My name is Tim. I am a runner. I am an orienteer. I prefer to run off road. This is my blog where I write about interesting running stuff and review the shoes I wear as I make my transition into natural running.
Firstly, let me just clarify something. Jogging. I don’t jog, I run. It’s just unfortunate that running doesn’t rhyme with blogging.
In my eyes jogging is a recreational leisure activity for people who feel they need to do a form of light exercise to justify an otherwise sedentary and indulgent lifestyle. Running is what we were born to do. Running is what the human body in its current form evolved to do so that we as a species could survive. Although very few of us these days run to survive, it remains in our nature and in our physiology. Most people just don’t know it or don’t want to know it because they’re perfectly happy not running in a modern world in which there is generally no actual need to run.
Yes of course I’ve read Born To Run by Christopher McDougall, and I wholeheartedly agree with his message. I’m no sports scientist but I love running and have done for as long as I can remember. I’m no champion runner, but I’m fairly good at it. I’m no girl, but I like shoes. Running shoes.
After many years of running (mostly off-road, I hasten to add) and competing while tolerating a long-term pain in my calves, I was starting to get concerned about the lack of benefit I seemed to be getting from ‘specialist’ sports shops who analyse my gait to identify the most cushioned and supportive (and seemingly most expensive) shoe for my ailment. None of these expensive gimmicky shoes improved my pain. If anyone’s interested, the pain was in my soleus muscles (the soleus is the muscle in the calf that lies beneath the main gastrocnemius muscle), and would ache for several days after a long tempo run or after a hill race.
I’d heard about barefoot, or minimalist, or natural running but had never really considered it as an option in the modern built environment. However, I researched it because I liked the idea of it and I found several convincing accounts of how it is the way were meant to run, and that shoes with cushioning are a very modern, and perhaps even wrong, idea. Maybe my aching calves are due to them being weak after a lifetime of wearing deep-heeled cushioned shoes. If I train myself to run barefooted maybe my calves will strengthen, as they have to do to permit the change in running style, and will become strong enough for the pain to stop.
That’s when I learnt about ‘barefoot shoes’ – shoes that enable you to run as if barefooted; with no cushioning underfoot, with your heels flat to the ground, landing on the forefoot, and generally being more efficient. These shoes would allow me to develop this natural running style to hopefully rid my calves of the aching, and would answer my concerns about running in my bare feet in a built-up environment. Maybe I might even get faster in the process.
My journey began with inov-8 who have for a long time made minimalist off road shoes. I have always liked their kit and it just happened that about the time I was beginning to warm to the idea of natural running inov-8 were launching a new range of minimalist road shoes accompanied by a recommended training program to guide you through the transition from ‘normal’ running to natural or barefoot running.
I have subsequently varied my path by exploring barefoot and minimalist footwear from numerous other manufacturers.
This blog is about my journey through all of these shoes on the road to natural running. I hope it offers readers something of an insight into the transition period as well as some assistance by providing some opinion on the various shoes I’m using. A lot of the shoe reviews have featured in CompassSport, the national orienteering magazine for Great Britain.
Thanks for reading,