Variety

I’ve just come back from a pleasant 10K barefoot run around my neighbourhood. As I said in my post-run DailyMile update, I had no particular goal or focus for this one. It was just a very enjoyable Sunday morning run at a comfortable, easy pace. Weather was decent too, 17C and overcast.

Today’s run proved the worth of a whole bunch of recent learnings. Not least among them was the solid worth of injecting a little variety into my running schedule. Some of them have come from reading Ken Bob Saxton’s “Barefoot Step by Step,” a couple from running the Mississauga Half Marathon last week, and a few from the runs I did in the latter part of this week.

On Thursday and Friday, I ran to and from work. It’s only 4K each way, so it doesn’t take any time at all. It’s short enough to be easy and pleasant, and I don’t really have to hurry. Therefore, it’s an ideal opportunity to be relaxed, and feel my way to minor adjustments to my form. More importantly, those short runs at the beginning and end of each work day are great for changing my psychological gears in an almost transparent way.

Yesterday (Saturday), I did a bit more gravel track training. As I said in my half marathon race report, I’d like to run a rough-surfaced trailway this summer, so plan to go out once or week or so to build my gravel-running skills. It’s not so much a matter of conditioning my feet as it is about improving my form. Yesterday, I did 800 meters on a hard-packed dirt track that was littered with lots of tiny sharp stones, 800 meters on a packed sand track that featured the same tiny sharp stones, and the balance of the 7K run on sidewalks. I ran the sidewalk part at my usual easy pace, and I did the track bit very slowly and carefully. (There’s nothing like sharp little stones to provide immediate feedback!) And paying attention to that feedback means I adjust my form so I really am running as lightly as possible.

One major learning from these past three days is that I think I’ve finally worked out why I occasionally bruise the ball of my right foot. I had thought it was because I was pushing off too hard with my right foot. But now, I think it has more to do with how my right lands. I’ve noticed that my right foot tends to land a little too much on its outside edge, which would indicate that it’s a lateral movement (rather than fore-and-aft) that creates the bruising, as the ball of my foot rotates past that initial footfall to full ball-of-the-foot contact to move through footfall and liftoff. I can even experiment, and make the hurt happen or not happen, simply by changing the way my right foot lands. It’s a tiny difference, but a significant one. (I know this all sounds incredibly finicky, but those of you who are barefoot runners will understand how much it matters.)

It all paid off today, big time. I remembered to land correctly and gently, and the result was an easy, almost effortless run.

This old dog continues to learn… And that’s all to the good.

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2 comments

  1. Nice post, Alan. Finicky is good!

    I’ve never ran for any distance barefoot on gravel although I was walking quite swiftly on a short gravel path at the weekend as I chased after my daughter. Immediate feedback indeed!

    It’s interesting that you’ve pinned the bruising down to lateral movement. I used to get left knee niggles and realised that too was due to a similar thing. The way I keep this in check now is to concentrate on how my big toe comes down and lifts off. I figure if that’s happening evenly then my foot isn’t rolling as you describe. I try to do this when I run in shoes too but its much easier when barefoot.

    1. Thanks for that feedback, Ape. Good to know someone else has figured it out. I’ll do the big toe thing, and see how that works.

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