Since my last run 10 days ago, my only other exercise was a total of 70km bike ride over two consecutive days. So, today was a good day to shake-off some muscle stiffness with a relaxing and muscle-stretching 4.4km run round my neighbourhood lake in Taman Ria Subang. There is a new tree-lined bitumen track for joggers and walkers which surround the beautiful lake, covering a distance of 1.1km. This is the only piece of green lung left in this thriving neighbourhood, and so the local residents will converge on it during the mornings and in the afternoons after 5pm to take respite from the heat and to engage in various exercises such as jogging, walking, and Tai Chi. On many previous occasions, I have found myself running alone here with the exception of the presence of the odd angler and some grass-cutters. At such tranquil times, I noticed that a lot of good ideas come my way as I am running. I think the combining mixture of a serene backdrop, and the blood pumping through my veins is conducive to evoking an eureka moment.
This afternoon, I peddled my mountain bike to the park as usual in anticipation of a nice run given the cool breeze present. As soon as I started my run, I felt something was not sitting right with me despite the ideal running conditions. Sure enough, before completing the first lap, I noticed some stress on my knees. Then I decided to continue running without my shoes, and to see what would happen. The moment my barefoot touched the smooth tarmac, my feet felt so much more at ease, and to my greater surprise, the pressure on my knees had disappeared almost instantly. My running form felt better. I felt more light-footed, and as a result, my pace picked-up.
So what exactly happened? My guess is that after my first two barefoot runs on the 8th & 15th of January, my feet already got accustomed to running barefoot and they were rejecting my shoes. If feet could talk, they were trying to tell me, “Listen Gus, we do not like the idea of being cooped-up in shoes no matter how nice those shoes may be. We like to see what we are stepping on, and we like having some air between our toes too. So, please get rid of those shoes”.
As for the disappearing stress on my knees, I suspect that while running barefoot, my body, legs and feet are able to adjust more readily to the terrain, and my weight is distributed more evenly upon impact. On the other hand, when I was running with shoes, I noticed that my feet were hitting the ground too soon and too forceful and hence, causing a jarring effect. It’s as though my feet did not make any allowance for the extra padding provided by my shoes. It’s almost like my running subconscious is striking the ground harder because it knows that the shoes can absorb the stress. Inversely, my running subconscious is treading more lightly when I run barefoot because it knows that there is no extra padding or protection present.
The only proof that I have for my above theories is the contrasting difference I felt running with and without shoes. This is hardly scientific and to others, my proposals will seem far from convincing. For now, until I know better, I will listen to my feet for a change. So, I cycled home “sans” shoes.