Wednesday, 25 May 2011

You don't have to take your shoes off to have a good time...

...but according to Barefoot Ted, it helps.

Last night, I went to 'An Evening with Barefoot Ted' to listen to the virtues of barefoot or minimalist running. I'd encountered this concept before (in Chris McDougall's book 'Born to Run'). I have to confess, I was already a bit of a convert (in theory, at least.)

The basic idea being, the foot is a piece of highly developed machinery that is designed to work best when it's at its most natural; i.e. the more you distance it from the world (with padded expensive trainers, for example) the less you give it the chance to work properly. And that can result in the joint pain and jarring that is, traditionally, the runner's lot.

A little while ago I attended the Running School in Chiswick in an attempt to achieve a more fleet-of-foot, effective running style. Their proposition is that they can teach you to run - and then to run faster.

At no point, did they suggest I throw my shoes out of the window. But what I found interesting, in comparing the words of Barefoot Ted with those of Mike Antoniades (founder/head coach at the Running School), was the similarities. Their descriptions of the ideal running 'technique' were virtually the same: from the idea that we need to remind our bodies how to work as holistic machines to the concept of light, gentle forward-foot landings and the emphasis on balance and breathing. The only difference being, Ted would advocate that this 'ideal' gait develops more naturally when you take your trainers off.

This is oversimplifying it and you'll find more information on his website but, to me, Barefoot Ted made a lot of sense. To the extent, I was seriously considering ditching my sandals for the walk home from the tube station. Maybe I should change my name to Barefoot Lou.

(Pic: Barefoot Ted waxing lyrical at King's College. Apologies that my iPhone doesn't have a great zoom. And no, he wasn't completely barefoot. He had special sandals on.)

(Chris McDougall's book 'Born to Run' is a fascinating insight into ultra running, barefoot running and the mysterious 'running' tribes of the Copper Canyons.)

(More info on the Running School in Chiswick. Mike, incidentally, is one of the nicest guys I have ever met.)

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