Saturday, March 12, 2011

Barefoot 'round the Park

What?  That isn't the title of the Neil Simon play (and film, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda)?

Perhaps I can be forgiven, because my (sort-of) malapropism did indeed occur because of a sighting at the theatre.

After one of our Into the Woods performances, the cast was greeting its stage-door public and I noticed that one audience member seemed to be straight out of a Flintstones episode.

From head to ankle she was Ann Margrock, but her feet were pure Fred:

By this I mean that she was wearing what looked to be a pair of rubber bare feet over her own feet.  Curious, I asked her about the provenence of her "feet," and she informed me that they were for "barefoot running," which she had been doing for the past six months and loving it. 

I am a long-distance runner, but have not been able to perform anywhere close to my favourite mileage for years because of foot injuries: my high arches may be pretty for ballerina-type points, but are dreadful for impact. 

An Olympic-marathon-training acquaintance of Mr. C told him that she felt all runners had twenty really good years during which to run.  I had those from 14-34 before my heels began feeling sharp pains.

So for the past decade I've been toiling away on elliptical machines while pretending that I am feeling the breeze and sunshine on my skin, or tempting fate by jogging around soft soccer fields, being conscious of running heel to toe.

Barefoot running, however, as I'm learning, uses a forefoot strike instead, as practitioners insist that landing on one's heel first increases the possibility of heel injuries.  Apparently the forefoot strike is a more natural impact.

Truly, though, I'm not about to run barefoot, except on a beach, for fear of landing on a painful pebble or a shard of glass, but I am considering trying barefoot shoes.

The Flintstone shoes from the above anecdote are by Vibram FiveFingers, and I will not select them because they look too silly and would call unwanted attention to me:

Nike Free is one possibility:

as is New Balance Minimus:

And here is a one-stop-shopping site for barefoot runners.  I like the Newtons, pictured below:

However, I am concerned about inviting a host of new injuries with the new gait that comes from barefoot running.  Have any gentle readers tried this activity, with or without shoes?


Deja Pseu said...

I remember reading many years ago that landing on the forefoot can strain the Achilles tendon. But who knows...the field of spots physiology has advanced a few light years since then.

WendyB said...

This reminds me I urgently need a new pair of sneakers.

Miss Whistle said...

Those toe shoes are beyond me. I think them quite hideous. However, I have friends who swear by them. Once, I was trapped in an elevator with a man who was wearing them and it was terribly, terribly difficult to stop myself from laughing.

Good luck, brave running woman.

Miss W x

Genuine Lustre said...

The five-fingers are all the rage among the Crossfit crowd ( a type of fitness philosophy) - my son is one of them. But when you get down to reading about it, you find out that thee folks are sprinting on a golf course or trail, not grinding out the miles on the asphalt. I too am a recovering distance runner. Those days are gone. Give me a giant arch support!

materfamilias said...

In my last Half Marathon, I noticed a number of runners wearing some version of the Free-running shoes. Then last week I had a long discussion with an enthusiastic young man who was a convert -- he admitted, though, that while he ran long-ish distances, he did that on a treadmill. (the Half Marathon, by contrast, was all on pavement, and those runners seem to be doing fine). I'm considering adding a training component in shoes like these to my current long-distance program, but I think I'd confine it to some of the shorter runs, under 10K, and save the longer distances for fuller support. From a bit of reading I've done, this seems a viable approach -- it would fire up the broader range of foot and leg muscles that a more structured shoe tends to suppress, but without subjecting the whole body to the pounding of bodies and speed and gravity coming down on a few square inches of unprotected foot.

Curious to know if you do try these, what you think -- I do feel that every step I run is a borrowed step, and I thank whatever force is responsible for my good fortune every time I enjoy another decent run!