Barefoot running, one week on

I knew I’d have to run some low-mileage days, after switching to minimalist shoes and changing my gait (to land on my forefoot instead of my heel). As it turns out, the changes have been more drastic than I’d expected.

With one exception, the changes have all been good. My new running gait feels good and it’s more gentle on my feet, ankles, and Achilles tendons. It’s also faster. I’m not sure yet, but I think it may well turn out to be a lot faster.

The one exception is that running this way instantly destroyed my old running gait.

As I said, I had to cut my mileage quite a bit, and I’d hoped to ameliorate that by doing one long run in my old shoes with the old gait. And I did, sort of: on Sunday I ran 3.1 miles in my old shoes. It was a terrible run. I felt awkward and sluggish and uncomfortable the whole way.

The reason for the reduced mileage is that the new gait really works my calves. They get sore, and I need to take a rest day to recover. After doing 1.5 miles on Thursday last week, I had to take two days off to recover. Then I ran 2.15 miles on Monday, and had to take Tuesday off.

But I discovered something toward the end of Monday’s run: this new gait feels better—and is gentler on my calves—when I run faster.

Much the same was true of my old gait. Each new running season I’d look forward to the day when I could stretch out and run at a more natural pace that was gentler on my legs than the cramped stride I’d resort to early in the season when I could barely run for 20 minutes.

The same seemed to be true of barefoot running. I picked up the pace for the last block or so on Monday, and when I ran faster, it felt a lot better.

So, I made today a tempo run. Basically, I ran my ordinary 1.5-mile short loop, but I ran pretty hard.

Six weeks ago, I did a tempo run where I was hoping to break 17 minutes for my 1.5 run, and was delighted to clobber 17 minutes, finishing in 16:16.

With six more weeks of training, I was not surprised to break 16 minutes. But I was surprised that once again I clobbered it: I did my 1.5-mile short loop in 15:08.

That is, by 49 seconds, the fastest I’ve every run this route. I’ve run faster (this was a 10:06 pace), but only on a track, and only over 1 mile.

Of course, now my calves are sore. I’ll probably have to take a rest day tomorrow—maybe two—and stick with shortish runs for a while longer. But I’ll be doing long runs soon. And I’ll be doing them a lot faster.

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