Barefoot Running

Last year I started running again after taking several years off, in an effort to get some consistent workouts.  I’ve sort of had an on-again off-again relationship with running over the years: it’s a great low cost and convenient way to get exercise but I’ve always had pain issues with it.  Specifically my shins have always given me problems.

At one point I was diagnosed with chronic compartment syndrome, where the sheath that encapsulates the muscles in my shin causes too much restriction while running. The result is a lot of pain while running. To help alleviate this I’ve tried stretching, physio and orthotics, but they didn’t really help.  I also tried to get the shoes with the most cushioning possible. In the end though, pain won and I basically stopped running.

Last year brought some welcomed knowledge to me. I learned about a running technique called “Pose Running.” The premise behind pose running is that you use a forefoot landing (I’ve always been a heel first kind of guy), which is always placed under the centre of your gravity. The idea seemed to make sense to me. Why would I want to land heel first and jam all my forward momentum back into my body?

I started a new running program based on the Pose ideas and eased into it very gradually.  After 6 weeks I was up to over 35min with no pain whatsoever. At the same time I realized that I didn’t need new runners that were fully cushioned.  In fact, I wore my 7 year old beat up runners and it made no difference.

I didn’t continue running but lately I’ve been inspired to start again.  I’ve been reading about human evolution and the theory of “persistence hunting.” This is where human hunters chase fast animals and out run them over great distances. For example, a human could never catch a kudu over a short distance but all mammals other than humans (and horses I think) are unable to sweat. Therefore deer, antelope, cats, etc must stop to rest and pant in order to cool off. If chased by human hunters for over 4 hours in the African sun, the prey will eventually be exhausted and overheat, and the hunter kills its prey within close range.

The last piece of the puzzle in this type of running is that these hunters would essentially run barefoot. I was attracted to this idea and looked into getting some minimalist running shoes.  Option #1 was to get the Nike Free Run 3. Unfortunately it appears that no stores in Vancouver  carry anything smaller than size 8.  Option #2 was to get some Vibram 5 fingers.  They don’t seem to fit me very well though. So I decided to go all in and go 100% barefoot.

 My first run was yesterday and I went for about 12 minutes. The run was mostly on pavement and grass along with some broken pavement.  The grass and pavement were fine but the broken pavement? Ouch. Landing on a small rock hurts. A lot.  I wonder if this type of surface is best to be avoided. I feel okay today other than the ball of my right foot, which is tender from hitting a few rocks.  I think I’ll keep trying this for a while but I’m still looking for some Nike’s. Once the weather turns I’m not sure how appealing running barefoot will be.

2 comments on “Barefoot Running

  1. So is Merse expecting the freezer to be filled with “persistence hunted” meat soon?

  2. Or perhaps I am the persistence hunted meat?

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