I’m on my 4th week of my transition to a more minimalist running shoe and ditching the aftermarket arch supports I’ve been running in for years. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, but needed to wait until the off-season to do it so I could take it slow and allow my feet and lower legs to adapt to the new stress.
I haven’t been barefoot much for 2 years after a frustrating bout of plantar fasciitis in early 2007. I used to go barefoot always at home, but quit after that and have been shod most of the time since, except for some dabbling in my first pair of Vibram Five Finger Flows while playing with my kids or doing yard work during the past two summers.
As for my current transitional phase…
The first 2 weeks, post-Ozark Trail 100, I spent an increasing amount of time barefoot and doing things around town in the my black Vibram Five Finger KSO’s while recovering from the 100 miler. After the initial 2 weeks off running and barefoot time walking and becoming comfortable unshod again, I started to run in non-arch supports about 30 minutes every other day, with my normal running shoe set-up (e.g. arch support) on all other days.
The 2nd week of running, I kept that same regimen (every other day), but added in three 6-12 minute VFF runs at the end of my normal runs as a cooldowns in the latter part of the week (3 days in a row). I would do some total barefoot running if weather would allow, but it’s winter in full swing here right now. Anyway, by this time, I was starting to feel more comfortable without my arch supports in.
Once into week 3 of running, I ditched my arch support altogether for all my runs and got up to an 11 mile trail run in 4 inches of snow in the Badlands in minimalist shoes (A very well broken in New Balance 904 Trail with the rear half of tread cut off to lower the heel). The next day I turned around and did a 7.5 mile tempo in the Inov-8 F-lite 230—which left me with really sore calves. Part of the issue is this shoe is too narrow in the forefoot for my foot shape. I couldn’t spread my toes very well right before foot strike, which you need to do to immulate an unshod foot strike.
I took an easy day the next day and only did a 2 mile easy VFF run in the evening and felt better the next day. Still had soreness, but I chalked it up to too much, too soon and the fact that there has to be some adaptation with regard to my lower legs. With a lower heel position on foot strike, you really utilize your calves and achilles much more deeply than with a elevated-heel running shoe. So, this is just part of the adaptation my legs have to deal with. Much like your first hard downhill mountain running session to prepare your quads for 100 mile mountain races. 3-4 days of deep soreness, then they come out the other side stronger. Stress and adaptation.
This week I really felt more comfortable. I studded the forefoot of my New Balance MT100s and did a nice 8.5 miler on semi-packed snow with a quick summit of Horse Butte in the middle. The calf soreness is almost completely gone and I’m feeling more natural in the altered foot strike that the low-heeled, minimal shoe requires. Anything over 1 1/2 hours of running, I’m still planning on starting in my minimal shoe and carrying the arch supports with me just in case. Just tryin’ to keep on, keepin’ on.
Lastly…I found a very interesting article on barefoot running, running injuries, and elevated heel running shoes called Athletic Footwear and Running Injuries…interesting read. Giddyup!