So I’m now wondering if my current over use injury was caused by my ability to over use. What I mean by this is the proponents of actual barefoot running say that you should only do this actually barefoot. As the skin on the bottom of your feet will self limit the amount you do. Meaning that you shouldn’t get injured at all, as your skin’s tenderness will slow down the amount of time you can run. It will gradually thicken up adapting to the change, allowing you to run further over time. This allows the rest of your feet to build strength over time and not be rushed into it by artificially protecting the planter skin on the base of you feet.
Having gone through the same thing with the other foot already, I’m not too concerned about my injury. It will get better over the next couple of months (hopefully in time for Glastonbury, I won’t dare run till after that). Then I’ll begin again, totally barefoot.
I think this past year has thought me a lot, and I wouldn’t have had the journey any other way.
So having nursed my right foot injury for 3 months and finally declaring it better 2 months ago, I’ve acquired a similar injury on my left foot.
I’ve just got back from the Hospital to have it X-rayed. The result? Nothing broken. So the only conclusion is that I have another ligament injury, a tear or hopefully just a strain. It’s been painful to walk on now for a couple of weeks and finally I had to ease my mind by getting it X-rayed. There was no specific incident that comes to mind where I hurt this. I’d not actually run on it for about 4 weeks anyway as the weather had been so cold in England that I’d not felt up to it.
So whatever it is, it’s obviously an overuse injury of some sort. Maybe yet again, my over-enthusiasm and lack of a slow pace ramping my running up to 6K 3 times a week was to blame… again.
Everyone always focuses on being #barefoot when it comes to barefoot running. In this 10 minute video Lee Saxby does an amazing job explaining what it’s really about, without the fanatical storytelling that usually accompanies barefoot running.
I’m now firmly back in the game for running and the past 3 weeks I’ve completed a 6k run 3 times a week. During this time I’ve really noticed my calves and my cardiovascular system complaining… but they are both getting better. Although I’d stop smoking before Xmas, this had slid over the festive period and that combined with my time off running to heal my suspected torn ligament, have both combined to make getting back into it difficult. But now I’m back into a routine things, seem to be getting easier at an exponential rate. Plus the running has encouraged me to knock the cigs on the head again. I’ve not had a cigarette now for 10 days and my running is definitely improved as a result.
However the best thing I’ve noticed is what I’ve stopped noticing. I realised yesterday that I couldn’t feel the ligament injury in my right foot anymore. I can’t feel anything there now, so it must finally be healed. I think my decision to start running again before it felt completely healed is now justified. I believe starting gentle running was just the physiotherapy that my foot needed and I probably could have done this sooner.
I’m really chuffed that this has now sorted itself out. I can now stop worrying about this and get on with my barefoot running experiment.
I’ve been doing a fair bit of walking in my lunchtimes of late and it’s made me think about my stride and how my foot lands. I’ve been walking around almost exclusively in Bareshoes for the past nine months now. To start with the motivation was to aid my bareshoe running. The thought behind this being that I’d naturally be extending out my calves and achilles during the day, rather than this only happening during running, or some stretching before hand. However over that time I’ve really gotten to appreciate how nice it is to walk around barefoot, or close to it.
It’s funny how people just can’t get their head around leaving the comfort zone of shoes to experience the pleasure of walking as nature intended. The first thoughts are what about stones, glass, needles and other obstacles on the pavement. The second thought is that it would tire there feet out without the support provided by cushioned shoes. At no point does it occur to the uninitiated that even wearing shoes they do actively walk around such obstacles. Ask yourself, when was the last time you walked through broken glass on the pavement? You avoid this whatever is on your feet. Why should it be any different when you’re barefoot or in bareshoes? It isn’t. Secondly if tired feet from no shoe support is your worry, ask yourself if your feet at the end of the day, having worn shoes, are tired or not? Why does it feel so good to get your shoes off? Do your feet feel better to have taken your shoes off? Why is this?
Although there was a bit of time required for my feet to get used to walking around in bareshoes, it didn’t take long. Plus the feeling of being able to sense the texture of the surface I was walking on was really nice. It’s hard to explain that bit, you really need to experience if for yourself. I think a lot of people trying this would probably give up too soon. We live in a world where everyone expects instant gratification and as you need to learn to adapt your stride to walk successfully in these shoes, most wouldn’t give it long enough to reap the benefits. It’s not difficult though, you just need to stop stomping your feet down without regard to how you’re doing it. Shoes allow you to not pay any attention to how you’re doing this and to have an overextended stride, placing too much shock on your heels.
Wearing bareshoes you gradually start to place your feet with a slightly flatter foot. You still land on your heels, but the rest of the foot is then also used to dampen the impact, which you didn’t do before wearing stiff soled shoes. The irony of cushioning under your heels is that this actually makes you slam your heels down harder. The theory here being that your feet are trying to obtain stability to support your weight, and therefore if soft conditions are felt underfoot, more weight will be brought down to push through the softness underfoot to find the firmer ground beneath. Obviously wearing shoes confuses this evolutionary trait and you end up being heavier footed all the time. It’s this learned behaviour to clomp your feet down that you need to unlearn to be successful and really enjoy walking in bareshoes. But the human body is amazing and with a little time and a little perseverance you soon learn how to do this and the feeling really is amazing. I love to walk now and my feet never get tired. What’s also amazing is that my feet don’t yearn all day to be released from shoes, which is what we all learn to ignore and only notice at the end of the day when we have that release when we take our shoes off. My feet feel that good all day long now that I’m not binding them in a straight jacket all day, which is effectively what wearing traditional shoes is doing to your feet.
So yes, you do walk wrong, but you can’t do anything else wearing shoes.
