The current edition of Irish Runner, published 21st February, has a feature on barefoot running. I was interviewed, along with a number of other runners, who are making the transition to barefoot running techniques and footwear. Check out an edited version of the article below, or grab a copy of Irish Runner – it’s a great value magazine with tons of Irish running news.
So after 6 months why am I still running barefoot? Isn’t it just a fad? I think the mistake many people make when they think about “barefoot running” is thinking about fears: “but my calves will hurt” or “what about broken glass on the ground” or “nobody else is doing it.” I believe you need to think about it more broadly than that – it’s more a philosophy about running technique, physiology and your mental approach rather than just the footwear.
Footwear is just a tool – in the same way you wouldn’t expect to shoot 5 birdies around Ballybunion, just because you bought Rory McIlroy’s latest set of Nike golf clubs. Without the technical skill to swing a golf club correctly, which you learn over time, and then practice a lot, you couldn’t expect to be a single handicap golfer. No matter which golf clubs or balls you use. If you’re a triathlete, think about swimming – body size, goggles or even physical fitness don’t influence performance that much. The fundamental differentiator is swimming technique. That’s why we all get swimming lessons. But how many of us ever got “running” lessons? I don’t think such a class even exists! The barefoot or natural movement philosophy addressed that gap for me.
Like many people, I read with amazement at the adventures of El Caballo Blanco in “Born to Run”. Following on from that I attended a 2 day workshop hosted by ChampionsEverywhere in Glendalough which was a really amazing experience. I learned so much about our bodies, our minds and our technical running skills. It really invigorated me to learn more. “Born to Run” might be a bit romantic, thinking we can all transform into ultra-marathon runners overnight. The Glendalough course made me understand, that yes we can achieve huge potential, but it takes time, and natural movement principles from barefoot running can help along that journey.
So what progress have I seen since then? Well, I bought 2 pairs of Vivo Barefoots and use them for over 90% of my running now. I spent at least 5 minutes a day doing various natural movement drills such as toega (toe drills) and improve my flexibility at a weekly circuits class on natural movement. I really enjoy running in my Vivos now and find them very comfortable. I can run for 1-2 hours and I don’t experience pain or discomfort after. My next big decision is when I race in them – I’m training for the Boston Marathon in April so my goal would be to have the confidence to run in them for under 3 hours. Would my technique be strong enough by then to maintain my body form and run correctly? It’s a challenge I’m committed to completing.
What have I learnt since I started my barefoot journey?
- Technique is so important to mastering any skill (whether that’s swimming freestyle or dancing Salsa)
- The sedentary ways of modern life present huge challenges to the way our bodies are designed to operate
- Our minds are so powerful – we shouldn’t set limits on what we can achieve (“the sky’s the limit”)
- The human body is an amazing piece of engineering