Every runner will be used to treading lots of different surfaces but when it comes to serious off road running there’s a lot more to think about.
There’s a big difference between running around your local park to navigating forests, public footpaths or the less trodden parts of the countryside.
So, whether you’re already running barefoot in our Vibram FiveFingers or haven’t quite made the switch, here’s our guide to taking your feet off road.
Know what you feel
Ask anyone who runs in Vibram FiveFingers or other barefoot shoes and they will tell you that your feet feel much more than they would in a conventional running shoe. This is because they have a thinner, more flexible sole allowing the thousands of nerve endings on the base of our feet to gather more information about what we’re treading on. When you’re away from a road that could seem like a bad thing but it’s actually quite the opposite.
Off road running challenges your senses in a much more visceral way. There can be many different changes to consider. For example:
- Changes in direction, terrain and gradient.
- Obstacles on the ground and all around you.
- Different surfaces from hard to soft, dry to wet, grippy to slippery.
Any of these changes can happen at a moment’s notice, often several at once. So, it pays to be acutely aware of what’s coming around every corner at all times. Even if you’re running somewhere you’ve been before, things can change very fast in nature. I’ve been running the trails near my home for 15 years and can still lose my bearings if I return to a section of forest after a month or so away.
Because Vibram FiveFingers are built to be flexible, our feet can move in a relatively unrestricted way.
It makes sense that the more sensory feedback you can get the better. Then your body stands a better chance of adapting to these changes. When it comes to running off road, having less between your feet and the ground can actually be an advantage.
Vibram FiveFingers can help our nervous system learn more about what’s under our feet so we can react accordingly. For example, a bare foot can be flexible in several directions allowing us to mould around objects and use our toes to help with grip.
Because Vibram FiveFingers are built to be flexible, our feet can move in a relatively unrestricted way. Having individual toe pockets built into the shoe can really help your feet to work in a more natural way.
This added flexibility can actually reduce our risk of injury when running off road. Place your foot in a supportive running shoe and you’ll be aware that it’s harder to move the joints in your feet. If we were to land on a large stone or tree root while running in a supportive shoe, we wouldn’t be able to flex our foot around the object. Instead, we would have to move from the next joint in the chain that isn’t supported by the shoe, our ankle. This can lead to a compromise in balance and a higher risk of injury.
Vibram understand the different challenges our feet can face when running (or, for that matter walking) through a forest or on public footpaths. Remember also that this terrain can change throughout the year so it’s good to choose the right shoe for the right conditions.