The Journey Begins: Minimalist Running

minimalist_run_1My first real minimalist run was today, but this journey began long before today. It started back in December when, after running consistently for a year, my right knee would take no more. I was no “super runner”, but I averaged 30-40 mi./mo. at 7:48/mi. I took a few weeks off, started back up in January (2013), got 4 runs in, then had to stop due to more pain. I started back up a week-and-a-half later and the pain was so severe in my knee, I thought it was going to explode, leaving me in a sad little heap in the road. I limped home defeated.

I debated going to the doctor. I sought friends’ advice on Facebook and Twitter. I read about supplements, surgeries, and then looped back to something I had thought a lot about: barefoot running. Knowing I am a total wimp when it comes to the bottom of my feet—and having no real desire to toughen them up—I gravitated toward minimalist running (i.e. Vibram Five-Fingers). All my research pointed to the fact that running barefoot or with minimal coverage on your foot improved your biomechanics and got you back to running the way we were designed to run. I waited a couple months until my knee felt good walking and running at short distances, then bought a pair of the Bikila LS.

I’ve been (mostly) following Vibram’s guide to transitioning to barefoot running, wearing the five-fingers for an hour or two a day for a couple weeks while walking and sitting. I also did some stretching and strengthening (as recommended by their site), though not quite as much as they suggest. We’ll see if that comes back to bite me in the ass. And today I began “week 3” of training: beginning to run.

I started off with about 10% of my usual distance and took it a bit slower (see my stats in the graphic above). I. Felt. Awesome. I forgot how much I love to run and really feeling my entire foot, leg, and body with every stride and strike was invigorating. The best part: no knee pain. I know it’s the first day and I only ran a half mile, but I’m hopeful. Right now (about 6 hours later), I definitely feel fatigue in my forefoot, top of the foot, achilles, and calf, but there’s not pain…yet. I’m going to continue to take it slow and easy, and really work on just enjoying the run, rather than competing with myself for that best time or distance. Hopefully I can keep a log here of how it goes, mostly for shits and giggles, but maybe as a reference for others thinking about trying the same thing.