Barefooting: Day 3, Recovery

My feet in my Vibram KSOs before a run

No run today as it is a recovery day for my calves, feet and tendons. Therefore, I thought I’d take the time to give a little more background on my rational for running with minimal footwear and my experiences so far.

Low Tech is the New High Tech

When I first heard about running in Vibram FiveFinger Shoes, I was intrigued. Would they end up hurting my feet? What about using them on asphalt? Would running in them feel “natural,” or is there a learning curve?

Meanwhile, I’ve had a history of relatively minor, but persistent problems with my feet and knees. I have a bone spur in my right heel, and on two occasions (once in high school and once this past fall), my knees have swollen on the lower interior bursa sac area. As far as athletic pursuits are concerned, I’ve always figured the more padding underneath my feet, the better.

Despite my questions and medical history, running in minimal footwear has kept my interest because it just makes sense the more I’ve thought about it. Our bodies were designed to work without shoes. Plus, I’m more in favor of natural remedies as opposed to running in high-tech footwear with custom orthodics as recommended by a sports physiologist I saw a couple of weeks ago. So, when I found a pair of Vibram KSOs in stock at Mast General Store this past Saturday, I bought them with little hesitation.

Initial Experience

This past fall, I hung up my Nike Shox running shoes for good after I started experiencing a new pain in my left arch and swelling in my bursa sac on my right knee. Therefore, when I set out on my first run this past Sunday, I had a very modest goal: Get used to running in my Vibrams by running a quarter mile.

People with experience running in minimal footwear all say to start out slow. Since our feet are accustomed to shoes, our feet and legs do not have much opportunity to develop the muscle strength required for barefooting. Running barefoot, or nearly barefoot in this case, can lead to soft tissue injuries and even broken bones if you’re not careful and don’t listen to your body. On the other hand, when you take the time to listen, many report this type of exercise results in improved balance, agility and overall lower leg strength.

Here’s a breakdown of what my feet and calves have been “telling” me since I started this experiment on Sunday:

  • Day 1, Run 1 – Before I started, I wondered if it would hurt. On the road, the new gait felt natural. About halfway through, I was starting to feel it ever so slightly in my calves. Imagine walking on your tiptoes for an hour or doing twenty reps of calf raises, and you’ll have an idea of the feeling. It was over before I knew it, and I looked forward to my next mini-run.
  • Day 2, Run 2 – I followed up my first run one day later. For my second run, I went a little farther only to stop when I felt a pain in my left arch. (This was the same pain I’d started to feel with my running shoes last fall, so it didn’t discourage me from looking forward to my next run.)
  • Day 3, Recovery – Despite only running a little more than a half mile over the past two days, I’ve felt it in my feet and calves all day. It’s that “good” soreness that comes from working muscles that haven’t been worked or worked in that way for years, if ever.

Obviously, I’m no runner; however, I do enjoy running. I’m excited to see if taking it slow with barefooting will end up building up my foot and calf strength in a way that helps me overcome my nagging foot and knee problems. I look forward to hopefully sharing more of my story and experiences in the days and weeks to come.

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