27 July 2011

(Almost) Barefoot Bliss

I'm a big fan of my Vibrams.

I wasn't sure at first what it would feel like, but it feels like...nothing. Like freedom. I went from a heel striker to a forefoot striker. My feet feel like they float through the air.

But I'm not a 100% Vibram gal.

My Vibram journey began two years ago when out in Palo Alto, I made a pilgrimage to the amazing Zombie Runner store. I bought a bunch of gels, some dorky running books, and decided to try on a pair of Vibrams. This was when they weren't pretty and pink, but I still was intrigued. Intrigued enough that I forked over my credit card.

I started out slow. A few random runs here and there...but you have to start on small mileage. And I don't usually run for just a mile. So it was hard.

And then it got cold. I can't wear Vibrams in temperatures under 40 - you feel it. Especially after getting frostbite this year, I know I have to be very mindful of the temperatures. You feel the cold a lot more. (And the heat, as I learned when running in mid-90s temps on blacktop.)

But then spring came again...and I built up. Small runs, and then I tried a 4 miler. Ow, a little too much. I decided to, at the end of my runs, go home, pull on the vibrams, and do the last mile or two in them. And that really helped. I built up slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly. I'd do my second, shorter run of the day in them. I maintained using them over the winter by using them on the elliptical at the gym, doing short runs in Florida in them.

I'm up to 11 miles at the most in them. I start to feel the ground more, especially at the end, notice my form. 

But I don't do all my runs in them.

Why? Trails - I stub my toe enough, feel every rock/root enough, so I don't want to wear Vibrams for this.I also have a noticeable issue with foot swelling in ultras - I want to feel comfortable wearing sneakers.

Right now, depending upon my week, I do 10-30% of my mileage in my Vibrams. That feels good. It feels right. It's been a slow build to this point, and that's what I'd encourage anyone out there wanting to try barefoot running.

You'll feel the ground much more. Start out on fields, if you have access to them. My favourite place to run is on an astroturf field (that I do mid-run, but oh, how lovely it feels! Like running on a cloud...).

I was doing 70 minutes the other day when I saw a guy running completely barefoot down Kent Avenue (a fairly dirty street). My Vibrams felt like combat boots compared to him.

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