Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Barefoot Running, and the Eye-Opening Watch Debacle

As I mentioned last week, I have made it my goal to lose the plantar fasciitis that has been bugging me for over a year. I got a new pair of minimalist shoes (which are all the rage in the running community) to help me alter my running form. I am a shameful heel striker, and I am on a mission to change that.

I tried out my new (PURPLE) sneakers, and they felt great. I also tried landing on my midfoot on a treadmill, and that felt OK too. But overall, it still felt pretty awkward. I didn’t know where to bend, what to bend, or where to land. As it turns out, changing your running form after years of wearing cushioned sneakers does not happen overnight.

So I decided to do some research. I Googled “Barefoot Running,” and came across a book written by a guy appropriately named “Barefoot Ken Bob.” The book, Barefoot Running Step by Step, chronicles how Ken, who is widely considered as the Guru of barefoot running, came to run 76 marathons (you guessed it) – barefoot. I didn’t actually buy the book, but Amazon's preview gives you quite a bit of pages to read without dipping into your electronic wallet.

Ken’s “Most Important Lesson” in the book to help you run barefoot – bend your knees. It seems so simple. But then I thought about it, and remembered this photo from the Brooklyn Half-Marathon:

My legs are almost completely straight. What happens when your legs are straight? You heel strike. What happens when your legs are bent? You land on the balls of your feet.

When I got home from work, I tried on a pair of Nike Frees that Keith lent me to try out, and went for a bent-knees run. And it worked!

Ken talks about how bending your knees fixes a lot of problems all at once – it makes you land on the balls of your feet (which absorbs the shock, and in turn decreases the chance of injury), and you are automatically set up to run in a forward motion. It was incredible to me how bending my knees naturally made me go faster, and it felt effortless. I was intending to go out for an easy jog since I did a five-mile run yesterday morning, but I ended up clocking in at an 8:33 pace (which is on the quicker side for me).

Barefoot Ken - notice the bent knees.

So what’s next? Well as most running rules go, do everything in moderation. My body isn’t used to this new form, so I’m going to try and ease into it. I want to try out running barefoot on the track by my apartment, and slowly incorporate this new technique into my daily runs. Also, marathon training starts next week (!!!), and I want to be as injury-free as possible. I have noticed, however, that my IT band that is normally a little sore, feels much better this week. A byproduct of the midfoot strike? Perhaps.

**(For more info on barefoot running, check out Ken’s book or his website, I do not claim to be an expert on this stuff, or on anything really, so the above is just what I saw as the key takeaways).

After my first bent-knee run, I plugged my Garmin watch into my computer to upload both my morning and evening runs. While I do love my watch, it has a really hard time reading a charge or connecting to my computer. It takes me about five minutes to figure out how to connect it to anything, and it gives me serious rage that normally only comes from a crowded subway ride. During last night’s fit, my Garmin went completely blank. More rage. Keith and I tried fiddling with it, but nothing happened.

I became slightly dramatic, and was trying to plot out the time it would take for the manufacturer to fix it. JUST as I am about to embark on an 18-week long running voyage, my amazing GPS, pace-keeping watch decides to pucker out. My life is so hard.

At the end of my rant, Keith said very wisely, “You know, people were running before there was technology.” Bam. The birds began to sing, and the stars aligned. I began to think about his comment more, and I realized that I did my entire marathon training last year with my cheap, pink Timex watch. No GPS, no pace updates. Often times, I left it at home. During the actual marathon, I think I only looked at it three times.

In a dramatic statement that I will probably regret later, I have decided to run one day a week without a watch. I will need it for speed work, and I will probably want it on my long runs to see how many more times I need to run over the Williamsburg Bridge to make 18 miles, but I’m going to pick one easy run and forego my beloved technology.

I don’t want to become a slave to my paces or lose sight of why I started running – for fun. I truly loved training last year, and while it was a bit tiring at times, I never lost sight of why I signed up in the first place. I wanted to complete a marathon, and I wanted to enjoy it.

Starting next week, I will begin ramping up my mileage quite a bit, and to avoid becoming burned out, I’m going to check into the mindset that worked for me so well last year. I’m going to train for a marathon, and it’s going to be awesome.

(In case you were worried, I figured out how to turn my watch back on. Google solves everything)


  1. What an inspirational post! I'm inspired! Not to start running or anything though, lets not push it.

  2. I'm so glad! I'll lend you the trusty timex in case you change your mind.

  3. The old Timex motto says "Take's a Lickin' & Keeps on Tickin'". Though I did not know they came in pink! As for barefoot running, what about pebbles that you step on?