The Running Revelation?
This year I have rediscovered the enjoyment from running, this has occurred on a number of different levels. Since February I have been running in minimalist / barefoot running shoes. These have prompted not only a difference in running, but a whole different approach to running.
The purpose of minimalist / barefoot shoes is to mimic the running style of barefoot running, moving away from the heel strike and weight of ‘normal’ running shoes. There is a mixed degree of research into the benefits and the dangers of barefoot running, and it is not my intention to try and replicate any of the theory behind either, make up your mind, do some research into both.
Instead, I am going to show how it has allowed me to have a different and improved approach to running.
Firstly, I am not an elite nor a fast runner, rather as a triathlete I have to run after swimming and cycling so anything that may help my performance is always useful.
I enjoy running, but it is hard. I have always listened to music and run on the roads, anything to make getting out for a run easier. And the below diagrams (from Garmin Connect) show an average run for the last few years. I do this 2 / 3 times a week with perhaps a longer run at the weekend.
This is an easy 5 mile run, usually done on a Tuesday evening after work. As you can see, nothing special, fairly flat and trying to keep it easy.
And then a revelation, I stopped using headphones and listening to music when I ran, instead, I just focussed on the run itself, and enjoying it. And tried minimalist shoes.
These have changed my running, leaving the house to go for a run is much easier, don’t have to find the headphones, check the MP3 player is charged, fit headphones etc. Instead just put clothes on and leave the door. It is surprising how much easier it is to get out with this simple change. When running, the wrong tune comes on, hit the fast forward button and you just can’t get the tune you want, another hassle. So running without music is much easier.
Do I get bored? No, can listen to my body, look around and be me aware of what is happening around me. Surprisingly I can destress easier without music and just think when running.
I have also changed my watch, yes I still run with it, recording my runs but now have changed the face I see to just show the time, the actual time, not my running time or pace or any of the myriad of other things it shows me. So I can focus on just running.
As for the shoes, they are much lighter, have no shock absorbency so have to land on my forefoot as it hurts when you land on your heels. But shoes don’t make much difference, do they?
The below data (again from Garmin Connect, same route, same time of day aiming to run easy) shows that the run cadence has quickened by 5 steps per minute, stride length has increased by 1 cm, speed has increased by 29 seconds per mile and heart rate has dropped from an average of 159bpm to 133bpm.
So this means, with the changes (shoes, music and watch), I am running quicker at a lower intensity.
Let me say that again, I am now running quicker than I was previously, with less effort. Which is sort of what we all aim to do.
But let us be clear, this is not conclusive proof that minimalist shoes help with running quicker and easier. Instead it does just mean that I am running quicker with less effort.
As a sports scientist, there are too many factors that may have contributed to this change, and the experiment has not be carried out to the standards I would use in my lab. Is it the stride length, the cadence, the music, the watch, that has contributed to these factors? Again, too many variables that have not been controlled and measured. Again, a reason for these to be studied in lab conditions.
But what I am sure is that my running has changed, I run quicker, easier.
I am certainly going to continue to run with these shoes and with the other changes, they have helped me, and as a coach, perhaps they may help you too?
Perhaps then I could call this a Running Revolution (for me).
Vibram 5 toe – minimalist shoe
Merrell Vapour Glove 2 - minimalist shoe
New Balance 860 v7 – normal running shoe
Graphics from Garmin Connect