The painful truth about trainers: Are running shoes a waste of money?
Part of why I run is to challenge myself both physically and mentally. Something in this article spoke to the part of me that allows me to challenge myself and my long-held belief that in order to run I need to wear running shoes.
Hell, they're called running shoes for a reason right?
Probably because that's how they were marketed. But I digress.
As with many moments where you make a sudden turn it's not immediately clear that you have and it's the little moments later that more clearly reveal the path you find yourself on.
These revealing moments happened over the next 11 months.
In June I bought my first pair of Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs). As I was in the middle of training for my first marathon it was July before I did my first runs. While I had embraced the idea of running barefoot I had not properly considered that I might need to learn how to run barefoot. The result was some blistered feet and low-grade shattering of my newfound illusion. I put the VFFs on the shelf for a bit.
Fast forward to December and someone recommended Born to Run which has become something of a manifesto for the barefoot movement. Like many others I tore through the book in just a few days and then began evangelizing the idea to those that would listen. I had begun to ramp up my training for the Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon and was preparing to start running in my VFFs. Unlike my summer training I read more on the techniques of barefoot running (my one complaint of Born to Run is that it did not get into the details of good running and diet practice), primarily focused on Ken Bob's site barefootrunning.org.
As luck would have it I broke my toe the morning of the day I planned on making my first VFF run. Not only did this stop my training but it put a hitch in my plan to introduce VFF and barefoot running into my training. With six weeks off I knew I'd have to add miles to my training as quickly (and safely) as possible and so when the toe injury healed it was back to shod running. Sometimes it's just too easy to justify maintaining the status quo.
Along the way I've found more compatriots in the barefoot / minimalist running world. The news of the Prof. Daniel Lieberman study on foot striking has gotten a lot of press. Finally, I saw a screening of Running the Sahara in which Charlie Engle preaches to "just get out there and do it - what's the worst that can happen?" This movie and Charlie really have a way of getting you to challenge yourself.
So the worst that could happen is I went for a barefoot run tonight. One mile. And it was glorious.
The irony is all I had to do was follow the advice of the largest shoe manufacturer and "Just Do It!"
I should note that I may not have been terribly ardent in my advice to take any introduction to barefoot running SLOWLY. Regardless of how many miles you currently run you are almost invariably relearning to run as a barefooter. The most noticeable effect will be that your calves and ankles will be quite sore after your first several runs. I highly recommend reading the "beginning barefoot" and "how to run" posts on therunningbarefoot.com before your first barefoot run.