Saturday, October 31, 2009


Distance 0km [total: minimalist 23.5km: Barefoot 24km]

The feet seem to have amazing powers of recuperation.
Sore and tired yesterday and today ready for another day of walking around.
I resisted the temptation to run again as my tendons gave me little twinges, not the sort that signals tendonitis but more of muscles that haven't been used in a long time.

I did a few barefoot walking laps around the local rugby oval nice and gentle, no straining.

I returned my Vivo Barefoot Aqua shoes earlier in the week as I'd ordered a size too small. I find all these sizes in different countries very confusing.
In my old Asics runners I would always buy a US 10 size, which according to the charts translates to a UK 9, that is what I ordered.
I did come across a website that advised ordering a size bigger than your accustomed size.
As soon as I get a refund I'll order the next size up.
I hope I can get them before Christmas.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Poor tired feet

Distance 12.5km [total: minimalist 23.5km: Barefoot 24km]

Luckily the afternoon turned out to be cooler than what was forecast.
A slight cool change came in and took the temperature down from 33C to 27C which was much better.
I was going to cover 12.5km today in my Vibrams, I had an idea that I wasn't going to push it too hard and that I would walk any time I felt any pain.

I walked from work to the River Torrens liner park which follows the river from the city to the sea.
I had my Asics on for the walk through the city then changed out of them and into the Vibrams when I got onto the river.

Each time I run in the flat shoes it takes about 10 minutes getting used to stride on the surface. The surface for most of the way is smooth bitumen undulating around the river.
I ran for about 8km before going back to a walk. My Achilles was starting to tire so walking took the pressure off it.
Walking though meant a longer time on my feet and more pressure on my forefoot which was starting to ache after 10km.

In the last km of my run section I was kept company by a cyclist who wanted to know more about the shoes. I described the problems I got when wearing corrective shoes and how I was trying to strengthen my feet.
It seems the problems I described were the very same ones that he had, so it looks like another person is about to take the plunge.

By the time I got back my feet were a bit tender but not any more than they would have been if I'd have worn my Asics the entire way. Running the distance is actually easier than walking purely because of the shorter length of time on foot.
I think my feet deserve a golf ball massage for the rest of the evening.
I think I may have a rest now from running for a few days just to allow some recovery time.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Foot burn

Distance 5km [total: minimalist 11km: Barefoot 24km]

One of those hot spring days hit Adelaide today and by the sound of it we have more of the same for the next few days.
It hit 33C (91.5F) today.

I usually go for a walk at lunch time around the south Parklands which are just around the corner from where I work.
To make it a bit more interesting I thought, shall I try it barefoot. I had a pair of light shoes on to get me across the road then took them off as I hit the bitumen pathways. They felt pretty hot under the afternoon sun.

I managed to walk about 1km before the heat and burning in my feet got too much, I found some nice cool grass that helped but by now I think my feet had been pushed a little too far.
I put the shoes back on and made my way back to work with burned soles.
By the end of the afternoon it felt a bit better, just a couple of small blisters.
I think maybe the lesson learned is not to run barefoot in hot weather and on dark surfaces.
As an aside. Yesterday, while at the gym, in an exercise in avoiding the gym police when it comes to footwear or my VFF's which they won't allow, I put my runners on loosely, checked around and when the coast was clear took them off and ran on the running machine in just socks.
Umm not a good idea I found. The foot must slip around in the sock while the sock doesn't move much against the rubber belt, this all rubbed up blisters again ouch!
Ok forget the running machine from now on.

After work headed down to the beach, it was still 32C at 5.30pm, lots of people down here as well, all escaping the heat.
I ran about 5km, got a bit of muscle tightness in left leg, probably due to running style adjustment to cope with blisters. It cleared up by the end by just adding a bit more bending to the knees.

These are some of the best runs I have had in ages, no serious pains at all.
I can't believe how many years I have put up with this with the wrong shoes and orthotics that weaken the feet.

Four weeks ago I tried an exercise where I place a golf ball on the floor and try to pick it up with the toes on both the right and left feet.
I could just about manage it with the right but not with the left.
Four weeks later and it is no problem with either foot, the right still stronger than the left though.
It is a great massage tool for the underside of the feet as well.

Tomorrow I attempt the 14km run/walk home from work in the VFF's, it's going to be another hot 33C.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Close call

Distance 5km [total: minimalist 11km: Barefoot 19km]

After a day stuck behind the desk it was good to get back home, get the work shoes off and back to feet on the ground.
It was a sunny evening so went for a shoeless run along the beach.
The tide was way out and there was one of the strong southerly winds blowing up the beach, the ones that are common at this time of year in Adelaide.

