Sunday, September 06, 2009

Heels?! Ve Don't Need No Stinking Heels!

Yesterday's barefoot run felt great. However, the bottoms of my feet did feel a little tender afterwards and need to be calloused up a bit more, so another barefoot run today didn't seem too smart. But I really enjoyed that run and figured now would be a good time to try a shoe modification that I know some barefoot aficionados have tried before: cutting the heels of your shoes.

I have two pairs of Asics Trail Attacks, and the below compares a modified shoe (left) to an unmodified shoe (right). I used a serrated kitchen knife, and luckily cut them both even and took off the right amount of heel without destroying the shoe.

I first saw Anton Krupicka doing something similar in the documentary Indulgence. I had mentioned it to my friend Chuck (a barefoot aficionado) and if memory serves me correctly, I believe he said he had tried it with success.

The theory is simple: without the cushioned heel, you won't heel strike. Instead, you'll run much like you do barefoot, striking with your forefoot, the way the body has evolved to run.

I could just get Vibram FiveFingers, and I plan to soon. However, like running truly barefoot, VFFs typically takes some build up time before you can do some distance with them. The above shoe mod offers a little more forefoot protection while still preventing heel striking. Obviously, the trade off is you don't get as much foot flexibility as you do with running barefoot or VFFs, but luckily these Asics are pretty flexible for a traditional shoe.

At first, the shoes felt a bit strange, but still comfortable. After about a mile, I didn't think much of it. The gait was as hoped... no heel striking, and landing on the forefoot instead. Better posture, shorter strides. This was a good test route also, with a variety of terrain. Success here in the early onset.

Of course, all of this is a test in progress. I'm still a student to all of this, but am eager to give it a shot with all of the injuries I've had in the past year. Hopefully, there will continue to be progress. I've only done one run in these shoes, but given the success, I plan on doing all of my trail runs in these (or barefoot or in VFFs). Fun experiment, and so far, so good.

Ran 4.6 miles @ 9:44/mile pace.
AHR/MHR - 157/171
Mix of technical trails with rocks and mud, some dirt roads.
Very hilly.
Upper 50s, sunny.
Modified Asics Trail Attacks (sans heels), shorts, short sleeved shirt.


Richard said...

Whatever about your experiment, your shoes are very clean. I'd do the same except I live in a city and there are no dirt tracks and even thought I agree that we were meant to run on our bare mid foot I think we were meant to do it at a very slow pace and not on concrete. Hard surfaces and a higher pace lead to an inevitable heel strike. (having done chi running I know where I am on this)

Blaine Moore said...

VFFs are closer to barefoot running than wearing shoes are, but still aren't the same thing as barefoot running. (My two pence...)

Jamie said...

Blaine, I'd say that's pretty obvious.

Sunshine Girl said...

Hi Jamie, barefoot eh? U so crazy! Now that deer fly season is over, I think you need to start running naked. Buck naked. Just a thought. It's very aerodynamic!

Thomas said...

I have been thinking about cutting into my shoes before, but always feared they were going to fall apart as soon as I start messing around.

Now that looks interesting.