how to start running barefoot

Running barefoot. Try it right now! Here’s how I started…

Happy New 2017th Year everyone who’ll find this post. If you’ve ever thought if you should try running or running barefoot do not read further, stop making plans and dreams about how you’ll start running just right after you’ll buy all the equipment needed or right after you read  a disclaimer if it is really for you. Go out and try to run. You’ve already got everything you need to start running. Pair of comfortable shoes, socks, pants, sweater, cap, gloves, your lazy body – which will tell you if running in general or running barefoot or minimalist is for you. Go! And let me know how good did it feel to go to a stop after a run and how good your remaining day was.

‘Cause to me a day is always enhanced and excited in a mysterious way I can not explain even after a 30min (or 5 to 6 km) run. I usually do not run much longer.

Little about me (so you can have some kind of base line)

I’m not a professional sportsman. For the third year now I practice a Vietnamese martial art “Nhat-Nam” two times a week. I can spin a front/back/side flip and do some more complicated stuff on trampoline. I also make myself do some exercises on rings or just using my body weight or my 22 months old son’s weight. That’s it.

How I started running frequently

In the middle of summer 2016 I joined random one week online weight loss program. According to it I needed to run (or do something active) every second day three times a week and do 30min body-weight workouts every other day free from running / being active with one rest day a week.

Getting closer to the end of summer I managed to run 10k in 50min (5min per 1k) and 5k in 23 minutes (4min30sec per 1k) while at first I was only able to do 6k in 36 minutes (6k is a distance from my house to my parents if you’re wondering where does this odd distance come from). So in a month and a half I increased my pace, endurance, distance, strength… And level of knee and hip pain.

Heel striker’s suffering and running barefoot / minimalist

Once I reached a point where I understood that further running might cause serious injuries I stopped running completely and started searching for ways to get rid of the pain and accidentally I came across a concept of running barefoot / minimalist. Watched few videos on YouTube, read several articles written by lovers and haters, and just after the pain was gone’ish I did my first 6k to my parents barefoot style i.e. hitting ground with front part of my foot as opposed to heel striking or hitting ground with my heel first.

First timers equipment for trying out running barefoot / minimalist

Of course I used a pair of shoes – 3EUR per pair “Converse” knock-off called “Inakrai” in the past, but “re-branded” into “Black-Star”, “All-Star” or something similar for modern times. Bottom line – to try out running barefoot style any even sole shoe will do. Like you don’t need to join a hi-tech gym to see if you like weight lifting, you don’t need anything – in fact you don’t even need shoes to try running barefoot.

First impressions and sensations

The running itself felt awesome! Totally different than usual heel strike run. I did not feel any pain in my knee and hip at all. I didn’t even feel tired during the run. Everything was perfect ’till I stopped. Then right after I went from running to walking / cool-down my calves were immediately tired and shaking (yea, they got such large amount of work for the first time in their life I believe). Long story short – I was out of running shape for two next weeks because I could only walk swinging from one leg to the other like a duck because of the soreness and muscle pain. I knew I will end up this way and enjoyed the pain the whole time (as all people who got something to do with sports do), I only didn’t expect it to continue that long.

I did few more barefoot style runs thereafter only without the pain until I got blisters on my fingers. This is where I realized that I need some quality shoes to continue running barefoot way if I want to enjoy it the way I started to. You can read more about my first pair of Vibram Trek Ascent Insulated Fivefingers here.

My set of advice for those considering running barefoot / minimalist:

 

  1. Find a pair of even sole shoes. These need to NOT have the heel bolder / higher than any other part of the sole, because high heel (as you can find in regular running shoes) will get in the way once you try to land on tour toes. These shoes just need to be somewhat comfortable.
  2. Do a proper warm-up. Jump some rope, several tenths of squats, active stretching and whatever you think of. Just prepare your legs ant feet for some strange and new experience.
  3. If you experience any sort of pain (muscle fatigue does not count) – stop. You might be doing something wrong or your body is trying to tell you, that it’d (?) rather go hiking or biking. As I said I didn’t feel any pain or discomfort while running.
  4. If you won’t feel any negative sensations during your first run, try stopping from time to time and ask how your calves are doing. If they’re shaking or you can feel light weakness in your calves – this might be a good point to stop running and start doing cool-down.
  5. For a cool-down you should be sure to stretch those calves, hamstrings, and your legs in general. Also once home be sure to put something ice cold on your calves. This will reduce muscle pain, and fasten the start of muscle tissue healing process. Do not put icy things directly on your skin – use cloth or whatever to prevent ice-burn.
  6. Hydrate and eat well to help your body recover.
  7. Your calves and feet will hurt. Don’t panic. Wait ’till the pain is gone and go for a new run.
  8. If you’re eager to buy something to be a better runner, give your feet a treat and buy a pair of shoes dedicated to running barefoot / minimalist style. Have fun and let me know how you did!

As always, thanks for reading and happy New Year!

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