Barefoot Running: The Beginning

OK so I’m a believer and now I’m going to give it a try. For the last 4 weeks, I started barefoot running, or more accurately running in Vibram FiveFingers. My favorite is the Sprint but it doesn’t look like they make those any more since they are not on the Vibram site – they may have been replaced by the Seeya.
The Sprints are great because they are easy to get my feet into and have the strap across the instep to give a little assurance that they do not fly off when I run. Otherwise, I would have bought the Classics. Well, we’ll see when I have to buy new ones…
So I chose to start out REAL slow. I went out running 10 minutes only, with 30 seconds running and 30 seconds walking. I did this only twice a week. It was definitely enough to start – I was already having minor adaptation issues.
My sports medicine guy and I have been talking about the potential adaptation issues that may come up when starting barefoot running. Of course I began to exhibit some of those issues.
The arch of my foot began to be sore intermittently. My flexor hallucis longus (click on the little 15) was very tight on and off, starting from my foot arch, running around my ankle, and up the back of my lower leg up and into the calf.
My sports medicine guy and I talked about springs. Recent research is starting to show that we store a lot of energy in our muscles and utilize it to help us move when we release that energy. When we run barefoot, we want to run on the balls of our feet. This makes our arch structures work harder, harder than they are used to because we’ve been walking in shoes for decades. Plus, we’ve probably been heel striking so much and our nervous systems for walking have totally wasted away. So I’ve been waking the nervous system up in my feet and legs, to get them slowly to adjust to running barefoot. But during that adaptation process, it can mean tight and sore muscles. And if I ran too much too soon, then it could mean all sorts of problems that could take weeks or months to recover from.
I read The Barefoot Running Book First Edition: A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot and Minimalist Shoe Running by Jason Robillard which had some great advice on how to start out. But I chose to start out even slower than that. But also, they advised staying as relaxed as possible.
After 4 weeks I’ve managed to get to 15 minutes of running, with 1 minute of running and then 30 seconds of walking. When I ran, I focused on relaxing to the max. I ran with my feet just gliding over the road, with each step I made sure I placed my feet gently down to the ground to minimize contact forces as much as possible. I made sure my legs were moving exactly the way I wanted them to.
Every week I see my sports medicine guy who works my muscles with ART and Graston technique. He gets my tight muscles to release and make sure they are loose and functional again. My enemy is the buildup of this tightness with no release, which will surely cause problems later. When I cannot see him, I hit my muscles with rollers and my own Graston-like tools.
After only 4 weeks, I feel that I am just gliding fast across the road. No more stomping, or relying on the cushion of my running shoes to compensate for muscles which refuse to absorb shock any more. In fact, I feel that my stride has improved a lot when I do not run in shoes, meaning the path that my legs move through when I run.
I will report back after a few more weeks of this. I hope to be running upwards of 1 to 1.5 hours by the end of the year, and also hitting the track for sprinting as well.