Tag Archives for " Natural Running "

2 Barefoot/Minimalist Discussion Panel, March 10th

Teague at FootZone in downtown Bend is putting on a Barefoot Minimalist Discussion Panel this Wednesday evening, March 10, 2010 at 6:30pm at FootZone. Panel will include runners Max King and myself, Physical Therapist Mike Tompkins of Rebound Physical Therapy, and Teague Hatfield (footwear buyer and owner of FootZone). We will be talking about taking a common sense approach to using your feet more and your shoes less.  Come join us and learn from the experiences of others—what to expect and how to avoid injury. Come join us—giddyup!

23 How-to Transition to Running in Minimalist Shoes

I’ve had several questions about my minimalist transition, how to’s, etc. So I thought I’d look back and try to put it in a generalized “how-to” post, based on my experience. With the benefit of hindsight, I put it into a generic 8 week program to be full time in a minimalist shoe in 2 months. I personally made the full transition in 6 weeks, but please keep in mind, I’m an ultrarunner and typically run a minimum of 2000 miles a year, compete in a least 6 ultramarathon races per year and have been doing this for nearly a decade. So, my transition may be a bit quicker than most. However, if you spend time barefoot and re-learn your proper running stride (barefoot), listen to your body and don’t overdue it giving your body time to adapt, I truly believe you can do this. And, it won’t take as long as you might think. Happy natural running!

So, here’s generally the concept behind my transition from the Brooks Launch with a beefy arch support insole (basically an over the counter soft orthotic), to a minimalist 7+ ounce trail flat with just the flat, stock insole it comes with (e.g. NB MT100 or the Inov8 x-talon 212)…

Week 1 and 2:

I started spending time barefoot (around the house, wore Vibram Five Fingers around town to run errands, etc.). If I felt discomfort in my feet or arches, I put on arch supported sandals (Montrail flip-flops, Birkenstocks, etc.) and wore them the remainder of the day (first day was maybe 30 minutes before I put on sandals). I did this mainly around the house. Then, repeated this regimen every day until I could go all day barefoot without discomfort).

During this time, I ran every other run (never back to back days) in a minimalist shoe, half of my normal run time. (Example: if my typical daily run is 1 hour, 6 days a week: I ran every other 3 days in my normal running shoes for 1 hour, and the other 3 days , I bumped back my volume and ran 30 minutes every other day in the minimalist shoe.)

Also, during this time, I rolled my foot and arches on a golf ball every evening and worked on keeping my heel on the floor while picking up and dropping the golf ball repeatedly (at different angles…to the side, straight on, etc.). At first, my arch would cramp and couldn’t even pick it up with my left foot (my weaker foot that pronates more). But with time, I could pick up the golf ball with any of my toes (big toes, outside little toes, etc.). I also worked on curling and flexing and spreading my feet and toes…which I do often when sitting at my computer or driving after long runs back from the trailhead (barefoot).

Week 2 and 3:

By this time, I was spending a lot of non-running time comfortably barefoot. When I did wear casual shoes, I felt constricted and my feet wanted out. I immediately flipped off shoes when I walked in the door. My feet and ankles started feeling stronger…and springy. I started to introduce a Vibram Five Finger cooldown run at the end of my every other 3 day minimalist 30 minute run sessions. First day was 6 minutes in the VFFs and my feet were sore after 6 minutes. I kept adding a few minutes every run in them until I could run a 20 minute cooldown in them comfortably.

In my personal opinion, these were key sessions. This really started to work on proper natural (barefoot) running form required to run in a minimalist shoe and not get injured. That meant working on no overstriding, a midfoot strike, heel kiss the ground slightly, bent knees, running light…really using your leg bend, and ankle/achilles/calf flex to absorb shock.  I had some calf/achilles soreness during this period, but I kept stretching consistently and eventually the soreness passed. Plus, remember, these sessions were every other day, so my body had time to heal and adapt before the stress of the next session.

Week 5 and 6:

Still barefoot as much as possible in casual time. I started to gradually increase my minimalist run sessions to more days a week and more time for each run (slowly…no more than 5-10 minutes more each run). I’m only running my once per week long run in my old running shoe set-up and they feel weird and clunky and VERY heavy. I was now running about 40-60 minutes 5+ days a week in the minimalist shoes with a 20 minute VFF cooldowns at the end. In this week, I replaced one of my run days with strictly a VFF run of 30 minutes. I’m having fun and feeling more comfortable in the VFFs and I’m looking forward to the “adventure” in them when I go out. In the 6th week, I do my first VFF “longer” trail run  of about 55 minutes (on singletrack with part of it on snow). I have a blast! My feet are slightly tender the last 10 minutes of the run (as it was frozen ground), but they’re fine the next day.  I’m now solidly running 3 (sometimes 4) sessions in the VFFs per week in the form of either a long cooldown (15-25 minutes) or at least one run per week as a VFF-only run of 30-50 minutes. The VFFs are in my bag on long run days and I switch into them to wear home after my weekly long trail run. I found that if I put on a shoe, especially after my long run days, my arches and foot get Plantar Fasciitis symptoms. (NOTE: I believe this is because of restricted movement, post-run, as your feet need to stretch out and move and wiggle, just like stretching and shaking out your legs). So, I usually choose to either drive home after long runs completely barefoot, or wear VFFs so they can flex and stretch.

