Most of my running life has been done in one type of running shoe. Asics GT2000 series, this series of shoe has been with me through some of my greatest personal achievements, my first fun run, marathon, triathlon and Ironman event have all been run in a GT2000. I have had my fair share of injuries and was always afraid to leave the safety blanket of the my GT 2000 series as I knew they worked for me and feared what the unknown might bring.
The GT2000 series, or at least the latest incarnation of them are built with an 11mm heel drop, it’s only in the post ‘Born to Run’ years that I started to take notice of a shoe’s heel drop. Prior I had no idea what my Asics differential was.
At the beginning of 2012, I had researched barefoot running enough to change my mind on my shoes, enough to think that the injuries I had had during my running maybe could be prevented by changing shoes, instead of being fearful to change in case of injury. My thinking had gone full circle.
All the research I had done had told me to start with a larger heel drop shoe and build up the miles slowly. For the most part I ignored that advice, I purchased a pair of Inov 8 3mm drop road shoes and started logging runs in them. I was training for a marathon so my mileage couldn’t drop to ease into a new shoe. Within a week I ran too far and too fast and my calves and Achilles was sore after every run. I had taken significant steps to correct my running form, I concentrated on increased foot turn over and landing on the forefoot. I continued to watch videos of minimal runners and concentrate on changing my form. I was half way there I was just running too far, I thought I was an experienced enough runner to handle the change, before long I was running one run in my Inov8’s to two runs in my Asics. It didn’t feel like much of a transition.
About six months later I decided to take a step back and put my 3mm drops away, I purchased some Inov 8 road shoes with a 6mm drop. Logically this should have been my first step, as it was a much easier transition and my running mileage didn’t need to suffer much if at all. Initially I was able to do most of my runs in these shos and use my Asics for my long runs.
It was only a matter of months and I’d retired my Asics for good and was running between the Inov 8 6mm and the Inov 8 3mm that I’d put away before. I found in my races my legs would fatigue less at the back end of a race due to a different running gait and a much lighter shoe, I was doing a lot of Sprint triathlons with a 5km run leg and really being able to blaze away on the run, most of the time sub 19 min after a swim and bike which I never could manage before.
Overall my first year of transition was difficult, my stubbornness led me to a lot of calf soreness initially and my impatience led to more later down the track.
My second year has been much easier and one of the best running years I’ve had. My transition was taking shape and I have enjoyed my running and races like never before. I have always found it hard to motivate myself without a goal race, nowadays I still love to race but am always motivated to get out and run.
This year I decided to kick off the shoes completely and add some true barefoot runs to my weeks. I used one run per week on a grass oval or beach and then a few small road runs. I love the sheer freedom of running completely barefoot but the bottom of my feet became too sore. Enter Glad Soles barefoot sandals, I found them on Twitter and recently purchased some. Never has my running felt more pure or enjoyable, running barefoot without the stress of hurting your feet is a wonderful feeling and has allowed me to complete my barefoot transition. I call it Pure Zero Drop running.
Whether you’ve made the transition or thinking about making the transition, my advice is firstly, work out why you want to do it. It’s a difficult road, be prepared and make sure it’s what you want. Secondly be patient, everything you read says you need to be patient, it’s true. And thirdly, enjoy the journey. My barefoot transition is coming to a close but the fun part is my barefoot journey is still just beginning.