It had been ‘a thing’ before Chris McDougal’s Born To Run, that book brought a mass audience; an audience that was pretty evangelical at times (faddists made my list of Running Bugbears). It still attracts some pretty ardent supporters but is less ubiquitous across the sector now.
I used to do a bit of barefoot running myself - real barefoot running, with no shoes or socks. It was easy back then because my office was next to a well maintained grass field that was about an 800m loop. But I changed jobs in 2012 and it became less easy so fell by the wayside a bit.
I started wanting to get back into it while I was training for the London Marathon and became aware that my technique was becoming increasingly ‘slouchy’ as I relied on the thick padding under my heel – especially when I got tired.
Then fate intervened. I saw an ebay advert for factory second Freets. Seconds always appeal because, although I would love to say I am a dedicated bargain-hunter, I am nearly always skint being the employee of an NGO with three young children.
|Freet Tarsa 4+1|
The Tarsa has just 3mm of rubber between my foot and the ground and no difference in padding from my heel to my toe. Most running shoes have about 15mm under the heel and drop by about 12mm from heel to toe (explained quite nicely in this blog).
I bought them some time ago but as I was in training for the London Marathon didn’t want to change anything which may bring on an injury. But then a knee injury struck and I had to pull out anyway.
So, as part of my rehab I am tentatively giving them a go. I think the following graphic helps to describe my first experience.
I did a 20 minute run at a steady pace and it mostly felt great. It felt less great when I ran on a farm track and it became harder to dodge the sharp stones but I started to get better at picking my lines.
No sign of the knee injury, which was excellent, but when I stopped I felt a familiar twitch of cramp in my calf/Achilles area. I suffer a lot from cramp but mainly in the swimming pool. This did not progress but my calves felt tender all evening and by the morning they were very stiff. I see this as a good thing – I’m working different muscles.
I’ve had no bad side effects (muscle soreness is a good side effect to my mind unless it continues every time I run for the foreseeable future) but I’ll introduce slowly. A friend who was training for Manchester Marathon dived in to minimal footwear and injured her ankle during a ParkRun so I have taken that as a cautionary tale I can learn from.
I’ll keep you updated.