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November 29, 2011

Barefoot running

Footprint in the sandIt may not look like much, but this footprint in the sand along the path at Edgewater Park marks a small victory for me.

For the past week or so I've been trying to develop the "barefoot" running technique I read about in the New York Times. The most important part isn't whether you wear shoes or not, but how you run.

The goal is to change from the typical running style that involves your foot hitting heel-first to one where you're landing on the front part of your foot. That's what my footprint in the sand shows.


Runner illustration from New York Times
New York Times

It's not easy to change the way you run, especially after 20-30 years of fairly regular practice. Today I figured that I might have been landing properly about a third of the time. I had to really focus on technique to do it. Every couple of minutes I noticed that my mind had wandered and I was running the same way as I used to. I had to constantly reset myself to the new method.

The barefoot style didn't feel graceful or natural or even very fast, so I was surprised to find that I'd run the 5 miles in a little less than my usual 50 minutes. Have to keep working on this.

Oh, did I mention that it hurts? The "springyness" that reduces impact on the knees puts more strain on the calf and upper thigh muscles. I'm sure I'll as I build up strength this will go away, but for now every stride hurts.

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