Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why I wear ugly shoes (so I can afford to buy gorgeous ones)

543106_10152262105630224_1110542692_n A couple of years ago I read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. It was the book that convinced me that barefoot-running/walking was the go. At the time I was hoping to resume my 5 x weekly jogs/runs from the pre-kids era. To be honest; I bought the book in a vain attempt to find that inner motivation that would magically see me running every evening without loathing every single step of my 5 km track. Already being overweight and recovering from a wonderful birthing-experience (insert sarcasm here, have you ever had an episiotomy?), the book didn’t offer the magic nor the motivation I needed. But it started a thought-process.

Fast forward a few months, and I found myself reading anything and everything about the Primal/Paleo lifestyle. While greedily absorbing as much as I could from Marks Daily Apple, I came across his guide to walking. Everything die-hard Paleos and Primals say about barefoot-walking was familiar to me thanks to “Born To Run”. As I slowly started to change my lifestyle, I threw out my $200 Nike Shox-runners and replaced them with $5 plimsolls from Kmart. Effectively this meant that I went from walking in shoes with nearly 5 cm built-up cushioning under the heel to less than 1 cm of sole. If you have spent a lifetime walking, running and exercising in built-up runners, you muscles in both feet, ankles, legs, thighs, hips and back will be affected by this change.

As I started to lose weight and feel more energetic, I was consistently walking 40-50 min daily. Doing it in really thin soled-shoes like the plimsolls caused me pain and discomfort in the first 3 weeks. I really felt the strain in my shins and hips. But I kept going, and by the 6th week I had awaken the dormant, stiff muscles and could walk with far better coordination than before (I used to be very clumsy and unbalanced). After doing plimsolls for a few months, I decided to look into buying actual barefoot-shoes like the Vibram Fivefingers. As you can see, they are not cheap. I have no problem forking out money on shoes, in fact, it’s one of my many hobbies. I dare say shopping for shoes is my favourite thing to do next after eating and sleeping. But for some reason I didn’t feel like spending money on barefoot-shoes. Namely because they are really ugly and super-weird. I’m not saying they’re not awesome (they totally are!) but my inner diva didn’t really want to fork out for something so strange and unusual looking. And as most of you know by now, I like saving money where I can (ALDI, anyone?).

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Photo, left: “Born To Run”, right: The sort of shoes I prefer spending money on and ooops, turns out I did.

The solution? Instead of barefoot-shoes I went and got water-shoes from Kmart. They were $9 and lasted me 12 months. This year I got a pair of aqua-shoes from Target. They were $7 on special. They are incredibly bright and hideous (see top-pic) but they feel like practically wearing nothing and I love them. The rubber-sole is super-flexible and I can feel every single pebble and rock when I walk without hurting my feet. My legs, hips and toosh get a far better work-out than when I used to walk in my Nike Shox-runners. I am a big believer in the benefits of barefoot-walking. Even in the gym I wear Adidas Daroga-shoes with a thinner sole as this allows me to find better balance while doing squats or dead lifts. I recently tried to wear my old Nikes and didn’t even last a block. I felt wobbly and unsteady, and had no sense of balance. There is no going back for me.

If you want to learn more, I recommend you read “Born To Run”. It was a great book as far as reasoning for barefoot-running goes, but please ignore the author’s excitement for vegetarian diets and chia-seeds fuelling your body for ultra-marathons (Chronic cardio with a capital C). Chia-seeds are great but not magic. Knowing what I know about diet today, I would not consider his advice to eat a bowl of steamed broccoli with chia-gel for breakfast. If you throw in some salmon and a few eggs I’m all for it! Jokes aside, if you are yet to part with your old, built-up runners, I suggest you give water-shoes a go. Remember that it takes a few weeks for your body to adjust. There are decent minimalist runners on the market, I like the look of the New Balance Minimus. I might put them on the wish-list for Christmas (My gym-Darogas are 7 years old!), although I’m sure there is a pair of 8 inch high-heeled* beauties out there with my name on them. No doubt I’d rather own them, right?

*It’s not like I wear high heels often so don’t call me a hypocrite. I just love high heels- they make me happy. No, I know, they are hardly practical, but I don’t care. I still love em’. Rest assured I spend 98% of my time wearing bright aqua-shoes…

Are you a bare footer?