The Minimalist Running Transition: Christmas update

It’s Christmas Eve, kids are in bed, and my wife and I are getting ready to settle down for a Christmas Eve movie in front of the fire with the glow of Christmas tree lights. Life is awfully good. I’m feeling mighty blessed.

So, it’s been a few days since I posted and thought I’d give a quick update on my minimalist shoe transition. Actually, I’m pretty stoked with the process so far. Starting last Friday, I decided to put in a good 7 day block of training, exclusively in minimalist shoes and Vibram Five Fingers and finish with Christmas day off and rest. Some of you may not be interested in so much detail from my 7 day training block (sorry), but I thought I’d include it in case it could be of help for someone trying to make the transition to a minimalist running shoe.

First off, I’m glad I was really careful in the first 4 week, post-100 miler with the couple weeks walking barefoot increasingly more, walking in the Vibram Five Fingers, then slowly running short stints in them and slowly weening off my arch supports over a few more weeks in minimalist shoes. I’m starting to see the fruit of my patience (which, for those who know me well, I’m not the most patient person on the block). That fruit is the culmination of a successful 7 day training block exclusively in minimalist shoes and no arch supports. I was able to run 7 days in a row for a total of 82.9 miles (90% on dirt).

Breakdown of shoes by mileage:

Breakdown of the last week by runs:

  • Friday: 16.1 mile run in NB MT100s, 1400 feet of climbing, dirt 4wd roads and trail (NOTE: This was my first longer run in a minimalist shoe since working through the transitional process of slowly weening off arch support insoles in the Brooks Launch and into the New Balance MT100 over a period of 4 weeks. 10 days prior to this run, I completely threw my arch supports aside to train all my mileage in minimalist shoes or VFFs. Besides normal maintenance runs of 5-8 miles, I’d done one 11 miler 8 days before this particular longer run in the NB MT100s…I have to admit, I was nervous on this run, but everything went smoothly.)
  • Saturday: 13.1 miles total: 10 mile fartlek trail run in NB MT100s with 800 feet of climbing, then 3.1 mile cooldown in VFFs on trail (left inside ankle…weak ankle…was a touch fatigued after this run, but it went away within an hour or two of completing the workout).
  • Sunday: 9.2 miles total: 6.2 night fartlek trail run in NB MT100s, then 3 mile cooldown in VFFs on grass and partially on paved pathway. (Since starting the transition, this was my 8th running session in VFFs and it felt great—kind of a breakthrough run where I felt smooth and light, not awkward.)
  • Monday: 8 mile fartlek trail run in NB MT100s, 800 feet of climbing with Bessie Butte summit.
  • Tuesday: 10.5 miles total: 8.4 mile tempo run in Asics HyperSpeed 3s on dirt/pavement mix, then 2.1 mile cooldown in VFFs on pavement.
  • Wednesday: 20 mile run in NB MT100s, 800 feet of climbing (with Awbrey Butte summit), mostly trail, some pavement.
  • Thursday: 6 mile trail run in VFFs (This was an awesome run, another breakthrough run in the VFFs, did a 2 mile rolling trail, then climbed up singletrack 1 mile climb on the backside of Green Mountain at sunset, then returned the same route. Feet, ankles and arches felt good. This run really had me thinking of how to incorporate some 6+ milers in the VFFs in my training).

I’m fortunate in that my time passively barefoot can be quite extensive since I work out of my house. I also got 4 runs in the VFFs this week—I’ve been consistently mixing them into my training runs the past few weeks, 3-4 times a week, 10%-15% of my weekly mileage. Both of these aspects (passive barefoot and running in the VFFs) are really doing wonders for my ankle and arch strength. I think this combo is the primary factor for the quickness of my transition to the minimalist shoes. I’m really noticing a difference walking barefoot and standing barefoot. My arches and ankles feel springy and strong and my Plantar Fasciitis tightness is gone (keep in mind, this is not actual PF, but I’ve had lingering left foot PF-type tightness since my bout in 2007). The calf soreness I had at the beginning of the transition is gone now. The calves do get tight, especially after today’s 6 mile trail run in the VFFs, but it all feels like a normal tightness. The overall adaptation seems to be moving right along. I’m pretty excited. And, just in time for Christmas!

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