Week 7 and 8:

My minimalist epiphany: Ongoing and required to stay minimalist…barefoot as much as possible in casual time and HAVE to run a few days a week in the Vibram Five Fingers or barefoot (once the weather allows) to keep form dialed in and ongoing strengthening in the lower legs and feet. I think of them as basically form drills.

At this point (as well as moving forward in the future), I’m running at least 2 days a week in the VFFs for barefoot form reminders and general strengthening (plus I wear them around town sometimes for running errands), not counting a cooldown or two…my general rule is 3 sessions per week in them. These VFF running sessions vary from 15-60 minutes, depending on if it’s a cooldown or a recovery run day where I’m strictly in them as my run for the day. During this two week span, I bumped back my long run day to a normal 1 hour run and transitioned ALL my runs in the minimalist shoes. Now over the coming weeks, I start to build my weekly long run (and one other run per week) in order to get my old running volume back in the minimalist footwear.

So, that’s my experience, I just ran a 50k trail race in minimalist shoes and had no issues. I’m totally psyched to be in light shoes and look forward to my time running in the Five Fingers each week. They really, really help form and strength on my easy run days. So, I hope that helps somebody out there free their feet and go minimalist and tap into their natural running form. Have fun and Giddyup!

16 Minimalist Footwear: Evolution Theory

Sorry for the lull in posts the past week—I’ve been slammed with work and have neglected the blog and running (longest being 5.1 miles). So, I have a question…

What does Minimalist Footwear mean?

Light shoes? Non-supportive shoes? Vibram Five Fingers? A close friend  and I were talking about this recently. This good friend, Teague, owns a local running specialty store (FootZone) and has been in business in Bend for over 13 years. I appreciate his perspective. He’s been around the block when it comes to footwear. So, what does minimalist footwear mean? His opinion—it depends. “What do you mean,” I asked.

Before I give his answer, I should state that the reason I like Teague—besides our similar tastes in Thump’s cappuccinos, good micro brews, and bluegrass—he’s balanced and grounded. He has an interesting perspective compared to most running store owners. For one, he’s embraced the minimalist running movement by carrying a solid selection of minimalist footwear, including road, trail, and VFFs. And two, he puts up with my newest-and-greatest-epiphany or rant against mandatory vaccinations and water fluoridationdon’t even get me started!

So, what’s Teague’s take?

At the end of the day, minimalist shoes can vary, depending on you (the individual), the terrain you run on, and where you are personally as a minimalist runner. For example, take a theoretical 6″3″, 200+ pound dude who’s been running in a Brook’s Beast and is transitioning to the Brooks Cascadia—is the Cascadia considered a minimalist shoe? In my book and most others, absolutely not…but to Brook’s Beast dude, probably. Could he go to an even more minimalist shoe? Of course. But, for now that shoe is minimalist to him. So, it really depends on your personal evolution as a runner. There are always going to be folks who never get past the orthotics, pronation control and the beefy, high-heeled running shoe—who never will want to take the time to push themselves out of their comfort zone to adapt and will continue believing they need to be corrected in order to run properly. And if they don’t take the time to re-learn, they probably should be corrected.

I have to agree, on a basic level, with Teague. Will I accept it? You know I won’t, Teague. If I can convert just one more to the minimalist cause with my rants to anyone who’ll listen—well, all the better. For me, it’s a natural progression back to how I was designed to run—an awakening, so to speak. Yes, that newest-and-greatest-epiphany. Your barefeet, re-learning and listening to your feet—not putting them in a cast. And, to answer my wife’s recent question—NO, minimalist running DOES NOT mean less shoes, just really cool lightweight ones. 🙂 Speaking of, I can’t wait to break in the fresh new pair of Inov8 X-Talon 212s on tomorrow’s trail run—thanks to my good friend at the FootZone. Giddyup!

4 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!

8 Minimalist Running—tapping into your natural runner

I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalist running lately and the way we are built for running. Also, I’ve been contemplating our “holistic” running system (nutrition, feet, breathing, and mind). I’m in the off-season and this is a time of year I reflect.

I just started running again after some short time off after Ozark Trail 100 and I’m using this time to transition to a more minimalist running shoe. I’ve already been dabbling in the Vibram Five Fingers. I walk around town a few days a week in them. Do short jogging sessions in them. Spend time barefoot.

I’m also weaning myself off an aftermarket insole I’ve used for years. My feet have been locked up since 2003 in some kind of insole (e.g. plastic orthotic, then flexible orthotic, then aftermarket insole)…I’ve been slowing weaning myself to more and more of a neutral shoe with a over the counter insole. Now it’s time to make the final switch. My shoe of choice to go to is the New Balance MT 100. The runs I’ve done in them have been short but good. I’m doing it slowly as my feet adjust. It definitely feels better to run without the insole in a lightweight trainer (more nimble, more sensitive to the terrain)…but, I know I have weak muscles in my feet for a full out switch over. Baby steps. Every other day. Then when I feel good, the final transition.

This minimalist approach got me thinking about how we breathe when running with regard to how to teach my son to breathe while running. My wife and I are raising two kids that are being introduced to running. My young son just completed a fall session of a kids running club and he had some issues with side cramping. I jogged next to him on one of their little XC time trials and realized he was breathing through his mouth very sporadically. Well, this got me thinking about breathing and how to teach it. I came across a very interesting article by a running coach called Josh McDougal is a Perfect Example of What is Wrong With High School Track by John Raucci and I thought I’d share it. He covers feet, breathing, mind, training…the building blocks of a lifetime of running. If you have the time, read this very long, but very good article. Giddyup!