Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Sixth (or Seventh?) Barefoot Mile

I had written the other day that I might use Wednesdays as a Vibrams day to lay the groundwork for Wednesdays becoming the eventual "long run" day.  But when I looked outside today, I just couldn't bring myself to put them on.  I didn't shudder at the prospect of a barefoot run -- as I wrote happened for the first few times out -- but looked eagerly forward to it.  What is happening?

Lots of little observations about today so I will break them down into separate components instead of trying to unify this piece of blog today.

Running Shoes
I am more and more reluctant to wear my running shoes anywhere.  I feel that bump in the arch support and it really bothers me now, and after walking at length in them I feel very uncomfortable.

Something else is happening too.  When I see a shod runner, their shoes look really heavy, cloddy, and cumbersome to me.  It's not like I'm making a judgement or anything.  It's just that  my body responds kinesthetically to the sight of the shoes.  It knows what they feel like and it knows the way it wants to feel now -- light and free.

Hot Day
One of the most pleasant things about barefoot running is how wonderfully cool it keeps my feet. I can feel a breeze on a really hot day. I never would have realized how hot it was to have my feet in socks and running shoes if I had not tried it this way.

"Perfecting" the Barefoot Mile
I am more and more inclined to stay with the present moment and just run this simple barefoot mile over and over again as I work to "perfect" it. I put "perfect" in quotation marks because there is not really a moment when I would consider it perfect, but just that there is no need to rush ahead because there is PLENTY in a barefoot mile to work on. Enough to keep me busy for a long long time. So why rush ahead? This is the first time in my life that I've actually really begun to understand this idea that there is no need to rush ahead. Because there is so much to do within that mile each time. And there is something about the consistency of it, and observing it get better and better -- just growing on its own -- that is really satisfying.

Uneven Surfaces
I decided to pick a new route this morning.  The route I've been taking has started out on a boulevard that has a beautiful view, but then turns and travels along neighborhood blocks and sidewalks.

But I wanted to stay all on the Boulevard with the view the whole way today -- even though I am not looking at the view because I am busy watching the ground but do "feel" the view there -- so I planned a walk out to a starting place and run the mile-with-the-view from there.

The Boulevard has terra-cotta colored pavers, and they are usually smooth and cool, even in the sun.  My entire route today was mostly on these pavers and -- to my surprise -- I found that I missed the varying surfaces I had on the sidewalk run.

Some of the sidewalks on my other route were the kind of concrete with lumpy stones set in, and on those sidewalks, although they were rougher, I felt a pleasing massage.  I also missed today the unevenness of the sidewalks where some have shifted and tilted over the years.  When I run on the uneven surfaces, my feet navigate every step, sometimes tilting this way and sometimes tilting that way, and sometimes bearing the weight differently as they shift to find the right footing for each moment.  I am wondering if that is part of the value of barefoot eventually?

I have been taught in the past to try to maintain a consistent stride.  I always strove to have my form regular, even and repetitive.  But I'm wondering if this previously-held idea of form has been a condition for repetitive stress injuries, and if the flexibility and changing positions of the bare foot is healthier for a runner?

Yesterday, during my day off, I felt a bruised feeling on the bottom center of my left heel.  I had wondered if that sore spot was caused by a problem in my running form. I have slight soreness in my metatarsal area.  I had that soreness before I started barefoot running.  When I had to quit running because of plantar fasciitis in my right foot last Thanksgiving, I was kind of discouraged, and didn't watch my food well and gained weight.  As a result of the weight gain (I think) I developed a problem, just from walking around, with metatarsalgia in the left foot (which had been healthy and fine all while I had previously been training -- my "good" foot.)

One of the reasons I hesitated in beginning to run barefoot was that, while I had heard that barefoot could be remedial for plantar fasciitis, I was not sure it would be good for metatarsalgia.  I tried to do some research about it, mostly coming up with anecdotal information.  I read that running barefoot could actually cause a case of metatarsalgia if the form used was poor -- especially if the person was slapping their feet on the pavement.

When I read about that, I thought, "well, maybe if I'm really careful about form I can try it."

I was in the process of letting the metatarsalgia have some more time to heal up, when I got tired of waiting and did just start going out in the Vibrams

In the beginning, I did feel pain in the metatarsal area in the Vibrams.  I don't know why I persisted, but I just believed that the running in the minimalist shoes was not going to make the problem worse -- and it didn't.

When I started to run barefoot, I could definitely feel that metatarsal spot burning a little, but I monitored it.  With each barefoot run it has been getting better and better.

But I have been wondering if the natural tendency to avoid the soreness of that spot might be causing me to shift my weight unfavorably to another part of the foot.  In fact, I had wondered if the scrapes I had on my foot were because I was doing something like that.

So, when I had the bruised spot on the heel after Monday's run, I wondered the same thing.  Even though the sore metatarsal spot is getting smaller and smaller and more and more minor, I wondered if I was unconsciously avoiding that spot and putting more pressure on my heel.

Well, when I was out running today, I focused more than ever on my left foot form to learn if I was doing something there.

Then it happened.  I felt one of those little pebbles under my left heel.  One of those little ones you step on so suddenly and kind of back off immediately.  The pebble touched the sore spot in the heel and I knew in a minute that this is what had caused the bruise and not my form.

It's always good to realize the cause of something.  Once again, my feet taught me the answer.


Neil Z said...

super about the rock! I stepped on the rock at the spray park and I thought I broke a bone. Never had that running tho...

I look at my shoes and hope I don't have to run in them again. You're right, they look so clunky. I really REALLY want this to work out for me.

Avocational Singer said...

I think the "REALLY want this" part will carry the day!