Gecko feet

February 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

blog-barefoot-runningMinimalist/Barefoot running movement is in spotlight nowadays. I can see more and more people trying it out and minimalist running is finally gaining mainstream recognition. A lot has since been written about the benefits of bare-footing (Links below). I am not going to talk about those. This is just my journey to minimalist running and the effects it has had on me.

It all started when I incorporated running in my fitness regime. As the miles increased so did the troubles with my shins and knees. I am not a distance runner but even moving past the 5 mile target was getting really painful. I tried the $100+ Nike’s (a considerable amount for a poor graduate student) but it did not help.  This kept me searching for relief of my woes and finally I stumbled across a weird looking five toed shoes called the Vibram Five Fingers. The information on their website piqued my interest and I spent the next week reading everything about bare-footing and minimalist running. By the end of the week I was convinced and drove  a 100+ miles to get my first pair (staying in remote mid-west was fun).

After getting back I spent a while bouncing around the house like a kid before heading out for my first minimalist run. It was just amazing and reminded me of the time when we used to play barefoot in my backyard while growing up. Ignoring the plethora of recommendations about taking it slow I did a 5 mile with little effort except the balls of my feet feeling a little raw. The next day though was a different story. I woke up to my calf screaming  in pain but it was not like pain I used to feel in my shins and knees after a long run. It was the pain when you go for a strenuous weights session after a long break. I learnt my lesson and slowly eased into it for the next two weeks. Its been 4 years since then and I have drifted from running to other sports but still the five fingers are my default footwear for all occasions.

There have been some visible changes to my feet after using the five fingers. For some these might be bad but I think they are good changes. My feet are wider and my shoe size increased by nearly 2 points. I started with a 42 five fingers and my most recent pair is size 44. Apart from the physical changes these are some of the benefits I have enjoyed being a minimalist runner.

Better Running Posture and Pain Free

Minimalist footwear doesn’t let you heal strike and forces you to become a mid/fore-foot runner. I have stopped leaning back while running when I get tired. I don’t get any more shin or knee pain even when running long distances. Initially my legs and calf would get tired much sooner but gradually my calves had gotten much stronger. Even my arches are more pronounced now. I have even read (though I cannot find the links) that flatfooted people having benefited in building arches when resorting to minimalist running.

Awareness

When running with conventional shoes I never gave much though to where my foot landed. With my five fingers things are different and people stare at me when I squeal like a little girl upon landing on a pebble. I have since learnt my lesson and have become much more aware in present while running. I have stopped zoning out and have started to appreciate all the things around me. Also this has helped me stop rolling my foot which was a common occurrence in my shod days.

Pure fun

There is a unique connection I feel with my surroundings when bare-footing. Some of it might be the nostalgic connection I feel to my childhood days but regardless it is one of major motivators which helped me enjoy running.

Some great resources for more information:

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