Running into it is hard work and with the tide right out there were many banks of exposed ground shells.
My feet are getting better at running over the sharp pieces but after about 4km they do tend to get a bit sore so running in the water cools them off.
I managed about 5km today, didn't want to push too quickly into running barefoot so will keep the distances short.

On the way back, running along the road, even got a cheer a runner going in the opposite direction shout "go on barefoot, you can do it".
I was following a white line down the road as the paint made the road slightly less rough.
100m from the end I almost came unstuck, I glanced broken glass just ahead luckily jumped the right way, if I'd gone the other way I would have been in a glass minefield. The road was littered with broken glass, probably done by the local youth with brains like amoebas.

Feet felt sore by the time I got back, I had a thorough check to make sure I had no glass embedded in the feet, seems ok.
I cleaned them up and put antiseptic cream on all the small abrasions, feel fine now.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Distance 6km [total: minimalist 11km: Barefoot 14km]

Saturday morning, the sun is out it's 8.30am and 21 degrees centigrade.
I headed the short distance down to the beach in the car (ok I know it is bad)

The tide was quite high but receding which left a few meters of nice firm sand to run on.
This was another barefoot run and I was planning just to do 3-4km again but something happened.
Its like a metamorphosis, I seemed to be running as well if not better than when I had shoes on. Gone are the hesitant small footsteps I took about 3 weeks ago, unsure if I was going to hurt my feet on the sand.
I am actually running normally and faster and its great just to wander off into the water any time I want rather than avoiding it like I used to when I wore shoes.

When I ran with my Asics 2140's along with the orthotics prescribed by the podiatrist I mentioned before about the shin pains, as well as those I also got pains in the hip area, like something was out of place.
I actually think the orthotics were modifying my running style and causing me problems rather than solving them.

I am trying to be objective about all this and not get swept in in some kind of evangelistic zeal.
Obviously the drawbacks of barefoot running is that the hard surfaces tend to wear away at your feet especially the concrete footpaths that are the norm around here.
I think that the process of toughening the feet up takes longer than the muscle adaptation in the feet.

Interestingly, on my run, which I extended out to 6km I think it was a 50/50 split between barefoot and shod runners.
I have not had any new blisters since I first ran on the beach, that one is now healing up.
At the moment it feels like I have had a vigorous foot scrub.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beach run

Distance 4km [total: minimalist 11km: Barefoot 8km]

Tuesday after work and the temperature was a nice warm 25C.
It was very tempting to go for a run along the beach and that is what I did.
A short barefoot run of 4km with the last 800m on the concrete and brick.
The feet were good this time, no blisters, must be getting a bit tougher.

I did notice the other day while walking around barefoot that I had a clicking somewhere around the ankle on the left leg.
It always makes me a bit nervous when I can't work out where or what is causing the sound.
I'm assuming it is because the lower leg and feet are still in the early stages of gaining more strength.
I'll keep monitoring it to see if it persists or fades away over the next few weeks.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Mount Lofty, Sunday

Distance 7km [total minimalist 11km: Barefoot 4km]

A beautiful day today, bright and sunny and going up to 20C, very inspiring for a run.
A bit of a spur of the moment decision was that I should head out to Waterfall Gully to walk (or run) up the trail to Mount Lofty that looks out over Adelaide.

It's about a 30 minute drive from where I live and Sunday morning at just after 9am the roads were still fairly quiet.

Waterfall Gully is a popular destination for the Sunday walkers. The climb to the top is about 3.5km long and goes from a start height of 275m (916ft) up to 700m (2333ft)so it is quite a climb.

Managed to secure a car park close to the start.
The closer I got the more I felt like I wanted to try to run it up as much as I could manage. I put on the VFF's and walked up to the cafe at the bottom.
I started running up the steps into the park above the waterfall. The shoes felt great, so light.
The route starts steep then gives you some breathing space of about 100m before starting up steeply again for 200m.
Taking short steps helps when climbing the steep sections, the shoes have fantastic grip, you never feel that you will turn an ankle on rough ground.
Once over the second steep part there is relief when it flattens out and drops away into a small valley before climbing out and up the hill.

You get only one more short distance to recover from the climb before you start on the hardest part which would be about 1km of steep climbing.
As it was about 5 years ago since I last ran around here my fitness is way off so I was reduced to a walk by halfway up.
The shoes got plenty of attention from the stream of people walking up and down the mountain, I think they were pretty unique that day.

