Barefoot in the park

This morn­ing I gave bare­foot run­ning a try. All but about six-tenths of a mile of todays run were done as laps around Jack­son Park. I left the house wear­ing my Tevas (with a pair of socks in my pock­et in case bare­foot turned out to be too much and the Tevas chafed. Nei­ther hap­pened. I ran in the san­dals down to the park, stashed them behind one of the back­stops, and start­ed doing laps.

Most of the run­ning was in the grass, but the area behind the back­stops are packed dirt. That did­n’t turn out to be a prob­lem, but there were some occa­sion­al twigs and sharp peb­bles I wished I’d avoided.

It’s far too ear­ly to have any opin­ion on the min­i­mal­ist run­ning con­tro­ver­sy. Although Bare­foot Ted says that the foot adjusts a run­ner’s stride auto­mat­i­cal­ly while run­ning bare­foot, I think that may be a bit of roman­tic puffery. The habits of stride were not auto­mat­i­cal­ly over­come, though I did begin to see the ben­e­fits of keep­ing a short­er stride and stay­ing up on my toes. The change will cer­tain­ly come through con­scious mod­i­fi­ca­tion of my stride.

One thing has become clear, or at least clear that it is unclear: I have no idea what a «mid­foot strike» is. I can see how strik­ing the ground with the heel is bio­me­chan­i­cal­ly reckless—the idea that the foot’s arch is our built-in shock absorber seems self-evident—but there isn’t much to bear weight between the under­side of the heel and the point where the metatarsals meet the pha­langes. I can’t imag­ine any­one’s toes by them­selves being strong enough to run on with­out the ball of the foot tak­ing weight as well. So I’m assum­ing that «fore­foot strike» means run­ning on the balls and toes of the foot and that a «heel strike» means land­ing on the heel and rolling for­ward to the ball and toes. Between these two it seems obvi­ous that the fore­foot strike has the mechan­i­cal advan­tage but unless all of one’s arch­es are com­plete­ly fall­en or one is an extreme supina­tor I don’t know how any­one could strike between when run­ning. I supinate, but not that much! 

James Fixx’s The Com­plete Book of Run­ning has been sit­ting on my shelf for a while and I’m start­ing to get inspired to read it. I’ve promised myself not to start anoth­er book until I’ve fin­ished two of the ones on my «cur­rent­ly read­ing» list. I have too many books that I’ve start­ed but not fin­ished already! Just from leaf­ing through the pages I’m real­ly look­ing for­ward to read­ing Fixx’s book.

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