My Barefoot Running Evolution

Here's old blog I wrote back in 2011 about my own story of bare foot running.  I hope you enjoy it.

 

My Barefoot Running Evolution

By Deb Preachuk | July 2010 (originally posted on Wordpress)

 

Yes it's true!  I've joined the barefoot running revolution.  But I didn't always love to run.  In fact, I always ran for the wrong reasons.  I ran because:

  1. I'm a fitness pro.  I love the latest technology, workout gadgets, scientific research and training programs.
  2. I'm an extrinsically motivated person.  I ran to have a heart rate monitor, super cute outfits and the "right shoe" to cushion or stabilize the load.  
  3. I'm also a classic first born child.  I ran because it was on my goal chart (even if I dreaded the workout of the day).  I did it to lose weight, to honor a goal I set for myself, to be like my friends.  Should I go on?

 

I never ran for fun or pure enjoyment.  Run for fun?  Weird.  Never.  Run just because I can?  Nope not a chance.  I always had to have a goal or a reason.

 

Because I didn't run for an intrinsic need, it also didn't take much to talk me out of running.  I had all sorts of excuses!  I didn't like the weather.  I had a history of an unstable ankle.  What if I had to go potty?  Sometime running made my knee swell on the opposite side of the unstable ankle.  The best one was, I just plain didn't like it.  For me, running always had to have a purpose, and I had to look good doing it.  

 

A Corrective Exercise Specialist Explores The Barefoot Running Movement

My conversion to barefoot running came as my understanding of postural imbalances and dysfunction evolved.  As I began to re-shape my thoughts about what the human body is truly capable of as my skill as a restorative posture and pain relief professional developed.

 

My transition into wearing and running in the Nike Free was the catalyst.  Nike Free technology (catch the word - technology - Deb's still all about the gadgets at this point) is designed with the premise of making a shoe that mimics being barefoot.  Made sense to me, so why not give it a try?

 

Within a very short period of time I couldn't stand wearing any other type of shoe.  They felt "wrong" on my body, especially all my old "support" shoes.  Some of my more expensive ones, like my Merrell shoes just downright hurt.  Within a very short time, I was in a pair of Nike Frees, a pair of flip flops or completely barefoot.  

 

My relationship with running began to change.  After three solid years of exercising solely in the Nike Free or going bare foot, my body and my brain began to come around.

 

Over the 3 years, there were two important steps I took.  

  1. Balance the Body.  Relieve the Pain. | I incorporated postural therapy exercises into my daily routine to address postural imbalances and dysfunctions in my body.
  2. Function Runs | I became more functional, I added in "function running" in my Nike Free shoes.  

 

I began to notice  a distinct difference in how my body responded to the demand of running, particularly after adding in the function running.  All of a sudden running was not as hard as it used to be.  Oddly enough, I was starting to enjoy it a bit (but I wouldn't go as far as saying I was in love with running just yet!).  

 

I started to experience pain free running.  No more knee swelling or acute muscle soreness /injuries related to the activity.  Hallelujah!

 

Around this time I began to hear about these shoes called the Vibram FiveFingers from my colleagues in the Postural Therapy business.  

 

Yuck!  Are you kidding me?  I'm all about looking pretty people.  Remember Deb was very into the stuff.  There was no way I was going to put those bad-boy gorilla shoes on my tootsies.

 

Problem was I'd a very good job of preaching barefoot technology to anyone who would listen.   I was teaching my clients and friends about posture and function and encouraging them to transition into the Nike Free.  I was in them, my kids and husband were in them, heck, I even had my mom, dad and extended family in Canada and England in them. I was so passionate about "barefoot technology" that Nike should have been paying me royalties!

 

My "tribe" was also experiencing the freedom of better function and pain free movement.  Clients started asking me about the Vibram FiveFingers (they are a very smart bunch). The thought was, "if I'm feeling better in less shoe, then true barefoot must be better".  It made sense to explore more.

