Friday, November 4, 2011

A New Way to Run

While browsing my blog feed yesterday, I came across this article from Root Simple, which linked me to this NY Times article about barefoot running.  (I just typed "barefood" by accident.  That should tell you something about me.)

I should explain that I have always been overweight, and have always hated running.  In gym class, I could never complete the required number of laps at a run.  At best, I could run half of each lap.  I couldn't understand how my classmates were possibly running so fast, and for so long.  I figured it must be that I was fat, and not built for running.  That has been my line every time the subject comes up: "I don't run.  I'm not built for running."

 While I do think body type has something to do with which exercises work best for which people, the above NY Times article came as a shock to me.  Apparently, I've been doing it wrong all these years.  "How can you run wrong?" you might ask.  According to the article, for the best, most efficient, most injury- and pain-free way of running, you want to land on the ball and toes of your foot.  I tried this out barefoot in the kitchen yesterday, and was excited to try it outside for a longer stretch.  Unfortunately, it's too cold to try it barefoot (and I'm not totally convinced I would want to, even if it was warmer), so I laced up my sneakers and went for a short run/walk around the loop in my neighborhood.

It was amazing.  With my accustomed way of running, I hit the pavement on my heels or flat-footed, with quite a bit of force, which caused my joints to ache and all the wobbly bits of my overweight self to, well, wobble.  Not pleasant for me, not pleasant for anyone who happened to be watching.  But by landing on the front of my feet, there was almost no jarring impact; rather, the force was absorbed by all the little joints in my feet, then ankles, knees, etc.  I felt like my body was working for me, instead of against me.  Even with shoes on, this technique makes running an actual possibility for exercise, instead of a cruel and unusual punishment.

Now, granted, the results weren't miraculous.  I'm still out of shape, and the longer I go, the more out of breath I get, and the more my technique suffers.  I was running a little, then walking a little.  But I hope if I keep it up, I'll be able to run continuously for longer periods.  I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. the other secret they don't tell you is that running on your toes actually requires more leg strength (your muscles are more engaged) so you get a better workout while you're at it.

  2. Why, exactly, don't they tell you these things? Isn't that the kind of thing that P.E. classes were invented for?

  3. Someone must have told me, since I do run that way (but I still hate running). If you ever want to try a transition instead of going straight to barefoot running, you might think about trying Five Fingers, which some people really love.

  4. I have heard of (and looked at, a little) the VFFs. My brother, in fact, just bought himself a new pair after wearing out the first. I'm going to wait and see if I stick with running before I buy any kind of new specialized shoe, but I might eventually look more seriously at VFFs. Thanks Emilie!

  5. laura I'm so proud of you!! if you like walking/running like I do you should check out the couch potato to 5k program. google it. it basically takes you from running only a minute with lots of walking to running a 5k in a couple of months! i'm not really a runner either, but i have really enjoyed using that when I want exercise...

  6. Haha, Anna, that is the one I am using!