Earlier this month I received an email that just may change the way that I train and live my life. To put it in perspective, I need to go back in time a bit (well, more than a bit!).
As a youngster growing up surrounded by all things nature - the woods, streams and wetlands behind my home, the bay, ocean and saltwater inlets down the lane in front of my home, and the mountains of Vermont where I spent weekends and vacations visiting my dad - I went barefoot as much as I could. I absolutely loved it. I built up calluses from running on the sand at low tide on the bay to get into shape for sports, and built up a different set of muscles than I would have had I been wearing shoes. Looking back, I know that at no time in my life did I feel more in tune with my body and better conditioned.
Years ago, as a pre-season training regimen for most of my high school sports, the coaches told us to "run the big beach." In order to get to the "big beach" we had to travel over the Powder Point bridge, reputed to be, at a half-mile in length, the longest wooden bridge in the country. Most of us would go the extra distance and bike from our homes across the bridge.
Once we got to the other side we took off our shoes so we could run barefoot on the beach, a flat three-mile-run best run one way on the soft sand on the ocean side, and, on the return trip, if we timed our runs just right, on the flat hard sand on the bay side as the tide drifted out. It is no wonder that kids in the wonderful seaside town of Duxbury, Massachusetts where I grew up continue to win state championships year after year in just about every sport, especially in sports like soccer, field hockey, basketball and lacrosse which involve a lot of running.
One of the reasons, I now realize, is that today's kids, as in my day, still run barefoot on Duxbury beach. I knew it back then but somewhere along the way I started wearing running shoes that I could wear all day long. After all, going barefoot isn't exactly practical, nor is it allowed in most places (How many "No shirt, no shoes, no service!" signs have you seen over the years?).
Earlier this month I received an email from the good folks at Merrell Shoes introducing me and the MomsTEAM editors to their line of what they described as "fully performing, cute clothing and shoes that allow every woman to unleash her Pretty Strong potential." They offered to send me sample pairs to try out, and I accepted their offer, something that I rarely do (if I said yes to everyone who offered to send me product samples, I wouldn't be able to see over my desk!). I had been wearing an older model of their shoes, so I was eager to try out their new model.
Last week, I received a pair of Women's Barefoot Pace Glove, and immediately began putting them to the test. I think I am in heaven. My typical work day routine when I am not on the road is to bike, walk or kayak the three miles to work. I take an hour break mid-day to spend time in the fitness center working out on the weights. Putting on just one pair of shoes on before I leave my home and being able to wear them all day is critical for me. I have little time to switch from bike shoes to work shoes, back to bike shoes, to running shoes, back to bike shoes back to office shoes back to bike shoes all in one day. Wearing one pair all day is the answer for me. My new Merrill's will enable me to do this.
My job running MomsTEAM requires that I spend way too much of the day in front of a computer. The Barefoot Pace Glove is the answer for any person looking to add more movement to their day. Now, I feel compelled to get up and walk around while I am talking on the phone; I find myself running extra stairs during breaks, and when it is time to jump back on the bike and pedal to the fitness center, I don't need to think about what is on my feet.
Merrell has teamed up with two very important brands to create a winning line: Vibram® to provide the best tread for the soles and Aegis Microbe Shield ® to keep the shoes fresh by controlling odor and staining. I'll report back about both after my 100 mile ‘tread and smell test.'
Best yet, I know I am working muscles in a completely different way than when I was wearing my old running shoes - which, by comparison, now feel like clunky ski boots. Merrill believes that allowing your feet to find their natural landing pad sets you up for an optimal and more efficient stride. The shoe, they say, "connects your feet to the terrain, encourages a natural gait to improve posture and strengthens feet and leg muscles." I couldn't agree more.
Four years ago I tore my ACL. The doctor said that it cannot be repaired, since I tore it playing squash many years ago. Now, unless I keep fit I will need a total knee replacement, so proper footwear is critically important. The wrong shoes will create improper alignment, which causes a flare-up and causes my knee to swell with fluid for days. With the right shoes, I feel like I am walking on air and actually building the muscles.
The only thing that might make my own Merrell Barefoot experience even better would be if I was able to wear the quick-zip model. The top of my Barefoot Pace is too snug and warm and I find myself wanting to unzip it like my earlier model did for added comfort. I look forward to trying one of their zip models, especially the ones that might get me through a harsh winter of biking and walking. Stay tuned. In the meantime I encourage you to try the Barefoot line.
And, to keep the feds happy, yes, Merrell provided me the shoes free of charge and no, I did not ask them for financial compensation. This is a product that truly makes me feel better, and because they used zero animal products to make this shoe I say, "Thank YOU!"
For Merrell's full line of barefoot running shoes, visit http://www.merrell.com/US/en/Women-Footwear-Shoes-Barefoot.
Brooke de Lench is the Founder and Publisher of MomsTEAM.com and the author of Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports (HarperCollins), now available as an e-book on Amazon.com.