Being quite new to “minimalist” running, I have tried to keep up on all the new research that continues to emerge on the topic of Barefoot (BF) running and Minimalist Shoe (MS) running. I am a Traditional Shoe (TS) runner having run in stable, motion control shoes for 20+ years. And during most of those years I’ve worn semi-rigid custom orthotics in my shoes. The original reaon for the orthotics was persistent hip and lateral knee pain when I first started running – and I just continued wearing the orthotics because they helped so well at the time.
I recently made the leap to MS (Minimal shoe) running, tossing my orthotics and stable, motion control shoes for the New Balance “Minimus” running shoe. I fell in love almost immediately – I loved the light weight shoe, and the fact that I could almost, almost, feel the ground beneath my feet. But, I still felt like I was running like a TS runner – even with the minimal heel of the New Balance Minimalist – I continue to land with a heel strike running form. The good news was that I was able to run with minimal protection and without orthotics and without my old hip or knee pain. I cannot attribute the minimal shoe or lack of orthotics to painfree running – it is just as likely that 20 years of running allowed me to positively adapt physically to running.
In any case I was also intrigued by the notion of barefoot running (BF running) and have the ambition to one day run “like” the barefoot runner. But, I want sufficient protection to the bottom of my feet. As most now know, BF embraces a midfoot or forefoot landing style of the foot, rather than the traditional heel strike pattern. I will be writing more about what we know in the research literature about the pros/cons of midfoot/forefoot striking compared with heel striking, but suffice to say there is sufficient research to entice me to try to make this transition as a runner.
Knowing that “true” barefoot running would require that I learn to land on my midfoot and/or forefoot (at least for higher speed running), I knew I needed to learn how to transition from my heel striking ways to that of the midfoot striker. Unfortunately, the Minimus shoe was a bit too close to the traditional shoe to help me sufficiently with this transition. And while I am sure the Vibram Five-Finger would likely do the trick, I am “toe-space” sensitive. I am quite sure I would not tolerate toe socks – I cannot tolerate a single “big toe thong” type sandle…so, something between each toe was not going to work.
And then I stumbled upon Sockwa – through Twitter. Clever name (Sockwa = sock with attitude) – these “shoes” slip on almost like a crew cut sock but they have sufficient minimal rubber on the sole to offer protection to the bottom of the foot. The Sockwa G3 (which is what I am wearing) are deigned to allow for running outdoors. And because they have absolutely no heel reinforcement, no heel thickness at all, the Sockwa encourages the runner to land softly on the midfoot or forefoot, essentially as if running barefoot. As soon as I slipped on my Sockwa G3′s I knew I was in for a treat. My feet felt almost naked…and I was excited to go for a short run. Kind of reminded me of the moccasins I wore as kid playing in the backyard.
My first run was a combination of concrete road surface, gravel road, and rock/dirt trail. I kept the run short (about 3-miles) but right from the start I knew I was landing on my midfoot and not on my heels. Even when I tried to land on my heels I did not like the sensation and immediately resorted to midfoot landing. This naturally required a slightly higher cadence, a shorter stride, and a bit more “tall” running posture – but, well, that is actually the idea – and the basic requirement of BF running. I only wish I had picked a route that also had some minor hills – I just felt like I wanted to surge – which is unusual for me as a runner. What a total joy – and I am not one to gush about running. I anxiously await to see how I feel tomorrow…and am looking foward to my next run. The G3 is super comfortable and feels almost as if running without anything on my feet - about as close to BF running as I’ll get – but with the requisite protection. Thank you Sockwa!!!!!