They completed the Standard Chartered Singapore Full Marathon 2013 – without wearing any footwear.
Members of the Singapore Barefoot Minimalist Society strongly believe that people are born to run – without shoes.
Last weekend, the group shared their thoughts at their first talk cum running clinic – organised by United Lifestyle – to enlighten other runners on barefoot running.
During the talk, the audience was introduced to the benefits of barefoot and minimalist running. Interesting anecdotes of members’ personal barefoot running experiences were also shared. The workshop ended with a short barefoot run, to give the audience a taste of what it is like to actually pound the pavement – without shoes.
Benefits of Barefoot Running
According to the group, the main benefit of barefoot and minimalist running is the cost savings. No, they were not referring to savings from running shoes – it was medical cost savings, gained through the prevention of injuries.
For example, they said that barefoot and minimalist running, which forces runners to forefoot strike (instead of heel-striking) helps to reduce knee pains, shin splints and other injuries because these are often caused through an unnatural heel strike pattern – associated with cushioned, padded shoes.
Strengthens foot muscles
Barefoot running promotes a strong foot where the arch is less likely to collapse. The foot also pronates less, with this type of running.
This is a very comfortable way of running, because there is a lighter impact on landing – but a runner will develop calluses on his or her feet as a result of the constant pounding on the pavement.
It Takes Time to Learn
Running barefoot is not an overnight process though, and someone can’t just suddenly be good at it. Rather, this is a motor skill that you gradually pick up and requires a lot of time, effort and practice to learn the technique. In fact, the members themselves had difficulty when they first delved into barefoot running.
At the beginning, they admit to having plenty of corns, blisters and bits of glass wedged into the soles of their feet after running. But gradually, their feet grew accustomed to the constant pounding and being subjected to the hard pavement. As a result, the skin at the soles eventually became thicker and now, they don’t suffer any more problems – even being able to tackle full marathons without shoes.
However, doing barefoot running at races in Singapore is tricky, because the pavement is quite uneven and can be rough at times – unlike the smoother and more even ground in some other countries.
Trying Out Barefoot Running
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so at the end of the talk, participants were encouraged to go for a barefoot run.
Most happily took off their shoes to run from the Marine Parade Community Club towards East Coast Park – for about 2km.
The first thing that startled many runners was how exposed the feet were. They found that they were at the mercy of the pavement and every single stone and crack on the ground, were felt.
Moreover, the calf muscles ached more than usual for many, because their legs were not used to the different running style that barefoot running usually promotes – compared to running with cushioned shoes. In fact, participants were told that the muscles might be sore for a day or two – until their legs got used to not wearing shoes.
There were dirty feet all around too, but this was probably the least of the worries for those at the barefoot running clinic. The organisers were thoughtful though, and provided a small sponge for participants to wipe their feet clean after the session.
All in all, it was a good exercise in trying out a different running technique.
And if you are still not sure about barefoot running, why not try going for a run with a pair of minimalist shoes first – to get the feel of running light?
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