Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Journey to minimalist/barefoot Running

I can't say i'm an expert in barefoot or minimalist running nor am i a seasoned runner to be fully qualified to make a comprehensive review. This is just my take on why i've decided to take on the minimalist / barefoot journey. Still being an infant runner, i was plagued with a quest to find that perfect running shoe for me. A shoe which i could say, "This was made for me!" Who was i kidding?? A flat, over-pronator and abnormally shaped feet like mine was never going to find that perfect shoe. It was getting too ridiculously expensive. Yes, the science in Orthotics and perhaps the claimed studies of shoe companies who came up with Motion Control and Stability shoes might just be what we need...or is it? or are we just plagued with marketing for the products they sell? 

I've read and researched on different studies, articles and opinions of other runners especially ones who have tried running barefoot or minimalist. Of course they are just too many to mention but let me just break it down simply my way, barefoot/minimalist running simply made more sense. Well, there seem to be more benefits on barefoot / minimalist running than on shod. Let me break it down to my understanding:
  1. Barefoot / minimalist forces you to land on your forefoot, not on your heel. Landing on heels put on tremendous force on your legs and is like stepping on brakes while moving forward. Heel landing causes Shin splints.
  2. Barefoot / minimalist runners don't push off. Push off while running causes Plantar Fasciitis
  3. Barefoot / minimalist forces you to land under your Center of Gravity. Aligned body joints for stable support
  4. Barefoot / minimalist do smaller strides and a cadence not less than 180. Lesser time on the ground, lesser chances for injury.
  5. Barefoot / minimalist runners land softer than on shod. Although cushion on marshmallow shoes relieves the impact you feel, the force that goes up your legs and joints are virtually the same when running on shod or barefoot. You just don't feel it as much because your proprioceptors are shut off when on shod
  6. Barefoot / minimalist forces your Achilles tendon to perform as it should. It provides elastic energy storage in hopping, walking and running. It is our natural shock absorber. Marshmallow shoes (cushioned shoes) constrict the tendon to perform as it should.
  7. Strengthens your feet muscles. Need i say more?
Although, it doesn't mean running on shod is a mistake and decades of product research and development is going down the drain. I still use my running shoes for recovery or in my case, for longer distance runs. Somehow my deformity does take it's toll as it requires more patience and adjustment in transitioning to barefoot/minimalist running as compared to some lucky few. I just think some of the products on the market which are over-hyped is of course, good business! The more i tried going minimalist, the more i couldn't go back to the supports of motion controlled shoes which push your feet up in different angles and are heavy as hell!!! I wasn't going to let my deformity on my arch hinder me from running on flats. Like they say, once you go bare, there's no going back. I figured, the ground is flat and the closer i am to the ground, i will make the ground my support. 

These are my 2 minimalist babies. Terra Plana Neo is on it's way to add to my line-up soon.

Vibram Five Finger Speed
Terra Plana Evo

Both products provide very minimal support and very durable materials. They do an excellent job in emulating actual barefoot running without the risk of puncturing your skin. Although both have very different approaches on their design and feel, it would boil down to preference. 

Terra Plana Evo was my first take on minimalist shoes. They might not be unusually shaped like the VFFs, they are an excellent minimalist shoe to run on. The primary advantage of the EVOs is you can wear them to work or going out unlike the VFFs. They still give your toes the freedom to move and spread out. The toe box area are wide enough for that. I have to question their approach on the recyclable plastic material they used on top. They are unique and comfortable providing enough ventilation but the price just doesn't give it justice. The upcoming Neo costs less though probably due to the different material used for the upper. 

The Vibram Five Fingers (Why not Vibram Five Toes?) really separates your toes to perform maximum support and balance to your body and to your running. They've become more popularly known as "Gorilla Feet". They are best worn without socks but leave a blister on your big toes in long runs especially during the early transitioning stages but that can be resolved with some tape. The speed and Bikila are a little bit thicker than the KSO and Sprint line but still are more grounded than the Terra Plana. Speed and Bikila have better accomodation for over pronators or flat feet people like myself.

Both are excellent products. One might find the other to be cooler in design. Although VFFs are sometimes difficult to put on, the barefoot feel of these justify that. I would have to say VFFs give you more of the "barefoot" feel becuase of it's "barefoot" design but the Terra Plana EVO gives you that shoe feel but still provide enough freedom for your toes and keep you as low on the ground. Although for EVO, you have the option to remove the in-sole if you want to go hard corea. That gives you very similar feel of barefoot since VFFs don't come with any in-sole off the box.

Enough with the product review, i told myself i'd cross that 42km finish line only in barefoot or minimalist. Who am i kidding?!?? My mind was probably too big to accept that it might be physically impossible or challenging for a flat runner to pressure myself on that. I really stood by that goal until a few days ago. 

I said earlier i'm not against shod and i'm not. I've decided to fulfill that marathon dream in marshmallow shoes for the upcoming Cebu City Marathon on January 9, 2011. It might feel i'm cheating my barefoot / minimalist journey but i just couldn't miss this chance here in my home turf. Thanks to enough convincing from Sydney delos Reyes. I might have made the biggest mistake in my life as a runner. Let's see come January 9, 2011.


  1. Great detailed post chil! Good luck on CCM!

  2. Looks like I am not alone in this. Good luck, bai!