Why a section on here about running barefoot?
Like many people, I have read Christopher McDougall’s thought-provoking book, Born to Run.
Aside from the fascinating story, the information and ideas contained in the book have been a revelation. Reading this book coincided with taking part in a 10k road race recently. Lining up at the start I was amazed to see a runner without any shoes; how was this ordinary looking guy going to manage this run on the road with no shoes? The route of the 10k contained a turn-around point so that runners ran right past those who were ahead, and subsequently those who were behind them. I saw this guy ahead of me and he was running pretty well, far ahead of me anyway. For some reason, seeing someone run well on the road without shoes was very interesting to me.
I’ve been running just over 15 years, and have just turned 47. I’d rate my standard of running as a somewhat typical club runner: 37.45 best 10k some years ago, and a marathon in a shade over 3hrs (now targeting under 3.15), 1.25 for a half at my best.
Over the years I’ve experienced my fair share of running injuries. In the early days it was runners knee. The physio and subsequently then a podiatrist diagnosed a less than perfect gait. He showed me, by drawing lines on my legs how the lower half of my legs were rotating inwards on impact, and causing the knee-cap to move out of it’s normal range and causing a problem. He prescribed, and made me, some orthitics that raised my arches and lessened the rolling inwards (or pronation) of my feet as they hit the ground. This all made sense and it did indeed work.
More recent problems have included a long-standing piriformis syndrome, now thankfully gone after marrying someone who can give a decent (and sadistic) sports massage. The most stubborn problem remaining — and one that has probably been around for more than 2 years — is the plantar fasciitis. This combines with an ankle problem that seems to relate to switching from shoes containing orthotics to flat shoes. The orthotics do help with the PF (at least the relieve it), but they also prop my feet up on the inside in a rather unnatural way and cause me a problem when I don’t use them — As I said, a typical club runner.
So, reading Born to Run and then seeing this chap run 10k in bare feet encouraged me to look into this a bit further and even do some experimenting.
It was a good time to for me to start because I had just recovered from a calf injury (another story), and so my training was not going to be interrupted. Ideally, when fit, I will run 5 or 6 times a week, but I’m now coming off a rest period and am running less frequently — but I do have a marathon to run in November.
This part of the blog is an ongoing report of my experiment into running barefoot, and finding out, one way or another, if it is true that the running shoe manufactures and their supporters are actually doing us runners more harm than good.
I should add that I am not one of those people who grew up in the woods or one who never possessed a pair of shoes when I was young. I was a child of suburbia, and a fairly normal one at that (in this respect anyway), and my feet have limited experience of carrying my body unprotected.
My preparation for barefoot running has been minimal. In recent weeks I have been taking opportunities to walk around with no shoes, but not to any great extent. I have however changed my choice of footwear whenever possible to flatter shoes (mostly sandals) rather than the trainers I used to wear nearly all the time.
Initially this seemed to cause my plantar fasciitis to worsen, but now it appears not to cause a problem. My view is that with PF there is a hurdle to get over. The best treatment and most instantaneous relief I’ve had for my PF is by using orthotics to support my arch. However, I’ve now come to liken that to treating a broken leg with a walking stick.