Can 'Barefoot' Shoes Help You Get In Better Shape?
Last year, I wrote about the barefoot running trend for the New York Times, so when Terra Plana recently invited to me to try out their new minimalist running shoe with a renowned running coach, I was eager to give it a try. I've always been a somewhat reluctant runner, so this, I thought, might give me a boost to get in shape for summer.
Terra Plana, run by Galahad Clark, a seventh generation shoe maker (his family owns the footwear giant Clarks), has been one of the biggest proponents of the move toward stripped-down running shoes that mimic a barefoot feel but provide protection from city streets. In March, the company debuted its first performance running shoe, the Evo ($160). it has a super-thin rubber sole (4 millimeters, compared to an inch or more for a conventional padded running shoe) and weighs just eight ounces.
Lee explained that good running form is all about alignment, and that many of us who tend to sit at computers all day long get locked into bad patterns. "Sitting posture is the devil's work," he said (don't I know that!). He showed me some exercises to do, like squatting jumps with a body bar held over my head, to counteract the sitting posture and retrain my body. Then it was back on the treadmill, this time in a black-and-red pair of Terra Plana Evo's. Slipping them on, I was struck by the tactile sensation of the ground beneath my feet - just a thin strip of rubber between us. On the treadmill, my form naturally adjusted, helped along by some prodding and pointers from Lee. I could feel my feet flex and push off the treadmill. Playing back the video, we saw that I was landing on the balls of my feet now, and my body was more in alignment. I was even, dare I say it, bouncy.
I left armed with exercises and newfound determination to give minimal running a serious try. After all, summer is just around the corner.