This week has been full of barefoot revelations for myself. First off, my Merrell Trail Glove shoes no longer fit. I tried to put them on before heading to the podiatrist on Tuesday and I was barely able to slip them on past my metatarsals. While I did manage to literally squeeze my foot into one, I immediately took it off due to the sheer pain it was causing. It was my first time trying to put them on in probably a month or more, so I either have completely outgrown them (and Merrell does not make/recognize the need for wider widths) or I need to re-lace them again. I have a feeling my feet no longer fit into them and despite what the podiatrist said, I am pretty sure it’s not because my feet are swollen and if they are, the swelling is so minimal I cannot tell. So, I am now out of shoes and need to purchase more in preparation for my mud runs later this year. I like to barefoot run but the waivers for these runs strongly advise against doing them barefoot since there is stuff like barbed wire involved. I am considering buying the following:
Vibrams are dead last on my list because I have debated for the last four years about buying some and if I have not done so by now, I doubt I will in the next four months. I would love to replace or even fit back into my Merrells but I do not think that will be an option unless they release larger widths — another thing I do not see happening at all. So revelation one: barefoot running can somewhat increase the size of your foot on multiple planes. This means if you want to do this, expect your regular shoes to potentially no longer fit. The only shoes I have not outgrown during my barefoot run ‘career’ are my sandals — although the podiatrist said they are too narrow — and my extra wide motorcycle boots (which I no longer wear because they cause leg imbalances leading to MCL strains).
My next revelation is this: habitual forefoot strikers are going to always experience a minimal amount of foot pain and soreness. Of course, the soreness is a given since you are pounding your foot directly into the ground for your run. I have always been a forefoot striker ever since my days in school when I played football and ran track; my shoes have always worn through on the toes more quickly than anywhere else. On my barefoot runs, I notice that I strike quite prominently on the balls of my feet and depending on my pace, hardly ever have my heels touching the ground. The latter part is a surefire disaster waiting to happen and I am working on it. I am finding it very difficult to re-train my gait to pull back a bit and land more stably on my midfoot, I suspect this will be true for any runners who spent an extended amount of training focusing only on speed — there is a reason my coaches told me to do one thing on kick-offs “get to the player before the ball does”. Since I am now a member of the GFLRRC, I will make my best attempts to hit the FAU track to work with the coach and see what kind of tips he can offer me.
But I noticed something strange last week during the Levis JCC 5k, when I was pounding down the first two miles, I landed predominantly on my midfoot with some mild rolling to the outside of my foot. It was only when I started to slow down from the 180BPM pace did I start landing on my forefoot and noticing more strain placed on my muscles. Scott Jurek was certainly right: focus on at least 90 steps per minute with each leg (cf. Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body, it’s a better read than people give Ferriss credit for). If I can focus at least 80%-90% of my training at that speed, I am pretty sure I will be pumping out a much better track time next month at the ING Miami Marathon Kick-off 5k.
The last thing I have finally
learned convinced myself of: running on concrete is always going to hurt. It is hard, not spongy, and abrasive. Sure, the soles of my feet are very smooth, yet tough, thanks to the exfoliating they get every time I run but I just need to realize that it is a crappy surface to run on. I hate running on it but unlike grass, it does not conceal broken glass or dog poop so it is a pretty safe surface to run on. But now my running partner and I are running at a local park and it is more enjoyable since we are not dodging cars any more, just frisbees from all the ultimate frisbee/frisbee golf players at the park.
Got another barefoot run tonight and then it is Tijuana Thursday time! I will stuff my gullet with a humongous salad from Tijuana Flats, covered with an insane amount of tomatoes and onions. YUM!