Thursday, 5 January 2012

To barefoot or not to barefoot?

As I've been unable to run, I've spent most of the Christmas break reading about running, or looking longingly out of the window wishing I could be out there racing through the wind and rain.

Having been good enough for Santa to bring me a Kindle, I decided to download Barefoot Ken Bob's book "Barefoot Running Step by Step", which I have been reading avidly for the past few days.  It's been a bit of a revelation (and I haven't even finished it yet!).

Firstly, there are a few paragraphs about the transition to barefoot running using Vibrams.  The paragraphs could be describing me:
"Although running on your toes can seem fun and exhilarating for a while, it can lead to stubbed toes, blisters, and metatarsal stress fractures (a too common malady particularly striking in beginning Vibram/minimalist footwear runners"
Here, Ken Bob is talking about the 1-2-3 (ball, toe, heel) technique.  This is ringing bells in my head.  I'm having a lightbulb moment.  I was running on the balls of my feet only.  When my calves were aching a bit (Ken says if they're aching, you need to tweak your technique, or stop), I did lower my heels a little more, but I thought this was wrong, and would produce a shock impact, so I tried really hard not to put my heels down at all.  In fact, the foot should land with the ball a split second before the heel or toes follow, thus reducing impact whilst then quickly spreading the weight across the whole foot.

The next interesting thing is that Ken says you should learn to run barefoot with nothing on your feet at all, and on the most uncomfortable surface you can find.  That way, you will learn to create the most gentle running experience possible, in order to avoid any pain.  It is this technique that leads to significant improvement in form.

The last thing I want to mention at this stage is cadence.  I've read before that a good running cadence is 180bpm, and I've even once or twice tried to find music tracks with the right bpm to run to, without success.  Yesterday, I had a proper look for this beat, and the reason it's difficult to find is because it is phenominally fast.  At Ken's suggestion, I took to my exercise bike this morning (not one of my favourite activities), and I tried to pedal at 90rpm (the equivalent of 180bpm when running).  I was astounded at how fast it is.  I certainly worked up a good sweat in the 10 minutes I did, something I've never really done before on an exercise bike - I was clearly just plodding along before at around 60rpm.

The question now is whether I want to pursue this barefoot lark.  I know my friends and relatives will think I'm bonkers.  My OH is supportive, though concerned about the combination of feet on stones and broken glass, which I too would be worried about - though a little less now I've read some of Ken's book.

Ideally, I'd have a hidden bit of gravel in the back garden where I can make a start in private.  Perhaps the winter isn't the best time of year either - I could certainly get away with running up and down the road with my son barefoot in the summer.

Barefoot Ken's feet after 10 miles of gravel
Oh, and I don't blame the Vibrams for my injury.  I just wish I'd read Ken's book first.

No comments:

Post a Comment