Then I took my shoes and my boy to the beach...
The MUTU System Barefoot Running Journey started last week when I explained the concept of barefoot walking and running… click back to there first if you missed it!
OK, so having received my rather fabulous retro gold barefoot shoes from VIVObarefoot this week, I spent a couple of days just walking and getting used to them. Which was definitely no hardship as they are SO comfortable! Like, um, well, like not wearing any shoes, but still protecting your feet from sharp bits or muck. Which I guess is the idea.
They really are super comfortable – my toes have got plenty of room for a good wiggle and spread, the leather is soft and very supple. So I walked, I danced (my 6 year old daughter is a Mamma Mia/Abba fanatic, so we jumped around to a few Super Troopers and a Waterloo or 2) and I had a little jog home from the school run. All very comfy and easy and with the funny bonus of a few odd looks from the other mums – ‘what has she got on her feet?’ Then today I pulled on my gold beauties and went for an ‘actual run’. Where we live is pretty rural, so I was mainly on country roads, with a few grass verges, and I wanted to start off small, as recommended, so I went out for around 20 minutes.
What is it like running in barefoot shoes??
So first thing of course is that the running style / foot fall is totally different. Instead of landing on your heel first, (like you would in a cushioned normal running shoe) you land on the ball of your foot, then the heel follows. At first it felt a little odd, like I was running on tip-toes, but that soon settled into me landing on the ball of my foot, toes all nicely spread, then the heel touching down right after.
It very quickly felt very natural actually, and the interesting thing was that without all that ‘shock absorbing technology’ under my heel, my body didn’t want to strike heel first. I tried it for a few strides just playing around and experimenting, and my body was like, ‘oh no, that’d hurt’ and didn’t want to strike the ground that way. I thought that was fascinating – that when my body and my feet were really aware of the ground underneath them, they knew to land in the most efficient and safe way. Striking heavily on the heel first felt just wrong.
So the toe strike felt natural more quickly than I thought it would, and it felt good – light and springy. There’s more of a forward-motion feel, rather than the almost ‘braking with every step’ of a heavy heel strike.
Barefoot running posture is slightly different too. You’re tall and upright, definitely no head chasing or bending at the hip. You’re looking straight ahead and running tall. I remembered the Lee Saxby advice of leading with the chest, which was a nice visual for keeping everything in the right place. The stride is naturally slightly shorter, quicker and lighter in barefoot running as well – which also feels more natural than taking big strides leading with the heel.
I got home and had a really good calf and hamstring stretch, and my legs and feet felt great. I often like to do a few yoga stretches as I cool down after a run, and historically I have always removed my running shoes to let my feet breathe first. Today I just carried on, as my feet didn’t feel hot or constrained like they do in my normal running shoes.
I think I might be converted you know! I don’t think you can run ‘both ways’ as they are so different, so I feel like I’m making a commitment now that I’m going to run naturally from now on… Ho hum, I feel a clear-out of my (rather extensive) running shoe cupboard coming on and then maybe some shopping ;)
Are you a barefoot runner? Was this how you felt at first? Am I doing anything wrong? Would love to hear your advice, so please leave a comment – we’re learning together here!
Disclosure: just reminding you that VIVObarefoot did give me these shoes to try for free (bless ’em), but also that I am dedicated to doing the best for my body and giving you as much info as I can as I learn. If I didn’t like them, I’d say so.