 

So I was forced into it.  As a person who values integrity above all other things, if I was going to practice what I preach, and continue to address postural imbalances and dysfunctions, I couldn't just ignore the "monkey shoes" any  longer.  

 

The more I read about barefoot running, it made perfect and complete sense from the body's "blue-print design" point of view.  

 

So why wasn't I trying it for myself?  

Honestly, I just thought they were ugly.

 

 

Along this entire process, my sweet husband patiently prodded me to read the book Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.  (If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it!  It's both technical AND extremely entertaining).

 

Now that my mind was on the Vibram, I finally picked up the book and began to read. It was a catalyst for me! You can't read that book without feeling completely inspired

 

The joy of running?  Running for community and service to others?  I wanted to experience that.  I went out and had myself fitted for my first pair of Vibram FiveFingers. and began practicing true barefoot running out in my neighborhood while waiting for those gorilla shoes to arrive in the mail.

 

Weird things started to happen.  For starters,running barefoot was just plain awesome.    It felt good, light and easy.

 

I had never run without working hard right away and oddly enough, I it made me feel like going right back outside to do it all over again.  Seriously, me?  Go a second time, just for fun?

 

Unheard of!   Did I say weird?  Not to mention that every other runner and walker out on the road had an opinion to share with me.  I got looks of shock, disbelief, comments and snickers.  The biggest was - "dosen't that hurt?", and "you're crazy".

 

I loved it!  It kind of fueled my fire and I felt like I knew a secret that they didn't.  Actually, I did know the secret.  I wasn't working nearly as hard as they were.  My foot and body were just complying with their perfect design and function.  It fueled me.

 

I kept going back out for small barefoot running increments.  True barefoot running didn't hurt at all.  Of course you have to watch where you're going.  Yes, look out for rocks, glass, and doggy messes!  I felt the run in my muscles and joint function in a very different way, but it didn't hurt my feet.  When you're functional in your body, running barefoot automatically changes how your foot contacts the ground.

 

Daniel Lieberman, professor human evolutionary biology (Harvard University) was quoted in Wired stated :

I'm not sure about millions of years, but I'm positive humans we've been running a mighty long time.  I noticed all the changes McDougall wrote about right away. I became aware of  muscles engaging in ways I had never felt before when running, and surprisingly enough never experienced debilitating muscle soreness after those runs.

 

As soon as my Vibrams arrived, I was out of the house and logged 4 miles like it was nothing.  All without a heart rate monitor, iPod sensor and belt to hold "my stuff".  You have to understand for the former me, 4 miles required mental fortitude and it needed to count on my tracking system.  This first 4 miles was easy, light and felt good.  I actually let myself give up my toys and ran just to experience my body moving against the earth.

 

I was hooked!  In fact within a week, I jwent out and ran 8 miles!  All at once.  Just because I felt good, and just because I could.

 

I know 8 miles isn't a being deal in the running word, but let me tell you it ROCKED mine!  I hadn't run 8 miles all at once in almost 10 years.  And I'll tell you that it wasn't for joy.  The last time I ran 8 miles all at once was because I was training for a half marathon and a 10 mile race.  I made myself do it.  Not for fun.  Not because I could.  Because I had to to meet an extrinsic goal.

 

Now I understood what Christopher McDougall was writing about.  Running could be intrinsic, from within myself.  It could be about community and joy and togetherness.  I had actually experienced it for myself, and am still amazed.  In fact, all I can think about is going out again.

 

Now that is an evolution!

 

Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Head Photo Credit:  Ruby and Roxy Photography

Author:  Deb Preachuk is a Corrective Exercise Specialist and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.   Follow Deb on Facebook, TwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn, or subscribe to her YouTubePinterest or Instagram pages.

With over 25 years in the health and wellness field, Deb helps real people transform real-world chronic pain challenges into achievable results. Deb infuses her teaching with an honest, open and down-to-earth mix of chronic pain relief therapeutic modalities training techniques to make the concepts of pain relief and body/mind transformation accessible and achievable!