Thursday, September 2, 2010

Flip Flop

I've been reading a book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. A fascinating story about the Tarahumara and how running is what they do - legs are their vehicle of choice. I've just gotten to the part about barefoot running and it's rekindling my desire.

As a girl, we never had much money for expensive shoes. My dress pair was always beige and boring, no matter what color I wore, I had to wear these plain beige shoes. So when it came to play shoes, which were often outgrown, we went with bare feet for the most part. I learned to be able to run on gravel. In our hayfields, I remember pretending to be a gazelle, leap running through our hilly hayfields and never falling. I could feel the ground as I landed and adjusted my foot placement if needed. The only times I sprained ankles was when I was walking.

I had a neighbor friend who lives 1/4 mile away, and I would run for fun down the road. I'd also run home from our bus stop, which was down a long hill. My mom would say should could hear me "thundering down the road." It made me more conscious of my running, but I still did it because I enjoyed it. And I did it in any shoes - which means cheap Kmart or Target ones.

All this to say that I used to know how to run barefoot. I didn't have to read books, articles, how-to's on the proper form. Granted, I was a kid and had a little more joint flexibility. However, I can't remember once ever having a running in jury or being sore.

Tomorrow, I'm going to do my run on our treadmill, barefoot. I think it's a good place to start because the treadmill is an even ground and is softer than asphalt. I may make Fridays my barefoot day if this works well. Eventually I'd love to be able to run barefoot, or with a flat shoe for all my runs. I remember the last time that I tried this, I felt no pain in my arches, no foot falling asleep and no calf burning. There was some foot soreness the next day or two, but I believe that was due to building foot and toe muscles. It wasn't an injured feeling, but muscle soreness.

The Tarahumara run in sandals that they make - a sort of rough form of flip flops (though more secured). Made from recyled tire treads and leather straps, they truly have the corner on green running. Ironically, you can now order these sandals using the link above for only $48.70. So much for being natural and free!


Allison said...

I loved that book!

Avocational Singer said...

There are some considerations, according to what I've read, on running on a treadmill for a barefoot runner. (I haven't tried it yet). For one thing, the treadmill heats up, but since we're beginners, we probably wouldn't be on the treadmill long enough for that to be a problem.

The other is that the treadmill is moving and the barefoot running form involves setting the foot down ("kissing the ground" as Jason Robillard, author of a barefoot running book, calls it) and lifting up. The movement of the treadmill can mess that up a little bit and cause some rubbing and friction. There is something called a "pawback" which is a technique used on a treadmill to counteract the movement effect.

I was told by Michael Sandler -- another barefoot running author -- when I took a beginner workshop with him that it is better to start on hard smooth surfaces rather than softer ones.

I think I'm going to have to learn how to do it on a treadmill because I don't know what I'm going to do in the winter with this barefoot running stuff.