Natural Running

This time last year we started to sell footwear at Facewest. We only sell off road running shoes and rock boots, so pretty specialist, but obviously plenty of our customers are doing one or both. I am a pretty keen fell runner and have done a bit of adventure racing so it’s at the heart of what I do.

Last year I upped my running mileage significantly in preparation for my Bob Graham Round in May. It was the first year ever that I have run more than I cycled. After 6 months of this I began to suffer some classic knee pain and at one point wondered if I would get to do my round. My first port of call was a podiatrist, who did a great job, made me some insoles and the pain was significantly reduced, enough for me to complete my goal.

Ortothic Insole

However even with increased stretching and care, my knee pain did not disappear. As an Inov8 dealer I was aware how their philosophy was clarifying on the subject, and at the same time, Anatom, kindly gave me some Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) to try and a copy of Born To Run to read. I thought I would tackle my knee pain from two directions, so decided to try some barefoot running along with wearing my orthotics the rest of the time. I did go round the classic cycle of over use of VFFs, calf injury and then a period not using them, so please be very moderate with them especially in the early weeks. I found that my knee pain was reducing further still.

My next phase (the one I am in now) was to remove my orthotics altogether, throw out my over supportive shoes (both road and fell) and commit to a regular stretching campaign which includes a yoga class and 2 home sessions. I now only run with pretty minimalist footwear and avoid any footwear that has more than a 6mm difference in footbed height from front to rear. The stretching still plays a large part in this solution and after spending time sorting out the IT bands (get a foam roller and toughen up!), I discovered that my hips also needed a lot of work. My lower legs have got stronger both from my choice of footwear and my yoga, and my awareness of foot placement from the VFF reduces the stresses placed upon my knees and hips during running. I now only have slight knee pain when I neglect the stretching, even though I am still doing plenty of ultra distance running. As a shop keeper I have put my money where my mouth is and now sell 2 styles of VFF, and a pair of minimalist off road shoes as well as the more traditional styles. Here are the minimalist shoes we sell.

VFF Treksport


Inov8 Bare Grip 200

There is currently a lot of hype around barefoot running and quite a lot of anecodotal evidence being presented as something more concrete in some marketing. (check out but I am only stating my experiences. I feel that I am a healthier runner for reducing the support in my shoes and doing some sessions in VFFs.
As always if you have any comments on this subject please feel free to comment.

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