Ditch the running shoes, hit the road

More reading inspired activities this weekend. I've been exploring being barefoot over the last few months but hadn't given running a go. Starting to read Chris McDougal's Born to Run motivated me to finally hit the road.

I'm a bit too scaredy to go full barefoot outside so wanted a minimal running shoe. The problem I found with most of the options is they are either very hard to find, expensive or both. Luckily I stumbled across a low cost alternative earlier in the week while touring the web – acqua shoes. They are pretty easy to get hold of and designed to be worn on the beach or with a wetsuit. The shoes are lightweight, offer no support and are just thick enough to protect from sharp stuff. All for ??8 – bargain! The only downside I can see is sweaty feet as they have a neoprene upper, the shoes can go through the wash though so that's a minor negative.

Barefoot running technique
There is a specific technique needed when running barefoot (or close to). After doing some research and my own limited experience, the key points are:??
  • land on you forefoot (lighter touch, allows calves & achilles to act as a spring)
  • bend your knees but don't raise them (glutes & hamstrings do the work)
  • increase cadence (lighter touch)
  • lean forward slightly (better posture)
  • engage your core, relax everything else (lighter touch, better posture)
  • move forward, not up or side to side (more efficient)
All of this requires some concentration. Most recreational runners seem to be thinking of little else than moving quicker than walking but when learning to run barefoot you need to be aware of what each part of your body is doing and adjust accordingly (we're back to practicing!).
The run and after effects
I went running on Saturday, but wanted to leave it a couple of days to see how my body reacted before writing. Normally I'd feel pretty beat up after a run, my whole lower body would be stiff. After this run the results are:??
  • Hips – no pain
  • Glutes – warm, knew they'd worked but no pain
  • Hamstrings – warm, knew they'd worked but no pain
  • Quads – no pain
  • Knees – no pain (this is a massive winner)
  • Calves – ouch!
When running barefoot the calf muscles store elastic energy with each stride and rebound like spring to move you forward. Mine are not used to doing this, that will change over time though.
I found a real sense of freedom in running barefoot. Not running for a certain distance, time or speed but just for the joy of running. Feels good.

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