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I am going to let you in on two little secrets; the more you run the better your minimalist running is going to be. The second secret is – you got to start slow in order to master the running style.

Okay, before we start with the running style let’s talk about foot ware. I run in sandals. I didn’t  start running in sandals so let’s presume for the sake of argument that you don’t either.

I started running in New Balance Trail Minimus. I choose them over all the other shoes because they were as close to nothing that I could find in a minimalist running shoe. And I liked the fact that the sole was a quarter inch of vibram; meaning I expected to be able to get some serious wear out of a pair.

I did not choose the 5-Fingers for two reasons; I like to wear socks but I do not like to pay 15 bucks for a pair. And toe socks just seem silly. But more importantly I couldn’t get my head around running on pavement in the 5-Fingers. They just seemed too thin.

Mastering the style – you got to start slow or you’ll be in so much pain that you’ll eventually quit because it hurts so much. Running in minimalist shoes is nothing like running in your old running shoes. You can’t go out for those pounding runs like you used to.

Getting started is simple – run 4-6 blocks, then turn around and walk home. On your next run do 6-8 blocks, then turn around and walk home. Gradually up the distance and don’t feel embarrassed by mixing in a little walking with your running.

The running style is short, light, and loose with your knees slightly bent; keeping your feet close to the ground. Your feet shuffle as they touch the earth. I don’t even have to tell you not to heel strike because your feet will send back extreme signals of pain every time that you do. Your mind is focused on your quads acting as shock absorbers. For the first 6 weeks your calves are going to be as tight as snare drums and hurt like hell but that’s natural and they’ll get over it. You can relieve some of the tightness by doing calve raises on stair steps.

If you are a newbie minimalist distance runner then pain will almost always be present on long runs and to make that pain go away, that is if you wanted to continue on as a runner, you have to discover early on to listen to your feet. If the feet are happy and your style is such that you aren’t pounding them to death, then your legs are happy. And if your legs are happy, your knees are happy and so on. But as you will learn, everything starts with having happy feet.

I have to listen to the sound of my feet as they strike the earth. I can tell just by the sound they make if my style is properly dialed in. I can tell just by the sound if my left foot is out of sync long before I start getting any pesky pain feedback.

I shuffle and slide [forward] as I run. Let me explain both parts because they are equally critical. The shuffle is like down hill skiing; weight on, weight off. The running shuffle is looser. When I take the weight off [say] the left leg, I let it completely relax for that second or two before it touches the earth again. As you alternate between both legs your run becomes this very light casual shuffle

The slide part is equally important. As your foot makes contact with the earth let it slide through before exchanging feet. It’s kind of like a golf swing, after the head of the club makes contact with the ball, the club swing is still followed through and not immediately arrested after the impact with the ball.

I have discovered that the running surface’s hardness isn’t really what matters; although there are some psychological advantages to running on surfaces that one perceives as soft but the true metric is the surface’s coefficient of friction. Stickier surfaces, aka those with a higher coefficient of friction, are more difficult to run on as they impede this forward slide motion. And allowing your feet to slide forward allows two very positive things to happen; first – strike impact is reduced and two – it enables the proper stride form that more easily makes for a better strike transition, And correct form is everything. Without it a runner will never be more than a 3 mile a day wannabe.

Oh yeah, last but not least – the more you run the easier it gets; totally counter-intuitive but absolutely true.

After I mastered the running style I asked myself, ‘What if I ran 2 days in a row? Then 3 days in a row? Then 5? Then 6?’ The answer turned out to be that my running got easier and the pain became less.

So here I am now, running 2-3 hours every day; in sandals. I am as lean as a Greyhound and if I may say so myself, a running monster. Not bad for a 57 year old man who thought he’d never run again.

 

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