6 min read

Learning to run

I never been the athletic type or liked sports much, especially watching sports on television has never much interested me. Although watching the Olympics Games and World Cup is always fun. I didn't play any football like most boys back in my youth, I was more into Judo which I liked quite a lot and I even competed in matches. But after I moved to Rotterdam for my study I stopped competing and training entirely. Certainly when I reached my mid twenties I started noticing this, especially after my lower back injuries over the course of years I had to do something.

Going to a gym was the first thing I tried over a period of 2 years. The first year went well, less prone to back injures and lost about 4 Kilograms (about 0.6 Stone or 8.8 Pounds). The second year I couldn't be bothered to go and I gained the weight and problems with my back quickly returned. One of the things I liked at the gym was running on the treadmill but hated not going anywhere. So I decide to cancelled my membership at the gym and started running outside.

I could easy run 20 minutes inside but on the pavement I could barely get 5 minutes out of my legs. My legs started hurting quite a bit after a short run, even though I toke it quite easy. New running shoes helped out for a while but nearing the 3 KM I was hurting again. It's quite demotivating doing something you love but not being able to do it because your body can't cope. So I did some researching and ended up getting a footscan, a video of how I walk/run or in other words the whole shebang.

A video I made with my old Asics on how to tie your running shoes

On my new shoes (Brooks Addiction 8) I ran further & faster (even did a fun run in Santa outfit) but I still had pain in my shins and after running a while my feet started to sleep. New insoles custom made especially for me should have worked out, but non of this helped with the pain. 10 KM in 1 hour and 4 minutes was the best I could do.

My love for running made me look further than shoes and insoles but especially the pain. I started looking at other means and although I had read articles about running barefoot or with little or no protection it wasn't something I was eager to try at first. But the setbacks persuaded me to look towards something new. The new came in the form of Vibram FiveFingers KSO (Keep Stuff Out) footwear. You might have seen them in random header of this site but here a larger picture (after the jump) made by a good buddy of mine Jurgen.

The articles I used:

In May of this year I started running on the KSO's with some help from the above articles which taught me to take it slow, very slow indeed. I made a simple but very effective schedule. Starting out with 5 minutes x 3 per week for 2 to 3 weeks. After which I increased it with 5 minutes when I was able to take it. Always listening to my body. If I didn't get sore anymore I increased again until I was able to run for 30 minutes non stop. This toke about 3 months. I kept a little dairy of my experiences during my training.

21 May First time putting on the KSO's I couldn't really feel the difference between walking completely barefoot or having them on my feet. It takes a while to put them on because of the individual toe sockets. Trick here is to put the big toe partially in then the one beside it and so on.

22 May First run on the KSO's. Did about a 5 min run around the block and it feels like running barefoot indeed although protected from urban mess. I also noticed that I use every muscle in my legs to run now, especially my lower leg and foot muscles.

24 May Second run. Legs don't feel really sore anymore and could run a little further. Paid a lot of attention to my landings. Noticed I land with a midstrike. I've probably always done this, even with normal running shoes as I just don't like the feel and the harsher landing of the heel strike.

27 May Third run. Still running about 5 minutes which I'll do the entire week. Next week I'll do a 10 min run, probably with Forerunner 305 to track my running. Tried running on different types of ground. Like grass, grid, pavement and tiles. Grass is the most fun to run on, although a sandy beach must be even more fun. You really feel the ground with the KSO's. You feel in contact with it, even though you are separated from it by the KSO's.

30 May Fourth Run. After this I'll do a weekly log about running with KSO/barefoot. Ran about 2 KM. Felt great and only my upper legs and knees hurt a little. Next run will but Tuesday which will be the same length as today for the entire week at least.

19 June Running in a forested area with soft ground or on grass is like walking on heaven. Really, it's just great. I sound a bit like a treehugger but this weekend I ran in a little forest for about 3.5 KM. Especially the contact you have with the ground is really a great feeling. It stirs something of the cave man inside of you somehow or at least I felt that way. It's like the feeling you get from sitting around a camp fire. Must be something prehistoric in us.
I'm gonna do this more often. Although it does tend to hurt a bit afterwards cause your legs/feet aren't use to the uneven terrain I think.

01 August After 3 times 5+ KM I still really love my KSO's. The freedom they provide versus normal running shoes is great. Now I'm going to train for the 10 KM in September with an interval/endurance runs.

08 August Wind surfing on Vibram’s is great. Give amazing grip on the board.

10 September I've reached my goal of 10 K on my Vibram’s and even set PR for the 10 K in 55:35. 9 minutes faster then back in January.

All in all I really love running on the Vibram's. It has made it possible for me to run without injures. I am aware that the running community is still a bit reserved on the whole barefoot running. The long-term effect of using your feet for cushioning instead of shoes is something that we will learn over time, although we have lived on the Earth longer without shoes then with them. But back than we didn't have pavement now did we. I will just take it as I go for now but I'm quite glad with my leap into the barefoot running experience. Sure barefoot running, be it totally barefoot or with something like the Vibram FiveFingers, isn't for everybody but if you have tried a lot of other things like I have with little to no result it might be something you can try. I'm not going to recommend barefoot running, do the research yourself if you are interested.

As I just reached my goal running wise (10 K), my new goals are run faster, paying close attention to my landings, getting more elasticity in my legs with jump rope and finally I would like to try running totally barefoot.