My minimalist barefoot-style running shoes have taught me about running and, in turn, about relationships. Here is what I have learned:
1) It’s Better to Feel What is Around You
In regular running shoes, the thick outer sole prevents any contact between your foot and the ground; you are barely even aware of the different environments underfoot. In Vibrams, the thick sole allows you to discern the difference between soil and sand, asphalt and rock. It makes for a more fulfilling run, as you connect with the earth underfoot. Likewise, allowing yourself to feel in a relationship makes the experience richer and more vibrant. Be aware of what is around you, tune in to yourself and your partner, expose the soul.
2) Shields Are an Illusion
I used to wear the shoes made to run trails that had a rigid sole and came up higher on the ankle. I reasoned that these shoes would help to protect me from the dangers that lie along the trail in the form of roots, rocks, and other objects lying in wait ti twist an ankle or stub a toe. These shoes never prevented any injuries, they simply looked impressive on the outside. I was guilty of applying the “bigger shield” mentality to my relationships; I thought if I built up a wall tough enough, it could keep the pain out. Turns out it doesn’t work.
3) If Something Makes You Uncomfortable, Try Changing Your Approach
In Vibrams, you can’t just barrel through any terrain without thought. Some surfaces hurt. A lot. After a few disastrous attempts on a particular patch of earth that is covered in sweet gum balls, I learned to take a different approach through that spot. I now view it as a mini obstacle course, bouncing on my toes through the grenade strewn landscape. I have found that this can work in relationships, too. When one approach doesn’t work, instead of giving up or persisting while frustration grows, try shifting to a new approach.
4) Go Slowly
When I first started using Vibrams, I was routinely running 6-12 miles at a stretch. Luckily, I listened to advice and started out very slowly with the new shoes, running only about a quarter mile first time out. I still had some discomfort and had to negotiate a learning curve, but I avoided the pain of too much, too soon. My partner I took a similar approach to our relationship, moving slowly, adjusting to each stage and each other. I think that approach has also helped us to avoid too many growing pains.
5) Flexibility Helps to Prevent Injuries
Minimalist shoes cause your foot to flex and bend around barriers. The more flexible you are, the fewer injuries you will sustain. In love, too, it helps to be flexible rather than rigid in one’s ways.
6) A Little Insulation Can Make a World of Difference
My Vibrams had always been my warm weather running shoes due to their utter lack of any sort of insulation. I made the mistake of taking them out on a relatively warm day last month and I couldn’t feel my toes for hours. I finally purchased a pair of socks to wear under them for winter runs,and now my toes are happy even when the mercury drops. In a relationship, the insulation comes in the form of the little things that remind you of the love, even in thr tough times: the notes, the texts, the touches. They provide the warmth on an otherwise cold day.
7) Work With Your Nature
Barefoot running has taken off partly because of the research supporting a more natural running style. It teaches you to accept the way you are, the way you move, and work with it, rather than fight against it. In any successful partnership, the character of each person should be acknowledged and celebrated for what it is rather than trying to mold it into something it is not.
8) Just Because Something is Unfamiliar, Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Love It
Those first few runs in five fingered shoes felt strange. Very strange. Stick with it, before you know it it’s the regular shoes that feel alien. A new relationship was like that for me also. It was disconcerting to be in a familiar place with an unfamiliar person. I’m glad I stuck it out through the strangeness, because now I love where I am.
9) Be Adaptable
One of my favorite aspects of Vibrams is their adaptability. They work in water, on the beach, on the road, or in a mud run. I try to be just as adaptable.
10) It’s Okay to Look Silly
Let’s face it, Vibrams are not the hottest looking shoe around. In fact, they look downright silly. And that is okay. In a relationship, it is okay (in fact, great) to let your hair down and embrace the silly. With or without the shoes.