This Friday was a good run for a shoe vs barefoot comparison. For the past 9 months I have been running barefoot. It has worked out well for me, though I have not become an evangelist of barefoot running. It works for me, but as they say, YMMV - your mileage might vary. What works for one doesn't necessarily work for the other.
Yet despite it working for me, I sometimes wonder if maybe I would be running just as well, or better, if I was still running in shoes. Maybe the barefoot running has not really done anything for me. But, you don't change something that works. That's why Wade Boggs ate chicken before every baseball game. That's why some players always wear the same t-shirt, or the same pair of socks or whatever. You don't change what works. So running in Vibram FiveFingers has been working for me, so I never bothered changing back to try shoes.
This Friday we scheduled a 24km run, and I was going to try to bump it up to somewhere closer to between 26km and 30km. Our small group of runners was starting the run from the Elitzur intersection (the entrance to Moshav Aviezer), running to the Elah Junction, across the 38 to Givat Yeshayahu, into the trails past the Midras and Itri ruins, through Park Adulam, and back up through the Roglit Vineyards and out to Aviezer. I started form RBS, adding a few km at the beginning.
And I ran it in shoes. I thought part of the run, the section covering Park Adulam, would be a trail. I debated if I should try the Vibrams and take the chance, run in my Nike Free Run barefoot shoes, or go for real shod running.
I finally decided to run in shoes. I figured it would be at least good to make my comparison.
I laced up my Asics Gel Krayaro shoes that I still have from last year and was on my way. I could right away feel the difference between the shoes and barefoot. The run felt different from the first step. My feet felt heavier, they were stepping differently, and I was using different muscles. I could feel the running in my knees right away, and my quads were working hard.
After the first few kilometers, I settled into a rhythm and the running was ok. After about 11km it started getting very difficult. The course of the run itself was very difficult. A lot of hills, ups and downs, mostly small hills, but some large and steep ones as well. Even if a hill is not too difficult, you get a few of them and it totally takes you off your rhythm and pace.
The run through the Park Adulam was very difficult. I was feeling pain in my hamstring through large sections of it. I struggled on the hills. My legs felt heavy. Overall, it was a horrible run. I could not even run up the final hill - I had to walk it.
The barefoot running is so smooth and natural. You get into a rhythm right away, It is a bit harder on the feet and ankles, but the run itself is so much smoother. The problem with the barefoot running is that it doesnt give you, km for km, as great of a workout as the shod running. the shod running really uses your whole body - for better or worse. Because of that the workout is so much more encompassing of the whole body.
I felt shoulder pain at the end of the run, like a large knot tied up in my shoulder. Just like at the end of long runs last year. I have noticed I am not losing as much weight with the barefoot running as I did with the shod running - I am losing weight and I notice it in both my waistline and the way my clothes fit, but when I ran in shoes I lost much more much faster. It could also be though because I am not running as much - I am maxing out at 2 times a week right now, which is really not enough.
Basically, the barefoot running works for me. In the challenge between barefoot and shod running, for me, barefoot running seems to be the way to go. But again, YMMV.