If you’re on the fence about barefoot running, or want to start but don’t know where to begin, Merrell has just unveiled “Pretty Strong,”a women’s-specific interactive online resource to support you in your transition to barefoot running and fitness.
Merrell’s Pretty Strong provides a day-by-day training program, tips on picking the right shoe, a Facebook page to chat with other gal barefoot runners, and a running playlist (from iTunes) to help you meet your fitness goals through the benefits of natural movement.
I’ve been slow to embrace barefoot running. My joints have seen their 40th birthday come and go. I overpronate. My arches are plunging. I was sold on running shoes that are engineering marvels of cushioning, stability, shock absorption and arch support. That more was best.
But recent studies say less is a more natural way to run and actually strengthens your feet.
Maybe my shoeless, wooly mammoth-chasing troglodyte ancestors were really on to something deep and profound. Maybe we never should have strayed from the basics.
The transition and the shoe
With reservations, suspicions, the Pretty Strong day-by-day training program and a quick perusal of the helpful video, I transitioned to barefoot running. My chosen shoe was the Dash Glove, a zero-drop, super lightweight and nimble fitness and running shoe.
While still very basic, it offer a compression-molded EVA footframe for stability and comfort and the Vibram® Dash Glove Sole/TC1 rubber with 2.0 mm sole lugs are thick enough to exclude pebbles, asphalt and glass shards from burrowing into my soles and the 0mm ball-to-heel drop keeps me connected to Mother Earth.
Results thus far
I’m technically in “Day Seven” of the program so I’m not scheduled to begin running for longer than ten minutes until Day Sixteen. But I put myself on the fast-track plan because I’m short on patience (disclaimer: I don’t recommend that you follow my suit). Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:
- Improved posture. This winter, I did Posture Alignment Training at my gym. After years of practicing yoga, I always thought that I had excellent posture. But according to my trainer, my right shoulder and hip fell forward. When I walk, I had sway and rotation. She prescribed exercises that would correct these posture problems. One is standing (barefoot) with my head, scaps, hips and heels against the wall for five minutes. Another is standing against the wall with my head, scaps, hips and one heel against the wall with one foot on a block. Both exercises ground my feet and build muscles that will properly support the rest of my skeleton. This, ultimately, improves the posture. Barefoot running builds the same muscles in the feet that are targeted in Posture Alignment Training. Wild! Be sure to do all the Merrell-recommended preparation exercises for best results.
- Improved stride. When I ran in shoes, I always landed on my heel. In my Dash Gloves, I land on the ball of my foot with my weight leaning forward rather than back. This encourages more flex in my arches and actually reduces the impact on my joints. Seems counterintuitive but it isn’t. Right now my arches and balls of my feet feel weary but that should go away as my foot muscles strengthen.
- No back, knee or hip pain. This shocked me the most. This page explains why I have no pain.
- No blisters or other hot spots. This shocked me too because I had a pair of Merrell hiking boots years ago that turned my feet into a blistery, fiery mess.
- Easy to clean. When the smell of my feet permeates them, I can throw them in the washing machine.
Fit and sizing
Sizing is very accurate. I wear a size 7.5 and that’s exactly what I’m wearing in the Dash Gloves. The toe box is wide enough to allow my toes and the ball of my foot to do what nature intended it to do.
Moving to barefoot running does require a transition period. So far, I’m digging it. The interactive training guide from Merrell has been a big help because without the videos and the pre-running exercises, I would have just kept running on my heels. Straight to an orthopedic surgeon for hip and knee replacements.