Catch Up and running

By | 21st December 2009

It has been a while. We have been very busy with “life”. Things in the pipeline, Oscar, Holly’s new baby and Christmas.

In the odd moments that I have had spare (or pretended were spare), I have been reading about barefoot running. I used to be able to run reasonably well, with little preparation. However, that was back when I used to go to 2-3 Taekwondo classes a week, fairly regularly go to the gym and occasional aerobics classes (university classes, 100 girls plus me 😉 )

In recent years, whenever I have tried to run, I quickly get pain in my shins. Particularly my left one. Once the pain starts, there is nothing for it but to rest it (and ice, elevate etc which of course I do not do) and I give up. Shin pain is common in people who try to do too much exercise, too quickly.

The last couple of times, I have borne this in mind and tried to start very very gradually. I followed a “Couch to 5k” programme very carefully and gently for 4 weeks, but then the old sharp, shooting pains started and I had to quit again.

Then a friend casually mentioned some weirdo footwear called Vibram Five Fingers. Reading about those got me looking at the background of why they existed, which led naturally to barefoot running, Born to Run and a myriad of other sites so that I feel a bit overloaded with information at the moment.

A very brief summary of the concept is that we are not designed to run in modern running shoes with a big wedge of cushioning at the heel. Running without this kind of shoe automatically modifies the way you run, since it hurts to land on your heel. Instead you land on the wide part of your foot first, which spreads and your bent knees absorbs the (much smaller) impact. I won’t go into the technique because there is already a lot of information about and I’m no expert (yet?). Anyway, the idea resonated with me because of the pain I have suffered and the fact that when I have done more running it coincided with that Taekwondo which I performed…barefoot.

Also, modern opinion would be that with the problems I have suffered I should 1) see a podiatrist to get a custom orthotic insert made and 2) buy “the right” footwear

Both options are very expensive. Barefooting appeals because I’m a cheapskate. Also, anecdotal evidence suggests that it might help. There are also a number of peer-reviewed papers about it, but I can’t comment on them as I have not had time to read them yet.

Winter, especially with the unexpected snow and ice that is littering the ground at the moment, is probably not a good time to start actually going barefoot so I thought I would use what I have already. The Vibram Five Fingers are pretty expensive in their own right. However, I have something that is rather similar. When I studied Ninjutsu briefly, Hannah and I bought split-toed surf boots as a modern interpretation of tabi. They have a pretty thin, flexible sole and are very comfortable. I’ll take a picture soon.

So far I have started very slowly, just a run around the block, concentrating on form, not speed or anything else. I tend to go barefoot around the house by choice anyway, so my feet are used to being unshod. It is early days, but my feelings at the moment are positive. It feels like it is not putting the same strains on my shins.

If it feels like it is working out for me, I’ll post more.

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