Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rethink Barefoot Approach With Transitional Footwear

Here is a different way to think about those transitional shoes.....

The transitional shoes are only part of the story. They can extend your mileage and get you that extra edge or they can hinder your progress. You have to use them correctly or you won't get good results.

My first go at barefoot running failed. I tried to transition using the five fingers and couldn’t make the leap until I went cold turkey. I was stuck in a “not quite barefoot” transitional state. I now think the shoes slowed my transition because of how I used them early on.

Prior to my change, I was using transitional footwear to strengthen my feet. I figured, strong feet were a necessary precursor to running barefoot. In a short amount of time, I was running almost as many miles in my Vibram Five Fingers as I could in my shoes. I was definitely runner farther and faster than I could have possibly run barefoot. In hind site, I had not changed my form to a more gentle technique – well, O.K. I may have been running more gently than I did in supportive footwear, but, I was not running as gently as I do currently in bare soles exposed to the ground. It’s a catch 22! This was the “reason” I was weaing VFF’s to begin with.

By bypassing, both the learning I was close but not quite there. My old running style was present to some degree; with the literal pounding out of more miles than my feet were ready to withstand. I was setting myself up for an injury.

Now don't get me wrong. I wear my VFF’s all the time. But instead of thinking of them as transitional footwear I think of them as spare tires. They are the shoe I put on when I’ve gone as far as I can barefoot first. I only start with them on a run that was preceded by a difficult barefoot run where my soles may have been injured. I just need to let the skin heal. When I wear them I try to concentrate on using my barefoot form. Not my old shod running form! I had to get the technique down first and that was frustrating because it meant a ton of really slow miles first.

1 comment:

Matt S. said...

Ahhh the peer pressure Rob. Someday my friend, I'll be as brave as you. Til then, I love reading/watching this amazing transition. Keep up the great work!