Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kids and running

I've got two little boys, aged (nearly) 7 and 9. They love running about as much as any other kids but what about running in the sense of running just for the sake of running? I don't think so - not yet, anyway. They seem to associate running with the absence of their father and have more of a memory of the times I have injured myself running or come back with bloody feet or nipples than of the times when they have come to support me in a race. For the eldest, my moment of glory was when I came home with a trophy for second place in a race at work! Better to come second in a provincial race than 10th in an international competition! Of course I would like them to discover the joys of running and of triathlon, for that matter, but I'm also conscious of the importance of it feeling like something that they have chosen rather than something an over-reaching parent has foisted upon them. We've started to run occasionally to the park and back - about a kilometer - but they start off very enthusiastically, running ahead and dropping back and then get quite tired. I've been running barefoot alongside them, the thinking being that my feet will get conditioned for running at about the same rate that the kids (and my wife) do.

As a parent I have a big dilemma about what to do about shoes for my kids. The eldest has my flat feet and the podiatrist has recommended shoes as stiff as a board with orthotics (special insoles). The fact that we bought these items from a shop that had probably been in the same place since the civil war didn't do much to allay my fears: how can I live by one philosophy and yet have my kids live by another? When people ask me about my minimalist running shoes I tell them why I think they are better than normal running shoes (while they look on with politely disguised boredom I suppose) but I also say that I wouldn't recommend them to anyone who was not willing to really commit to re-conditioning their feet. But the kids' feet have not yet been turned into squashed, mushy pulp by shoes yet and they always go barefoot in the house. They have strong looking feet with a nice separation between the toes. Even so, it takes some guts to go against the doctor's orders - the responsibility would be all mine if something happened to them. Then, last year we stumbled upon the Terra Plana Vivobarefoot shop in Brighton where I bought my first Evos, my wife bought some funky shoes and - to my delight - she also agreed to buy some "barefoot" shoes for the kids (thus sharing the responsibility). I'm now looking to replace them because they have been completely worn out. There are still very limited options for minimalist running shoes for kids. Merrel have launched some which I am currently unable to buy over the internet because of the shipping restrictions and Merrel's antiquated policy of dividing their internet shops into "zones". Instead, I am eagerly awaiting the launch of the Vivobarefoot Neos for kids, which should be out any day now.

Next time you see a small kid running, watch how he or she runs. Doesn't it look like the smoothest, most efficient way to run? Then watch how we run as adults. Something happens to us in that time and I'd like to help my kids avoid it happening to them. I don't claim that shoes are entirely to blame, some of the problem comes from our innate ability to imitate others and our false image of what it means to run correctly. (How many photos can you spot in an issue of Runner's World of people over-striding? Some of them are even elite runners.)

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to you! quite ballsy to apply what you believe in to your kids. If you think about it, what's the worse that can happen to already flat feet? and the best?

    I also have flat feet and those shoes had no effect at all. Neither they did in all flat feeted people I know. With your approach you can only do better than that.