Invisible Shoes - Barefoot Running Sandals

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Shoe vs Barefoot Running

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.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ran a great 34km to Rehovot

Friday was a long run day. The scheduled run was 34km to Rehovot.

The Rehovot run is one of my favorite, if not my actual favorite. I am not sure because how can anyone love such a run of 34 kilometers (or more, depending on the starting point), but as long runs go, this is one of the best that we do during marathon training season.

The course is beautiful, and after some hills in the beginning, the rest of the way is mostly flat (still the occasional hill, but mostly).

The weather was perfect for a long run. Cool, slightly overcast with a subtle breeze. I left very early, because I am slower than everyone else and I wanted to arrive in rehovot at around the same time. I started my run at about 4:15 in the morning, and it was pitch black out on the highway. I dont know if I will do that again - I will have to weigh it against the other options, and it will depend a lot on the timing of the scheduled taxi home and other things. It felt dangerous but there were just a few cars out on the highway at that time of day/night.

I started off at a good pace. If it was lighter out I might have tried to run a little faster, but I didnt want to trip over anything i could not see, so I took it a bit easy. The first hill was ok, as it is just a short, albeit steep, hill, but the hill up to presidents Forest is the most intimidating hill on this run. That was coming up and I would hit it at about 11km or so, as I started my run in RBS.

By the time I got to Tzomet Shimshon leading up to the Presidents Forest hill it was already getting light. I was feeling strong and running at a great pace, a pace I did not expect to be able to keep up for very long, and I attacked the hill. I ran up the hill slower, obviously, but still a great hill pace for me. This is a long and steep hill and is very difficult.

At the top was a water break, and after about a minute or so I continued on my way. From there it is mostly downhill and flat until Tzomet Nachshon, except for one more hill, and a serious one but nothing like Presidents Forest, by the Kibbutz Harel.

At the top of the Harel Hill the first other runner passed me. I was a bit surprised as I had scheduled my run to expect runners passing me only much later, and I was also running a better pace than expected. Then I was reassured because he had also left earlier than the rest of the group, so his passing me did not portend anything about the groups location.

After a momentary water stop at Tzomet Nachshon, I continued on my way to Tzomet Chulda and then across the 411 highway to Rehovot. There is one hill right at the beginning of the 411 and then another, more serious one but not long, shortly after. After that it is flat the rest of the way. I was still running at a better pace than planned and still feeling strong. I was averaging on the flats a pace of about 5:25 per km, and on the hills about 6:30 per km, both much better paces that what I am used to running.

Eventually I hit Mazkeret Batya, still feeling great. The break there that i took was a couple of minutes, and I already started to stiffen. Starting again after Mazkeret Batya was a little more difficult but a few steps in I settled down and got back into a rythm. My pace slowed a tiny bit at that point. The next two sections fo the run, the last two, are the least pleasant of the whole run - from Mazkeret Batya until Tzomet Brenner (or even until the entrance to Rehovot - Tzomet Bilu), is a few kilometers directly out in the sun and heat, and it is a concrete jungle over there with shopping centers, cars and large asphalt highway rather than fields and trees.

As mentioned, I was nearing the end already because I started at RBS so Mazkeret Batya was already 30km for me. I started to run a little slower at that point, and I concluded my run at the entrance to Rehovot, registering 34km.

That was a bit of a bad move, as I had to then walk nearly 4km in Rehovot. The Rehovot section of the run is the worst part of the whole thing. There is uphill through the main road of downtown Rehovot, you are dodging people and cars out starting their early Friday shopping and it is just an unpleasant strip of 4km. Walking it is horrible as I was stiffening up and starting to feel the soreness settle in. Even worse is that I was wearing my Vibrams and walking on all that cobblestone was very unpleasant, especially already starting to feel sore form the run. But I had time to kill so I took it easy and took my time. The runners started to pass me as I started walking in through Rehovot.

My final average pace which I checked at this point was 5:45 per km, which is a great pace for me on a long run.

Chicago Marathon day

Today is the Chicago Marathon and I am rooting for sister! Good luck, Abbey!

She isn't going to finish first or second, but here is some great video from other marathons, including Chicago, of some photo finishes..

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Last night was a 10km Progression Run.

After a 2km warmup run, we started the progression run. The progression run is meant to train you to start at a slightly slower pace, and build up to a strong finish.

You begin the run by calculating your half marathon pace. That pace will be the pace you run your last kilometer during the progression. Every km has you progressively adding 5 seconds per kilometer to the run, concluding the final kilometer at your half-marathon pace.

So, I ran the 10km starting at 00:05:50 per km, and progressively adding 5 seconds to each km, ending the final km at 5 minutes per kilometer (should have been 5:05, but I ran it a bit faster).

It was a tough run - tough to keep track of the progression accurately, and tough to keep adding speed. At a certain point I thought I had hit my limit and could do no more and would have to slow down, but I seemed to find the ability to do the whole thing properly.

Totalling 12km, 2km warmup and 10km progression.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nike Free Run + Review

Now that I have run a short run, a long run and spent a full day walking around in my Nike Free Run + running shoes I finally feel I have used the shoes enough to be qualified o write a review.