I’ve always struggled with calling barefoot shoes, barefoot shoes. Especially in print. It’s fine when you’re simply referring to the shoes themselves and you can add “running” in the middle to make “barefoot running shoes” to differentiate them from barefoot shoes that aren’t designed for running. The irony there being that actually any shoe designed to confirm to a barefoot shoe style can be used for running. The difference being in form and not function, so mainly it’s a fashion thing. Anyway, I digress.
The problem comes when talking about “Barefoot Running”, and then trying to differentiate between doing this activity actually barefoot, and doing it wearing barefoot running shoes. My own lexical solution to this is simple. Barefoot Shoes should really be called “Bareshoes”. This works on two levels as Barefoot Shoes are by their very nature minimal and thus the bare minimum of a shoe. Plus it emphasises the barefoot running style that these shoes promote. It gets better too. Using this description I can therefore simply refer to “Barefoot Running” and “Bareshoe Running”. I don’t have to explain that I’m “actually barefoot”, or conversely explain to someone who is new to the idea that I’m not actually barefoot I’m using barefoot running shoes.
I think this works, so from now on for my running both barefoot and in barefoot shoes, I’ll call it “Barefoot Running” and “Bareshoe Running” respectively. Got that? Good.
On this blog I’ve spoken a lot about the stride required for barefoot/bareshoe running. Talking about how I keep thinking that I’ve mastered it, only to then notice some other improvement that I’ve made and realise that I’ve still a lot to learn. Well like much in life I’m beginning to realise that this is an ever evolving process and I’ll probably never stop learning.
My latest mission to improve my stride is all about making sure that my heel lands at the end of the stride to ensure that my calves and achilles aren’t taking all the strain. This will be more important as I try to increase my distance.
To this end I’ve been consciously trying to land my heel at the end of the stride and I think I’ve been quite successful.
I think it’s worth revisiting the video below that I last posted 5 months ago.
This shows how it should be done, but as I found out previously, this is easier described that actually achieved.
I’ve found this week on two 6k runs that I’ve been able to really flatten the landing angle of my feet to such and extent that it feels like my foot is almost making flat contact with the ground, although I must stress that I can clearly feel that the bulk of the pressure is taken through the front of my foot. I’m not simply slapping my flat foot down and sharing the pressure of the landing equally with my heel. In fact I can feel my forefoot taking the load, whilst my heel also makes contact pretty much at the same time, but doesn’t share the same load.
I think if I was measured on a pressure pad, it would probably show about 5% of the initial load taken by my heal, moving up to about 50% at the end of the stride just before take-off.
I also noticed that this stride is easier when running a little faster, rather then a slow plod along the pavement. Although that’s probably true of all barefoot/bareshoe running anyway. The only reason that I didn’t or rather couldn’t keep a faster pace up all the way around is due to my lack of fitness for running from having 3 months off and over-indulgence over Xmas and New Year, which seemed to have also invaded January. But that’s changing now that I’m out there running again.
My calves are still giving me some soreness, but as previously noted this is just because of my time off. I’m using a foam roller to massage my calves daily and before and after runs, so this should calm down shortly, especially as I’m working on my flatter foot technique which should take the strain off my calves too.
Following my enthusiasm in discovering how to check my gait by running on ice and snow at the weekend, I went on to do the same distance on Tuesday and Thursday. I think it’s safe to say that I’m back up to 6k distance now and will be trying to stay at this distance until my legs feel like they want to run more. I’ve probably not suffered any injury ramping up to this distance so soon since my 3 month hiatus because my legs were already used to running in the 6 months prior to that. I’ve always got to keep in my mind that ramping up the distance should only be done in 10% steps per week. So I’ll get used to this 6k distance and then start increasing this 10% per week. But as with every other plan so far in this blog, no doubt that will go completely out of the window the next time I go running, which hopefully is tonight.
We had a few inches of snow over the weekend - always a big deal in England. Anyway, I couldn’t resist testing out my form using the slippery conditions as the perfect testbed. Let me explain. If running using the correct natural form, running on snow and ice should be fairly easy. As you shouldn’t be using long strides, nor should you be pushing off with your toes. Thus, running on snow and ice is the perfect way to test your current form, and to help you hone that form.
I found that I was tending to push of slightly with my toes which made me slip slightly on take off. This was easy to correct and correcting it made my steps feel even lighter if that’s possible. The running was so good that my plan to build up to my next target distance slowly went completely out of the window and I continued on to do a complete circuit of the Common, 6k. It was such an enjoyable run.
I think that pushing off with my toes was probably the cause of the unexplained blisters on the balls of my feet 4 months ago. This would have created friction on that part of my foot which generated heat which in turn caused the blisters. Of course my bare skin gripped so well on the tarmac that I didn’t notice this and after 5k the damage was done.
I’m happy that I’ve got an explanation for my setback from actual barefoot running.
So I ran 6k Saturday morning and another 6k Sunday morning. My calves are complaining a little, but nothing to worry about. I did have 3 months off running, so I expect a little reconditioning of my legs as I get back into this.
I’ve just got back from another short run around the Common. 2.7m (4.4k). I did another similar length run mid-week, so if I can keep this up then I’m now doing this distance twice a week. I could still feel my injury in my right foot, but it’s a feeling and not actual pain. Mindful that I’m recovering from this injury is at the forefront of my mind and it’s helping me concentrate totally on my form, which can only be a good thing. I’m convinced that starting running in this gentle way is just the physiotherapy that my foot needs.
I’m going to work this up to 5.5km three times a week over the next couple of months with the aim of doing 10km three times a week by the time the better weather starts to arrive.
I’m just pleased to be out running again. I find it so good and I’m really enjoying the endorphin release that it brings.