Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wearing shoes again

So after the Half I did what I always do after a race- I completely stop running.  I can see I improve over the months & years but I would probably improve a lot faster if I didn't lose all motivation to run every few months. I ran 8 miles a few weeks ago and 3 miles today.

The 8-miler a few weeks ago ended in quite literally, bloody disaster.  I ran on a really rough trail (cheap and seal asphalt) after having done little barefoot running in the month or so before that.... because I ended up running my 16-miler and half in Merrell Trail Gloves and what do you KNOW when you don't condition your soles you can get blisters when you run 8 miles on rough surfaces.  I looked like an idiot hobbling, whining, EXTREMELY slowly for the last 2 miles to the end of the trail after I totally thrashed my soles.  Some other British runners who my running partner and I had passed even got to see my shame and suggest, "Maybe wear some trainers next time?" Yes.  Probably next time I will wear some "trainers".  I wanted to yell at them that I had run nearly twice this distance with no pain before but its useless... but once you're the insane barefoot runner who runs until her feet are slinging blood splatters all over your ankles there isn't much you can say.

You see, I've only been running for a few years. I am by no means a running expert.  I started running in Vibram Fivefinger Sprints with the Couch to 5k program in March 2011... by the time I was running ten miles I had some pain in the tops of my feet (where the straps were) so I took my shoes off.  It felt great.  I learned about barefoot running and decided to see how far I could take it.  In August 2011 I started building up to 3-4 miles and I had blisters. I read about form... a million things... high cadence, soft feet, relaxed legs, lean forward, etc... and it got better.  I could run 6-10 miles easily barefoot for a couple of years. I stopped wearing shoes.  I still got injured.  A few times I bloodied my big toes and though about putting shoes back on but even the minimalist Vibrams weren't as comfortable as being barefoot.  Even my everyday walking around shoes became uncomfortable... anything with a structured sole or the slightest heel was uncomfortable.  It wasn't that big of a deal.  I wore ballet flats and flip-flops and continued to run barefoot.

I also continued to have bad experiences.  My first half marathon was a trail race.  Filled with sticks and tiny rocks and root and slabs of rocks and more roots.  By mile 9 my feet were bruised to hell and I put on my Vibram Bikilas to finish.  It was not a fun race.  I decided to at least wear minimal shoes for trails longer than 10ks.  Trails weren't always miserable barefoot- mud and soft pine needles on dirt are actually quite wonderful to run on barefoot.  I broke in minimal shoes on the road and started running more 50% shoes and 50% barefoot.  My last half was in shoes and it felt great, physically.  I don't think they are quite the right shoes (Merrell Trail Gloves) because they give me achilles pain I don't have when barefoot but I also don't have to constantly be looking out for surface dangers that I would need to be wary of when barefoot.  I ran my 3 miler today in Vibram Bikilas and it felt pretty good.

I feel like the barefoot running community is not as upfront about the injuries that come along with it.  Sure, you probably won't have shin splints or as many knee problems and for me it was the most comfortable way to run for a long time.  But after the blister fiasco from the 8 mile run a few weeks ago I have to wonder if I'm just trading some injuries for others.  I think I will probably always do some mileage barefoot because I still enjoy it but my running goals aren't based around that anymore.  I want to go farther and faster.  I am about to start training for my first marathon- Big Sur 2014.  I'm sure I could do it barefoot; I think I might have a little more fun and achieve loftier speed goals if I put some (minimalist) shoes on. So that's what I'm doing for now.


  1. there are plenty of warnings from the bf community but no one ever listens. take it slow and easy doesn't mean run a half in 3 months. it means basically start from zero. you can't learn to run with proper form and expect to get faster. learn proper form and speed will come. there's nothing wrong with wearing shoes just make sure to keep your form in check. if they affect your form then they're not the right shoes.
    you must decide what's more important. wearing shoes and going faster or learning proper form and becoming faster. it's got to be either racing or form. racing will take focus away from form.

  2. I've been running barefoot for nearly 3 years... I certainly didn't build up to running a half in 3 months, not sure where you read that. I spent probably 6 months building up to 3-4 miles barefoot and another 6 months to get to 10 mile-half distance with lots of backing off and building back up after that time. I think some barefoot running is good for everyone. For my goals right now it's not what I'm going to be spending the majority of my miles doing.

    1. well i don't know what the hell was up my keister that day. i certainly didn't just read the same thing i did when i first commented. i hope my whiny over dramatization didn't affect you too much.
      forgive me. as you can see i'm far from perfect and am working on keeping my mouth shut but it's a struggle to change bad habits like that.

    2. No worries, dude! I do agree with a lot of your post- I'm dealing with finding the "right" shoe now and I definitely feel like just tossing the shoes and going barefoot. In fact, I might do just that today! I've been doing my marathon training in Vibram Bikilas I had laying around and I'm having.... not pain, but the beginnings of pain on my inner ankle below the big angle bone. I'm hoping its not PF :(. I have an appointment with a physical therapy place that has distance runners on staff and I'm hoping they can tell me where I am weak form and body-wise and tell me what I can do to prevent injury during this training. As long a it doesn't include things like "motion-control", "stability", "in-soles" or "stop running" of course.

  3. I hear yeah about the motivation. While I don't typically crash and burn after races, usually quite the opposite, but after I did my first marathon I really have went into a slump with a few weeks of no miles. Havent quite pulled myself out of that yet.

    About the injuries... I don't think any of us are withholding the truth about injuries any more than anyone else does. Blisters are quite a frequent and popular topic, complete with pictures and in some cases video. :/ Are you just reading the praises of barefoot running and not all the topics of problems and issues? I started running barefoot myself September 2011 and I have only ever had like 2 blood blisters and maybe 2 very minor blisters that didnt even bubble up. But I dont usually do much barefoot trail running, I stick mainly to roads / paved trails. Have never tried a trail race yet. But I've cranked out sub 20 minute 5k and close to hitting 1:30 half, so while I am no elite and not a very experienced runner either, I'd say I'm doing pretty good, and doing it barefoot.

    Its a tradeoff from protection underfoot and toe stubbing, for natural form. On my last trip to the mountains, I did stub the same pinky tow a few times, though I have never stubbed a toe running. Thought I broke it / would loose the nail a couple times, but all was fine, just had to get through the initial pain. I also strained my big toe once running, and before it was recovered I stepped on a rock right under the same toe and thought I broke it. It took a month but it was fine. So I've had my share of minor injuries, though overall I've been better off than I was shod with shin splints and plantar fasciitis, not to mention tougher and with much cooler and less stinky feet.

    Good luck, be it bare, shod, or somewhere in between!