Going Barefoot: Week 1 Report

Today ends the first week of my barefoot running experiment so I’m recording my progress and thought someone else might benefit from my experience. My previous post covered off on my motivations and goals for doing this.

My Vibram Five Fingers KSOs (Keep Stuff Outs) came in last Friday. I was concerned about the fit but they fit perfectly. I started out slowly by just wearing them around on errands over the weekend.

Here’s a summary of the week:

Day Activities Observations
Sat 3/6 errands (Drew’s basketball game, etc.) It was a little cool in the morning but it wasn’t really a problem because I didn’t spend much time outside; feet felt good; got a curious look or two
Sun 3/7 Great Wolf Lodge trip with the kids It was handy to use the same shoes outside, indoors and by the pool; once inside by the pool, I took the VFFs off; everyone’s barefoot at the pool
Mon 3/8 weight workout; outdoor run The Monday weight workout was an opportunity to move around and use different positions; the VFFs are really good for weight training—stable, comfortable
The great weather gave me a perfect opportunity to get a few miles in outside. I ran about 1.4 miles with the VFFs and switched to shoes for another 3.5 miles (felt fine but I’m starting slow)
Tue 3/9 strength class Much like weight work, the VFFs were well suited for the strength class. We didn’t use fitness balls in this class, but I imagine the VFFs would be good for stabilizing
Wed 3/10 weight workout uneventful, still good
Thu 3/11 cardio/strength class, treadmill run The CRT (cardio resistance training) class at Lifetime is a great high-intensity workout: weights, pushups, jumping, sprinting, stairs (lost count of how many sets). it’s a high impact workout and I babied my feet a little bit this first time to avoid getting injured. I definitely noticed more burn in my lower legs than normal so that’s a good sign.
After CRT, I tacked on a quick 1 mile run on the treadmill in the VFFs. I took a slow pace at 7.1mph and my legs felt fine, but the treadmill feel strange to run on—I could feel the thin belt sliding under my feet. Running outdoors feels a lot better than on the treadmill now.
Fri 3/12 weights
jump rope
another good weight workout wearing the VFFs.. no problem there, definitely enjoying the feel of them when lifting
I wanted to give my legs another workout before the weekend so I jumped rope in the VFFs for 5 minutes to build foot and calf strength; I thought this would get painful and I planned to only go for 2 minutes, but it felt so good I kept adding minutes until I hit 5 and decided not to push my luck

(I did the spinning classes M/W/F but I wear cycling shoes in those so I didn’t list them here)

A few general observations:

  • After running barefoot for just over a mile, I had changed my running style significantly: I eliminated my heel strike (that hurts barefoot!), took smaller steps and kept a straighter posture. When I switched back to shoes to finish my run, I stuck with that style and think I ran significantly better that way in shoes as well.
  • On the outdoor run, the uphills were the easiest to adapt to and downhills the hardest. My old way would be to pound down the hill landing on my heels but this doesn’t work barefoot so I’m relearning how to descend with speed. This will just take some time.
  • I can feel my feet getting stronger and more flexible. Believe it or not, I discovered that the toes actually serve a purpose other than decoration. This was particularly noticeable while jumping rope.
  • Looking into the whole barefoot thing, I kept seeing people talking about how much fun the barefoot thing was. To be honest, it seemed a little silly to me. A week in, though, I’m starting to understand it, but I’m not sure I can explain it.

Next week I’ll continue on the same track, bumping barefoot miles up to somewhere south of 2. I’ll try to work some more jump rope in because that seems to really work the feet and lower legs.