This fall I started running barefoot as soon as I was released from physical therapy. Barefoot running is a trend right now. The theory being that before the invention of the fancy cushy running shoe people used to wear crap shoes -- or no shoes -- to run. Running shoes often require a heel strike, where as when you run barefoot, you land in the middle of your foot and roll to the heel.
There has been no scientific evidence that running with shoes or running without shoes has any real advantage. Some people hurt themselves in shoes, some people hurt themselves barefoot (or in bare shoes like Vibrams Five Fingers). Running form and ability, like most things, is very subjective, it would appear. I began running short distances without shoes and then purchased a pair of Vibrams from REI to protect the bottoms of my feet. I have no interest in blisters or burns or cuts. I like my feet. I take them to pedicures whenever possible to pamper them (i.e. I'm a big wuss).
But since coming inside to run, I'd been doing short runs (2 miles) in my Vibrams or in socks and long runs (3 miles or longer) in shoes. Last week, I set a personal best running a 10k -- the first two miles were in shoes, and then as soon as I began to feel fatigued and wanting to quit, I took them off, walked 200 meters and then ran 4 miles in my socks. My speed immediately adjusted to a 9:30/mile, the speed I ran my first mile at with shoes. By the end of mile 2, my speed in shoes had slowed to 10:15/mile. My speed without shoes never went above a 9:50/miles, even when I was tired and slow the last 1/2 mile.
One of the reasons I like barefoot running is that the change in form appears to take all the pressure off of my left knee (where I have tendonitis) and the degenerative disk disease I have in my lower back. I feel no pain. It does load my calves a lot more, though. So Tae Kwon Do (which is mostly done on your toes) suffers a bit the day after a barefoot run.
My goal is to be able to run in the Disney Wine and Dine 1/2 marathon in October 2011 with my friends Sara and Christa. Registration doesn't open until Valentine's Day. But I'm really excited about it. You run your half marathon at 10 p.m. So by the time you finish (let's say I'll be done by 12:30 a.m.) they open up Epcot for a big after run party... Sounds like a good time to me. :-)
Now, my challenge -- being able to run 13 miles IN SHOES. Because I don't think I'll be able to handle 13 in Vibrams. But changing it up so I'm able to train to do both, can't hurt, right?