I reached the top in about 40 minutes about 8 minutes slower than my better climbs.
The view from the top is well worth it.
I replenished some lost energy with a drink of GlucEvol then headed back down along an alternate quieter trail.
You feel far more connected to the ground with the Vff's, they are much quieter than running shoes as well. I felt almost like I was floating along the trail as it skirted around the edge of the mountain.

I got down to the bottom with no aches or pains. The feet held up well, I didn't think they would at first, I thought maybe I was pushing the changeover too fast.
I'll rest up at the start of the new week.


More Bans!

Distance 0km [total minimalist 4km: Barefoot 4km]

Saturday went to the gym to do a bit of treadmill work and some leg strength on the machines as well as some more general training.

While leaving the gym I get gently pulled aside by one of the trainer and she looks at the VFF's and says "I don't think you can wear those in the gym, OH&S rules" What the hell is going one with these stupid people.

I should have asked for the test results to see how the standard soft topped trainers that are worn in gyms fare when a weight is dropped from a meter on their toe.
Somehow I don't think the results would be that glowing either.

Surely it my own responsibility if I hurt myself while wearing thin shoes, as opposed to say a wire snapping on a piece of gym equipment and it injuring me, in that case they gym would be at fault.

I wonder when I will get banned from the supermarket.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Distance 4km [total minimalist 4km: Barefoot 4km]

After searching about on the net to see if there was information on how to run correctly in unsupporting shoes or shoeless found plenty of tips, the best of which is that running on your toes is not the way to do it, especially after coming from a background of wearing shoes with a heel.

They way is to bend the knees more to make the heels lighter.
So, the amount of bending will depend on the surface you are running on, less bending for soft grass and quite a bit more for hard concrete.

I trialled this new knowledge last weekend and did another run along the beach with no shoes, a distance of about 4km, this was far easier, and it actually felt good to feel the cool sand beneath your feet.
I monitored the Achilles Tendons along the way and got no pain like the week previous. The only problem that did occur was a blister on the right big toe, umm.
It must be an unevenness in my running, more force on the right leg causing friction on the sand.
I guess these are what runners would call tuition fees.
The last part of the run was along a brick pathway, I ran along there with more bend in the legs and shorter strides and that was fine. The rough surface does act as a bit of a file and wears away at the skin on the forefoot.

Most animals walk around without any protection on their feet and think nothing of it, we are so far away from being natural that our feet can't cope with anything except nice cushioned floors. Isn't it strange.

The feet ache in places I have not ached in before, mainly around the ankles. Its the kind of ache a recognise from going to the gym, it's that good ache of muscles that have been exercised, I think I have just found a whole new set.

The weather during the was cold wet and blowy, typical spring weather in S.A. a good opportunity to take it easy and let the legs and feet recover.
Only exercise carried out was walking the VFF's about six laps of the rugby field near the house.

On the Wednesday did a few km on the treadmill, all in the cause of strengthening the lower legs.
The Vibram shoes are very comfortable and once you get over the fear of possible ridicule for the strange look they are great to walk around it. They do get a few heads turning in the supermarket but most of the time they go unnoticed as most people are not looking at the floor.

I have noticed that when I have to go back to wearing standard shoes I find them intensely irritation, heavy, inflexible just horrible.
I am going to spend more time and consideration when it comes to buying shoes the next time around.

Friday is casual day at work so I wear the VFF's while at my desk and walking around the office, with jeans on they are hardly noticeable except if someone sees them from a distance.
I then had one of the OHS people come up and say I shouldn't wear them, there had been complaints he said in a false sympathetic voice.
I just wondered what they thought I was going to drop on my foot, my keyboard, umm that computer mouse may cause some damage if it falls from a few meters.

Oh well, I have a reserve plan up my sleeve in the form of some of the Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot shoes that I am hoping are winging there way to my door.
They are disguised minimalist shoes that will fool even the stuffiest of bureaucratic dictators as long as I keep my mouth shut.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Distance 4km [Totals minimal 4km: barefoot 0]

Second week of trialling the VFF's.
Moving a bit quicker than the recommended slow break-in period, tried the shoes on the running machine at the gym.
Isn't it funny how when you ask people how to they would run in bare feet they just answer as if it is the simplest thing to do.
I actually think we all carry the memories of running without shoes from our childhood without realising that 30 or so years later our feet have forgotten how work correctly.

I started off by walking at a slow pace then increasing it as I warmed up, wow my calves began to burn. I increased my speed to a slow jog then faster.
Your feet land differently in these shoes but I was also forcing them to land differently by emphasising forefoot landing. This was probably a mistake.

It put a strain on the Achilles Tendon as it was taking all the weight as I avoided letting my heel touch the ground, believing that running on the toes/forefoot was the right method.
I stopped after a couple of km.
I realised that I was going to have to learn how to run again, like a beginner.

