tjunction wrote:Fivefingers *are* really comfortable. I don't run in mine (they're presently used mainly in the gym for weights etc) but walking in them normally (heel strike) is no problem. I've walked a good few miles on city streets in them in the past with no problems. (Isn't heel strike how you walk barefoot or are you telling me you always wear shoes just around the house?)
I never heel strike when I walk. Instead of reaching forward with my leg for the next step, I just relax, and let myself sort of "fall" forward. My foot then automatically moves forward to break my fall and prevent me from tipping over. It's a subtle thing once you find the balance point. The ball of my foot contacts the ground first, then my body weight kind of stretches my arch, allowing my heel to contact the ground. The degree of heel impact can be controlled by bending your knee a bit, which controls the tension on the Achilles' tendon. A straighter knee will let your heel "hit" the ground, while a knee which is over-bent will cause your heel to "float". There's a sweet spot somewhere in between, where your heel just "kisses" the ground (kind of like a critically damped screen door closer). Once your heel is on the ground, you can transfer your weight to it, and repeat for the next step.
For running, it's pretty much the same thing, except I push off from the heel for a bigger stride (using my quads and glutes, more than my calves. I tend to only use my calves on landing, to control the heel damping), since I find the bigger leg muscles more efficient for adding push to my stride.
When trying to explain the motion to people, I tend to compare it to climbing stairs. Always ball first, and then plant your heel, then push off from the heel. Another good analogy is skipping rope, but keep it loose and easy. You want minimal energy usage with no impact.
A coupe of points, in case you want to try this:
1) Train by walking before trying to run, especially if you're wearing these shoes instead of going barefoot. This is because you're removing a biofeedback mechanism when your skin isn't touching the ground. When you're barefoot, your soles will start to hurt before your muscles do, which will limit how fast you ramp up. This is a really good thing. Listen to your body, because it knows what's going on. You'll get a blister well before you get a torn Achilles' tendon, and you'll feel your skin tingling and tenderizing before you get that blister. With the shoes on, you'll just have to consciously stop yourself from overrunning. I ran barefoot for five years before I tried these shoes, and I totally overdid it on the first run of the season this year, when I wore the shoes. I felt like I could fly in them, and my calves were knotted up for two weeks after that first 5k run. To re-iterate, you need to ramp up slowly. Start with a 1k walk or less on smooth asphalt. (Asphalt bike paths are awesome, concrete sidewalks are a close second, Watch out for pointy stuff, but you'll get used to pebbles after a couple of weeks. Don't be in a hurry, and choose where you put your feet). When you can do this for a week and it feels good after the walk, add some distance. When you can walk for at least an hour in bare feet, try running a couple of hundred meters somewhere in the middle of your walk, nice and easy. Use the same 1 week rule as for walking. Nothing wrong with skipping a day if you're still tender/sore the next day. Take your time. Stretch. Massage your calluses afterwards.
2) Pull your toes back before landing, and lower them after. I always ended up stubbing my big toe at least twice a year for the first couple of years. Nothing sucks more than tearing open the end of your big toe on asphalt in the middle of a long run. It bleeds like crazy, hurts like hell, looks like shit, and takes a couple of weeks to heal. Especially easy to drop form and do this when you're exhausted, near the end of a long run. I've never broken a toe doing this, which I guess I should be thankful for. I now automatically pull my toes back whether I'm walking or running. Moral: pay attention to your form and don't drag your feet.