Barefoot Running at 63… Almost.

(The Merrell Vapor Glove 2: part of my collection) 

The ‘almost’ included in the title means two things: first, I’m not really running barefoot – – the Merrell Vapor Glove 2 is as close as I get to that; and second, it’s actually treadmilling that I do. My interval training does include peaks at 10 on the treadmill, but real runners are outside, right?

This is not a paid endorsement in any fashion, but these have become what I wear all the time now. Everywhere!


(Black/Gray pair is casual dress and Orange/Gray goes to the gym)

How It All Started

While enjoying a nice evening with the kids about a year ago, I picked up from their coffee table a book about barefoot runners. I was captivated not only by the incredible capabilities of the long distance runners described, but I experienced a personal revelation regarding a debilitating problem I had with shin splints forty years earlier. It occurred when I was participating in Platoon Leaders Class, which is the officer candidate school for the Marines. The intensity and duration of the training left no time for recuperation. The pain that developed in the front of my legs made walking barely tolerable. Never had I given thought to the biomechanics of running before, and even after the incident I simply forgot about it…until I read in this book about the significance of landing on the front of the foot while running. All along I had been slapping the front of my feet on the ground by landing heel first. That severe pain in my shins during my training in Quantico made sense now.

It also made sense that after sheltering my feet and all their accompanying ligaments and tendons in elaborate foam containers (shoes) all these years, I should ease into it.

I don’t ease very well. Poring over the Amazon reviews regarding minimalist running shoes, I decided on the Merrells. I bought what the marathoners and trail runners liked. That simple.

Their cautionary words in the reviews were correct – – it definitely takes getting used to. And it won’t happen fast if you’re used to nothing but foam or stiff leather containers surrounding your feet. What you will find is that you have to learn to walk differently, paying attention to the landing of your steps. If that sounds like a bothersome and trivial task to you, don’t spend the money. These shoes will not let you bang your heel down. (Actually they will, but once you do, you’ll try hard not to do it again). In the beginning I thought that they were simply too minimalist – – that I wouldn’t be able to get used to them. Now, I have no problem running on the street and wearing them all day long. They are extremely light weight, flexible and breathable. It is this fit and flexibility that distinguish them from any type of padded foam or thin leather sole shoe. And they really do fit like a glove – – with an arch that follows the exact upward curve and shape of my foot.

The Net Effect

I never had calves before. Of course I did, really, but you just couldn’t see them. Not only have I noticed muscular development, but undoubtedly my ankles as well as my feet have become stronger and more flexible. I enjoy feeling how my feet touch the ground as I walk, and sensing the pressure of the ground beneath me.

Sound a bit strange? It would to me if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

If you give the Merrells a try, pay attention to the size. My size in any other shoe is 11.5, but the Merrells that fit me are 10.5.

UPDATE:  7/7/16

“Training based on barefoot running, practised correctly, produces significant changes in foot support, regardless of the athlete’s speed: forefoot support (metatarsal), tends to minimize impact peaks and, therefore, leads to a lower risk of injury.”
To Your Happy Feet,

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog
Footnote Update 9/9/15— check out this NY Times article on the importance of ankle strength as we age:

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Categories: Running

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2 replies

  1. Hi Steven,

    I’ve missed your posts. Good to have you back on the block.

    I too recently discovered the fundamental importance of foot biomechanics. A brilliant podiatrist fit me with a pair of specially designed orthotics that corrected longstanding (no pun intended) structural issues. Literally overnight, pain in my hams and glutes that was impeding my squats and deadlifts vanished. Additionally I’ve begun to develop muscles in my legs that never had a chance before. The doc insists that over time, simply by wearing the orthotics while walking, exercising and living, those muscles will get strong enough that I’ll be able to throw away the orthotics. Like you, I’m 63, and still aim to see improvement in this older body.

    I spoke with a physical therapist who insists that postural improvements have to work from the top down, not the bottom up. She scoffed at the success I’ve had with this elegantly simple methodology of properly designed orthotics. But the body is a hologram; it can be entered and adjusted and improved in many ways. “Start here, go anywhere,” that’s my motto.

    Your experience with the benefits of Pose running speaks for itself, and you’re not alone – it’s a revolutionary approach to running that has transformed the lives of millions of runners. And of course, having the right shoe is essential. Thanks for the tip re: the Merrell Vapor Glove. I’m on my way to the store!

    • Rita, Thanks for your feedback! Interesting comment from the physical therapist, but if the walking style is off balance for any reason, natural posture will be compromised. Be careful with my enthusiasm for the product. My feet, except for minor pain in the big toes, are in good shape. Your experience may vary, as they say. Please keep in touch!

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