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Fri, 06/14/2013

How to Prepare Best for Running (Is Running Barefoot an Option?)

Here we are again. Another reflection about running. In this blogpost I want to focus on preparing. Actually running is quite easy. You just don some sports clothing, lace up your shoes and go running. Basically there is nothing else to observe, except for how your body reacts. Then you have to react on that. That means: if your are sweating you have to drink to replace the lost water; if something hurts, change your running style or stop it altogether (and take the time that your body can adapt – if it looks serious, see a doctor). If you got sore muscles: congratulations, you did something right.

You somehow feel not exhausted enough? Go for another round. If you don't overdo it, use common sense and push your borders slowly, no damage will be done. Over time you will learn how long you can run or how fast and you will find out how to improve your performance. When I went out running the other day I felt quite good and according to my sports device I was even quite fast. But then somehow I lost momentum and was not in the mood to finish my course the usual way. I 'cheated' and run back another, slightly shorter way, but still it was a succesful run. Sometimes it is better to follow your body’s demands, sometimes it is better to push its limits.

For the ones who prefer to be always well prepared here are some suggestions (and even I like to, at least, skim through those articles). Starting with Run Safely by Stephanie Castillo from the website Prevention. She interviewed Jennifer Van Allen, author of 'The Big Book of Marathon & Half-Marathon Training' about what clothes and shoes to wear, what weather conditions are best and how to motivate oneself. And yes indeed: it is as she says: the only workouts one regrets are the ones one does not do. The interview shows how easy it is to take up running and it put an emphasis on shoes. Although one can try out running with shoes not really suited, one should only use good, fitting shoes to prevent injuries at the feet. Because of that, shoes are the only expensive thing when running.

Which raises the question about running barefooted which I have advocated in this blog. This is only an option if there is nothing that can injure your feet which is almost everywhere the case except for a groomed public beach. To protect the feet from small stones or spikes one can use barefoot running shoe. For the newspaper The Guardian Adharanand Finn and Kate Carter tested some of those shoes. I myself use Nike Free and Adidas Gazelle. I like both. The Gazelle is a tight fitting shoe which is more or less only the sole. I run with it for 15 kilometres without problems. But before that I had used the Nike Free for years – except for the half marathon where I wear cushioned running shoes. Running with minimalist footwear means that one runs differently. One does not land on the heel but near the front of the foot. This is supposed to be better, but studies have now cast doubts about this. Actually it looks as it is better to be a 'heel-striker' as Gretchen Reynolds lays out in her article in The New York Times. But then, on the other hand, she also mentions a study which did not find any significantly difference. She concludes: “None of this new science, of course, proves that barefoot-style running is inadvisable or disadvantageous for all runners; it proves only that the question of whether barefoot is best is not easily answered.” Which actually means: the best running style, the best shoes are the ones which make you feel and subjectively perform best.

Another study found that “runners can gain more shock absorption by changing their striking pattern to a forefoot strike, either in shoes or without.”

Part II of this blogpost will pick up the questions whether one should run alone or look for a running group, whether running or waling is better, the question of resting between training cycles and about running etiquette.