I really had a small “Ah-Ha” moment today. After the 16 miler yesterday in the New Balance MT100s, I got up and ran a 10 mile trail run again this morning in them. Then, immediately at the trailhead, swapped to my Vibram Five Finger Flows and cruised another 5k for a cooldown in the woods. I’m beginning to see that barefoot running sessions mixed in are a must. They do a few simple things that I find essential:
1) They remind you of true proper form (as your feet lack sensory perception in shoes and drift off into laziness). You have to land on your midfoot and under your center of gravity and cannot overstride—ever.
2) The obvious one—strengthens your feet and lower legs.
3) Once you get past the “oh man, it hurts to run without shoes” adaptation phase, you learn to strike extremely lightly (even if you thought you were a light striker, this will take you to a new level of lightness).
Now, I know you hardcore barefooters out there are “in the know” already on all this jive. And, don’t necessarily think that VFFs are true barefoot running. I feel you. But, I do live in Central Oregon and it is winter—so, having 3mm of Vibram under my feet and some neoprene on top is pretty darn nice. Plus, I have a lifetime of lazy, weak feet from wearing shoes on these old dogs and I still want to race hard in at least 6 ultras this season. I’ll take my less-than-hardcore-balanced-variety-and-moderation approach, with the added benefit of not dealing with accidental cuts on my feet to set back my training.
All in all, I look forward to continuing to ramp up the VFF sessions this season. I want to work up to longer ones (10-15 miles). After some of my excited blabbering about the transition and the role of the VFFs to Teague at FootZone, he mentioned he might add a VFF category to the Dirty Half this year. Hmm, half marathon trail race in the VFFs…and I have ’til June to get ready. Giddyup!