The Final Frontier
I used to hate running. Then I started to want to overcome it- I jokingly called it “the final frontier,” that one thing I don’t want to do that I really probably need to do. So I started out slowly. Music helped a little, but I really wasn’t getting anywhere. Then I read Born to Run and everything started to change. The stories of the races, the explanation of our evolution into creatures made to run and breathe differently than any other animal, and the imagery of beautiful Mexico, wonderfully quirky people and traditional recipes- it all made me crave running as much as black beans with lime, jalapenos and freshly made organic corn tortillas. Once I understood that running differently could take me to the next level, I was all in.
The next book I picked up was ChiRunning and it’s the one that helped me change my whole way of looking at running technique and helped me understand how running can (and should be) a form of meditation. Now I’m looking forward to practicing sitting meditation, yoga, and running for the rest of my life. I look forward to the mental strength crossing over into other areas of my life. Being able to focus on something, push through the hard moments, and appreciate your progress- it’s what makes running an amazing metaphor for life.
Joel and I are heading to Colorado this weekend to visit friends and his parents will go with us to cheer us on as we run the Bolder Boulder. Joel and I have totally different time-goals (he’s been running for years and picked up minimal running very well so he’s like a ninja gazelle who’s also run the Bolder Boulder eight times before) so we probably won’t be starting the race and definitely not finishing together which is kind of a bummer, but hey- it’s another metaphor for life and marriage- gotta run your own race at your own pace and just high five at the end of the day!
It’s my first race ever (unless you count a mile race when I was a kid) and I just started running, so while I’m hoping to finish strong, I’m always aware of my safety first. I’m aiming to finish the 10k in under an hour- but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t make it. It might be a tall order for a beginner like me, especially when I had to totally revolutionize the way I run when I started wearing Vibram Five Fingers instead of sturdy, supportive, inflexible running shoes. But I’ll never go back now- my feet and ankles have strengthened and yet loosened significantly. I used to get shin splints a minute into a run and always felt like my ankles were prone to twinges of pain and possible injury. Even once I started to walk and run in my Vibrams, I was reluctant to hike in them, but when I finally put them on for a hike in Sedona, it was one of the best hikes of my life. I could feel every curve of the terrain, grip my foot around every rock face and use my whole foot and toes in a way that feels so natural now.
Running gait and running injury expert Jay Dicharry, MPT, says running in shoes with a near-level profile is an ideal situation because it allows the body to run in the most natural position possible without having to compensate too much for how the shoe is trying to dictate the movement of the foot.
Injury Free, Pain Free
The pain of my bone-jutting bunion developed from years of wearing high heels is beginning to subside and become corrected. It didn’t start to subside until I took off all the tennis shoes and dress shoes alike and moved to a pair of Merrells. Finally, relief! I truly believe (as much as it flies in the face of popular understanding) that taking off the sturdy boots and cushioned running shoes is the way to avoid foot problems including the dreaded plantar fasciitis. Stretching the calves, Achilles tendons, and taking care of all the tendons and ligaments in the feet and legs is so important.
“As runners, our feet are what keep us connected with the ground and offer important tactile, sensory feedback, which makes the structure and design of the shoe on our foot essential in shaping our experience with the surrounding terrain. By wearing a shoe that eliminates unnecessary gimmicks and gadgetry (and, most importantly, a big, cushioned heel), I am allowing my foot to operate more effectively, efficiently and naturally while freely relaying proprioceptive information back to the rest of my body.”
-ANTON KRUPICKA, Riding the Wind
While we were moving and traveling recently, I thought nothing of it when I put on my old Nike tennis shoes to schlep totes up and down our apartment stairs. My feet felt fine, but I noticed I had a hard time jogging to load the car with good ChiRunning form- it’s actually nearly impossible not to heel strike in thick-heeled shoes! Then I wore the tennis shoes in the car while we drove across a few states. When we got to Sedona, it was so beautiful, we set out for a run. I couldn’t get my ankles to relax- they were just so stiff and felt prone to injury. So I did the “old man shuffle” home and Joel (who has been wearing his Vibrams quite religiously for about a year) ran off into the sunset.
We’ve tried running a little bit totally barefoot and it truly feels amazing, but it will take a while to condition our feet to be ready for running different terrain, and we need to run the way we plan to run the race, so we’re sticking with the Vibrams for now. Here’s my wish list for the minimal shoes I’d like to grab. We’re also looking into making DIY huaraches, just like the Tarahumara.
The amazing human foot is comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons. It is totally wild to me that we have decided to immobilize them all and then expect them to work the way they are intended to. I never thought twice about it before, I’m just so glad I know now how to strengthen my feet and correct my stride to protect my body from the shock and stress that actually results from incorrect footwear and form. Here are some of the shoes I would buy if I were given a million dollar shopping budget. I actually think I will grab some of these depending on what kinds of shoes I end up wearing to work. Hence the two “top six” categories- shoes for fun & runs and shoes for work and life- just for the times when I can’t be barefoot of course!
Suzanne’s Top Six Minimal Shoes: Sporty & Sweet
2. Vibram Jaya LR (I can’t decide between natural & white- they’re both so great!)
4. Skora Form
4. J.Crew Cece Ballet Flats [Editor’s Apologies: These are cute but I would not have put them in the picture had I not mistaken them for another pair- for one, they are very expensive for what they are; two, the color shown is now sold out; and three they are suede which at this price is surely made from an animal.]