5 Mistakes Barefoot Runners Make

  1. English: Illustration of the pain pathway in R...
    English: Illustration of the pain pathway in René Descartes’ Traite de l’homme (Treatise of Man) 1664. The long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head is pulled by the heat and releases a fluid that makes the muscles contract. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Running on the Tips of the Toes
    Tippy Toe running will chew up your calves and achilles; it will also hammer agonizing spikes of torment into your sensitive metatarsals. (As the illustration shows, it may also activate the long fiber running from the foot to the cavity in the head to release a fluid that makes the muscles contract. It may also disrupt one of the four humors, thereby requiring bloodletting to restore balance). So, don’t run on your toes. Your heel should touch the ground, but it shouldn’t be the first part to strike the ground.

  2. Too Much Too Soon (TMTS)
    This doesn’t only apply to those who scamper the streets without shoes. It applies to everyone who races on foot. If pain darts through your lower leg, then you’re rushing your training. This is the most frustrating aspect of barefoot running. It’s taken me a few years to develop enough foot strength to run reasonable distances. Even a mile barefoot walk can give some people issues. It takes time, but your body will adapt. Persistence, not distance is the key. BTW, I cross train with Pilates and I do High Intensity Interval Workouts on my non run days. When I was injured, I still exercised I was even able to adapt some of the cardio HICT moves.
  3. Running Straight Barefoot without Sandals or “Barefoot Shoes”
    There is nothing wrong with wearing sandals or truly minimalist shoes, such as Merrill foot gloves. I do most of my running in sandals, not only because the streets in my neighborhood are brimming with tiny stone spikes (pain pyramids), but also because I enjoy the jaunty style. Let’s face it, even the Tarahumara Indians run in sandals. Most runners do not expose their naked feet to the scraggy pavement. If you live in California or some other place that offers sunshine and smooth streets, you may ignore the previous sentence, but if, like me, you live in Oregon or a place with rough streets,  heed my warning. I do enjoy running completely barefoot now and again, but most of the time, I gallop about in sandals.
  4. Monotonous, Plodding Gait 
    The main benefit from barefoot running is the ability to connect with the planet as it spins around the sun. But that doesn’t mean that you should copy your stride over and over again, every step of the way. It is important to change pace and gait occasionally, especially on longer runs. Sometimes, I run like a gazelle, skipping my body along the dirt trail, other times I run like a cross country skier, gliding myself over the long asphalt road. I often do interval sprints from power line to power line; other times I just jog at slow to go pace. I have even been known to twirl myself like flamenco dancer; now and then, I even begin or end my runs with a flashy cartwheel.
  5. Giving Up Too Soon
    Because it takes some time to develop foot strength, many runners give barefoot running a try for a month or two. Usually, they end up getting top of foot pain, achilles pain, calf injury, or shin splints. That’s when they give up and write articles such as “Dangers of Barefoot Running”. While you should not run through real pain, barefoot running does hurt a little. Progress doesn’t happen in the “comfort zone.” Getting past the initial aches is part of the fun. Think of the discomfort as friendly college hazing from the barefoot running gods. Like all gods, they require sacrifice. The oblation of pain, is a small price for many joyful secrets the gods will share with you.
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