Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shoe Days in Limbo

Just 9 days from my PF flare up where I was on crutches, I am back to running BF and VFF with relatively no pain. I've been pretty much 100% BF and VFF since my PF flare up and the recovery has been much faster than I would have ever expected!!!!!

This morning, I did 3 miles on the treadmill barefoot then 1.5 miles outside in 17F in my VFF/KSOs and there is such a "dramatic" difference in my running form/technique BF/VFF vs. Universe 3's vs. zero drop Hyperspeeds (my gait with the Universe 3's and Hyperspeeds were pretty similar but still a noticeable difference when compared to BF and/or VFF).

The obvious differences are (as we all would expect):

1. higher cadence/stride rate BF/VFF (about a 6-8 cadence differential)
2. shorter stride length BF/VFF
3. foot off the ground much faster (less ground time) BF/VFF
4. much easier run BF/VFF in terms of effort level, that is, less effort required BF/VFF vs. running the same pace in the Universe 3's or Hyperspeeds.
5. straighter back with BF/VFF
6. the key one, is almost no PF pain BF/VFF vs. slightly more PF pain in the Universe 3's vs. a bit more PF pain in the Universe 3's.

I like the zero drop but I'm not sure if any standard running shoe is going to work for me anymore. I suspect there are runners on the "extremes" and I may be one of them as I have high arches and I feel better as you remove support from my feet (I forgot this because I stopped BF/VFF running).

I believe I run more efficient in "defensive mode" vs. "offensive mode," meaning I'm a more cautious and alert runner BF/VFF and, for me, that translates to better form, technique and efficiency. After going through AT and PF and only having recovered by only going VF and FF, I'm inclined either to "not" put my Universe 3's back on (or use them in very limited fashion) and, hopefully this Spring/early Summer, there will be more new footwear available similar to the VFF whether that is the Terra Evo, Sockwas new model, or someone else.

I'm coming to the realization that I may not be built to run in traditional running shods (I know that's an extreme view but after having suffered through AT and PF and experiencing how it went away as I did more and more BF and VFF, maybe I'm one of those extreme runners that should be BF or as close as possible and any shoe will bother me).

I'm becoming a "zealot" of a supporter for BF/VFF type running. In fact, I think we should separate "Minimalist Footwear" from "Minimalist Shoes." I think we, as a Minimalist Group should address both and treat them under the category of Minimalist but not confuse the two. My Mizuno Wave Universe 3's, which I still recommend for those that need or want shods, are "not" Minimalist Footwear but they are "Minimalist Shoes." VFFs and similar footwear with minimal protection, no heel build up and minimal interference with form/technique should be considered "Minimalist Footwear", (i.e, just something to protect the feet).

You don't appreciate this until you recover from a dibilitating injury. I couldn't walk 9 days ago . . . now I'm running. My views are further changed to the more extreme support for BF. I guess it's an evolution and a growing experience.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Working on the PF

I'm continuing to work on my Plantar Fasciitis (PF). I just started Active Release Technique (ART) so hopefully that will help and, if nothing else, help break up the scar tissue around the plantar on my left foot. It's not possible for the Plantar to heal until the scar tissue is removed. This should also help reduce the pain.

After having trouble walking on a few days ago, I'm back to running a couple slow miles each day. I could push myself more but I'm trying to really take my time and not take 1 step forward, and 2 steps back. If I feel up to it, I will try a 30 minute run tomorrow. Right now, all my runs are 100% barefoot. I feel best in my bare feet and my pain is drastically reduced. When I had Achilles Tendinitis last year, the only way I could run was barefoot. The minute I put anything on my feet, the pain was unbearable.

I also pick up my modified Asics tonight. I had a cobbler do a zero drop modification to my Asics Hyperspeed 3's (this is too difficult to do on the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 as they don't have enough of a foundation to work with). The zero drop modification is essentially a reduction of the midfoot and heel area so that there is no differential between the forefoot, midfoot and heel area. Some claim this is a better barefoot like experience because there's no heel build up at all . . . we'll see as I will try them once I feel my PF is better.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Note to Self

On my long run this past weekend, my PF really flared up, for reasons I can't explain.

