I recently decided to get back into running after a year’s hiatus (I used to keep in at least desultory condition by running after work, until I started the current job last March). I also decided to try out minimalist shoes instead of the more traditional cushioned running shoes, which have never fully satisfied me as a runner.
The owner of the store I went to was a big cheerleader for minimalist shoes (I should add that he did not bring them up, I went in and asked about them) and offered me some pointers or advice about transitioning. First, he made sure I understood that running in these shoes would use slightly different muscles. I should be prepared and willing to do a lot of walking while I built up my stamina, and I should expect muscle development on the anterior of my calves and some pain in my heels the first few times.
I loved the feel of the shoes on my test run in the store, so I went for it. I walked the dog in them a couple days, and today was my first real run. Oh, dear god, what have I gotten myself into?
First let me state, I am fairly sure I will love these shoes once I get used to them.
Second, let me observe that this “transitioning” concept is no joke. I felt this run in a way I have not felt a run in years.
Minimalist shoes are RUNNING shoes, not jogging shoes. There is no complacent stride. I had to pick my feet up and flick them forward in order to hit the ground in the way that was most comfortable to me (which is how I tend to run–let my body find its own stature and rhythm, it knows best for me how I need to move). The most painful gait of all the ones I tried was the sort of shuffling jog that happens if I get tired. No more! That pace is stricken from my repertoir. I guess if I can’t run then I will walk.
My legs hurt the way they used to hurt during the first couple weeeks of the soccer season–along the bottom back of my calves, just above my Achilles tendon. That was the area of my leg I felt working the most. Actually, running in these was very similar to running warm-up laps in cleats. I wondered if the man at the store had ever played a cleat sport or if he was strictly a runner; if the latter, that might by why he felt the build-up more in the front of his legs.
I felt my posture differently. I haven’t quite yet found the right way to hold my body, but what I used to do was definitely not right. Tonight the sorest parts of me are my arches and the backs of my calves and my back.
When my inner beast finally took over, she loved–LOVED–what it felt like to run like this.
I am both excited and trepidatious to try it again tomorrow. It will hurt. It will not be the auto-pilot exercise that jogging has been for me for years now. It will be inefficient, and I will run parts of the trail just to keep from having to walk any more. I will save the neon pink alterntive laces as a reward for finishing the transition…whenever that happens.