The End of the Barefoot Running Craze?

If who I see running loops in parks, and number of threads on running message boards, are any indication, barefoot running seems to have finally moved from all consuming fad to persistent running subgenre.  Good.  I’m happy to have barefoot running at the fringes where I can celebrate the eccentrics who do it well without having to suffer through a conversation about it every time someone finds out I run.

I’ve said all along that while barefoot running may work for some, and barefoot drills might be worth doing for many, by and large barefoot running isn’t a good idea, especially for the average middle of the pack fat guy like myself.  Sure it is probably true that the human foot evolved to carry us vast distances with little cushioning, but the average Western runner of today bears little resemblance to the hunter gatherer of the Serengeti 10, 000 years ago.  We’re taller, we’re fatter, and we have had virtually no experience walking or running barefoot for generations.

Odds are, you are nothing like Abebe Bikila

Sure there are those who have run very well barefoot.  Abede Bikila won the 1960 Olympic marathon barefoot.  Frank D, a Prospect Park legend, runs fast and long in nothing but modified huarache sandals.  But most of us are not Frank.  For most people, switching to a super minimalist shoe or running barefoot is going to lead to injury.  From my anecdotal experience, it seems that most people have now learned this lesson.  I don’t see many barefoot runners these days and those I see tend to be small and pretty fast.  Rarely these days do I see a two hundred pound guy grinding out twelve minute miles while he turns his metatarsals to powder.  This is as it should be.  Running is a sport which celebrates individuality and eccentricity, and I love it when I see people doing crazy things like running in a circle for 24 hours, keeping up a run streak, or running barefoot in an urban park in December.  What I don’t like is seeing people blinding following the latest running trend, whether that be chi-running, pose method, or barefoot running.  Born to Run is a great book, but it isn’t a handbook for a lifetime of healthy running.  I hope we can now add barefoot running to that long list of running fads.  Three cheers for the eccentrics who are keeping it alive, but for the rest of you, put on some shoes.

Running again

I ran for the first time in over two months last night. It was only three miles on the treadmill, but it felt wonderful. OK, actually, it hurt, but not that bad! And that is a huge improvement over where I’ve been the last couple of times I have tried to run.

This has been the worst six months training wise since I started taking running seriously four year ago. Injury after injury has really destroyed my fitness. It is going to be a long road back, but that’s fine. I’m focusing on other sports right now, climbing, lifting, and even some cycling. I’ll work the running in again slowly, very slowly. If it isn’t my main form of exercise, if I’m not obsessing over it day and night then maybe I won’t over do it, maybe I’ll stay healthy long enough to actually race again.

Milo and the Wolves

There is another story about Milo that is worth remembering.  Milo is walking in the forest when he came upon a tree whose trunk was split down the middle.  To show his strength, Milo places his hands in the split of the tree and attempts to split the tree in two.  He is, however, not strong enough and his hands are caught in the tree.  Unable to escape, he is eaten by wolves.

Milo, attacked by wolves.

What happened to the modesty of the young man who knew he had to start with the calf before he could carry the bull?  Was he blinded by his own strength?  Did he think that now since he was the Milo, champion wrestler, that there was nothing he could not do?

Hubris – I know it well. I’ve been plagued by running injuries for the last year, one right after the other, and the cause of them all is pretty simple – thinking I could do more.  If I had been more modest in my running, I wouldn’t be laid up with this case of PF right now.  But I wasn’t modest — I was greedy.  I wanted more. That drive for more is what keeps me working out, but it is also what is always getting in me in trouble. Balance, always so hard to find.

Ankle, bad; Shoulder, good.

Took the ankle for a test drive last night on the treadmill, it felt fine for a half mile and then the pain started to come back. I shut it down and got back on the goddamn elliptical. Man, I hate that thing. Bu I am going to be spending a lot more time on it in the weeks to come. This ankle injury has been lingering for so long that I think sustained time off from running is the only thing that is going to fix it. I’ve scheduled a doctors appointment, and I’m thinking I’ll need another week off at least, maybe more.

BUT! Not all is doom and gloom in the world of Sean’s pursuit of fitness. I was cleared by the physical therapist to resume push-ups this week. I am going to use this enforced time away from running to kick up the body weight work again. I need to be careful to not overdue it on the push-ups, but pull ups, l-sits and more are in the works.

Eventually, I’ll be able to do this: