Minimalist Running

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Since life has been crazy the last 48 hours (nothing serious, just life), I missed posting the Tuesday Health article. So, today, I am combining the Tuesday Health article with the Wednesday Minimalism article. Please leave your favorite “Call Me Lazy” line in the comments! Also, check out my new article over at The Minimalist Path : Simplify Your Desktop

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Make These Your New ShoesSoon after beginning my running career, and by that I mean amateur-not-so-fast-huff’n-and-puff’n running career, I learned of barefoot running. Quickly, I became intrigued. I started reading about the surprisingly many barefoot runners there were. Needless to say, I set some barefoot goals.

Now, mind you, I am no Barefoot Geek, but I have enjoyed the freedom to wander aimlessly without shoes. I tried, as often as mom would allow, to live a barefoot life as a kid. I usually got injured, but quickly jumped back up. Entering the world of barefoot running is a completely different tale.

Before I continue, let me note that this is just my experience with implementing the minimalist running aspect. My favorite barefoot runner quote came from a fellow marathoner who said to me, “I had to choose between marathon fee’s and shoes. They are both expensive so I went went marathon fee’s.” I think implementing this running technique is difficult, but can be done if you really want. So, read on with caution as blood and blisters will soon become a part of the tale.

First, I learned more than 99% of people about my own two feet. You think you know your feet, than you meet a barefoot runner and you quickly realize you don’t. Your feet rule your life. Your feet tell your body how to live. Sound strange, this article is only going to get stranger.

When you run with shoes on, your foot, ankle, leg, hips, torso, and head all work together. Unfortunately, we did not evolve with Nike’s for protection. We evolved to walk on our bare feet. So, if you look at your feet as they are right now, they are unhealthy. I am not talking about the fungus. I am talking about the formed structure we have molded them into. Your feet look like shoes. Shoes are made to fit the general man or woman. Too bad we are general because we all have different feet and body structures which means we should all have different shoe structures. Well, Nike isn’t coming to my place anytime soon to make the perfect shoe for me. Without the help of a perfectly fit and molded shoe, which is IMPOSSIBLE for any shoe company, the safest and healthiest mode of two foot transportation is the bare foot variety.

Here are a few links to see the positives to barefoot running…AWESOME READS, trust me:

Moving forward, back in July 2008, I started training to run a 5k barefoot. This was in the middle of the summer in Phoenix Arizona. So I thought I was really going to test the limits. I trained running on a track barefoot after 6 mile runs daily. The asphalt and cement was 130 degrees so it was necessary I stick to the track for the barefoot portions. When I did end up running the 5k race in August 2008, I ended up being a huge hit. Kids were dumbfounded and their parents wanted to keep their dumbfounded kids away from the strange, tall and lanky man. The downside was the course for this race was at South Mountain Park in Phoenix which is half decent road covered with pebbles and half eroded concrete. The tape I wrapped my feet in didn’t help much. I ran a steady pace and finished the 3.1 miles in about 23 minutes barefoot (Results Here : Males 18-24). I was cheered on throughout the race by other runners and the crowd and one runner slowed his pace to mine near the end and said I was an inspiration. I don’t know if inspiration fits as much as crazy, but I will take the encouragement anyways. I left the race with bloody legs and blood blisters because my feet were not trained for the terrain, but I also left having challenged myself.

After training and racing barefoot, I have some feedback and suggestions. I think barefoot running is the best thing since slice bread when done properly. It is extremely healthy if done properly. I didn’t train on the proper surface so I deserved the punishment, but it can be done. During the P.F. Chang’s Marathon in Phoenix this year, I ran with a barefoot runner who had run 120+ marathons barefoot and was about 55. Running barefoot will improve your knee, hip, joint problems. I felt so much better after running barefoot during training. I was back to running how I was supposed to be running, unimpeded. My strong suggestion is to use the following instead of barefoot running at first…

Me and My Vibram's on the ferry from Sydney to Manly BeachI have worn Vibram Five Fingers for 5 months now and they have lengthened my Achilles, flattened my foot back to it’s original structure, improved my horrible ankle stability, and much much more. Here is a link to an article by Tim Ferriss that explains the benefits into SMART PEOPLE detail…click here.

My current status of running technique involves shoes. I would love to implement barefoot running more often, but the time and focus can be overwhelming. I currently where my Vibram Five Fingers whenever I walk out the door…for the most part. I plan on getting a pair of the sprints and try them for the shorter distance races in the near future.

Last point. Minimalism can be brought into any and all aspects of life. The question that you must ask yourself is whether or not you want to sacrifice and suffer to live the simple life that minimalism allows.

David Damron
LifeExcursion

20 Responses to Minimalist Running

  1. Colin Wright says:

    I LOVE my Vibrams, too! Really great story, and I think that ‘being lazy’ and combining two articles fits with the minimal theme, right? :)
    .-= Colin Wright´s last blog ..Be My Guru =-.

  2. Daniel says:

    Okay, I’m gonna go get by Vibrams in my next shopping trip — the next weekend. Hope I can find one easily from where I am! : )
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..The Simplicity Artist Survey 2009 =-.

