Two years ago, I hadn’t heard of the barefoot running craze. Every article about running that I read seemed to have the same piece of advice: get a decent pair of shoes. If you have to economise, make sure that it isn’t on your shoes.
I eventually got my gait analysed and bought a heavily padded pair of trainers, the ones they recommended in the shop, which were designed to offer lots of support to the arches in my feet.
It turns out that this might not have been a great move!
Over time, I have been seeing more and more articles about “barefoot running”, a catch-all term that seems to cover people literally going barefoot, or runners who have chosen to wear minimalist shoes. (The concept of a barefoot shoe is a work of marketing genius!) There’s a brilliant piece on it in The Runner’s World New Complete Guide To Running and it features heavily in Running With The Kenyans.
I know I am a bit behind the times on this one but I have finally decided to at least give minimalist soles a try. The idea behind them is that too much cushioning desensitizes the huge number of nerve endings in the feet. And feedback from the nervous system is what your brain needs to subconsciously adjust your gait as you run. Heel striking is apparently just too painful to sustain without thick soles to absorb the shock to the joints.
Advocates claim that by removing the thick layer of padding between your foot and the ground, your body will naturally adjust your running style, making you faster, and possibly less injury prone – if done in the right way. (It will greatly increase your chances of injury if done in the wrong way!)
This seems to make sense but true barefoot is just a step too far for me; I have all the common concerns you would expect: broken glass, dogshit, etc.
So this won’t be happening!
Instead, I have opted for a pair of minimalist shoes from a brand called Vivo Barefoot. These shoes have ultra-thin soles and no drop between the height of the heel and the toe (the drop on most running shoes is well over a centimetre to a centimetre and a half, further encouraging heel striking).
I have also gone for a discreet style so that I can walk around in them to start off with. I am planning a very gradual adjustment period.
Here’s what the unboxing looked like:
As is often quoted, every individual runner is an experiment of one, so wish me luck with this experiment!
(ps. I have taken a bit of a break from posting for the last few weeks. That is because I have been focusing all my time behind a keyboard on NaNoWriMo – the write-a-novel-in-a-month challenge! I will be back on it in future weeks.)