by Glen Depke
Well, it has been a couple of months now of experimenting with barefoot running and I feel confident in saying, this is no longer an experiment. This is a way of life for me now!
Let's define first that barefoot running for me is not ALWAYS barefoot. Most often I run with my Vibrams on. These are the interesting looking protectors of my feet that have the space for my five toes to move independently. If I am on the beach, I run barefoot. If I am in the neighborhood, I use my Vibrams.
Let me start by reminding you that I have not run pain and inflammation free for 29 years due to an old football injury. OK, how many time have you heard "the old football injury" story. Since introducing this new way of running, I do not experience pain or inflammation. Wooo...hooo, is the best way I can describe this.
I started by running 20 minutes, three times per week. At one point, I was feeling really comfortable, so I pushed a little harder running sprints with our dog at the park and oops. I over did it and set myself back a bit. I felt as is something was "pulled" in the heal area. Due to this, I cut my time down from 20 minutes to 10 minutes and it seemed to work out fine. Gradually, I began running more than three days per week and also increased my time. Funny but the heal problem ended up being a soft tissue issue in my upper calf. A good friend of mine Dr. Robert Janda was able to assess this very quickly with Applied Kinesiology. In a matter of minutes of this assessment and treatment the heal pain was gone because it was addressed at the core.
What I am recognizing as the biggest benefit for me is to get away from the old school thought of heal/toe running. When running barefoot or with the Vibrams, if you are hitting a hard surface with your heal, you won't be enjoying the pain. Running in this way, forces a front or mid foot landing. I have found that this landing is much easier on my knees. I even came to find out that this is actually easier on my whole body. I recognized this one day when I was on a Power Plate. For those that are not familiar, this is a plate that you stand on while the vibration runs throughout your body. What I recognized is that when I put my weight on the heal, I feel the vibration significantly through the whole of my body, head to toe. When I put my weight on the front of my foot, I only felt about 10% of the vibration. Recognize that the vibration did not change, only the placement of my body weight was shifted to a different area of the foot. This was amazing to me.
I would even share that if you are not READY to go barefoot or try the Vibrams, you can still move in another direction by shifting your running style. You know, the old heal toe that we have been taught forever, may or may not be for you. Try a running shoe with less support and give a front or mid foot run a try. Just be ready though, it may not be an experiment, it may be a way of life.
I am not pretending to be an expert on running or structural care of your foot. I simply want to share something that is working well for me, that is very exciting.
A special thanks to Manny Aragon whom I consider the structural expert, for introducing me to barefoot running.