A Pain in the….Foot

The most common questions I get asked when running barefoot is “Doesn’t it hurt?” and “What about getting cut on glass / stepping in dog poo?”

Well, they’re the most ‘sensible’ questions anyway!
I usually just laugh and say no, but more truthful answers would be “sometimes” and “it’s happened once (so far)”

Stones
When starting barefoot running I read that it was best to use rough surfaces, to limit the over exuberance. I misinterpreted this to mean stones and gravel. Without the thickened soles I have now, I soon got bruises and worse still, ended up with two or three small hard lumps under the skin. My best guesses were swelling from the bruising, or worse still, plantar fascia scarring. Either way, I used vitamin E liquid from oral capsules for a few weeks and they disappeared, while I carried on running but on normal roads and pavements.
Also, small sharp stones are a pain (literally) on most runs. But at least it lasts less than a second, and gets easier as time passes. They seem to be more present on pavements by busy fast roads, so I try to run on quiet roads to minimise the possibility.

Dog Poo
My first and only incident was while running along the canal tow path. The tallest grass and weeds had been recently strimmed to prevent the path becoming overgrown. This made a nice soft path along the edge of the stoney track, which I used to its full advantage being barefoot. Little did I know a dog had left a little present hidden beneath the clipped grass. I realised instantly what had happened by the cold gooey sensation, and stopped to rub the worst off on the grass verge and continued my run.

Thorns
Another memorable injury was stepping on a hawthorn clipping (the bane of many mountain biker). My attention was distracted by a man and boy hastily removing a horse from a field using a car and stick (no horse trailer in sight.) My mind suddenly returned to running by the sharp pain in my sole. At first I thought it was a sharp stone stuck on my foot and I continued for a few steps, waiting for it to fall off. But the pain got worse so I stopped to examine the source. That’s when I discovered the 10mm thorn poking into my foot. I removed it, and a little ‘comedy’ spurt of blood shot out, but the pain stopped instantly. I carried on running, expecting to see little red dots following me like breadcrumbs, but the hole must have sealed quicker than an inner tube of ‘slime’

Glass
A recent running injury involved stepping on glass. I do see broken glass occasionally whilst running barefoot, and usually just go around the area or slow down and pick my way through. This time though it was a very small piece (large grain of sugar sized) that half embedded itself into my foot. I should have been paying more attention as I had ran past a skip where a house was being renovated. Thankfully I was able to pull out the glass and carry on, without an actual cut.

Starfish
I got home from a run to find a perfect star shape on my sole. I never thought of a squished starfish as a hazard but there you go!

 

 

 

Tendonitis
Probably the only serious injury I have sustained while running barefoot. This is an over use injury, and to be fair I wouldn’t have got it running only barefoot, as my soles would have blistered way before. Vibrams allowed me to run further than my feet were ready for. It’s happened twice; once when starting out in the vibrams, and once when upping my mileage marathon training. By reducing my weekly running, and going barefoot I was able to carry on running while things healed.

So, barefoot might not be the antidote to running injuries after all!

Nothing for the weekend, Sir?

 

 

 

 

 

This weekend was a long one due to the Queen’s Jubilee.

Our extra day’s were spent camping in Exmoor National Park with two other families, while their Dad’s completed the Tour of Wessex road bike challenge (329 miles over 3 days)

Camping meant three days of no electricity, no running water and no mobile phone signal. And for me that also included no shaving, no showering, and almost no shoes. Back to nature!

I say almost no shoes, and in reality that meant all my time on the campsite, and on the beach; over half my time away. The kids really enjoyed being barefoot too; paddling in the stream which ran through the campsite, and barefoot racing over the grass.

I was amazed when my youngest daughter asked if she could take off her crocs to walk barefoot over the saltmarsh at Porlock. She then ‘flowed’ over the quarter mile of large stone shingles to the sea, leaving me struggling to keep up. The beach was a great ankle workout!

I only managed to get one 7 mile run in, although I had mapped out several routes. It was rainy and hilly, and very enjoyable, but the whole weekend’s preparation had left me with my lowest weekly mileage for months

This may have been a good thing though, as I’m sure I hadn’t fully recovered from my marathon 2 weeks ago. Last week’s 13 miles was laboured. Today though I ran the same distance and felt strong, on nothing but water and completely barefoot – by far the longest since I started over a year ago.

I hadn’t intended to run this far barefoot, and the last three miles felt tender but fortunately no blisters. This wasn’t supposed to happen until later in the year with a longer conditioning period. I guess I’ll carry on as I am, until a barefoot half marathon race makes it official!

Barefoot Buddy

 

Barefoot dog walking with FergusAs part as my barefoot half marathon conditioning I have started walking our family dog Fergus (a 10 month old black miniature schnauzer) whilst barefoot.

My share of the weekly dog walking duties equates to around 10 – 15 miles depending on the length of our weekend walks / runs, so if even half of these are barefoot there should be some effect.

My main concern was the longer interaction time with other people. When barefoot running, I have usually passed anyone before they’ve had time to comment!

I’d already planned a response to any interrogations – “I am training for a barefoot half marathon.” Perfectly logical!

However, after a few barefoot walks with Fergus this weekend involving talking to other dog walkers, no one mentioned the fact I had no shoes on. One kind lady did mention to take care as she had seen some broken glass on the trail, without mentioning my bare feet. Completely the opposite reaction to what I had expected! I thanked her and said I would be careful, and we both continued with our dog walks.

 

FrUN

Tonight’s run was fun, with no pacing or distance goals. A stark change from all the marathon training runs for this year. The vibrams went on, came off, went on and finally off  again, with lots of photo / video stops too.

1/4 mile in, just over the canal and shoes come off.

Turning around I realised I was being followed by a giant’s shadow!

At the foot of a Lubenham Hill…

…and the view from the top.

Unfortunately it looks like things are changing. The start of a massive housing development covering a large portion of my run.

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Some video of a barefoot run over a track. I was surprised by how much my balance felt  restricted with trying to holding the phone stationary. Look out for the dog poop!

Garmin data (just to see if it works really)

Losing it?

Towards the end of my lunchtime run yesterday, a slight tingling indicated my form had been off.
I had been landing too far on the outside of my feet, and pushing off too aggressively.

I have a desk job so didn’t think too much more about it until I got home. Sure enough I had a decent sized blister on the right second toe.

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I think the hundreds of miles over the last few months in vibrams has caused the toe off issue – you can get away with a lot in them.
Another factor is my feet have grown this year! I assume the vibram mileage is the culprit, but my toes protrude further than before, relative to my big toe.
But probably the biggest factor was the temperature of the tarmac. The run was at the hottest part of the day at about 28°C and my feet haven’t experienced that for a very long time.

I decided to leave it be as the blister is clear and there’s no pain.

This barefoot thing is a continuous learning process and I’ll just put it down to experience.