Saturday, September 29, 2012

Minimalist Running

Before I left for my bike I trip, I told you that I was reading Born to Run and that it was changing my life. I intended to write a review of the book but for now, I'll tell you the gist which is this: the human body was designed to run long distances and it was not designed to do so in padded, thick-soled shoes. Those shoes, designed in the 1970s lead to injury and shock to your joints. So try running without them. I am impressionable, I believed the science, and I wanted to try.

But trying to run in a different kind of shoe would mean training my body to run a completely different way. I'd need to strike the ground with my mid and fore foot instead of with my heel. The end of a two month bike trip, at which time I'd have to work up my running mileage again anyway, seemed like the perfect time to do this.

I started with a pair of Merrell Dash Gloves, per the recommendation of an experienced REI employee who is training for his second ironman. In minimalist shoes. I have been running in these shoes for a month now and I like them. I like how light they are and I love how they've trained me to land flat-footed and not with me heels. In the shoes, though, I have had to be really slow and deliberate about my training. I don't want to overdo it and am worried about getting injured by doing so. And, with the November 18 Philadelphia Half Marathon on my calendar, I've got a bit of a time crunch.

Last weekend, I ran four miles for the first time since May and it was clear that I could injure myself if I kept upping my miles too quickly. The calluses on my feet aren't fully developed and the bones aren't yet used to the lack of cushioning. I knew that I needed to try a new approach or I might have to pass on Philly. I didn't want to pass on Philly so I, on a whim, bought some Nike Frees on Sunday afternoon.

Not only are they the most beautiful pair of running shoes I've ever owned but they seem like a good compromise between the super-supportive and the extremely minimal. After 5.26 successful miles in them today, I have new-found hope for increasing my mileage to 13.1 by November 18.

I sometimes think about how upset I'll be if I get injured from my transition. I may not have done enough research and I have no experts training me through this process. But I believe in what I'm doing so I'll keep at it. It's a journey and my success is still to be determined but I am hopeful.

If you have any experience transitioning to barefoot or minimalist shoes, I would love to hear about it. Any words of wisdom are more than welcome!


  1. Love the color of the Frees! I made the switch to the Kinvara last year and just took it slowly. You're already at 5 miles so getting to 13 by November is in the bag. I did find that foam rolling my calves and Achilles after each run really helped me. Good luck with training!! :)