  3. Carmen says:

    I admit I am not a runner or knowledgeable about running equipment. When I saw Vibrams in the store last year my kids and I thought they were some ridiculous new style fad. We had a good laugh at their appearance. Now I know what they are. You learn something new everyday! I’m passing your article on to my husband who is a runner and has some knee and foot issues. He may find it helpful. Thanks!
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..A Nomad in the USA =-.

  4. Totally Awesome post man!
    I really enjoyed reading this, and I am SO going to get me a pair of those vibrams. They look totally awesome!!

    My feet are the unhealthy ones, and I probably could not run 1km on gravel without bloody feet ;)

    Cheers!!
    Diggy
    .-= Diggy-Upgradereality.com´s last blog ..Inspirational and Awesome Quotes =-.

  5. Thanks for the mention mate!

    I still got to work on running properly barefoot (I can do it for a bit, but it does hurt on hard surfaces), but I may just pick up the Five Fingers if I don’t stop getting cuts on my feet. :)
    .-= David Turnbull´s last blog ..On Feeling Fraudulent =-.

  6. Jen says:

    Wow! I want a pair too! :)
    I love running, but it’s never occurred to me to do it barefoot (although the weather in the UK can be pretty wet so it will have to be seasonal :) )
    So is a flat foot better? I naturally have quite a flat foot (low arch) but had special in soles in my shoes to strengthen the arch when I was a kid…?
    Jen
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..The Butterfly Effect =-.

  7. Kristin says:

    Love my Vibrams as well. I hated running before doing it barefoot. Now it rocks my world.

    @Jen: Vibram makes neoprene versions for us rainy weather stricken folk!
    .-= Kristin´s last blog ..i came out in buenos aires =-.

  8. Ralpj says:

    Hey Dave,
    I still need to get my hands on a pair of those! They look so comfortable. I dying to see how they feel when I do my runs.
    .-= Ralpj´s last blog ..How To Wake Up Early Without Hating It : My 3 A.M. Experiment =-.

  9. Ralpj says:

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for the reminder. I still need to get my hands on a pair of these. They look so comfortable. I’m dying to see how they feel when I run.
    .-= Ralpj´s last blog ..How To Wake Up Early Without Hating It : My 3 A.M. Experiment =-.

  10. Jen says:

    Thanks Kristen! i’ll check those out:)
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..The Butterfly Effect =-.

  11. Robert says:

    Interesting, I’ve glanced at the shoes a few times…and run a decent paced 5k a few times a week, but never thought about combining the two. Now that you’ve mentioned them and I randomly met someone who sold them at a wedding I went to last week I think I’ll give them another look…good stuff.
    .-= Robert´s last blog ..Results | Outsourcing and Automation in Freelance =-.

  12. Sadly, these days if you live in the burbs or inner city these days, can be a bit dangerous with all the trash left behind ( even in the parks and beaches ) I suggest you do a bit of survelliance of your track before you get feet naked.
    .-= Greg – LiveItWithLess´s last blog ..Moleskines – Back to basics =-.

  13. Sadly, if you live in the burbs or inner city these days, can be a bit dangerous with all the trash left behind ( even in the parks and beaches ) I suggest you do a bit of survelliance of your track before you get feet naked.
    .-= Greg – LiveItWithLess´s last blog ..Moleskines – Back to basics =-.

  14. Ken Kurosawa says:

    Dave, do you find yourself talking shorter strides when you run barefoot?
    Do you heel strike?

    • Dave says:

      I did have a much shorter stride when running barefoot at first. But as you get stronger feet and more comfortable feel, your stride will lengthen again.

      Try it Ken…you may like it…

      Dave

  15. In Asian countries, where people are barefoot all the time, you see people’s toes spread wide like fingers. That has to be healthier than cramming your feet into shoes, especially for women in high heels.

    I don’t think I have the courage to run barefoot on concrete, but it is great on beaches. My biggest worry would be stepping on glass or sharp plastic.
    .-= John Bardos – JetSetCitizen´s last blog ..Interview with Travel Writer, Anja Mutic =-.

    • Dave says:

      Try to think of it this way….

      Yes, I may step on glass or plastic if not careful…

      or…

      I will develop horrible hip and knee structure with poor form by wearing shoes which will lead to many surgeries and shorter adventurous life.

      Just a diff way to look at it

      Dave

  16. Wow, perfect timing for me, I am so glad I found your great article. I’ve run a marathon previously in 2008, but have been mostly sedentary since. In fact, I find myself 35 pounds heavier than I was for that race, and on a 5’9″ frame, that’s fairly significant.

    I was vowing earlier today to start running again, in preparation for the Buffalo Marathon in May 2010. Unfortunately, with our severe winters, one can only train outdoors about six months a year.

    I haven’t a lot of time to train with three newborn babies in the house, but this is more a matter of controlling my weight, challenging myself, and getting healthy again.

    I will definitely check out the shoes, thanks so much for posting.

    - Charley
    .-= Charley Forness´s last blog ..Letting Change Happen =-.

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