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Huaraches - Tarahumara Running
You've probably already done some research and reading about this whole barefoot, minimalist running thing, and possibly decided (much like I did) that running with your foot completely bare was going to take too long to get used to. Or maybe its too painful, not classy enough, etc. So you may have stumbled upon a diversity of minimalist footwear such as Vibram's Fivefingers, or a fancy pair of Brooks running shoes. But hopefully you also stumbled huaraches, the traditional running sandal of the Rarámuri, also called the Tarahumara. This century old design consist of nothing more than cut out tire with leather lacing. Whether you've made your huaraches from tire, or bought a kit from Invisible Shoe or from Barefoot ted at Luna Sandals, hopefully you discovered the joy of designing and using your own footwear. But, as is often the case, passion does not equal ability, and you may have been frustrated by attempts at running in your new huaraches, or simply seeking some pointers. Here's some technique pointers that I've learned from the past year of running in huaraches:
If it Hurts...
No matter how great a shape you're in, or how long you're able to run in shoes, start slow. Developing minimalist running technique not only forces you to run a new way, using the outside edge of your foot first rather than your heel, but it also uses a completely different set of muscles; a set that has been neglected by running in shoes for years. By slowing down and paying attention to your body, you'll begin to develop leg muscles as well as the arch in your foot, all the while avoiding blisters that can really set you back. Pick short distances, and preferably start on grassy terrain to help you adapt.
Slip and Slide
If you're sliding around in your huaraches and causing blisters and rope burn, than you may want to try a number of different things. First, retie your lacing. I prefer the slip-on method of tying. Whatever tying method you chose make sure your heel is all the way back against the snug heel strap and that the toe strap is fairly snug as well. When tying your last knot through the toe strap try to get it closer to your ankle. Again, this is what has worked for me but ultimately you will have to experiment: run, adjust, adjust, run, etc. There is no magic answer and you will discover what works best for your feet. Another thing to do is wear moleskin initially to protect the tender spots as you figure out the best tying/tension combination. Don't forget to check your form, which may be causing you grief as well.
Most of all, enjoy yourself. Don't push yourself till it hurts, but embrace the freedom and connection with the world around as you reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath you. By sticking to the basics of improving your form and developing a quick, light step, speed and distance will come on their, and so will the thrill and excitement of barreling through the woods and fields in your huaraches. Hopefully this huarache tarahumara running advice has or will help you be one step closer to getting there.