Thursday, June 16, 2011

On injuries and barefoot running (Part 2)

What went before.  Short recap:  I ran in normal shoes with orthotics and my feet hurt.  I tried Vibram Five Fingers as an alternative to surgery.

Anyway, after my first several runs in my Vibrams, I realized that it was going to be a process transitioning into the new footwear.  I had more than slight difficulty climbing stairs after a run of anything more than 2 miles and my calves would hurt for days afterwards.

But it wasn't all bad.  Something else was going on.  The pain in my foot (self diagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis) started going away.  In fact, within 2 months of twice per week runs of 3 miles, the pain in my foot disappeared in it's entirety.  I was convinced.  Minimal footwear was the way to go.

Then I read Born to Run.

I was even more convinced.

I pretty much resolved myself to becoming a fully minimal runner.  I understood the challenge, given the problems I'd experienced initially, but I thought everything would be fine.

For a while I logged several miles per week actually barefoot.  Why?  I ran Homey to far one day and he shredded his paws.  I decided, "He doesn't wear shoes, so..."

Our next run together was something like three miles bare.  Cool experience.  My feet chaffed a bit on the concrete sidewalk, but overall I enjoyed myself.  I think our longest barefoot run together was in the neighborhood of 6 miles. Several times during these runs with Homey, I got the "look." The "Wait!  That dude isn't wearing any shoes!" look.

After the Steamboat 50 I had nothing more on my schedule for the forseable future.  A sort of ambiguous feeling I might do the Desert RATS trail running festival in Fruita, but no real plans.  I started really ramping my minimal miles.

I remember a run in VT around Thanksgiving.  In fact, I believe it was on Thanksgiving Day itself.  I got out and ran 11 miles in my Vibrams on icy roads.  It was a good run, but the next day I had extreme difficulty going down the stairs due to the pain in my achilles-s.

I backed off my minimal miles and backed off my miles in total really until January when I started logging virtually all of my runs in my Five Fingers.  I developed chronic Achilles Tendonitis.  I still have it actually, though it's improving.  I hope.

I also experienced something else this year.  "Pain in the top of the foot."  I read up on that and quickly decided to take a couple of days off.  That's gone now and doesn't seem to be coming back so we're good on that front.

I'm a habitually shod runner and I've been running as such for the better part of 25 years.  For me the transition to minimal style has taken 2+ years and is still ongoing.  Since April, I log my 2 longest runs in any given week in the NB Minimus.  There isn't a lot to that shoe, but it's a hell of a lot more shoe-like than any of my Vibrams.

One thing that's different recently is that I've really started adding form drills to my workout repertoire.  I run barefoot around the house with my son using a ridiculously high cadence, or ridiculously high knee lift, or kicking myself in the butt, or skipping.  He thinks it's great fun.

I run a mantra through my head while running out on the roads.  Lift up, don't push off; lift up, don't push off; lift up... This is resulting in improvements in my achilles, but a slight tap on the back of my left heel is enough to make me shudder in pain.

The point of all this is that NYT article seems to be dead on in my case.  There's good that can be had from running in normal shoes and good that can be had from running minimally, but there's bad to be had from both too.  If anybody wonders why I don't run barefoot here in Bolivia, take a look at this post.  There are many, many perfectly good reasons to wear shoes while running.

While all isn't roses in this minimal runner's garden, I am going to continue with the experiment until something forces me to stop or I can run pain free.  My hope/goal is to run the Space Coast Marathon in November in my Bikilas and set a worthy marathon PR in the process.

Anyway, thanks for reading and be careful out there.

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