Free your feet: The joys of (almost) barefoot running

In Philippine Star Column on January 14, 2011 at 1:05 am

These shoes simulate running barefoot

It’s the new year and if you are like millions — even billions — around the world, you have probably made a bunch of 2011 resolutions and “getting healthier” is on top of the list. Running, unless you have been living under a rock the last five years, has become one of the most common ways for anyone to jumpstart their get-fit routine. It’s a sport that can be done socially or alone, and doesn’t need ridiculously expensive equipment to start off with, save for a pair of really good running shoes. I’ve been on the running bandwagon for a little over a year now; I’ve joined some short-distance races, and even if I don’t run as often as I’d like to, I do find that after all the whining before finally putting on my shoes there is still no quicker way for me to speed up my metabolism, tone my body and get an overall good feeling of achievement once I’ve improved on my time or distance. I’ve gone through several pairs of shoes in the last 13 months, but was gifted with a pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes by Terra Plana to try out.

The shoes, which are way thinner than the heavily padded models of celebrity athlete-endorsed brands, are made to simulate running barefoot. The first thing I thought when I imagined myself (literally) pounding the pavement in them was “Ouch!” Admittedly, it took a while for me to try them on, as I have always associated my other shoes as more protective but I was intrigued by the sleek design. First thing I did was to walk in them, on the street where I normally run for about half an hour. It felt weird to feel the road so close to my soles and I have to be honest, I wasn’t convinced that I would like them at all. Still, I committed to giving myself a couple of days to get used to this new sensation. I asked a friend why barefoot running was being encouraged (I have witnessed several freaks of nature who run around Fort Bonifacio with no shoes); he said that barefoot runners actually believe they are doing their body good by going barefoot. If you’re a fan of foot massages, or are familiar with reflexology, you may find it interesting to know that each foot has 200,000 nerve endings, 28 bones, 19 major muscles, 33 joint centers and 17 ligaments. That’s a whole lot of energy circuitry going on there. The creators of Vivo Barefoot claim that running with their shoes or even running barefoot helps stimulate all 200,000 nerve endings which correspond to other major organs in the human body, therefore boosting one’s immune system and overall health.

The second time I tried on the shoes, I imagined that I was, in essence, getting a foot massage that would make me lose weight at the same time. After a 30-minute walk, I broke into a slow jog, and then picked up the pace and this went on for three kilometers! I was amazed. I know it’s a short distance, but it was definitely a start. How was my body a day after the run? I was anticipating more trauma to my joints and muscles due to the impact but there was nothing more than the usual ache one gets from exercise. I expected my knees to also give me pain, or even my ankles but there was nothing unusual or suspect. After a day of rest, I went out and ran almost-barefoot in my Vivos. I went up to five kilometers, after a 15-minute warm-up, and after my cool-down stretch, I “listened” to my body and felt nothing unusual; in fact I actually felt lighter. Perhaps there was less bulk on my feet or maybe because I could feel the road, I was more aware of my posture and my pace, I kept my center (core tight) and was more focused on my breathing. This may be the key advantage of running “barefoot”: you become more attuned to what your body can or cannot do, and how it heals. That’s a big bonus in my book.

Reading a little more on barefoot running, it also claimed to improve posture, aligning the spine (I was, as I said, more aware of my posture), thus preventing injury, especially to the knees and hips. I am not sure if I would use these shoes for something long distance, let’s say more than a 10k run (maybe I just need to release old conditioning), but I did try on my regular (and very expensive) new trainers over the weekend just for a “break” and I actually felt discomfort. It may all be in my mind but not feeling connected to the surface of the road threw me off a bit, and I didn’t run as long as I wanted. I’m even thinking of maybe just using those trainers for walks with my dog instead.

Barefoot — or almost barefoot — simulated running may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s well worth doing a little research on, as you could be doing both you — and your feet — a favor.

* * * For more information on Vivo Barefoot visit or check out their stores Barefoot Store in SM Mall of Asia, Vivo Barefoot Pop-Up in Alabang Town Center and Terra Plana/Vivo Barefoot in Ayala Center, Cebu City.

Reposted from:
SOUL TRAIN By Katrina A. Holigores (The Philippine Star) Updated January 14, 2011
  1. Hey Kat, cool entry, was on the market for a new pair and will check these out!

  2. A nice quick over view, pls also consider 1) there are also studies showing that use of barefoot training strategies have been shown to reduce plantar surface areas – over a short term the only way this would be possible would a strengthening of the supportive musculature and/or the actualization of a less pronated foot position 2)yes podiatrists express a concern over the safety issue and possibly directed towards the puncture issue, it would be nice then to see how many patient visits are attributable to punctures.
    It does make sense that putting anything in to a restrictive environment would lead to atrophy, or for any organism (the foot is a living organism) that is insulated from minute strain and stress would atrophy. Both soft tissue and bone require strain and stress to continue their development and strengthening.
    A major issue that is not often looked at is the issue that most people spend 10+ hours a day in shoes (most of our employers are not so keen on a dress pants and barefeet). There are bio-feedback based insoles that can be used in those shoes to encourage a strengthening of the foot’s supporting muscles. One thing that minimal shoes still continue to do is provide sensory insulation, putting something in direct contact with the foot’s plantar surface can provide the sensory biofeedback stimuli to encourage muscle activation and development.People need something stillin their shoe to contact the sole’s midfoot region to activate a muscle response.
    I would strongly agree with the proponents of barefoot, however as a realist we still need to wear shoes – so we should be looking at systems that make the in-shoe environment healthier and less of an atrophying environment, like a biofeedback insoel device. I’m not 100% sure that making the purist barefoot commitment is realistic for all people, and for those for whom it is not they can still benefit from stronger feet.

  3. […] for our conventional stance on modern lifestyle (cue VIVOBAREFOOT) I stumbled upon a refreshing post, by Katrina Holigores from Soul Train about barefoot running in the New […]

  4. I have been running over 35 years. Not too many injuries…except plantar fasciitis over the past 2 years.

    Rather than give up running, I gave up my shoes. I started in vibram 5 fingers. Not real impressed. To restrictive in the toes. I ordered Invisible shoe (Huaraches) and VivoBarefoot. Both will be coming this week.

    Running has always been pure joy for me. Even in high school, if I did not enjoy a race, I just would not do it. Never quit a race!

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