A few weeks ago, I popped along to the Vivobarefoot flagship store in Covent Garden to hear Michael Lemmel of Otillo SwimRun speak about the rise of SwimRun events.
Now I know I’m not the strongest swimmer yet but a girl can dream, right?! It was inspiring to hear about how the event came into existence and what the future looked like. I was fascinated to hear about the unpredictably of the courses (basically a combination of trail running and open water / sea swimming), how you work together as a team (you enter the event as a pair and must complete the entire event within a certain distance of each, so together), the gender split and the equipment and apparel required for such an event.
Otillo and Vivobarefoot joined forces to design and manufacture a shoe specifically for SwimRun events (the Ultra III) based on the barefoot concept. A shoe you can run on the trails in and then jump straight into the water, then run again. A shoe that I guess I hope I’ll have the need for one of these days…
Until then, I’ll make do with a pair that I can use day to day, exercise in and maybe even run in. Now I don’t know if it’s just me but when I go to events where I know I’ll be surrounded by knowledgeable people I try to make smart choices. So I chose my most appropriate shoes for my day and went about my business. I got chatting to Mark from the Covent Garden store and just by looking at me he could tell that a) my trainers were too small for me (on one foot especially) and b) they were causing me to ???pronate, which in turn was causing pain on the outside edge of my foot and in my knees. It’s funny how we’ve all become so unaware of these simple cues but when he pointed it out I became a lot more tuned into how my body was feeling. Needless to say that pair of trainers went straight in the bin and I was as intrigued as ever about Vivobarefoot and the barefoot concept…
I arranged a visit to the store to meet with Sue and Pete to learn a little more about the range and also have an assessment on the treadmill to have a look at my running technique and gauge how ready I was to go barefoot. Before I got on the treadmill though we went through a variety of things including standing on a pressure plate to see how my weight is distributed through my feet (note to self, must engage toes especially big toe more!) body weight squats and single leg squats all to see my range of motion, flexibility and assess any areas of weakness.
On the treadmill, Pete had a look at my running wearing the shoes I’d brought along for run club later that evening. We spoke about how I was landing in my stride (I tend to land on the balls of my feet) and why I should consider working on this. We also talked a lot about posture, rhythm and relaxing. I then swapped into a pair of Stealth II (£100) shoes and got back on the treadmill. Taking all of the points into consideration about being more upright, not over striding, increasing my cadence and relaxing I could feel a difference instantly! I physically felt a lot lighter as if there was more of a response between the ground and myself and taking this into run club that evening made for a fast and enjoyable session.
I’ve had the shoes for a while now; when you’re new to the barefoot concept you’re advised to start by wearing them just day to day before running in them. I’ve worn them about 3-4 days per week since and regularly teach in them. It’s a new experience being able to feel the surface that you’re walking on and literally waking up the proprioreceptors in your feet! I haven’t yet run in them as I think I know how much harder it’ll feel initially without the cushioning and energy return I’m used to from my trainers.
Spending time in the Covent Garden store and watching the constant stream of people that come in and shop you kinda start to realise that maybe you’re a little late to the game. It’s been a secret and no one has let you into it till now…
Have you ever tried barefoot shoes or barefoot running before?!
p.s thanks to Fran of Healthy Fit Fran for taking the pictures for me 😉 x