The Nike Free Run come in a few color combinations. I picked the neon yellowish-green.

The first thing you notice when you pick up the shoes is that they are extremely light. I didn't check the weight and measurements, but I am pretty sure they are even lighter than my Vibram FiveFingers, both the Bikila and the KSO. The Nike Free Run + are extremely light, and that is a major benefit to these shoes. Runners like their shoes to be as light as possible.

The unique sole of the Free Run shoes makes the shoe extremely flexible. As you can see in the pictures below, they have deep grooves throughout the sole and are therefore completely flexible, and therefore comfortable for your feet and the way you move and run. Your Free Run shoes will not inhibit your movement in any way.

Now it is time to put the shoes on and lace up. The shoes are light, comfortable and smooth feeling. The shoes slip right on and there is no tongue to speak of that needs adjustment for comfort, like many running shoes have. You actually hardly feel you are wearing them, they are so light.

The upper material breathes well and is not heavy on the foot. I ran a long run in the heat and was completely drenched, but my feet were dry and airy. My socks and shoes were not soaked from sweat.

Now for the running - these shoes are marketed as giving you the barefoot experience, providing barefoot flexibility and the like.

While the make of the shoe does give the foot flexibility, there is much more to barefoot running than flexibility. I found myself frequently striking on my heel. It is fairly uncomfortable to step flat on, and you feel like it is unstable - I assume the purpose of that is to edge you towards the front of the foot. That is very good, but it did not force anything. During the run, and even when I was walking in the shoes, I caught myself settling into a heel strike, just like when I was running shod before my barefoot days. I wouldn't say i was doing so 100% of the time, but often enough that I would not compare these to the Vibram's in regards to the barefoot experience.

By the late portion of the run, my ankles were already hurting, which doesn't happen in the Vibrams. I get sore after the run, but not ankle pain like this. Also, the day after the run I had sore muscles in places on my leg that I have not had since I started running barefoot - indicating to me again that this is not really the barefoot experience, but somewhere in between regular shoe and barefoot.

Now, I must point out that most people making the switch to the Nike Free Run are going to be doing so from regular running shoes, whereas I have already been running in Vibram FiveFingers for upwards of 10 months or so. Going from shoe to Free Run is not the same as going from Vibram to Free Run. It might be a good switch when going from shoe, but when going from Vibram you are basically going backwards in regards to developing the barefoot running experience.

Overall the Nike Free Run + is a pretty good shoe, and a nice transition when moving from shoe running toward barefoot running, but I think that calling it a barefoot experience is a bit of a stretch. Running in the Vibrams are a real barefoot experience, and this does not compare to that at all.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Roglit Vineyards

Friday's long run (30km) was the Roglit Vineyard course.

I started from RBS at just before 5am. I ran out to Roglit (a.k.a. Neve Michael), and added 1 km while waiting for the group. When the first group showed up, we started the Roglit course, running into Neve Michael and down into the path to the vineyards.

I had assumed the course through the vineyards would be at least partially trail, so I ran in my Nike Free Run + shoes instead of my Vibrams.

It is probably time for me to write my review of the Nike Free Run shoes, now that I have run both a short run and a long run in them, so look for that review to be coming soon.

The Roglit course starts off, after the highway running to Roglit has been completed, with a downhill run to the fields of Roglit. Then comes a long 3km uphill run which leads to a 6km downhill through the beautiful Roglit vineyards.

The trail ends up at Givat Yeshayahu, which then dumps out onto Highway 38. We had a water break at the exit of Givat Yeshayahu before heading out to the final section of the run. At that point I was at 17.5km, the rest of the group caught up then, and the initial group of runners I had run with turned around to run back for a shorter run home.

After the water break we continued on our way. By now the sun was up nice and high enough in the sky to be beating down on me and it was getting hotter and hotter.

The run out to Zechariya was fine, but then the Zechariya hill was very tough. Down to RBS, and then TZeelim's 3km uphill was murder in the heat. I had to walk a little bit of it at the end, but I made it 28.5km.

Next time I think I will kill the idea of running the Zachariya and Tzeelim hills at the end of long runs and see if I can run it the other way (375 to the 10 to RBS) whose uphills are not as will depend on the amount of kilometers needed..

This weeks long run is scheduled to be the run to Rehovot...

Week #5 of 18 Summary

The holidays have really messed up the running schedule, and I have not had a regular running schedule in 3 weeks. My "kilometerage" is seriously down.

Despite that, this week was slightly better.

On Sunday I went out with a friend for an early morning run. He ran 15km and I ran 18km. It got so hot when I hit 18km that I started feeling weak and just stopped..

I was then looking forward to the group Monday night speed workout run, but that was canceled to give people time off for the holiday.

Friday was the Roglit vineyard run. This was a 30km run starting and finishing in Aviv. I started and finished in RBS, so it was 28.5km for me. The Roglit vineyard is a beautiful course and was a really good run until nearly the end when the sun wa sup high enough and the heat wave kicked in, making the uphills into RBS very difficult...

That gave me a dismal 46km for the week, and even more depressing is that that is my best week in 3 weeks...