Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Barefoot Running, Research and Experience

I'm often asked why I run barefoot.  The answer is based on what I've read and what I've experienced in doing it.

Supporting Research
  1. I hadn't considered barefoot running until after Melissa had read "Born to run" by Christopher McDougall and she and I had discussed it some. It's fairly journalistic in nature but interesting to read (I've only read some of her recommended chapters). Here is an article based on book excerpts.
  2. A great series of youtube videos by Dr. Irene Davis (pt1, pt2, pt3, pt4).
  3. good review of what research has been done as of 2001 on barefoot running.
  4. Nature (2010) 463:531-5: Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard University Professor who runs a skeletal biology lab, has now done the most high-profile research into barefoot running mechanics.  The paper is worth reading all the way through. Their website has good videos.
  5. Steven Robbins research: another guy who has done a lot of work in the field.  His research suggests that it is actually going barefoot (not just minimal shoes) that contributes to less impact.  This protracted conversation [start at the bottom and work up] with Lieberman over some points of his study is interesting. I think he is blowing things out of proportion some (and not being very reasonable in his discussions) even though his arguments have some merit.
  6. My favorite video on running.  Not really research, but interesting that he has folks run barefoot to try and run with better form.  Just ignore the part at the end about putting your shoes back on ;)
Jury Still Out
Barefoot running touches on lots of interesting ideas involved in "proper" running form.  Here is a sample of posts somewhat related:

My Experience

I've been running barefoot since April/May of 2010. Since then I've run between about 7 and 21 miles a week barefoot, probably 75% of which is on asphalt or concrete (the rest grass). I run to and from work, 3.5 miles each way. Downhill I average 7:15-7:45 per mile, uphill 8:30-9:10 per mile, so roundtrip 8:00-8:30 per mile.  On occasion I will run for fun, but mostly it is just transportation.

Here are my observations:

I have never cut my foot on anything, although I got a few thorns off on a trail once. I got a good bloodblister in my heel from hitting a rock once, although I never noticed the injury (I had noticed the rock) until coming home.  When running once in Texas, I stepped off the sidewalk and got about 12 stickers in my foot in 2 steps.  Just pulled them out and caught up to our little group.

Takes 3-6 weeks to build up decent callouses. Before that certain stretches can be pretty painful and you can get blisters (usually under the skin and they never really pop). Pebbles hurt and rocks really hurt when you hit them. Once you develop good callouses, asphalt and little pebbles just feel like a nice massage. Nothing really hurts your foot at that point.

It takes a while to adjust your stride. For many months you have to constantly remind yourself to try to shorten your stride and quicken your pace and to try to land more mid/front foot. Your heel will tell you not to land on it too hard.

Calf and foot muscles take a longer time to build up. My calves are almost always sore, now sore less.

No problems with my knees at all. I personally think it is better on my knees than with shoes because my foot can land and pronate very naturally and the strike is with a bent knee ready to absorb impact rather than a straighter knee with a heel strike.

My feet feel like they take a beating, especially at first. Up until recently though, they felt pretty great the next day. A while back, though, my outer midfoot was bruised (single incident or cumulative I don't know) and it has been bothering me, although I've still been running on it (but less). This has been my first and biggest injury running barefoot. Update: I had to take it easy for a while and run with shoes for a few months.  Now it is better and I can run barefoot again.

Steep uphill is much easier than with shoes (significantly faster). Steep downhill is more difficult (significantly slower and more difficult).

For me, barefoot running forces you into a nicer running posture, head back, feet landing more under your hips. Midfoot and forefoot strike more.  Getting the right foot strike is merely a matter of getting your posture right.  The connection between the two makes it easy to run "properly" (if that's what I'm finally doing).

Overall, I really, really enjoy it. It is really stimulating to run without shoes (lots of sensory input on your feet, can feel the different temperatures of the pavement and textures, etc.). I think it is worth trying a few times to see what you think. After all, it is free (minus any trips to the ER ;) I prefer it so much I will only very reluctantly run with shoes on.

My real running friends dismiss it and say that real runners mid/fore-foot strike anyway and think it is silly overall, so opinions from real runners will vary. You will notice that most (99.99%) of them still run with shoes.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To dream the impossible dream...

So guess what my visiting teachers brought me for my birthday...
Chocolate chip cookies and cream puffs :) Yea, they were amazing delicious....(because I didn't make them)...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The CCC syndrome

What's my favorite food?
Anything I didn't have to make...

Years of morning sickness/pregnancy have brought on that conclusion. Before I had favorite foods but now even my favorite foods aren't my favorite unless I didn't make them. I call it the CCC (chocolate chip cookie) syndrome because it is manifested the most with chocolate chip cookies.
I used to love to make chocolate chip cookies, mmmmm....so tasty. Warm, crisp and soft, milk....comfort. Now, however, I don't like them unless some one else made them. I had to make a batch for a ward fireside and everyone said they were delicious but they didn't taste good to me. I almost didn't bring them so I was happy when they all got eaten up but I was unhappy because I really want to like chocolate chip cookies again and not have to wait for the random chance someone will bring them to me.
Anyone with an incredible recipe that doesn't require insane ingredients? Something that can stand the test of time, the test of over eating, the test of pregnancy (not pregnant)??