My ‘barefoot’ shoes

I wrote a few days ago about deciding to buy some ‘barefoot’ shoes, specifically the Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove.  After so much enjoying a couple of cautious runs sock-foot, I was really hoping that the barefoot shoes would feel that good.  I loved the look of them straight out of the box.  They are incredibly light, and I think much more stylish and less clunky-looking than most running shoes.  Maybe I’m just vain, but I always feel vaguely frumpy doing errands in my tennis shoes, whereas I’d be delighted to be seen out and about in these shoes.

The standard advice regarding running shoes is to buy a half size larger than usual, so per that advice I’ve been buying an 8.5 in other running shoes.  But I took a chance and bought these in an 8 and they fit perfectly.  Plenty of room in the toe box, with good flexibility, and just enough ease in the elastic at the heel to feel comfortable and secure

As I first walked in the shoe, it felt like the sole under the front half of my foot was thicker than the heel, but I realized it felt that way simply because almost all my other shoes have a heel lift. After a few hours of wearing the shoes, I got used to the feeling.

My first run in the shoes felt good– not quite as free feeling as running in my socks, I admit.  (I may still take an occasional short run sock-foot just for the fun of it.)  But these new shoes are light-years more flexible and quick than large stiff ‘normal’ shoes.  And I loved the sturdy protection of the Vibram soles.  No worrying about puncture weed when running in these.

Since I got the shoes a couple weeks ago, I’ve mostly been limiting myself to runs of a mile or less. I’m concentrating on quick light small steps, upright posture, bent knees and quick foot-lifts.   When I start to get tired, it gets harder to run with good form (my feet start wanting to slap the ground) so I’m just taking it slow.  I have had only mild sore muscles in my calves and tops of feet with these new shoes, and my plantar fasciitis is improving week by week.  Once it is gone all the way, I’ll see if I can gradually up my miles.

What’s most amazing to me is that I am markedly faster in these shoes.  I can run a 10-minute mile pretty easily.  And the other day I did 3 quarter-mile intervals (with walks in between) at around an 8:30 pace.  A personal best.  Running is just plain easier with less shoe.  I’ll try to remember to update you in a month or so, but so far I am feeling very optimistic that these shoes are a move in the right direction for me.

 

 

{ 7 Comments }

  1. A couple of months ago I went to a running store for the first time and spent a pretty penny on my first pair of running shoes! I used them for about a month and hate them! They are way to heavy. Maybe I will try for the barefoot type. I am not a runner in any way, shape or form but I would like to be! What do you recommend that really helped you get started?

    • For me it started with finally getting motivated. I started thinking about the possibility of grandbabies, and realized that I really, really wanted to be the fit, energetic type of grandma, not one who could barely get up off the floor after playing with them. Then I just took it one teeny step at a time. Literally.

      I began with the Couch to 5K program, which has you start by walking, with short bursts of running. We’re talking running maybe a minute or two at a time, which was plenty challenging for me then. I think beginning gradually kept me from getting hurt early on, and got me used to having exercise as a habit. That is a huge thing all by itself.

      If you do decide to get barefoot shoes, do some reading about form (here’s a start: http://www.joelbdalley.com/page.pl?61 ) and start running really really slowly. You may even need to begin by running in them only once or twice a week. Your feet and legs will need time to build strength since most likely you have worn shoes for a good portion of your life. Good luck!

  2. I too do all of my workouts in barefoot shoes (I use the Vibram fivefingers). It’s amazing how my joints no longer hurt, how much faster I am and yes how much fancier I feel. 😉

  3. It’s amazing how much easier running is in the lighter, more flexible shoes isn’t it?? Just a warning though, goatheads/puncture vine have gotten through the Vibram soles for me(though I have the non-treaded version). They obviously don’t get me as much as totally bare feet would, but it’s enough that I pause for a sec to yank it out(and then skirt the weeds more carefully!).

  4. Fun! Fun!! Warning, the pain in the top of the feet can be from still impacting too hard. I had that some until I went to completely barefoot. 🙂

  5. Hooray for new shoes! 🙂 I too have the Vibram FiveFingers and love them. After trying different types of shoes, these felt the most comfortable. (Perhaps it helped that I’ve gone barefoot for most of my life?) The FiveFingers are goofy-looking, yes, but they really do “fit like a glove” and I haven’t gotten ANY blisters or sore spots from them. Sore muscles, on the other hand… 😉

    Please let us know how your new shoes work for you!

  6. As a podiatrist I can tell you that we see many patients in clinic who have used barefoot shoes and have suffered ankle sprains and other injuries. Barefoot runners who heel strike have loading rates that are about double those of shod runners who are landing on the heel. However in a recent study I read a group of 100 runners, every single one benefited from barefoot running as a training method. It changes muscle activation patterns, strengthens muscles and tendons that we don’t activate nearly as well in shoes, may be an effective form of rehabilitation, and it’s really enjoyable. However just be careful the surfaces you run and and make sure your nor a over pronater or over supinater.