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July 26, 2011

4

You are the technology

by Jonathan Erdman
urtechnology

I enjoy running, and I’ve been a runner for several years now. I’ve had a knee injury setback that kept me from becoming a high-mileage, long-distance freak-a-zoid, which was probably for the better, but I’ve still enjoyed running, these days for short distances. I usually do some form of cross-training: running, swimming, cycling, and calisthenics.

Those of you who are among the faithful readers of my blogging (God bless you) might remember that I’ve experimented a bit with barefoot running. Recently I’ve acquired a pair of sleek and savvy Vibram FiveFinger shoes. Vibram is the leader of minimalist running shoes. Minimalism is a less-is-more movement in running. My Vibram shoes do not have cushioning, to speak of, just a sole; they fit like a glove and when I wear them (which is about all the time now) it feels like I am walking around barefoot.

The scientific advantages to eliminating the cushioning include: strengthening your lower leg muscles, realigning your body into a more healthy posture (for the back, especially), increasing the sensors in the feet, reducing ankle turns (because your feet are directly on the ground), as well as others. A barefoot runner lands on the full foot, favoring the front of the foot, while a runner wearing traditional running shoes will tend to land on the heel, especially after s/he is tired. Landing on the heel, however, sends the shock of each step up through the leg and into the knee and hip joints. So, theoretically, this adjustment of the running gait should reduce the wear and tear on knees and other joints.

Running in a minimalist shoe also has the advantage of using less materials and as such, it is more eco-friendly. I also enjoy running in my Vibrams or running barefoot. I like the feel of my own feet. Regular shoes now feel very constrictive. Like someone locked my feet in the closet!

I recommend minimalist shoes  (or going barefoot) to anyone, for running or for everyday wear. But if you use them for running, give your legs time to get used to it. The tendons and muscles in your lower legs will need time to adjust and get stronger.

Remember, you are the technology….and if you don’t believe me, then go ask the naked people at youarethetechnology.com.

Read more from Life on the run
4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kelly
    Jul 26 2011

    Were you sore at first? Have you noticed any change in your knee issues? I have been exercising, specifically weightlifting, barefoot for a long time and think it is the best way.

    Reply
    • erdman31
      Jul 26 2011

      Yeah. Both times that I’ve tried barefoot running, I’m sore in just about every spot below my knee, especially the calves.

      I haven’t noticed any issues with my knee for about a year or so, and I was doing a good deal of running and hiking in AK, but that was with shoes. I think my knee is just much much stronger than when I injured it….which was….’bout 2007.

      I’ve wondered if running barefoot might be better for my knee, because barefoot running stabilizes the foot naturally. You can’t be a heel-striker if you run barefoot, and running shoes encourage heel-striking (because there is an elevated heel).

      One hold up I had recently was that I stepped on a stone. It must have been a sharp stone. I was doing some sprinting on gravel, which probably isn’t too smart! (Actually, it was out at the Silver Lake farm a few weeks ago.) So there is a sore spot on my foot. I have been working at a shoe store, so I’ve been on my feet a lot and it hasn’t had a chance to completely heal, I don’t think.

      I’ve wondered if Matt might not like the Vibram shoes, even for weightlifting. I think he’s got some shoes he likes to use, though, doesn’t he? Are there many people who lift barefoot? I would think it would provide good stability….of course, you wouldn’t want to drop a weight on your foot! Ouchie.

      Reply
  2. Kelly
    Jul 31 2011

    Matt actually has two different sets of weightlifting shoes, one with a elevated heel, and one with an even more elevated heel. It helps with putting you in a better position for squaring, allowing you to go deeper without coming onto your toes, I think. Weightlifting barefoot is not unheard of, but most people prefer either a specialized shoe, like what Matt uses, or a very flat soled shoe like converse allstar. Bummer about the stone bruise. I have seen quite a few kettlebell users in the Vibrams, but I still like the barefoot method myself.

    Reply
  3. erdman31
    Aug 5 2011

    For those interested….here is a Harvard study that discusses some of the benefits of barefoot running, specifically in terms of avoiding the heel strike.

    http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/

    Reply

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