Monday, 25 August 2014

Barefoot Ken Bob saves me from BRES (barefoot running exuberance syndrome)


As anyone who knows me will attest, I'm not really one for moderation. Sadly though, my natural exuberance means I very nearly came a cropper this week in my attempt to convert from a minimalist shoe runner to a genuine (ie barefoot) barefoot runner.

As barefoot running guru Ken Bob Saxton writes in Barefoot Running Step by Step: 'Yes, running barefoot is addictive and exhilarating the moment you try it. But the new biomechanics will make you pay if you don't take it slow.' (I know it should be 'slowly', but that's American English for you).

Ken Bob's excellent book arrived just in time, as I was doing exactly what I now realise I shouldn't have been doing: I was running my usual 'shod' running distance of 5k to 8k, without adjusting my technique, and expecting everything to be fine. After three days, the balls of my feet were a bit sore, and when I woke up on the fourth day, I'd developed big blood blisters on the underside of each foot.

'Ha,' I can hear you saying, 'I told you barefoot running is stupid and dangerous'. Well no, actually, I was just doing it wrong by running in my usual running style. A life time of wearing shoes - even if most of the time they are 'minimalist shoes' - means I've forgotten my natural physiology.

I realise now that I've got to take it slowly. As Ken Bob Saxton says, 'barefoot running is so different from shod running that it's practically a new sport. To enjoy it injury free at the beginning, you need a new technique and a new attitude'.

And there's a lot more to running barefoot than the all-important knee-bend and forefoot landing, as you can see for yourself here.


Ken Bob seems like such a lovely bloke. He never charges people for his training tips and he really knows what he's talking about, after years of trial and error. You can learn more about him, and what he does on his website.

My favourite Ken-Bob aphorism, or 'Ken Bob-ism', is Ken Bob-ism number seven:

"I don't like to generalise by saying that 'everyone should run barefoot'. So I'll just say that 'everyone with feet who wants to learn to run the way we are designed to run should run barefoot'."

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Barefoot running - meditation in motion

My attempts to engage my husband in my growing passion for barefoot running is starting to bore me as much as it bores him. I suspect too that I'm boring my facebook friends with my obsession for foot-related articles; and so, I've started a barefoot running blog Barefoot in Brighton.

I read Christopher McDougall's very excellent Born to Run a couple of years ago and was immediately struck by the very compelling cultural and burgeoning scientific case for ditching running shoes. I've dabbled since with various minimalist shoes, including Vibram Fivefingers, Merrells and (my latest) inov-8s. All are pretty good and far preferable to any other type of running shoe, but none for me comes that close to providing the feeling I get from actually running barefoot.

Barefoot running is just so damn enjoyable: it's like meditation in motion and I feel like I can go on for ever - were it not for the blisters that develop on the balls of my feet after about 7k. That said, I'm taking it slowly and building up my distance gradually. This article on The Economist's Intelligent Life website, pretty much sums up how and why barefoot running is so great.

I agree with a lot of what Canadian MD Steven Robbins writes on his blog, but am still eager to find some type of running shoes (perhaps huaraches?) that allow me to feel that connection I feel with the ground when running barefoot, but allow me to tackle rougher ground. And while my soles are toughening up, 48 years of wearing so-called sensible shoes means my soft feet are ill-equipped for off-road tracks, gravel or worn ashphalt.

These feet of mine have got a long way to go!