Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

Years ago when I was in my early 20's and burning the candle at both ends; I started noticing that I was getting seriously out of shape compared to my highschool days. Since I competed in track while in school, I put my running shoes on and started running to lose weight I was putting on and get back in shape. I noticed that it felt different to be out running without specific goals like races to train for -- I could actually enjoy what I was doing, and even started looking forward to going for long runs of two to two and a half hours on the weekend!

Everything was going great -- I quit drinking, smoking pot, was eating better, and running about 25 to 40 miles a week -- depending on whether I was planning to run a marathon or other long road race. But, by 40, I started feeling pains under my kneecaps, and pains in my heels. The running shoe store got me buying shoes with thicker mid-sole cushioning, and when symptoms got worse, they suggested custom orthotic inserts.

All of these suggestions provided temporary relief, if anything! Knee pains and plantar fascitis in my feet forced me to cut back the mileage, and try other things like cycling, swimming and inline skating, to get my fix. It's better than nothing, but time-wise, running provides the best bang for the buck, when it comes to getting the most out of an aerobic workout.

So, this was depressing -- by my late 40's, I had to quit running entirely -- but, that was until a little over a year ago, when I heard a radio interview with an anthropologist who theorized that our distant ancestors evolved to be distance runners for the purpose of "persistence hunting", and theorized that the runner's aches and pains suffered today are the product of increasingly supportive shoes that make us inclined to heel-strike, instead of hitting the ground with the forefoot or mid-foot -- as had been done by thousands of previous generations of humans before the modern running shoes were invented.

This page contains a few videos demonstrating the difference shoes make in the way we run, and how getting rid of them, or at least wearing "minimal" footwear allows us to run naturally, and use the calf muscles, and unused muscles in our feet, to provide the cushioning to reduce impact on the joints -- which is superior to that inch or half-inch foam cushion in the heel of the average running shoe!

For me personally, I don't do much running absolutely barefoot -- there is just too many hazards to step on when living in the average city. For foot protection, I've been wearing a minimal shoe called the Vibram Five Fingers for the last year. I prefer Vibrams to the Nike Free that Nike designed to approximate the barefoot effect -- for me personally, they don't provide the same tactile feel for the running surface that the Vibram KSO's give me.

After slowly easing my way in to running without normal running shoes, I was back up to running 25 miles per week, without getting knee or foot pains. So, at 53 I can run again without any discomfort, after being told by my doctor five or six years ago that I had to quit running completely, or I'd be walking with mobility aids in ten years! When my feet got stronger, I discovered that I did not need orthotics any longer, and tossed my orthotic inserts. It's ironic that getting rid of all of the stuff that was created to try to fix me, was when things got better.

If anyone is interested in trying out running barefoot, or running in minimal footwear, remember to start slowly. This page has some training tips. It boils down to 1. make sure you stretch your calves and Achilles Tendon before starting. 2. start slowly -- just run 2 or 3 minutes barefoot in your first week (it will take several weeks to strengthen the calves and foot muscles properly) 3. and increase mileage gradually -- no more than 10% each week.
User avatar
Accountable
Posts: 24818
Joined: Mon May 30, 2005 8:33 am

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by Accountable »

I've always hated running (probably because I never ran far enough to get the endorphins going), but I love the springiness I feel when running barefoot. This might be just the thing to get me out running some distance. Thanks, RC!
User avatar
Boogalette
Posts: 170
Joined: Thu Sep 30, 2004 5:01 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by Boogalette »

that is very interesting. I mjay have to look more into that, thanks for the info.
Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.~ De Seuss
User avatar
YZGI
Posts: 11518
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 11:24 am

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by YZGI »

I hate running. Never could figure out the smoking rules while running. Do you smoke before the run, after the run or during? The only place I could find to store my ciggs while running was in my jock strap and that wasn't very appetizing. Now that I don't smoke I reckon it might be easier but even in college athletics I could never stand to run.
recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

Accountable;1341570 wrote: I've always hated running (probably because I never ran far enough to get the endorphins going), but I love the springiness I feel when running barefoot. This might be just the thing to get me out running some distance. Thanks, RC!


There is a strong correlation between how endorphins are released, and how far you feel like running -- or swimming, cycling...or any endurance activity that will elevate your heart-rate to at least 2/3 of max.

It's not just a matter of liking to do what you do best either. I know when I was in school (back in pre-metric days), my best distances were the 440 and 880 (400 & 800 m. today) I didn't enjoy running these extended sprint races or training for them; and I hated having to do the mile even worse! But, I didn't have a quick enough turnover to be a pure sprinter, and I was too big and maybe didn't have the right physiology to be a great distance runner -- so I was stuck running distances that were pure agony!

I suppose it also makes a difference whether or not you are just running for recreation, or it's about serious competition, but from what I read some years back in one of my Runner's World magazines, physiologists determined that some people release endorphins quickly, while others release them more slowly. For myself, I don't get a real endorphin effect from running a half hour or less. I never ran two hours until I started training for my first marathon some years back, and I discovered that it was the distance that left the best overall after-effect. I didn't really care for having to run three hours when I set goals of doing a marathon or similar long races.

If you start running barefoot -- like the experts say: make sure you ease into it gradually. Also, the barefoot purists, like this crazy aging hippie in Colorado, who blogs as Barefoot Ken Bob, really push hard against wearing minimal footwear like: Vibrams, Nike Free's, moccassins, aqua shoes etc. because they are going to limit the tactile feedback from the running surface. This is true, but most of us prefer the peace of mind of not having to worry about stepping on a broken beer bottle or something, and not having to watch every step. One thing to keep in mind is that, now that some companies have caught on to the barefoot trend, and started designing minimal shoes -- the more "shoe" you have, the less it is like running barefoot. This is my objection to the Nike Free's -- I'll wear them in the winter, when I have no other choice, but they do not provide the same response as a thin pair of Vibrams.

For myself, the Vibram KSO's give me plenty of feel for the surface -- if I'm running on a trail that has large stones or similar pointy objects, I can feel it! The difference is that I will react immediately to shift my weight off of the object before pressing down. In running shoes, your feet become so dulled to sensation, that your foot follows through on any dangerous hazard or loose rock that can cause you to slip. It's pretty much impossible to get ankle sprains in minimal shoes -- which is a major hazard for any joggers who like running on wilderness trails. But, completely barefoot? Outside? I'll go barefoot indoors and out in the yard, but that's about all I feel comfortable with.
recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

Boogalette;1341616 wrote: that is very interesting. I mjay have to look more into that, thanks for the info.


Your welcome! If you have any more questions, or want some other links, I'll be happy to provide them.

BTW have you come up with anything on "Spinervals?" I can't really help with that question -- all I was finding were links to buy exercise videos.
recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

YZGI;1341645 wrote: I hate running. Never could figure out the smoking rules while running. Do you smoke before the run, after the run or during? The only place I could find to store my ciggs while running was in my jock strap and that wasn't very appetizing. Now that I don't smoke I reckon it might be easier but even in college athletics I could never stand to run.


I'm not sure why, but I never felt much of a draw from smoking cigarettes! I tried a few, but never took it up as a habit -- even though I grew up at a time when anyone could buy a pack of cigs at the store (when I was 10 or 11, my mother used to send me to the store to buy her cigarattes, and I never had any interest in opening the pack or trying one that was left in an ashtray at home). Also, my high school even had a smoking room next to the cafeteria with a cigarette vending machine out in the hallway! The only inhibition was that anyone on a school football, basketball, or track team caught smoking could be kicked off the team! And even if it didn't come to that, the coaches would make sure to target the smokers during a team workout.

I guess the smoking addiction is a hazard for people who are trying to run, bike, swim, or do any other aerobic exercise (congratulations on quitting). For anyone still smoking, the worse thing you can do is light up after a workout when your heart rate is still high, and the air sacs in your lungs are working at full capacity. You not only inhale more tar and nicotine, but carbon monoxide as well. Make sure to keep smoking separate from exercise until you can kick the habit!
User avatar
Kathy Ellen
Posts: 10569
Joined: Wed Mar 15, 2006 4:04 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by Kathy Ellen »

Hi RC,

I have become a lazy, lazy person and plan to something about it this weekend. My 'excuse' is that I'm working a lot of hours due to 2 part-time jobs and 1 full time + job.

