Home > running > I have a (barefoot) dream…

I have a (barefoot) dream…

I did a track workout on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (consider this post part of my community service ;)). The workout was differentiated for long and middle distance runners. Since I fall somewhere in between, I decided to do a mix.

I also decided to run with mix of different footwear (as I sometimes do), running part of the workout in VFFs (TrekSport) and part barefoot. There was a total of 5k worth of speed in my workout, broken down as follows:

  • 3000m in VFFs as 3 x 1000m at 5k speed with 400m jog rest,
  • then:
  • 2000m barefoot as 5 x 400m at 1 mile speed with 200m jog rest + 30s

My training has been a bit spotty of late (holidays), but am hoping to qualify as a seeded/sub-seeded runner for the Bay2Breakers this year after failing to do so last year. (Btw, I’m planning to run B2B barefoot again, regardless of my seeded or un-seeded status.)

My times at today’s workout:

  • 1000’s: 3:52, 3:51, 3:57
  • 400’s: 1:28, 1:27, 1:26, 1:26, 1:25

So I was definitely starting to flag by my last 1000 (which I did in VFFs) but managed to slightly descend the 400’s (which I ran barefoot). I attribute the relatively stronger performance in the 400’s not to footwear choice, but mostly to a general lack of longer distance tempo work which revealed itself in the 1000’s.

How did my feet do?

After taking off the VFFs, the rubberized surface of the track initially felt a bit rough, but after the first 200m it was no problem. The added feedback from my feet was welcome and provided some positive stimulation to my leg speed — a good demonstration that though VFFs are minimal, they are still a big leap from no shoes at all.

My feet have come a long way from last August when I did a similar workout (though shorter total distance) and fried my dogs good. The cooler track surface tonight probably helped  (50F and no sun vs. ~80F at noon in Aug), but I don’t think that was a major factor.

Most of the heat your feet experience during fast barefoot running is due to frictional forces of foot strike rather than from the temp of the surface you’re running on. With time, your soles will be able to tolerate more of this friction, but be patient (I’m currently at my 2 year mark in doing speed workouts in minimal footwear).

Highly recommended après barefoot run activity: take a few laps on cool, evenly-surfaced grass or the beach (if you’re near one). The inside of the track is the perfect spot (or Ocean beach post-B2B).

For the curious, here’s how the soles of my feet looked after this track workout (as-is, pre-washing):

Regarding the issue of surface & air temperature: Here in the moderate SF Bay area, temperature isn’t usually much of a factor, but in hotter/cooler parts of the country, running surface temp and air temp can be a major factor. Choose the optimal time of day to run if you live in such places and want to go barefoot — or just keep the VFFs/sandals on until the weather cooperates!

I have a (barefoot) dream…

With due respect and homage to the great Dr. King, one can imagine an alternative rendition of his famous quote, geared toward a minimalist footwear crowd:

I have a dream that all people will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by what they wear (or don’t wear) on their feet but by their commitment to fitness. I have a dream today…

Categories: running
  1. February 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Additional track workouts I’ve done since this post:

    2/20/12: 7x800m splits w/ 400 jog rest: 3:11, 3:05, 3:02, 3:01, 3:01, 2:58, 2:56 (#1-5 in Luna Sandals; #6-7 barefoot)

    2/27/12: 3200m time trial: 12:52. Then 400 jog rest, then 200m in 0:36.6. (all barefoot)

    The 3200m run was done ~6:45pm (just after sunset) under dry conditions with an air temp ~53F. Foot abrasion/heat was absolutely a non-factor, though it might have become an issue with a few more fast 200’s. My main deal for this run was the core/crossfit workouts I did during the previous 2 days (some soreness).

    With more durable feet, it does seem like I’m experiencing a bit of a speed bump by going barefoot for the shorter distances (800m and under) compared to using minimalist footwear. My theory for this is that barefoot running stimulates my cadence, promoting faster leg turnover with more or less the same gait as with the sandals/VFFs. Need more data to test this theory.

    Other notes: day-after soreness from the 2/27 run is just a slightly sore/tight left calf & achilles (on my flexible ankle side). No sole tenderness. My overall weekly running mileage has been quite low for past several weeks (sub-10) with these track workouts constituting the majority of my mileage (not a recommended practice).

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