Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Running Barefoot

This last summer I was inspired to try something a little different. After witnessing someone running down Flattop with only a pair of Vibram Five Fingers I decided to try the barefoot running thing myself. There's a dearth of information about it on the internet and apparantly nobody in Alaska sells "shoes" for running barefoot so I decided to take the plunge and try it comepletly barefoot. Besides, why bother to pay $85 for a pair of running "shoes" that just defeat the real purpose. 

I started out on Turnagain Arm trail and within about 100 yards I broke out into a cold sweat. Aside from the sensory overload, the first thing I noticed was the connection with the ground.  I felt the trail like never before.  My traction was better and I felt more stable.  I ended up going only about three miles total but the next day muscles in my legs were as sore as if I had never run before.

I've eased into the whole idea and have only done the occasional run to adjust slowly.  After about a dozen barefoot runs last summer I did one final run outside at Glen Alps in October just after a snowfall but when the trail was still bare.  Switching to a treadmill inside this winter has been difficult because the surface is like sandpaper.  This is where some sort of aquasocks or the Vibram Five Fingers might come in handy.

While it may seem a bit overboard at first, the benefits of running barefoot are endless.  The human body was made to run without shoes.  Most people have found that they are faster, stronger and have more endurance without shoes.  People claim it has cured back problems, fixed their posture as well as taken away bunions, severe callousing and other foot problems. 

It'll definitely slow your pace a bit until your feet adjust but mud, sticks and large rocks are generally not a problem.  Pavement takes some getting used to and sharp gravel doesn't feel good at all, as you might imagine.  At first, the shock value of seeing people's faces along the trail is amusing but after a couple times it's just annoying.  Gasping tourists ruin the mood so now I try to avoid people as much as possible.

As soon as the snow melts, I'll be exploring different places and I'll post updates here about good trails.  This is a great way to strengthen ankles, feet and lower legs for the Classic, so give it a try if you feel like something a bit different.

The book Born to Run is not only a great read but also has some great arguments for running barefoot.  It's in the Amazon sidebar on the right side of this blog if you want to take a look.  I haven't yet found anyone else who runs barefoot in Alaska but if you do, I'd love to hear from you. 

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