Monday, May 24, 2010

Minimalist thinking, er, running...

On this, the first day of a designated study week, there's lots in the works for the next seven days..some reading, writing, thinking, maybe a little more blogging, planning for the fall season (believe it or not!), and a short visit to the "big city" to check-in on my mother-in-law. Oh yeah, maybe even some time in the kayak!

Personally, a day of productive study and reflection is much more assured if it begins with an early morning run. Today, being the Victoria Day holiday in Canada, we thought there might be a few folks out on the trails but we didn't see anyone. (It was early.) Ahh, too bad, as it's always fun explaining why we're not wearing "normal" shoes. (Having said that, not everyone's interested! Hard to believe, eh?!) It's fun, explaining the footwear, insomuch as it's an opportunity to "wave the flag" of minimalist / barefoot running and share why this is arguably one of the best ways to run further, faster, and without injury. At our age, that's good news as bodies tend to be less forgiving when it comes to injuries. Unnecessary injuries should be seen as particularly frustrating!

Yep, one day the running shoe stores are going to have to admit that they're selling shoes that can actually injure their faithful customers. I know, I was one for many, many years who believed that the more cushioning, the more support, and the more pronation control, the better the shoe - and it didn't matter how much it cost! Willing to do anything to avoid injuries, I would replace shoes when they showed any significant wear and tear, much to the delight I'm sure, of those who manufacture this overly sophisticated and over priced foot wear. The fact is, the more the cushioning of a running shoe is worn down, the better it is. At the risk of sounding as annoying as many who have successfully quit a bad habit, the usual running injuries (which, at one time, I seemed to specialize in) are pretty much a thing of the past. I should say that I still wear a pair of old Salomon trail runners, just to mix things up. They have around 1500 kilometres on them and except for the fact that they have some holes and tears, they are going strong.

The strange thing is that a lot of folks think this movement towards minimalist / barefoot running is a kind of "fringe" thing, preferring to stick with conventional running shoes. As Barefoot Ted McDonald often says, this thinking assumes that our feet are, by nature, broken, and in need of all the corrective technology offered (at high cost) by the manufacturers of traditional running shoes. Millions of years of change and adaptation created the feet that we were born with. We should just use 'em as they are. I will dare to suggest that in the next decade or so, minimalist running will become the norm amongst those who love to run. The smiles on their faces will convince the rest!

One more thought: Don't you find that when you "think outside the box" in matters such as this, you create a new "box"? But it's often an improved box and, more often than not, it's a launch pad for further fresh exploration. I think that's why daring to nurture new perspectives always enriches us and serves to create both interest and opportunity in our lives. Sounds good to me.

Hey, so I got to "wave the flag" after all. :-) Now back to the business of this study week. 


Image: A pic during this morning's run. The minimalist "shoes" surrounding my "unbroken" feet are Vibram Fivefingers (Classics) - no cushioning, no support, no pronation control, no bells, no whistles. You feel everything, and that's a good thing. They wear like a "glove", and sure, they look strange. But if you love to run or are tired of injuries and are feeling adventurous, check out the ample material out there on bare foot running technique. Guaranteed to be helpful.


  1. Well you converted this "buy 250 dollar sneakers and record my km's to ensure I didnt use them past 400km" runner.

    My calfs are SO sore today from a sort 8km jaunt...that tells me two things:

    -I wasnt running the way my body was designed to if my muscles hurt this bad from a short run.

    -I am addicted.

  2. Like most things that are good and free, it seems corporations find ways to commodify them for profit, creating needs where there were none. So I say, good on yer for running barefoot...not sure about the 5 fingers though...aren't those just creating a new "need"?? Wonder if I should be walking barefoot?? Ouch.

  3. Duncan, great write up with great thoughts. To back up what you said you should check out Christopher Mcdougall's site. There is a pretty interesting piece of info from Runner's World on there that could turn things on their heads in the running world.

    And to Lee. I would say an 8k run for a beginner is not a short run!

  4. Thanks for your comments, folks!

    That was, indeed, a long run Lee! I will admit that my first run in the VFFs was up and down the driveway - but hey, it's a long driveway. Glad to hear you're enjoying them so much. I made "gradual progress", a mantra 'cause I'm prone to overdoing something I get excited about. Check out Jimmy Hart's site, it's full of technical detail that is hugely helpful!

    Hi Anon. You make a VERY good point and I'm sure there will be a lot of running shoe manufacturers looking for a way to get a cut of the action. I wear VFFs because they do offer a little protection against shards of glass etc. I guess I'm just cautious that way and don't want to lose any running time because of that kind of injury.

    Hey Jimmy. Always appreciate your direction and expertise. McDougall certainly has the put the spotlight on this movement. Keep up the great work!

  5. I'm so thrilled you are enjoying running "so called barefoot". It certainly feels great and give your feet so much more flexibility. However, barefoot does make the heels get quite dry and abrasive. I have a fantastic recipe from a German friend of mine for a cream. I should give you some of that cream to try and if you like it, I'll give you the recipe.

  6. Ahh, no worries, J, us "real barefootin' men" don't worry about "dry abrasive heels"! Heck, they're a badge of honour! But, hey, I'll pass the recipe on to Joan. ;-)