Must Run Trails

Or better yet, can’t run roads!

I’ve said this too many times, but I was a runner all my life. My first 10K was in the 6th grade and I haven’t looked back. A hard landing during adult gymnastics damaged something in my left calf that has hobbled me for the past several years. If I try to run, the left calf totally seizes up.

But what I’m realizing is that my left calf only has a problem when I run flat concrete surfaces. If I run in grass or on trails, I don’t have a problem. I can still feel tightness but it never goes into full blown Alles Kaput mode!

And don’t even say it, its not that I am NOT running in shoes. That will take us on a whole other tangent. But I will go there briefly.

For me, being a natural, barefoot, minimalist runner, a natural gait is one in which I can midfoot strike. That is, I land mostly on the center of my foot. I probably feel a lot more spring from the forefoot when I do this because I am rolling toward the forefoot when I press off. This is a natural gait and should be for everyone.

The worst kind of foot strike is a rearfoot strike. You see this in most shod runners, a.k.a. those who run in shoes. If you read the book "Born to Run", there isn’t a single shoe manufacturer who will say that their shoes scientifically prevents injuries. Imagine this, take a 10 pound solid glass ball. Now wrap it the best you can in bubble wrap or whatever. Maybe wrap it in foam. Now extend it with arms overhead and just drop it on the floor. How well do you think it will fare? Now take a 120-200 pound human and wrap their foot and see if you can prevent an injury. Its really quite a chore. Try dropping the ball a thousand times. That’s the number of foot strikes you land in a single run. Shoes are not the answer. And dependence on shoes makes you think you are protected. So instead of using the elasticity and shock absorption of your arches, calves, ankles, knees, etc., you become wholly dependent on a half inch or so of foam. Its not gonna happen.

So for me, being a barefoot runner, when I’m on a very hard, unnatural surface, I think I tend toward more shock absorption with a slightly forward forefoot strike. If I didn’t have a predisposing condition, this would work just fine. But that nagging calf problem gets overloaded. I’ll never say never. I’m a Thai yoga massage therapist, so I’ve been trying to self-heal. And I know it will happen. Some day.

I swore off roads about 15 years ago anyway. Those evil humans were out to get me. When a drunk driver weaved all the way to my side of the road, I said I’d never do it again. The trails fit my personality better anyway. I love nature and embracing Mother Earth. I love all the challenges and obstacles they present. I love the variety of hills and twists and turns. I love seeing so much wildlife and smelling the honeysuckle and feeling the crunch of leaves under my feet. It is the best way to run. And for the most part, I prefer solo. I love being with a friend now and then just to be able to say out loud how beautiful the trail is. Otherwise, I love the pitter pat of my own feet and the breath from my lungs.

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