feet into the ground, and simply resting your feet on the ground.

How do you keep your whole foot on the ground? RELAX your calves, Bend your knees. If your calves are still tensing, you’re probably not bending your knees enough. If your knees are bent enough, then it’s almost impossible to tense up the calves without straightening the knee – keep the knees bent – more bent than you probably think. I’ve seen multitudes of folks running with their legs too straight, But I’ve never seen anyone run with their knees too bent!


Chris said...

While I appreciate the 'hardcore' nature of this diatribe, the writer forgets that humans do not simply 'make do' with the equipment they are born with: we do not use our own claws, we make weapons; we do not use our own fur for the winter, we make them from other animals. It is human nature to make adaptive equipment. It is through this process that we go further and do more than any other species on the planet. Even the most minimal of footwear provides significant advantages over someone that is entirely barefoot in almost any environment.

Andrew said...


My home is in a not-so-great neighbourhood near an industrial area. There is a decent amount of glass I would be running through. How do I know this? I often pick bits of it out of my VFFs at the end of a long run. You can tell me I'm doing something wrong all you like, but I'm not gonna risk shredding my foot and being injured just to fit your paradigm.

TheToiletDuck said...

Yeah, i'm not running barefoot in Edinburgh. Broken glass is a pretty common occurrence, especially in woodland areas where the neds go to drink.

Nestor said...

Yeah I was interested in barefoot so I tried running in light sandals, I found that it aggravated my plantar fascitis, actually running barefoot for real cured it. I suspect going from normal shoes to 5 fingers is a bad idea because you don't get the "lessons" blistering teaches you

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