I signed up for the Duncan Ridge 30 kilometer trail run. I have never ran a trail race before and am a little intimidated by it. I have been running the local trail around the lake and found to to be pretty challenging. It is a very steep and rocky loop that is perfect training for "the toughest trail run in the Southeast.
Why not run the rocky course around the corner? I know from past experience that my bare feet do not hold up well there. All of my past experiences there have been bad and I dreaded running there. After getting slightly intoxicated, researching some longer distance runs, and signing up for the Duncan Ridge I knew I needed to get some trail miles in.
Feeling reasonable I set out in my Vibram Five Fingers. I know I have down-talked minimalist footwear before, but I agree with Jason Robillard that it has its place. This is especially true if you are trying to accomplish a goal in a short period of time, like the one I am. See, I could spend a few years getting used to the rocky trail, or I could slip on some minimalist shoes and run. I still am feeling the rock(oh trust me I am), but I am taking some of the "sensation" out of it. Also, I am glad to report I am able to run significantly further and faster on trails with minimalist shoes on. I'll explain why...
Caballo Blanco, Micah True, from Born To Run mentioned on Facebook that he had recently ran with shoes on and was able to keep better form than barefoot. This was because of the terrain he was on. See, running barefoot has its place, most definitely. But sometimes a little sensitivity reduction is nice. This is because you don't have to hop around and worry about stepping on every single rock. Instead, you can keep your form and watch out for the larger stones. After running barefoot for a year I can comfortably say that running in Vibram Five Fingers, at least on this trail, is beneficial to me and allows me to run with good form and only a few mistakes along the way(occasionally I heel-strike when hopping over something, but for the most part I am still spot on my normal form).
So moral of the story? Shoes as tools? I guess Robillard was right. Just don't expect me to want to run in shoes all the time or wear shoes in general.