I ran about 2 miles to Krannert today to undergo barefoot training. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but it was going to involve the pebble/rock beds ontop of the building.
What I ended up doing was walking 10 large circles around the top of the building. My feet prickled with every step. At best, it bordered on pain. At worst, it was honestly painful. I wondered sometimes why I did this to myself and what I would do if I stepped on one of the many shards of glass I saw glinting in the lamplight.
What’s worse was that the circle was enormous. The first two circles seemed to take forever, and I constantly reconsidered my decision to make 10 rotations. I decided to play wait-and-see until I was at 5 rotations, which took a godawfully long time. But something magical happened when I hit number 5. My brain saw that I was halfway done and sat up. I had done it once – now I only had to do it one more time. The last five times felt like they took half as long to complete.
But more than that, around about number 7, my feet decided that they’d had enough of my shit and they were going to do things differently. Almost unconsciously, my feet started to move differently. The ball of my feet began to tip to meet the ground. That let my calves buffer my weight as I shifted forward onto that foot. It’s called fox stepping, and it was remarkably less painful.
I also noticed afterward while I was walking on the concrete around Krannert, carrying my shoes, that my muscles all along the length of my legs were not comfortable with the new way I was walking. I was still fox stepping like I had on the pebbles, but I felt torsion in my leg muscles.
What was happening was that while I was slowly walking on the pebble bed, my body had learned to optimize for forward movement with fox stepping. Instead of lazily pointing outward, my feet padded straight forward, continuing the along the line of motion. This carried over even when I was off the pebble bed. Normally, when I stand still and when I walk, my feet are splayed, pointing outward. Hold your hands up, fingers pointing to the ceiling. Now rotate both hands outward a bit, and that’s how my feet normally move. What fox stepping had done was to straighten them out and straighten my gait out.
I could actually feel it! I could feel half an hour of training shoving up against the established habits of 22 years of incorrect walking. I have lost a lot of that sense while walking already, but it just makes me really excited to see how else my body’s biomechanics will change with more barefoot training. I really hope I’ll be able to apply these benefits to tricking and hopefully get injured less.