Thursday, February 18, 2010

Barefoot and Fancy Free; C25K WEEK 4 DAY 2

As I have started running I have across more and more information disputing fancy running shoes. My husband, Bryan, read "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall, at the recommendation of our friend Keith. The book has a lot to say on the Tarahumara or RarĂ¡muri (meaning "foot runner" or "light-foot") tribe of Mexico, who, as a people, consider running a normal part of life. Many tribespeople run for over a hundred miles on simple sandals such as these:
These people have been known to chase deer on foot, capturing the deer when it drops to the ground OUT OF EXHAUSTION.

The book "Born to Run" argues that, like the title, evolution has slowly made humans better and better runners without the addition of footwear. We're born with the ability to run without orthotics.

It's a very interesting premise. If you Google "barefoot running" you will come up with a multitude of websites that are dedicated to this theory and lifestyle. Most of these sites say about the same thing: contemporary footwear, with its cushioned heel and structured sole, does not allow the foot to work in the way it is made to work. It cushions not only the foot but the pain that the foot SHOULD be experiencing from incorrect movements. When walking barefoot, people tend to take shorter strides, and walk more on the forefront of their foot, where there is more cushion. Most shoes are designed with a thicker sole to cushion the foot from a painful heel strike, which can cause many problems in the foot, ankle and knee. Because of the thicker sole at the heel, however, it's difficult to walk or run without a heel strike. When no footwear or minimal footwear is utilized, the foot will feel pain and a sense of "braking" when heel striking, and the runner will change her stride to compensate. Pain teaches us what we are doing wrong.

This makes sense to me. Before five weeks ago, I hadn't attempted to run more than a few hundred yards since doing the 12 minute run in HIGH SCHOOL. Seriously. And I was never ever able to run the 12 minute run without leg pain (because of excessive heel striking) and shortness of breath (because of being a lazy bum). When I adjusted my running and concentrated on taking shorter strides with the majority of my weight coming down at the mid to front part of my foot, running all of a sudden became something that I may actually be able to do! It was a really awesome revelation for me. I always felt left out when Bryan and some of our other friends would run, and I'd just say, "I can't. I hurt my knee in college and haven't been able to run since then." Well, now I can run.

According to UK News source, The Telegraph,

So harmful are running shoes that you're better off walking in high heels. That's the conclusion of a study published this month in PM&R, the journal for the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. A team of researchers put 68 young adult runners on a treadmill, and found that they suffered 38 per cent more twisting in their knees and ankles when wearing shoes than they did in bare feet.

"Remarkably, the effect of running shoes on knee joint torques," the lead researcher said, "is even greater than the effect that was reported earlier of high-heeled shoes during walking."

Similarly, a study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in March 2009 found that even when running on hard surfaces, barefoot runners experience less impact than runners with shoes because – as the Harvard students discovered – they naturally take shorter strides and bend their knees and ankles. No one needed to feed those numbers to Abebe Bikila, the two-time Olympic champion, or Zola Budd, who held the
5,000 metre world record and competed for Britain in the 1984 Los Angeles Games: both preferred running in bare feet.

Sceptics like to argue that runners bring injuries on themselves by doing their miles on hard, man-made surfaces and being less athletic than marathoners of yore. That reasoning ignores the fact that barefoot humans got along quite well on hard terrain for two million years, running on cement-like surfaces like the sun-baked African savannah, the beaten-dirt trails of the Amazon, and the stony canyons of Mexico.

Yesterday I was able to check out of work early and Bryan and I threw on some workout (ish) clothes and hit the beach. It was my second run for Week 4 of C25K. I ran barefoot again, close to the water's edge so the sand was harder, which was easier to run on. It was great, once again! It was a colder day, about 45-50 degrees, and extremely foggy. There were very few people on the beach, and Bryan and I decided to run in one direction for 15 minutes and then turn around and run back, since we had to go to our Life Groups later that night and were pressed for time.

I ran north for what I thought to be about half of my podcast workout, and then turned around and ran back, finishing my workout and feeling good! I stretched a bit and waited for Bryan, but with the fog I just didn't see him. So I started running back his direction and when he came into view, I ran back the other way. He's faster than I am so I figured he would pass me up. I ended up running another five minutes! It was awesome. It's really fun to run barefoot, you feel so many more muscles in your foot working. It was a bit cold, but very invigorating. And it's quite fun to avoid stepping and shells and rocks... you sort of hop around them, it's fun. I kept thinking "toes, toes, toes" so I would remember not to heel strike, and (this sounds lame but was cool at the time) kept imaging running like a gazelle. Be light, be graceful, concentrate on what bones you are using, what muscles... It was really great. I've only lost 1 pound so far, but I feel a lot stronger and confident about my abilities. And that's pretty cool.

The funny thing is, my legs don't hurt that much when I'm running, like they used to. My right leg, however, is more irritated when I'm sitting on a couch than when I'm running. I think it may be a nerve thing, or maybe I just need to lose weight and not sit around so much. I dunno.

But either way, barefoot running. Kinda cool. Probably wouldn't like it on cement/concrete, but it's nice on the beach. And I'm consider making some simple sandals like the one pictured above for everyday walking around. The shoes I run in around the block are fairly simple Sketchers. they have a bit of heel to them but all in all the sole is quite thin compared to my "gym shoes."

To those of you who run: have you tried running barefoot? Have you had any injuries while running? What do you think of this barefoot idea?
photo source