Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Wednesday 8 June 2011


I never used to be able to run. When I was at school I'd be breathless and exhausted after one or two laps of the playing field, and I basically never ran if I could avoid it. On the other hand, I enjoyed walking arbitrary distances at speed.

Then a few years ago, on a whim I started running on the beach near my parents' house, and surprised myself by enjoying it. Since then I've often run short distances (a few kilometres). I was curious about what longer distances would be like, but I haven't had the time to try until a couple of times recently: a few months ago I ran 7km in 45 minutes (twice as long as I'd ever run before) and last weekend I ran 17km in two hours. It didn't seem difficult except that my feet got sore, which is perhaps because I was running barefoot: the problem is that if I run in any kind of footwear I own I quickly start feeling tired. There's probably something I could wear that would be OK, but this is part of my larger problem of not knowing anything about running so I'm probably doing it all wrong :-).


I hear good things about Vibram FiveFingers "barefoot" running sandals. They're supposed to let your feet move like they're bare but still protect them from the surface you're running on. There isn't a lot of science backing up that assertion, but I would think this is a "whatever works best with your feet is the right choice" situation.
There are studies that shoes you're most likely to be injured with cushion shoes, while running barefoot or with thin and float soles is very safe. The Vibram are a great choice for this reason.
I have a pair of vibram five fingers and my experience with them leads me to offer the following advice: use them with caution!
I love wearing them and running in them, but I have suffered a stress fracture of my 2nd metatarsal while using them.
I currently believe that my running will be "better" (I won't go into it here) if I run in bare feet (or my vibrams). The trouble is that my feet have spent nearly 4 decades in protective footwear. As a consequence of this, they are not up to running, especially on hard surfaces, without padded footwear. My understanding is that I will need to condition my feet over time to the point where I can run on any surface without shoes.
I acquired my stress fracture because I ran too far too soon, on hard surfaces, in my vibrams.
One piece of advice that I read was to run in bare feet rather than the vibrams. That way one reaches the limit of what one's foot can handle earlier than if the feet are protected. As the skin of the feet toughen up, the runner can run further. Progress is set at the required pace by the natural rate of adaptation of the feet to the conditions and stresses placed on them.
As for "doing it wrong", there is a school of thought that holds that running is a skill. There is a right way to do it. Google "pose technique", "chi running", "alexander technique". They all propose a fairly similar style of running. All call into question the design of modern running shoes, and propose that we would all be better runners in minimal or no footwear. They question the convention that the runner's heel is the first part of the foot to strike the ground, and suggest instead that the forefoot touch the ground first.
A slightly different, but related viewpoint, is the one mentioned by Fabrice: that running is actually safer in minimal or no footwear. I agree with this proposition, with a qualification: that the required time and effort is put in to condition the feet.
Robert O'Callahan
I actually go barefoot a lot. I walk to and from work barefoot most days during the summer (and on warm days in the winter), and sometimes I run it (a bit over 3km). Over that distance the road surface isn't a problem, even glass isn't really a problem anymore, but cold still is. I'm also vaguely considering entering a half-marathon where they want to attach a tracking chip to your shoes, which would be a problem...
Colin Coghill
I took up running a few years ago, for health reasons. I've completed the Auckland marathon twice now (not *well*, but I did reach the finish line) and love it.
Biggest biggest thing I've learned is get proper running shoes properly fitted. Bare feet are fine for grass, sand, good running tracks, but street/pavement running will be really hard on your joints. Your feet will be fine, it's your ankles and knees you need to worry about.
Even good quality shoes are bad if they're not the "right" support for your foot type.
Richard Ayotte
Like others have mentioned, Vibram FiveFingers are great, I've been running in them for a few years now. If you decide to get a some, go for the Bikilas, they're designed for running. I wouldn't run with VFF in trails or where there are too many small rocks though because they don't provide enough protection and you'll hurt yourself. For trail running, Merrell Trail Gloves are great minimal shoes with good plate protection.
Robbie Mackay
Always good to hear about more people running.
I'd love to be running bare foot, but years of shoes have softened my feet.
It definitely important to get running shoes properly fitted if you're getting them. I'd recommend Shoe Science on Mt Eden road.
I gather you can now get five fingers in NZ so you could try those too.. I can't wear them, my 2nd toe is longer then my big toe, so they don't fit.
If you're looking at doing half marathons and longer, the main thing I find helps is just getting the distance done in training.. give your joints a chance to adjust! But I don't think there's a wrong way for these things. Whatever works for you :)
Dave Herman
You've got plenty of colleagues who are obsessive runners and would probably love to help-- you could talk to Mayumi, Pascal, or Mary and see what they suggest.
Franklin Chen
I started running at a very late age but have not stopped since, except for a stress fracture that I had to recover from. I used to have various injuries and endless attempts at changing shoes. I ended up getting lighter and lighter shoes, which kept on decreasing my injuries, till I reached the Vibram FiveFingers, after which I have never had an injury again. No ankle problems, no knee problems, no shin problems, no hip problems. Nothing except my soles get sorer (but I'm OK the next day). (I wear KSO Trek on the trails for decent protection.) I've been trying barefoot periodically lately.
chiropractor Chatswood
Once you get into it, meaning you run frequently and regularly, you won't experience as much pain and discomfort. As long as you commit to it, it's smooth sailing after a while.
Mensajes claro
They're supposed to let your feet move like they're bare but still protect them from the surface you're running on.
jerrad jonhson
Shoes are made to protect our feet when moving and running. In my experience, I only buy sports shoes for my sport activities, while flat shoes for casual. naot shoes
jessie bobsy
Shoes are very important to any runners or athlete. It protects the feet from getting injured. clarks shoes