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I really enjoyed that book (Born to Run). I read it as I was training for a marathon, and it was a big motivational boost when I was getting worn out.
It would seem like common sense that we evolved barefoot, and should therefore run best that way, but it's hard to break the shoe habit. I've gone for a few runs barefoot, but since there aren't any good grassy areas in my neighborhood to run on (well, I could trample my neighbors' lawns, but I don't think they'd appreciate it) it was tough and I never made it too far.
I need to try it again and see if I can work my way up to running a barefoot 5K this summer.
"Born to Run" was an inspiring book for me, and I think there is a lot to recommend barefoot or minimally shod movement. However, I think it could be a mistake to simply kick off your traditional running shoes and start barefootin'. The experience of the Harvard students described in the article notwithstanding, don't assume that one can go from "splint-type" shoes to minimal shoes quickly and easily. Many runners have weakened their foot structure through years of wearing overprotective shoes and those structures are probably best if restrengthened gradually. As I've written elsewhere, it took me a full 10 years to get from heavy motion control shoes to VFF. These days one could probably do it more quickly because there is a larger range of better options. Just don't assume that there's a magic protection that comes from going bare. Listen to your feet - push them to get stronger but not so much that they break from the strain.
It's also worth noting that many of those traditional cultures like the Tarahumara are barefoot or wear minimal shoes nearly all the time. Even if you are an avowed "cardio junkie" running for 2+ hours each day, the time spent in running shoes is only a small portion of your total day. So it seems to me that simply running in VFF won't do a lot of good if you then put on a pair of wingtips, high heels, or even traditional trainers for a day at school or in the office.
So I'd suggest that we restrengthen our feet gradually and spend as much time barefoot or minimally shod as reasonably possible - during exercise and in the rest of our waking hours.
I run barefoot about once a week. It took a little getting used to but not much. The main thing is to avoid the heel-strike. I haven't read Born to Run yet, but am thinking about picking it up, just have to finish a few other books first The VFF are great too, especially if you are going on a hike where you're not yet accustomed to so many small rocks. But really, just go out and do it. It makes you feel like a kid again -
Geoff speaks the truth, it's important to start out very slow and go on a couple of walks to strengthen the feet again. I don't run barefoot, I use swim shoes because I don't want to worry about tough terrains. To me, they're the simple man's VFFs ...
I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.
I hiked the Inca Trail last year with GAP, and the porters all wore "cheap" sandals on the rocky, uneven terrain and steps. The head guide told me that a few years ago GAP bought all of the porters the latest, highest tech hiking boots, and the porters preferred the sandals.
Incidentally, the record for running the Inca Trail was set by a porter at 3:23 (it took us 3 1/2 days to hike it)!
The cool thing I learned is that ultrarunning is quite a bit different than the typical marathon/triathlon type training. It's almost more like "extreme hiking" or "extreme trekking".<<
Yes. I've mentioned this before but I think it's completely different than chronic cardio. I'd be careful about competing, but I think going for a several hour ultrarun on trails is possibly a healthy thing, depending on your fitness/pace and how often you do it.
I have a great grassy field to run barefoot on. It takes me about twenty minutes to do one lap around the perimeter. When I trail run I wear VFF's, or flat, thin sneakers if it's wet and cold.
I've always hated stiff shoes with heels and have rarely worn them. My whole life I've worn some version of Chuck Taylor sneakers or gone barefoot. On bicycles I hated clipless when I tried it for several months because I despised the stiff shoes. I used clips and straps with fairly thin and flexible soles for many years and now only ride with bmx flats and flexible sneakers. After a couple of years you get skilled enough with flats that you are pretty much as efficient as with clipless, and much, much safer in terms of injuries.
I've pondered the same thing and agree that there can be difference between ultrarunning and the standard marathon. This blurb from "Running Times" notes elite marathoners are probably running 26.2 "at several beats above 85% [of max HR]." In other words, "chronic cardio" land. So the challenge of competing at that distance is largely based on making the most complete yet efficient use of glycogen over the race. Fat metabolism's important in the marathon for sure, but most marathoner's get the bulk of their energy from carbs. Yes, you can jog or walk a marathon, but an all out marathon effort (whatever that means for a given individual) is going to be largely carb fueled.
Ultradistances are really about fat. I think a lot of ultradistance competitors would find themselves moving at or even below the "move slowly" HR zone most of the time. You need carbs, of course, to fuel a portion of the energy requirements but it's not the same percentage as in the standard marathon (though in absolute quantities it could be a significantly larger amount).
By way of comparison, a 3 hour marathon is a little over 6:52 m/m. A 24 hour 100 mile run - something every bit as respectable and vastly more brutal than a 3 hour marathon - is done at a 14:24 m/m pace. Yes, terrain and night running play a part in slowing the pace over the 100 miler, as does the obvious fact that it's nearly 4 times the distance, but the fact is ultras are just a lot slower on average.
Now just for the record I'm not taking a position on whether ultrarunning is (or isn't) Primal or healthy, just pointing out that it seems closer to the hiking "move slowly" zone than all out marathoning.
I know the topic switched more to ultra marathons but I think its important to note that the Tarahumara do NOT run barefoot, or at least not ALL the time, they're famous for their "huaraches" or thong sandals. I'm assuming they wear these to protect their feet from the unforgiving ground and heat. I think its important to realize that even the famed Tarahumara take measures to "protect" their feet. I read Born to Run as well, and totally agree with the scientifical/historical backing for barefoot running, and I do think that we can condition our skin to run barefoot, but in our modern lives I think we'd be better off with VFF or with my swim shoe/minimalist approach. There's many hardcore barefooters out there (like Barefoot Ted in the book, who was always barefoot even when the Tarahumara were not) so it IS entirely possible to condition your soles for all terrains but it's best to ease into it.
I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.
Barefoot running is so effortless for me. I spent my whole childhood shoe-free and getting out of bulky shoes was like coming home again, I can't believe I wore them for so long! It really works out the muscles in your calves, ankles, and feet, and I did have a little soreness (muscle only) when I started. But it only took a few weeks to work up to running miles barefoot.
I run mostly on maintained grass (athletic fields) and cement/asphalt, so my soles don't suffer much. Hiking barefoot would be a very different story.