I started with a warm up of 2 miles barefoot on the treadmill. It went great and I felt great. Then I put on my Mizuno flats, and headed outside. The first .5 miles was fine then the PF started to flare up and 1 mile later, I couldn't run . . . this has only happened to me once in the last 3 years (and I have a very high tolerance for pain). I had to stop and walk home. Obviously, I was pissed and frustrated so when I got home, I took off my shoes and jumped on the treadmill barefoot and the pain immediately started to go away so I ran about 1.2 miles. Then, I put on my shoes, went back outside, and .3 miles into the run, the pain was unbearable and I had to stop again. So I walked to the neighborhood school near my house and took off the shoes and ran around the parking lot barefoot and the pain started to go away and I ran another 1.2 miles.

Again, I can only remember one time prior, a few years ago, that I couldn't run because of injury. But, it was "night and day" each time I took off my shoes. I could run barefoot but I couldn't run in shoes. On a scale of 1-10, my PF pain was 2-3 when barefoot and 8-9 with shoes . . . just amazing.

Now you may say the root cause is the shoes, and that's obvious but there's something else. I need to find out what my left foot is doing differently barefoot than in shoes. There's something in my form/technique that is materially different barefoot vs. shoes. I already know I have a 6-8 stride per minute differential when barefoot. I'm 188-194 in shoes and 196-202 barefoot (194-198 in VFFs). I guess that 6-8 difference is material. I also wonder if I have less pronation barefoot and, if so, that could explain some of this.

I'll be heading to the lab to be video taped barefoot, in VFFs and in racing flats so I can analyze my form/technique in each circumstance. I am anxious for the Vivo Evo to be released. Vibram doesn't get it. All they have to do is put out a version for the winter/colder weather and, if they really want to make money, then put something over the top to hide the toes (keep the toe design underneath) and make it look more like a regular shoe and I think they would corner the niche barefoot/minimalist market. There's many of us dying for better footwear for the winter, and footwear that will allow us to wear socks and, if needed, toe warmers. Maybe Vivo Evo will be the answer (oh, I can't wait for the release).

That's my story . . . at least to this point.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do you want to Improve your Running?

If the answer is "yes," then the reply is, "take off your damn shoes." The only way to find your optimal running form is to remove the shoes and run barefoot. Then, the trick and challenge is trying to replicate your barefoot running form and technique in shoes. The minute you go barefoot, your brain and body take over, go into defensive mode, and say, "leave me alone, I got this," and you will immediately slow down, take shorter strides and increase your cadence (in case you don't know "cadence," refers to a higher stride rate, or an increase in the number of times each foot touches the ground each minute).

I've never been more convinced of the value of barefoot running. Last year I went 2 months running 100% barefoot over concrete, asphalt and dirt trails. I did it when I had Achilles Tendinitis, I could barely walk and I was told to take 2 months off but instead I decided to take 2 months off from my shoes and I immediately started barefoot running and the Achilles Tendinitis disappeared.

So, thinking everything was fine, I stopped running barefoot and guess what? Yep, you guessed it? I got injured but this time it was the dreadful Plantar Fasciitis. So, I went back to barefoot running before each daily running routine. I run 15-20 minutes barefoot each morning then I put on my racing flats and start my workout. Yep, the Plantar Fasciitis is going away. And, it's easier to hard code the brain to replicate the barefoot running form when running in shoes if you regularly incorporate barefoot running into your daily schedule.

I was always convinced of the value of barefoot running but not it's overwhelming.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Breathing Through The Nose

For the 3rd day in a row, I've been breathing through the nose while I run . . I just started this. Pretty amazing impact and reaction by the body. Based on articles I've read, your body calms down and you run more relaxed. So far, that's been the case for me.

It's hard to do but getting easier. Your body has a natural reaction to want to open the mouth and take in more air (basic emergency instinct reaction) but that doesn't correlate to better performance nor does it improve Vo2 max levels or result in more oxygen converted to energy. In fact, breathing through you nose is unhealthy and can increase your changes of sickness and injury.

Today, I was able to breath through the nose for 5 or my 6 mile run and that included a 1 minute surge sub 6:00 min. pace.

