Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The day that running changed.

For a couple of decades I've had an employer that likes me to be fit, so much so that I'm able to step out of the office and head to the trails when I feel the need. Consequently, this body has seen the inside of a fair few gyms, run too many miles on treadmills and has spent many an hour out on the trails. I'm under no illusion that I'm a pretty lucky bloke.

Why all the blurb? Well today, running changed for me; and considering how many years I've been doing it, that could be seen as a bit odd. I slipped on my spangly new shoes this morning to try them out on my lunchtime trail. But cautious of all the warnings about overdoing it in minimalist shoes, and that I tend to run until I break, then rest, then repeat I only planned to go for 4 miles.

Now I've run in my VFFs a bit, and done a little barefooting both on tarmac and off road, so I've had a taste of the different technique required. I've also been forefoot running for years and so just slipping on a set of minimalist shoes should be easy, and it is.

But...

If you have a cushioned heel, you're going to use it whether you want to or not. When you use the barefoot running technique of forefoot-midfoot-heel (almost but not quite at the same time) then your heel is using that cushioning even though you're not slamming your heel into the ground with a heel strike. Whilst the mechanics of the technique are there, it's not the same, although I think it's good to get your head into the system, and your body used to the movement. That cushioning will give you greater endurance, even though you're not really using your heels.

Now that your heels are falling at least an extra centimetre and probably more due to the reduction of drop (difference in height between the ball of the foot and heel), your calf is getting an extra stretch with every footfall. That's why this way of running is renowned for trashing your legs until the muscles tendons and bones get used to it. Combine this with the bent knees and shorter stride and your cadence naturally picks up. Consequently it's really quite easy to end up sprinting off into the distance in the bent knee barefoot pose as my time on this morning's 4 miler proved (it was meant to be slow).

My VFF tarmac distance PB is 5 miles, and at the end of that my calves were toast. This minimalist shoe, or barefoot, running really does give a different focus on the muscles; not different muscles, I think they're just being taken beyond that familiar movement range. Consequently, my endurance is down and I've no idea how long it's going to take to get back to 2 hour+ runs. I have no plans to get into double figure mileage in these shoes for some time. I guess that the indicator will be when I don't have aching legs the morning after a run.

And all of that really does put into perspective the 14 miler that I accidentally took BarefootApe on in his Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. Impressive.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Spangly new shoes

I mentioned back at the beginning of January that I was after some minimalist trail running shoes. Well after waiting, and looking, and searching and waiting, New Balance failed.

As I was in London today I took a trip into the Vivobarefoot shop in Covent Garden and tried on lots of shoes; had a go on the treadmill, tried some more and then bought these beauties.

They're Vivobarefoot Breatho Trails and they won't ever be so clean again.