Friday, April 1, 2011

I never thought it would happen... and then it happened

I was out on a fartlek (I still love saying that word) 6 miler this evening, just taking in the beauty of a fabulously cool, breezy, Georgia Friday afternoon in the hood (neighborhood, that is). Listening to the occasional sounds of our three sons playing kickball in our yard whilst arguing with the friend from next door that was playing with them, I realized something,

The Buildup

About 13 months ago, I began to get interested in the now-overtalked-about topic of minimalist running. Specifically, I was interested in what I read concerning forefoot striding. As an average sized guy, I'm about 6'2" and weigh around 190 pounds. I'm not petite by any means, but I'm not overly large either. But in the past 3 years, I've had occasional issues with injuries resulting from nothing more than poor biomechanics related to my running form. With this new information about the natural running form, I began to wonder if a:) I could actually change my running stride/gait and b:) If it would help me reduce some of these nagging little aches and pains.

I spent alot of time reading some of the fantastic research material over at on the natural running form, what it looks like, and how it enhances your running efficiency. It sounded almost too good to be true, honestly. Pete made it sound so effortless to run with a forefoot strike (no heel striking such as I had always been doing). Coupled together with the slight forward lean during the run is the fact that your stride should be marginal and not overreaching. Your feet should strike ground directly below your center of gravity. It sounded so easy on paper, but I soon discovered that putting it into practice on the asphalt was a completely different animal.

My first attempts at incorporating forefoot running were, let's say, less than successful. As I concentrated on trying to land forefoot rather than on my heel, I couldn't help but get the sensation that I was running on my tip-toes, and that's just not natural to me. I would try and try, but it never felt, well... right. What I failed to realize at these points of frustration was that the impediments to me achieving this more efficient stride were the two size 11 1/2 running shoes that were attached to my feet.

Kick 'em off...

About two months later, the game-changer happened. I was listening to a running podcast, and the guy being interviewed made a revelational statement that hit me between the eyes, and unlocked the secret of forefoot running...

Run barefoot.

Yep. I said it. Run barefoot.

Here's the gig: As running shoes have evolved, the cushioning contained within them has caused our feet to change the way in which they strike the ground. In essence, because the majority of running shoes today have thick, padded, cushioned heel cups, our body has no reason to strike on anything but that nice, soft cushion of the heel. BUT, if you take off your shoes, walk out onto the street (or sidewalk) and start to run, your body will absolutely not allow you to land on your heel. Why? Because it would hurt ! Your natural foot strike is, and always will be, your forefoot. If you don't believe me, try it now. I'll wait for you to come back.

See what I mean? The shoes on our feet have changed the way our feet "interact" with the ground beneath us.

In my next post, I"ll tell you how I put all of this knowledge (it wasn't that much, honestly) into action, and what it has done for my running. It really is nothing short of revolutional.


1 comment:

  1. I have a lot of running friends that have jumped on the VFF band wagon...I haven't so far, but then I am a mid foot striker - you can totally see where the soles of my shoes are worn and it's all at the ball of my foot and very little on the heel.