How was your holiday weekend?
Today, MYU is shifting gears a bit; while I love me some DIY, running has been a part of my life for far longer. And you want to know what tears me up? I seem to suffer running injuries more often than I’m healthy. I pretty much thought I was done for. Last year I ended up running my marathon on a tibial stress fracture, just because I was
in denial beginning to accept my injuries for what they were. There’s a lot of pain behind this smile, y’all…
Rewind to almost two years ago, I was pretty much smoking a local half-marathon (I PR’ed, folks) and this shoeless guy blew right past me. Um…that guy was NOT wearing shoes and he just BLEW past me. Did you catch that?!
(Note: my feathers were a bit ruffled when a shoeless man blew past me…until I found out who he was and why he runs barefoot. Seriously awesome ministry, Rick. And the soles of his feet were pretty much solid black, in case you were wondering.)
Anyway, back to the story. Fast forward to last year, post-marathon and post-stress fracture; I was on my way to Montana and, on a layover in the Denver airport, I bought this book at the bookstore:
It’s about the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. Essentially, it’s one man’s journey with this extremely solitary tribe and learning how to run with them. The entire tribe–men, women and children included–run what we consider to be ultra-marathons without so much as losing their breath or getting a single injury. And they do it in sandals made of tires and ropes. Interestingly enough, when Americans introduced modern-day running shoes to the tribe, they experienced injuries. When they went back to their “sandals,” no injuries.
Fast forward again to the beginning of this year. I’d taken several months off of running to allow myself to mentally and physically heal after a hard year of training. I was ready to start again, so I started slow (in pace and distance), consistent and smart. I stretched, I listened to my body when it was telling me to stop, I got lots of rest.
And then I got injured. Same tibia. I was so incredibly frustrated.
Hit the fast forward button again to last month. Cowboy and I are planning a rim-to-rim hike across the Grand Canyon for next March, so we were perusing around at Backwoods. When I saw the Vibram Five-Fingers, I paused and just stood there staring at them. When I realized Cowboy was next to me, I relayed my thoughts on how I thought they were so crazy looking…but maybe just what I needed. He encouraged me to try them on, so I did. My initial thought wasn’t how crazy they looked or felt, but actually how much arch support they provided. I pranced (yep, pranced) around the store a bit and decided I wanted to give them a try before I signed off of running completely. I walked out saying I would save up some spending money.
The following week, Cowboy was in Kansas City and we were celebrating an early birthday for myself. In addition to making me dinner, cleaning my apartment while I was at work, and setting up a work space for a project I wanted to do, he surprised me with a gift card to Backwoods! (And Vibram socks and a Grand Canyon hiking book! And, most importantly, a seriously sweet letter.) Seriously…say it with me now…what a guy! (You thought I was going to say, “awww!” didn’t you?) 😉
The next afternoon, we went to Backwoods and I came home with these:
So crazy looking, right?!
Crazy-looking or not, these babies have completely changed how I run. My form and gait are different, my muscles are different, my breathing is different, my energy is different. In modern running shoes, there is so much padding on the feel that your body settles back into a heel-strike gait. Running barefoot or in a low-profile, non-padded shoe like Vibram Five Fingers forces you to settle forward and land on your forefoot. Think about this: when you see kids running around barefoot, what does it look like? Are they heel-striking? No…that’s an extremely unnatural mechanic and would hurt immensely.
I don’t discount modern running shoes, but I do know that they haven’t worked for me. And before you ask…yes, I’ve tried nearly every brand and insert. None of it has worked for me until these.
I’ll certainly keep you posted on the long-term effects of training in Vibrams, but from what I can tell, it’s going to be a smooth ride.
What do you guys think? Is barefoot- or low-profile-shoe-running a fad? Do you agree or disagree with the methodology behind these shoes? Have you run in both kinds of shoe–and what did/do you think?
**Note: neither Vibram nor Backwoods have the slightest inkling who I am, so this post wasn’t perked or paid for by them. This is just me, a runner, being honest about my experiences. 🙂