I used to walk along the beach and boardwalk everyday...rain, shine, snow, sleet, hail..yada..yada. I was walking 5 miles 3x a week and 10 miles when I had a day off.

I live at the beach and have a beautiful bay on the west. and should be taking advantage of the fresh, salt air, lack of tourists as we're not in season, and crisp, fall air.

Thank you...You've given me the insentive to start walking again. I don't run or fast jog as my tummy hurts. But, I can do a slow jog, and that's what I'll do.

I haven't had a chance to read all that you've written and will come back again to focus on tips.

Here's where I live. I love living here for the most part.

Thanks for the incentive to exercise again.

Attached files
User avatar
chonsigirl
Posts: 33631
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:28 am

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by chonsigirl »

I run barefoot around the dojong 3 times a week, thats enough running for me. But it is nice to jump up and down, and kick and spar with no shoes on. Kudos for running barefoot!
User avatar
flopstock
Posts: 7406
Joined: Sat Dec 29, 2007 2:52 am

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by flopstock »

lady came into pilates class wearing these shoes that looked like the bottom of your feet. cracked me up, but she said they were great. my sister does her running in the mountains in special shoes too.

me, i'd rather watch folks run.
I expressly forbid the use of any of my posts anywhere outside of FG (with the exception of the incredibly witty 'get a room already' )posted recently.

Folks who'd like to copy my intellectual work should expect to pay me for it.:-6

recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

Kathy Ellen;1341652 wrote: Hi RC,

I have become a lazy, lazy person and plan to something about it this weekend. My 'excuse' is that I'm working a lot of hours due to 2 part-time jobs and 1 full time + job.

I used to walk along the beach and boardwalk everyday...rain, shine, snow, sleet, hail..yada..yada. I was walking 5 miles 3x a week and 10 miles when I had a day off.

I live at the beach and have a beautiful bay on the west. and should be taking advantage of the fresh, salt air, lack of tourists as we're not in season, and crisp, fall air.

Thank you...You've given me the insentive to start walking again. I don't run or fast jog as my tummy hurts. But, I can do a slow jog, and that's what I'll do.

I haven't had a chance to read all that you've written and will come back again to focus on tips.

Here's where I live. I love living here for the most part.

Thanks for the incentive to exercise again.


Wow! Looks like you have a great place to go walking.....weather providing of course. Walking on the beach in sandals is a great way to start. I guess the difference between walking barefoot and running barefoot, is that running puts so much greater impact on the feet and legs, that you learn really fast to stop bad habits....like heel-striking. Walking puts about 1/6th the pressure on the feet, so you have to make a conscious effort to raise your toes (like your trying to grab the surface with your toes) and landing first on the outside of the mid-foot, rolling in and then touching down on the heel before pushing off. I found that, even though I was hitting the ground heel first in running shoes for decades, that once I didn't have them on, I didn't even have to remember the procedure for running barefoot! Just the thump that jars the knees and goes right up the legs, was enough to help me learn not to do it, and land on the mid-foot or fore-foot first.

I work about 50 hours in the average week at one job, so I guess your schedule makes getting enough exercise a challenge! If it's possible to walk part of the way to one of those jobs, that would be a way to get your walking in without having to take time out of your schedule for it. I was running to work for a few years, until a change of work site made me re-adjust my running routine.

One thing you should consider with a busy life, is how much sleep you are getting. If you have to go an extended period of time with less sleep, your body will adjust; but it will lower metabolic rate and even immune response to compensate. Whenever someone asks me "how do I lose weight" they are usually asking for diet and/or exercise tips; but my first question is "how much sleep do you get each night?" because most middle-aged people who find themselves unable to stop a slow, steady increase in bodyweight usually are sleeping six hours or less per night. If it's possible to get enough time to be well-rested, people often feel more like getting out to exercise, and are less likely to turn to high fat, high calorie snacks. Many people who aren't sleeping long enough, have to continually get their caffeine and sugar fix, which keeps adding to the problem of weight gain, among other things.
recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

chonsigirl;1341658 wrote: I run barefoot around the dojong 3 times a week, thats enough running for me. But it is nice to jump up and down, and kick and spar with no shoes on. Kudos for running barefoot!


flopstock:Re: Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

lady came into pilates class wearing these shoes that looked like the bottom of your feet. cracked me up, but she said they were great. my sister does her running in the mountains in special shoes too.

me, i'd rather watch folks run.


I've heard of a lot of people wearing minimal shoes to the gym or to martial arts classes. I wear mine at the gym, since they don't allow anyone going barefoot. A friend of mine who teaches martial arts part-time says that members of his club are encouraged to go barefoot, since it reduces the risk of sprains and other injuries; and most martial arts were started and developed by people who were practicing them barefoot. the eastern martial arts traditionalists have always insisted on 'no shoes' if you want to get it right.
User avatar
chonsigirl
Posts: 33631
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:28 am

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by chonsigirl »

It is better to have no martial arts shoes on when practicing. The first winter I did wear a pair-my feet were so cold. But you cannot do everything properly that way. If you go into a tournament, you cannot wear shoes for sparring. (like I am not sparring in a tournament at my age anyway! But I will do forms and breaking at one in the spring) :)

I've never seen anyone at the gym without shoes on-but I wear minimal tennies to the gym-none of those big sneaker shoes. I am only biking and walking/running anyway.

I do wear swimming tennies for water aerobics.
recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

I'm not sure what minimal tennies are, but the basic rule of thumb is: the closer your foot is to the ground, the more stability you have. The thicker the soles, the more likely it is to twist an ankle, or lose your balance. I've learned some of the wing chun practice routines from my friend, when he was teaching classes. I've worn my KSO shoes there, and they seemed to work fine.
recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

Judging from the temperatures lately, it seems to be time to prepare for winter. Last winter, I learned that the Vibram unique look of shoes with individual toe pockets makes running in colder weather a challenge. The design may feel more like running with no shoes, but when it gets cold outside, it's like wearing a pair of gloves, instead of mittens.



Vibram KSO

Last winter, I spent most of my time at the gym, running on treadmills. I tried Nike Free's, but didn't care for them, or see where they were much different than my old running shoes! Late in the winter, I got the cold weather Vibram shoe -- the KSO Flow; and Sunday was the first day this year that I put them on again.



Vibram KSO Flow

They are heavier, and are insulated -- so that may make them warmer, but I don't care for the reduced sensitivity to the ground. It becomes more like wearing shoes with separate toes. And, even though the ground was dry, and air temps were around +4C (38F), I had to take a couple of breaks on my 12 mile run, to go inside, so my feet could warm up a little.

There are several moccasin-makers now, that have noticed the barefoot/minimal shoe market, and are designing moccasins for running. I've recently ordered a couple of pairs from a company called Softstar Products. When they arrive, I'll try them out and give a recommendation or a thumbs down, depending on how well they work out.
recovering conservative
Posts: 529
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 12:28 pm

Running barefoot.....yes barefoot!

Post by recovering conservative »

I noticed my old thread here, that I posted up back around the time when, after being unable to run for a few years because of cartilage damage to the knees, and since I've been posting on health and fitness issues of late, I figured it was time for an update here for anyone who might be interests.

Back when I started this thread, it was likely about two or three months into my foray into running without running shoes, and back at the time, I noted some suspicions about how practical it is to run truely barefoot - no shoes. Even my ancestors from one side of my family had invented deer-skin moccassins to deal with: the cold or jagged stones etc., that would be obvious hazards to running barefoot.

Some of the hippies in places like Colorado who claim you can run barefoot on all surfaces and in all types of weather once your feet are properly conditioned (and post pictures of themselves running in snow barefoot), do not have tips for dealing with cold...except the obvious things like dress warmer, and limit your exposure when the ground is frozen. I have noticed that when I have tried to run completely barefoot, that I am more paranoid about stepping on broken glass or some other jagged object than I am in a pair of thin minimal shoes that at least offer some degree of protection. It takes a few months to get used to having so little between your feet and the road or the trail....your nervous system has to relearn something generations of our ancestors had to deal with - having an acute touch sense in the feet that immediately causes one to stop pressing down with each footfall when something sharp is felt underneath that could cut through thin minimal soled shoes.

Those who are determined to get that natural feel for having nothing between their feet and the road, should plan out their jogging route so that they are within a short distance of the nearest hospital or walk-in clinic, to get a tetanus shot before anything sets in!

Anyway, I returned to running in minimal shoes on a regular basis four years ago and kept at it....although earlier attempts to resume the average 30 miles per week previous to knee issues did not happen. What I discovered through trial and a lot of error, is that I push too hard on a daily run to do the daily runs for more than about half an hour; while the weekend long run had to be abolished entirely. Previously, I would go out and run for two hours on the weekend, and in the fall, would bump it up as high as 3.5 hours, if I was training to finish a marathon. But, the only significant injury I suffered because of minimal shoe running (aside from numerous broken toes early on) was a serious muscle pull in my right foot, during the time I was trying to run two hours in minimals. What happens is that: when you run in typical running shoes with padded mid-soles and elevated heels, you learn to heel-strike - hit the ground heel first with each footfall. And when you take off those shoes, you learn just how stupid it is to run that way, as the shock from the heel radiates right up through your knees!

The only reason why you can do this in the padded shoes and not feel it, is because the shock is radiated too gradually to gain the attention of the nervous system and send a warning alarm to the brain. But your joints sure as hell notice it! And that's why typically - middle aged runners start suffering cartilage wear and other joint issues by the time they hit 50....even if they have perfect running form otherwise! The determining factor of if or when the joint problems will develop from running in running shoes, depends on other factors - size likely being the most important one. If you're 180 lbs. or higher, simple laws of physics tell us that you are going to have joint problems before the average 120 lb. runner. But what's really important to keep in mind, is that the cartilage wear begins long before any pain warning signs start to flare up. I discovered that my foot arches had almost completely collapsed and cartilage under my right knee was badly inflamed by the time I felt the first problems in my early 40's. And I tried all of the typical fixes that runners are sent for: thicker motion-control shoes and the one to avoid like the plague- orthotics!

Don't buy the crap from the orthotics dealers! Orthotic inserts will only provide temporary relief, and make the problems worse, because they lead to further weakening of the muscles and connective tissues in the feet. I can't say my sample of one is typical, but I stopped feeling the problems of "Plantar Fascitis" when slowly venturing into minimal running strengthened my feet and brought my arches back to the point where I was back wearing shoes that were one to two sizes smaller than the ones I was in before the switch in running footwear.

Before I forget; the only real change in the last four years, other than cutting out the long weekend run and replacing it with the bike, is dropping the expensive minimal shoes that can cost $100 or more per pair. The Vibram shoes (the ones that look like feet because of the toe pockets) are totally unnecessary, difficult to put on, and not even as flexible and in touch with the surface as a cheap pair of aquasocks or aquashoes that retail for 7 to 10 dollars a pair! These cheap pool deck shoes that you can find in any department store until the swimming season is over, are actually better than the Vibrams and better than specially designed "running moccassins" that also have poor surface feel.



The aquasocks have a thin, soft sole that wears quickly, so I stock up and buy enough pairs to last till the following spring. When the temperatures start dipping below freezing, then it's time to put them aside and put on a pair of these new "neutral" shoes that Nike, Reebok etc. are promoting, now that they've noticed the shift to minimal shoes. I have a pair of Nike Free's, which are the cold weather compromise: a flat, sandal-like sole that's obviously thicker than aquasocks. They provide the needed insulation between the foot and the cold pavement during the winter time, but I drop them as soon as I can when the weather gets warmer, because....as always...the general rule of thumb is that the less shoe you have on between your foot and the surface, the more in touch and less at risk of injury you are as well.

Return to “Fitness Nutrition”