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I've been "training" by going barefoot (+ vibrams) for over 2-3 months now. I feel great, there are no big injuries (although I've not really pushed my self).

My question is this: Is it wise to train for 4 months or so for a half marathon by using barefoot/minimal foot techniques, and then on race day sprint off with something with a lot of heel support?

My friend indicated that he received a huge boost when he switched back to his ASICS gel pro.

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An update after 3 years: I did run the half marathon on the Vibrams, but this was after years of getting small and long runs in to them. I now prefer them over the regular shoes. Going back to the ASICS I do see I can go faster, but this is probably not a good idea (as I've realized that even though my speed increases, the form might not be better). –  Aman Dec 9 at 22:45

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I would advise to train as you are going to race. If you are running a trail race, do most of your training on trails. Similarly, if you plan on racing in supportive trainers, practice mostly in supportive trainers.

It is great to use vibrams / minimalist shoes as they (positively) change your stride, cadence and foot strike BUT I would try to take a long, long time of easing into them before attempting a marathon. You indicated you are easing into them over the last 4 months but that is still a relatively small amount of time given a lifetime of running.

Maybe try 3/4 days a week in Vibrams and 3/4 days in trainers and then racing in the trainers. Both shoes will provide benefits as you continue transitioning to 100% minimalist.

Keep up the minimalist work and good luck with the marathon.

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I haven't haven't done any serious barefoot running, so it is a not a first hand answer.

As far as I know, the mechanics of running barefoot versus with ordinary running shoes are very different - e.g you run more on the forefoot when doing barefoot running than with ordinary shoes. Thus, I would think that your body is "ready" for ordinary shoes after 4 months and you would be more likely to run into injuries if you switch for on the competition day.

Normally, would you switch to a different set of shoes on running day after 4 months of training with another set of shoes?

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i trained in VFFs for 3 months prior to my second marathon. i switched back to Asics for the marathon. they felt heavy. i didn't feel any "boost". i do believe that i finished faster overall than i would have in VFFs because i pushed myself hard to hit a time goal, and my form deteriorated, resulting in me just throwing one foot in front of the other and nailing my heels each time; that would have been torture in VFFs.

so if you want to push yourself beyond the point of good form, you should revert to your cushioned shoes for the race. i'm trying not to inject opinion here because i was very happy with hitting that goal, and think it was worthwhile (no injuries, thankfully). if you don't have such a goal, stick with the VFFs. while transitioning, i noticed no significant speed difference in the VFFs vs. Asics before the point of form breakdown, and though i've gotten faster over time, i attribute that completely to training, not to gear

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