Experiment on Self: Progress Report

by Carl Strang

Last fall I outlined the debate in distance running circles about the growing minority of runners who are running barefoot or using minimal shoes that approach the barefoot condition. At that point I had bought but not yet tried a pair of the most extreme shoes on the market for the barefoot style of running.

The Vibram Fivefingers running shoe is the most extreme of those that have been designed for the barefoot running technique.

I am at the 4-and-a-half-month point in this physiological experiment. So far things are progressing well, and I have reached my initial mileage volume goal of running 4 miles 3 days in a row, then taking a cross-training day on the bike trainer. Most of those runs now are in the Fivefingers shoes, and I continue to become stronger in them. Even though I had prepared for a couple of months by using the barefoot technique in conventional running shoes, I went slowly with the Fivefingers. The absence of all heel lift makes a surprising difference in the calf muscle’s involvement, and it is taking a while to gradually build my calf strength. I went ahead and bought a less radical pair of shoes which nevertheless are designed for the barefoot technique, and for a while ran in them on days when my feet or calves were a little more sore than usual.

Newton running shoes also are intended for the barefoot technique. The extended sole elements under the ball of the foot are part of the design.

At this point I am beginning to incorporate occasional longer runs (a recent 6-mile run was my farthest in 18 years), as well as some faster pace and interval work, and I am using the Newtons for those workouts.  My pace, though slow, continues to improve. Where at first I was less than comfortable at 9 minutes per mile, now I can cruise at 8:15, and can do an occasional mile in less than 8 minutes without undue strain. I repeat the caution I read about often when first researching the barefoot method. Go slowly, don’t be impatient to build the speed and mileage. So far, so good.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: