I’ve been a runner for 2 years now. It started out as a casual thing to get in shape for drum corps but over the past few months, it has progressed to 25-30 miles a week. Last Spring, I made a breakthrough that forever changed my approach to running.
I had been doing 2-mile runs several times a week, and something would usually happen around the 1.5 mile mark. My Achilles tendon would tighten up and start to hurt. I did some research online in an effort to circumvent this roadblock and discovered minimalist running. People claimed that our bodies are designed to run barefoot and that mainstream running shoes over-stabilize and force us to run with an unhealthy, high-impact gait. As someone who wore a thickly-padded pair of Asics Gel Nimbus sneakers, this opposed everything that I thought I knew about running.
I looked up videos of people running barefoot and noticed that their form was completely different from my own. Where I lifted my feet up in great strides, they gently glided on the ground with small but frequent strides. As I further researched running’s biomechanics, I realized that the padding and “stability” offered by running shoes is redundant to the function of our ankles and feet. I’m convinced at this point, but running barefoot on the hard, littered streets of New Brunswick is still an unnerving proposition.
I quickly find the Vibram shoe and am intrigued. They would enable running with good ground-feel and full use of one’s toes while offering protection from potential hazards. I bought a pair of V-run’s and fell in love with them as soon as I broke them in. It took several weeks to get my feet strengthened enough to run solely with them but it was worth it.
A year later, I have stopped using the V-runs as they are now too padded for my taste—they are a great introductory minimalist shoe, however. After thoroughly toughening up the soles of my feet through walking barefoot around Cook/Douglass campus, I now manage to go unshod (completely barefoot) for around 50% of my mileage. I wear Xero Z-Trek sandals for daily wear and most runs; Skinners for when it’s cold out.
I would recommend minimalist running to anyone, it’s the healthiest way to go. And I cannot discount the pure zen in the aspect of physically connecting yourself to the Earth as you run.