Barefoot running progress report

posted by Russ, May 13 in outside with tags ,


It’s been a while since I started my barefoot running journey. Last fall I began experimenting, and though I was having mixed results at the time, I was definitely hooked. Fast forward almost 6 months, and I am happy to say that I am making great progress, though a bit slower than I would have hoped.

Last time I posted about it, I was just switching to my Vibram Five Finger shoes. The transition set me back, and for a while I was continuing to nurse a strained calf. But now I am happy to report that I have gotten over the first major hurdle. My calf injury is long gone, and for the first time in my life my runs actually feel like runs, and I feel like I am actually getting a workout as opposed to a beating.

The transition to the Vibrams definitely took some time due the changes in the muscles I was using. Initially it was my feet and arches, but those seemed to strengthen up quickly. Then it was my calves that were holding me back. Not hurting me, but starting to tighten after about 3 miles or so. So for about a month I leveled off there, doing about 3 miles 4 days a week. And finally one day it just clicked, I came home and instead of having sore feet or sore calves, I just felt great!

And now I’ve bumped my distance up to about 5 miles at a time. I know it’s still not great, but considering when I started I couldn’t even make it 1/2 a mile in my Vibrams without aching, I feel like it’s been great. And now that all my muscles are in sync I have actually increased my speed too, finally getting to a point where I get a great cardio workout as well, and don’t collapse when I get home.

It feels great to go out for a 45 minute run, put 5 miles in, and actually feel great when I get home. Not to mention I’m experiencing no soreness, having no knee problems, and no shin splints or anything like that either. The only thing I noticed after my last run was that the bottoms of my feet felt worn out. But I would expect this, since it’s certainly still new for them to be so unprotected from the concrete. I would imagine that if I could find a nice dirt trail I could probably increase my distance by 25 to 50%.

(As a side note, I just noticed this morning that I actually have arches now! My entire life I have been close to completely flat footed, but now I have a visible arch. Amazing!)

From here on out it seems that I’ll just keep bumping up the distance and the time as my body sees fit. It’s just going to be a constant challenge, and I’ll just listen to my feet.

Originally posted on Thursday, May 13th, 2010 at 6:07 AM .

4 Responses to “Barefoot running progress report”

  1. Roderick says:

    Fantastic! Sounds like you’re doing a great job of listening to your body! I wouldn’t worry about the timeframe being longer than you would like. Your progress sounds perfect, and your responding to the needs of your body in the moment – it’s a sure route to long-term success!

    Keep it up!

  2. Emma says:

    So, are the soles of your feet getting rougher/tougher/thicker? I hate to be a girl, but that would be one thing I wouldn’t like. I still haven’t broken down and bought the Vibrams yet, but I want to. I also want to get them for my mom so she can strengthen her feet and ankles, instead of depending on shoes to provide that stability.

    • Russ says:

      Hi Emma! The soles of my feet are getting tougher, but not really rougher or thicker. In the sense that they can now withstand the pounding on the concrete, yea they are tougher. But it’s not like they are an impenetrable shield. The biggest difference is that the muscles have got stronger so the feet have more endurance. The Vibrams protect them from getting roughed up, so it’s more of a muscle / endurance difference. But I have been reading about people who run literally barefoot, and they have said that they don’t develop big thick callously feet like we’d think. That in fact the contact with the ground keeps them nice and smooth. I’m sure they are calloused enough to not get scraped to pieces, but probably not as gnarly as we’d think. I’m learning that it’s all about form. Also, I’d say go for it on the Vibrams for your mom. They (or barefoot) will definitely help strengthen the supporting muscles.

  3. […] about my barefoot quest a couple years ago after reading the book Born to Run, and posted a few updates along the […]

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