Learning to run barefoot on gravel? No way!

Discussion in 'Barefoot & Minimalist Running' started by Jaap Francke, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. Jaap Francke

    Jaap Francke
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    Hi all,

    Friends and family have laughed at me for most of my life for having such sensitive feet. "Just relax!" they would say, "Don't be such a p*sy", etc....you get the picture. I hardly ever walked barefoot and wore shoes most of the time - even at home.

    And then I got interested in barefoot running...

    I read Bob's book and he has convinced me to start barefoot running on hard surfaces rather than wearing vibrams or start with walking on soft ground/grass. It was difficult, but I did it.
    I'm still in a learning process but I can now run 10km on flat hard surfaces.
    On trails in the forest I use my vibrams, however. Doing that barefoot seems rather difficult/impossible.
    While running yestreday I remembered having read in Bob's book that he advises to learn barefoot running on gravel.

    Well, I'm inclined to say that's impossible. Not with my feet. Not within the next year or so. I think the muscles in my feet are too week, the mobility of my feet is limited and my skin is no way as tough as it would need to be.

    I'm wondering if anybody (like me) has actually done that - transitioning from shod to barefoot and immediately start practicing with gravel.
    I feel I need to run and maybe even live barefooted for 1 or 2 years before I would be ready to give it a try.

    I'm curious to see your responses. (Yes, I deliberatedly made to topic-line of this thread a little bit provoking)
    Cheers!

    Jaap
     
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  2. Barefoot TJ

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    I've done it, not far, but doable for a short distance...for me anyway. Not my favorite running surface but definitely good for learning how to run gently by not pounding your feet.
     
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  3. Kyrrinstoch

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    I was running on gravel for short (~100 meters) distances as part of a regular 5K route. It took a while before it was "comforatble" but it really helped emphasize how important proper form was for me. The more often I ran that section, the easier it became and the less the gravel surface bothered me.

    I wouldn't recommend diving in and running a long distance on gravel, but definitely add some short distances of rough-surfaces into your route. As your form/body mechanics adjust, it becomes less and less unplasant. I actually started looking forward to those surfaces, as the feel of smooth concrete and asphalt gets a little boring for my feet... :barefoot:
     
  4. Sly

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    on a very short distance, think homeopathy, some few meters three times a week,
    for awareness, correction, precision, etc...

    and he says, if you cant run, just walk,
    if you cant walk, just stand.

    its an exercise, helps you to understand many things
     
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  5. paraganek

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    Doable for shorter distances. Thickness of your fat pads plays a very important role.

    Fat Padding.jpg


    Grow Yourself A Shoe
     
    #5 paraganek, Jan 16, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
  6. Jaap Francke

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    Thanks for sharing the link. I'm still looking for ways to grow my fat pads. I guess just walking barefoot on - for example - gravel will gradually make my foot pads grow thicker?

    I have started to run short distances on gravel.
    Yesterday I did a 100 meters and it wasn't as bas as it was before :)

    I am making it part of my exercises now.
     
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  7. trevize1138

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    Even my dog obviously struggles with gravel and tries to avoid it when I take her out running.

    Gravel is a great teacher, though, so seeking it out and really learning how to deal with it pays huge dividends for all the rest of your running. To really get the most out of it don't just "toughen up" and work through the pain. Let that pain and discomfort instruct you and guide you on how to step lightly and push off without excessive force. A lot of the time when I'm on gravel I'm lucky to be moving at 14:00 or 13:00 per mile pace and feel as though I look like some idiot out trying to run barefoot on gravel.

    But every time I worry my form isn't as efficient as it should be I go back and tackle the gravel again. It straightens me right out.
     
  8. Tristan

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    I'm a bit of a wuss when it comes to gravel. I had very sensitive soles starting out (never barefoot before) and even learned mostly on chip seal and rough eroded asphalt but never could do much gravel. After many years I can hike rough rocky and rooty trails but still not man placed gravel trails/roads (unless smoother types of gravel). If I purposely trained with gravel now-a-days I may be able to adapt, but I stick to mostly smoothly paved trails now.
     
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  9. Einar

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    I can't find any not anecdotal info about growing thicker plantar fat.
    This autumn i made around 600km barefoot at temperatures under 10C. I was sure my fat pads got thicker and to run on gravel was alot easier then in summer. Also summer my barefoot distances was high (~300km/month), but plantar thickness not enlarged. Maybe it's distance and low temperature combo or maybe only my imagination and fat pads are same thickness as at summer ;)
     
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  10. Sly

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    i guess its not only fat pads,
    being able to kiss gravel comes also with plasticity,
    it means, tendons and ligaments around these 26 bones

    and, just like with sitting postures (lotus, squat), for rusty grown-up like me,
    the body is very slow to recover
     
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  11. Christian Lemburg

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    In my experience, running more or less comfortably on gravel is a skill that comes slowly. 4 years ago, I had great difficulty to run a lot of trails that I now run daily. By now, I can run on almost any gravel, relatively comfortably, although I avoid running on very new and sharp gravel, as well as gravel in slippery mud, due to the injury risk when running longer distances and getting fatigued. In case of need, I will walk these areas.

    Gravel also has many faces. Old gravel is very different from sharp new gravel, size matters, wet ground vs. dry ground matters, temperature matters, and so on.

    As for the role of gravel in training, I usually advise against it. I think it is not helpful to fear the ground when learning to run. You should only try to run on gravel if you can comfortably walk on it. For most beginners, hard surfaces like asphalt and concrete are challenging enough. Gravel will come to them anyway when they expand their routes. I also think the role of walking or hiking barefoot is underappreciated. You can walk a lot of terrain that is difficult to run.

    Instead of mentally focusing on the gravel and running, it might be more helpful long-term to encourage barefoot trips in natural environments and on trails, with the option of walking or hiking.

    Just my 2 cent, Christian
     
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  12. Bill B

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    That right there nails it!! I've ran up to 1 km on gravel I found that hot dry days, the suck is worst! It sucks all the time, but somedays are worst than others! After a rain storm or after it's been graded are the best imho! I've also done 10 miles on trails that had intermittent gravel sections, just didn't look forward to those.
     
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  13. trevize1138

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    The more you seek out and train on gravel the less trails like that suck, too. If nothing else gravel training taught me that it's perfectly OK to slow way down on gravel and if it's just the occasional spot here-or-there on an otherwise soft, smooth dirt trail it's worth it.
     
  14. Jaap Francke

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    I did a bit of gravel yesterday; 1 km or so. I was going slow, but I could manage!
     
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  15. Modenacart

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    I would walk in gravel first until your feet stretch some. Some of the pains is the stretching of your feet. It is the same as rollering your muscles. After a while it just feels much better.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  16. JosephTree

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    I've been away awhile... but here goes:

    Jaap, it looks like you only started this BF adventure last year. You're doing great, but still have lots of progress ahead of you. As has been emphasized above, there is no need to rush. The plantar skin and nerves take a longish while to toughen. Enjoy the process.
    I posted above about my first BF run of the year. I was acutely aware of how sensitive my feet were to gravel that just a couple months ago I wouldn't have ever noticed. Building up for the first time is only a step in the process. In subsequent years the rebuild becomes part of the cycle. In my case, I expect I'll be back to mid-season tolerance within maybe 10 runs.
    Peace all!
     
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  17. Jaap Francke

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    Thanks @JosephTree . These days it's freezing, so now I'm enjoying the comfort of my Skinners!
     
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