Wednesday, 18 August 2010

My Running Style Experiment

There's barefoot running and there's minimalist running. The two sometimes get confused.

I have been running in Vibram Five Fingers for over a year now, so my style has necessarily morphed into a forefoot-first strike, which is clearly a step up from driving a Nike-shod heel into the ground in front of me with each stride.

But it's not barefoot. Today my real running experiment starts - to which there are two, linked challenges.

First, Pose Running

Lightning lent me a book called 'The Pose Method of Running' which promises more efficient energy utilisation and fewer injuries. I don't want to become a pose runner, necessarily - and since most of my runs are mountain runs, it seems like the waters are in any case muddied when examining optimal style and energy efficiency. But the principles of the book resonate closely with the philosophies of barefoot running and it helps to have a framework to follow when learning something.

Second, REAL barefoot running

I.e. no footwear.

I have been reading Matt Metzgar's blog, where he has been documenting his journey into genuinely barefoot running - he has run a few races totally barefoot and speaks well of the experience. His page on correct evolutionary running is an excellent summary.

Walking and running with no shoes feels nice once you toughen up a bit. It's liberating. And tougher bare feet can handle even tougher terrain in the Five Fingers.

More importantly, according to Matt, even Vibram Five Fingers can encourage incorrect running style according to Matt and others, because they prevent the feedback that stimulates quick, light, steps.

A part of me likes the idea of running a mountain race truly barefoot - in Born to Run, Barefoot Ted runs on rocks, so I know it can be done. I discuss book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, here. But in reality, most fell races will require at least Vibrams, and probably a minimalist studded shoe, unless I want to finish last every time and have a permanently bruised coccyx.

So don't get me wrong, I do not have aspirations to finish up with an empty shoe locker. Although my work colleagues are tolerant of my weirdness, even they have limits, so I will continue to wear my Treks to the office.

Finally, since everyone else now seems to be getting into minimalist shoes, I need stay weird. ;-)

So I'll keep doing the Pose drills, keep toughening up my feet, do a bit more flat running while I understand the Pose technique, carry on surfing the fells, and see where it all takes me...