Try it.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Time for More Barefoot Running

I got up this morning and looked at my old motion control running shoes and walked around in them a bit but as I thought about it, I couldn't come up with any good reasons to ever run in them again. It's not because I fear getting hurt. In fact, I seriously doubt I would get hurt with a single run as it would take a period of time of continuous running in those shoes before I got injured. For me, I didn't get injured in the motion control shoes until I decided to up my pace and miles "too much, too soon," which led to injury. This is when the doctor told me to take 6-8 weeks off and I refused and started to look for alternative solutions. That's when I discovered Christopher McDougall and his book "Born to Run," Barefoot Ted, Barefoot Ken Bob, the Barefoot site, and the Minimalist running site. This is when, contrary to medical advice, I didn't stop running and immediately started running barefoot outside and continued to do so for 8 weeks, even with Achilles Tendinitis and Plantar Fasciitis.

In any event, I couldn't come up with any useful data or information that would result from using the motion control shoes for 1 run, 1 day.

So, I did the opposite. I did a 5 mile run on the treadmill barefoot, including 2 miles at 8:30 pace, and 1 mile at 6:30 pace, all barefoot. As I was running and thinking, I've come up with a new training program I'm going to try. This all started when I went 2 months 100% Barefoot in the Spring of 2009, and by the end, I was up to 40+ miles weekly, all Barefoot (of course, it was warmer outside).

So I thought of something . . . Barefoot Ken Bob told me something when I stated this journey, when I told him I'm not interested in being a 100% Barefoot runner but I believe 100% in the benefits of Barefoot running. So he said that he has a friend that does all warm-ups barefoot. I thought to myself, "that makes sense," because if you warm-up barefoot then immediately transfer to racing flats, there's a better chance to replicate the barefoot form and technique, plus what a run way to warm-up. So, starting this weekend, I will do 2 mile warm ups barefoot on the treadmill before starting my normal workout and on easy days, I'll just subtract the 2 miles from the daily mileage as I generally spend a few miles warming up anyway and for interval and tempo runs, that's also a great warm-up. For races, subject to the weather, I'll find a place to warm-up barefoot (Ken Bob said his friend even warms up at races barefoot, then puts on his racing flats).

This makes a lot of sense. It's immediate application and transfer of Barefoot to racing flats as the mind and body will be in the Barefoot mindset when the change is made. More importantly, that would give me about 12 miles per week of barefoot running which is about 20%-25% of my weekly mileage. That's a pretty good mix I think. Then in the summer, maybe I can push that percentage closer to 30%-40% of BF (and add some VFF) running and 60% in my racing flats. Monetarily speaking, this is good because it will increase the lifespan on my racing flats with less miles (it may save me buying 1 pair per year . . . maybe more).


Wednesday, January 6, 2010


To follow-up on the supination/pronation discussion from last week, I met with a few folks to analyze my running form and technique and I think we discussed a lot of issues and learned a lot. As we studied my left and right foot, it was clear that I'm landing on the outside edge of the mid/forefoot area with both feet. Then I looked at my soles of my racing flats and it was confirmed. There is significant wear and tear on the outside edge of the midfoot area in both feet to the point that there's almost a hole in that area.

I've attached pictures from the race and a picture of the shoe soles.

It appears it is supination (and not pronation). I did more research and it appears that supination places extra stress on the foot and can result in Achilles tendinitis and Plantar Fasciitis . . . exactly the problems I've had ((even with VFFs). Among the remedies it is recommended that you do extra stretching for the calves, hamstrings, quad and IT band. Also, it is recommended to use lightweight trainers/racing flats and do not wear extra support or motion control shoes. At least it is good to hear that from regular shod folks . . . it is encouraging to hear a shod person say "stay away from motion control shoes." It was encouraging to hear them say that supination is natural and although mine is a little more extreme, that I would need to continue to get stronger. No one recommended Orthotics or beefer shoes. Also, jump roping is recommended, which I just started. I'm also very rigid which seems to be a trademark for a pronator (good for speed but not good to avoid injuries).

Since I was looking at my shoes, I looked at my miles on the current pair and I'm almost at 400 miles on my flats . . . they are only 3.6 oz., so that may be a lot of miles for racing flats. I have a few new pair so I'm thinking I should start with a new pair. Traditionally, when I ran in more support motion control shoes, I would move to a new pair around 300 miles so this is the furthest I've gone in terms of miles and it was in light flats.

The bigger issue is that with the minimal cushion and protection of my racing flats, I'm guessing my supination may have also caused an imbalance in the shoe because when I placed my flats on a flat surface, they tilted outward.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

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