I read Born to Run beginning of this year and was pretty inspired by his TED talk to seriously start considering running barefoot.
I had the Auroville Marathon to deal with in February, so i continued running in shoes till the Auroville Marathon was over. A week after that I went barefoot.
It’s been more than six months and I not that i am probably past the beginner’s mistakes and pains. I can talk about it.
I started with a bang with around 8 km barefoot on the Road Surface, it was not really hard on the feet at all, but after the run i came back with really tight calfs. For almost a few days I was limping and had to take support on the rails to climb. This was unexpected, none of the blogs/books i had read before talked about this. But I continued running barefoot alternate days, thinking the calf muscles would just learn the new way of running in a few weeks and it will all be OK. Any barefoot runner will tell you that once you get the High of running barefoot it is hard to go back the shoes. It seems like running like that is a primal instinct.
In a few weeks I had increased my mileage to 15km alternate days. Also in the mean i had acquired a slightly large pair of Vibram Five Fingers, and I had started to run on the road surface with my Vibrams. I had also started to do runs in the morning at the Lake near our place. This i would do barefoot only because the track was not as rough as a the Road, and calluses on my feet were good enough to take care of stray stones and twigs. This was great because i was running much longer on the Lake than on the Road.
As most people will tell you your running style changes fundamentally when you switch from Shoes to barefoot, this is more apparent when you run on the soft surfaces. With shoes i under pronate, which means that i used to run on the outside of my soles. But now i was landing on top of the arch of the foot and literally using my big toe to push off the ground. I was also not dropping heavily on the foot, this helped reduce the pain of landing on gravel or stones. There is no such thing as pronation when running barefoot. It is all a way to differentiate one shoe with other for technical runners. I was also running with a straight Back. Not with a slight lean as running books recommend.
It was not all hunky dory all the time. One day i could just run 3 km and the legs an the heels hurt really bad, I could just not push myself, and i was glad i did not, because it really hurt for a week and I gave up running for a few weeks before i went back to running again. I think it was because i pushed myself to do longer mileage without my feet/heels getting used to the pounding.
I persisted with 10km runs alternate days and now i can run 20 on barefoot without much problems.
Couple of thoughts for somebody wanting to start barefoot.
It is an awesome experience, so do it without worrying about weather it protects you from injuries or not.
Start slow, Run on a soft surfaces before you go on to the rough roads.
Increase your mileage very slowly, even if you feel good after the run, keep knocking a consistent distance for a while before upping it.
On Roads, I prefer Vibram FiveFingers, Buy the right size if you want it.
You can still run the right posture and build up your calfs running with shoes with the right technique. I know it is slightly hard, but you can consciously try to land on the arch of your feet and power off with the big toe.
To each his own, it may not workout for your style of running, so know when to get back wearing shoes. It’s all about enjoying the run.
Talk about it. I see a few people running barefoot, but there seems to be very few good barefoot running blogs and running tips.