I read a lot of articles and books about barefoot running, and how anatomically speaking it is the right thing to do if your goal is to develop a good running technique, as well as keeping your body healthy (i.e., not leaning forward, less stress on the spine, etc). I have been running minimalist for quite some time now—using the New Balance Minimus Zero running shoes—so naturally I thought I was doing it right all these years, until, that is, I came across an article that talked about how running barefoot (or using the Vibram Five Fingers to protect your skin) can improve running performance, especially speed.
The running shoes I’m currently using are so minimalist, that I didn’t think taking them off will do any difference; I was wrong! The experiment I conducted was quite simple: run 1.70’ish mile with and without shoes and measure what happens. The photo below compares the results. I was shocked to see the difference between the two runs! I felt the most natural (i.e., less tired, more loose) running barefoot, and the only reason I had to stop is because I was starting to get blisters on my toes.
The experience of running barefoot was a bit strange in the beginning. Feeling (literally) the ground under my feet forced me to adjust the way I hit the surface, and with it my running posture. I was “bouncing” more and I felt the running-power was coming from my feet. I also felt ‘lighter’ and faster, which was strange because it was opposite to what I felt five minute prior to it when I was running with the minimalist shoes. I also felt less tired muscles wise. I literally felt I could just keep running all day long, but as I mentioned above the only thing that stopped me were the blisters that started to develop. Overall I felt like a “runner” in the true sense of the word.
In conclusion, if in the past I scoffed at the Vibram Five Fingers shoes (not sure I can call them shoes), now I’m convinced that they are the solution to help improve my running performance. I heard many professional runners raving about these shoes, and now I understand why.