Thursday, January 07, 2010

An unplanned but pleasant barefoot run

Just as I started my run at the Tau Devi Lal Biodiversity Park in Gurgaon today morning, I felt a slight pain from my left knee down to the foot. It got worse as the run continued. After 2 kms, I was putting a lot more pressure on my right foot than my left. By the time I completed the 3rd km, there was a good bit of limping in my running.

That's when I decided to call off the run (was planning to do 8K today). Before leaving though, I thought I would go around the park's 1K loop once more -- and this time just walk and not run. A few metres of walking, and I got a silly idea -- why not walk barefoot?

I had been thinking about trying out barefoot/minimalist footwear running for sometime now. Christopher McDougall more or less indicts Nike and their heel-cushioning shoes in his book Born to Run for the injuries that plague long distance runners today. Plus, recent studies seem to suggest that our bodies are designed to run (with natural cushioning provided by the balls of the feet -- and they don't need any shoes for help). Only, I hadn't planned on doing this before the Mumbai marathon.

Still, here I was, unable to run, and with an inkling to walk barefoot. So, I removed my shoes and socks, held them in my hands, and started walking. And the ground was... ouch! Those damn pebbles on the track were hurting the delicate soles of my feet. I moved on to the grass to save myself from this pain. A few hundred metres later, another idea -- run! But what about those damn pebbles? And what about the pain that made me abort the original run?

I was near a part of the track where pebbles were not any problem. And I decided to take a risk with the run -- but with the running shoes in my hands instead of over my feet! I completed the loop, felt good. Completed another, and another. There was just a hint of the pain I was feeling earlier, but it wasn't even annoying anymore. I didn't have such high hopes, but this was turning out better than expected. I couldn't run barefoot all this time though, because, well, there were spots where there were just too many pebbles and not much grass to run on. And damn they do hurt the feet!

Still, in the end, I ended up doing a total of 3K with this mixture of barefoot run/walk [wanted to do more, but it was getting a little late for office ;-)]. It felt good. So what's next? As far as the Mumbai marathon goes -- take a bit of rest to nurture my aching (while running with shoes) left leg, and do some light training next week before D-Day on 17th. Once that is done with, I will dump my Adidas running shoes (for sometime atleast) and buy a pair of Nike Free's, or, maybe buy those thin green-soled sneakers we used to wear on Saturdays (white-uniform mornings, if you went to that sort of school). Going completely barefoot on the roads is not a very exciting prospect -- just think about the pebbles!

It will be interesting to see how that experience turns out to be -- if the advocates of barefoot running (and detractors of modern running shoes) are right, most of the pains or injuries I've had in the last one year are because of my shoes. If they are right, I will be seeing even more exciting running times ahead!


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