Friday, November 29, 2013

Minimalist running is good for the soul. And the sole.

For the first 50 years of my running life, I confess, I probably viewed my feet as kind of a shock-absorbing stump on the bottom of my legs. Big enough to keep me from falling into holes and ditches, perhaps. And a solid appendage to strap my Nikes onto. But that was about it.

However, as I have mentioned here in many occasions, I have found the practice of running barefoot or in my Vibram FiveFingers has a ton of benefits. I think it helps prevent injuries, improve my stamina and speed and generally make running so much more enjoyable. And natural.

I have found another important benefit, however, in the way my feet have responded to the new challenge of barefoot or minimalist running. Some specific examples:
  • I see muscles I never knew I had. When I curl my toes, I see tiny little muscles on the top of each toe, stretching back into my foot. How cool is that?
  • My toes appear to curl differently, almost grasping, as if curling to get a better hold on a surface (or a tree limb, for those inclined to view things Darwinistically).
  • My ability to balance on one leg is much better. In the last year or so, I’ve surprised myself, not only by putting on a pair of pants standing up. But also by putting on slippers, socks or even shoes standing up. Without leaning against anything. How many 64 year olds can say that?
  • My feet look healthier and thinner. Like they did when I was a teenager. How many people over 40 have something nasty going on with their feet? And hope that if they cover it with their shoes, it won’t catch up with them?
  • Finally, I have fewer foot injuries. Other than the occasional bruise that comes from stepping on the stray acorn or walnut in the park where I run, my feet feel better than they ever have in my half-century running career. Probably goes for my legs as well.

So, thank you Chris McDougall, for showing us all it was possible (and, in fact, a good idea). Thank you, Vibram, for supplying the shoes that make it all possible (especially in the winter). And thank you to the Natural Running Center (, a great resource for those just getting started.

1 comment:

Chris at Barefoot beginner said...

Hi Jim - I enjoyed your post. I agree with what you say about minimlaist running. I was out running in a pair of chainmail shoes this morning. 7 miles - no problem. I was an old injured runner until a little while ago. I run the Barefoot Beginner blog and I pointed my readers towards your post by making it our barefoot post of the day over on our facebook page.