So I have registered all three of us for parkrun, and we will go do it in a few weeks time at Temple Newsam Park in Leeds.
I have been thinking a lot about technique and barefoot running lately. I would love to go for a proper run without any shoes and see how my technique stands up. But unlike Dylan, I have delicate feet with too-soft skin and I *need* shoes! I think finding a big stretch of sandy beach is the way to do this. Perhaps combining a day out to the seaside with a bit of an experiment in barefoot running? (Watch this space!)
I want to tell you about my friend, Ang, who has been running approximately 2-3 years now, and is another minimalist running shoe user. She shares similar values to me and believes heel striking can cause injury and is a result of the big shoe manufacturers, making shoes (and making MONEY!) with huge padded heels, changing the way we naturally run. We have adapted to run in these shoes with all this padding and we pay an awful lot to do so. (We have developed a heel striking technique *because* these shoes encourage us to do so. This means we tend to land on our heel, the leg is fairly straight and the impact travels straight up the leg to the knee/hip and putting these joints at risk). Anyway, she has run with minimalist shoes, with a fore/mid foot strike (ie a proper technique!*) for 2-3 years now and concentrated on posture/technique. She has not had a single injury. Not one. I know some people are luckier than others and I do accept that running, however you do it, is a high impact movement and some injuries are going to fall to some unfortunate people. But they should not be a given. You should not expect to be injured at some point soon, because you run. There are things you can do to minimise the chances of this, that do not involve spending a fortune on branded footwear whose products are arguably *causing* some of these injuries.
I know some people will worry about barefoot running (or running with a barefoot technique in minimalist shoes!) because it isn't mainstream, it isn't talked about by the staff in the running shop (selling you the shoes!) and it isn't a major talking point in a running magazine. There is a reason for this - there is little money in barefoot running. There are few products that can be marketed at the barefoot runner. Companies cannot easily make money out of it, it is natural and you do not need to spend money to do it. Those in the know feel passionately about it. They do it because it feels right, it makes sense and it was how we were meant to run. You won't see it in the mainstream magazines, shops, websites, because there are not huge brands behind it, promoting it and funding research into it. Of course some clever people have realised this and invented the minimalist shoes (Vibrams, Vivo, Inov8 and even Nike/New Balance!!)... but still it is a relatively small part of the running shoe market. Some major running shops don't stock any minimalist shoes and it is still very much about finding your shoes over the Internet! But thank goodness they have - I do believe there are more and more runners out there, checking their technique, doing their own research and voting with their feet - yes literally.... More and more runners who might not be *quite* barefoot, but who run with a far better, more natural technique and more importantly, they are avoiding injury and enjoying running more.
I run regularly with Ang and our friend Lucy, who is in the process of converting to minimalist running shoes, having worn them for a while for non-running activities. And of course Dylan is a complete convert and occasionally he does run barefoot. It's catching. It makes sense. Watching and waiting for it to become a more mainstream activity. Watching and waiting for more people to catch on and choose an enjoyable activity without fear of pain or injury. You possibly didn't read it here first, but I can still store up a 'I told you so' for the future *winks*.
*'Proper technique' was a topic of conversation today during our 6 mile run. In my mind and in the mind of others who opt for the barefoot way, this means running naturally, in the way we were designed. Running because we want to get around quickly and therefore having need to avoid injury, which would put us out of action. So, this is my understanding of how barefooters/minimalists run:
- Your foot hits ground, beneath your body, midfoot first. Knee is bent, and heel comes down after. The impact is absorbed through the foot, then the heel and because the knee is bent and your weight is over your foot, the impact does not jolt any of the joints. It's fairly important to ensure your heel touches the ground and your knee is bent. This is apparently a common problem for runners changing from heel striking to forefoot striking. (However if you ran barefoot from the time you could walk, your would naturally do this!)
- Your body is aligned because your core is pulled in (not super tight, but mid-way), your shoulder blades are pulled back and your chin is slightly tucked in. You head looks ahead but does not jut out ahead of you. You do not lean into your movement (you might find this comes more naturally if you are familiar with Pilates).
- You are light on your foot and your step is short because you are not stretching your straightened leg out ahead as you would with a heel strike.
It was nice to watch Dylan run from afar today (after he legged it with longer-legged Lucy!!), as his technique is great and all of the above. I will video it at some point soon (along with a 'Happy Dance'!) What is even nicer is that both Is and T do this too, because they have never worn thick soled shoes which has changed the way they should be moving.