After a couple of days rest made the decision to take the VFF's to the beach for a 4km run.
Again, ran with the same toes/forefoot style and after 2km the Achilles was complaining once again.
Had a brief walk to recover then set off again with the soreness coming back to the tendon.
I left the beach frustrated and confused about what the problem was.

The next few days I spent limping around at work with a tender tendon, there is nothing worse than tendon pain, even as you try to force yourself into walking as normally as possible the pain reigns you back in.

Back to resting for a few days along with the strengthening exercises for the tendon. That worked very well and three days later the pain was gone.


New Beginning

Having been a runner for many years, at least 30, I have found that what was meant to be a simple sport or exercise, as some prefer to call it, that complexity had began to spoil it.

What do I mean by complexity, well, at one time I would just pull on some cheap running shoes and bolt out of the door.
There was not a huge array of choices in running shoes back then and I wouldn't pay much for shoes as money was short, running was a cheap pass-time and it got you into the outdoors and fresh air.

As in all endeavours, as you progress through and improve you want to improve more and so spend more on better shoes that will help you run with more comfort and faster.
Eventually you hit your peak then start to slow down due to injuries that stop you training and the consistency goes out of the window.
As I spent more on running shoes to stop injuries it seemed that the more injuries I got.

I came down with a knee injury back in 1999 that took may months of treatment to clear up. It was during this treatment that is was suggested that, as I was a pronator that I required orthotics and a stabilised running shoe, the Brooks Beast was the suggested shoe.
The Beasts cost about $250 at the time and the orthotics cost $400, so for something that was supposed to be a non expensive sport it was sure changing.

Well, did all this help you may ask, well, frankly no it didn't.
I can see why the Beasts got their name, they are a beast of a shoe. Along with the orthotics they took the pleasure out of running, I clomped along with these inflexible cushioned lumps on the bottom of my feet and the orthotics pushed up against my arches to 'support' them.

I got shin pains and all the weight on my feet tired me more quickly.
Then I started developing Achilles Tendon pains that I couldn't shift. They became so tender I could hardly touch them.

Back to the Podiatrist.

Umm, he says, well, I did tell you running was bad for you, this is a common response from most of the doctors I've seen when looking for help on an injury, if you didn't run then you wouldn't get injured.
Umm maybe obesity is a better alternative!
He sugested we ease the pressure on the Achilles by placing even more foam padding under the heel ro raise it up.
This sort of worked but made me feel very unstable, like running in platform shoes. I think I turned my ankle at least once during this elevated time and I pulled a calf muscle that took weeks to heal up.

It was not long after this that I began developing the notion that maybe, just maybe, doctors are not the experts they think they are.
While searching for Achilles Tendonitis cures I came across an interesting article from Sweden that said you had to strengthen the Calf and the ankles to to stop Tendonitis.
They had some exercises that you could do, I tried them and they worked.

The exercise was simple excentric strenthening of the calf. Find a step and balance on your toes on the edge, heel hanging over. On your good leg lift yourself onto the tips of toes, transfer the weight over to the other leg then gradually lower yourself.
Be careful with this as you will find that walking is near impossible a couple of days later.
If you do this for a month the tendoitis will be gone. I tried it and it was.

I threw out the foam pads from the shoes and the shoes themselves in favour of some lighter more flexible shoes, still with pronation control though, Asics 2140 (0r whatever they were back then).

That was about about 5 years ago.
I was still running with the orthotics (and getting reminder notices to go in for a checkup) and the Gel 2140's but I was still getting shin pains (numbness), pulling muscles. Maybe it was just old age, maybe the doctors are right in that you have to give it up over 40.

Jump forward to September of this year. I get an email from a friend of mine showing a pair of strange shoes with positions for all the toes. I just had to get a pair.

So, this is basically going to be a diary of a change in direction of my running, is it what I have been looking for all these years?
We never question the products that are sold to us or the doctors that give us advice as we assume that they are experts that know what they are talking about.
But why would you believe your doctor if he/she was not a runner? what credibility could they have.

The first week of wearning the Vibram shoes it felt like the underside of my feet had been beaten with a bat, this was the awakening of muscles that had lain dormant, not out of choice but by using devices that were purported to correct running styles and lead to less injuries.

I wore them as directed, around the house for a few hours, but I must admit, I did get a bit over enthusiastis and took them onto the treadmill at the gym.
My calves ached like nothing I have had for years, they were working harder, doing the job they were supposed to do before they were put out of action by elevated heels.
I'll continue later to fill in three weeks that have followed.