Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ouch! On Being a Barefoot Princess and Needing Minimalist Shoes for Kung Fu

It's been snowy wet and cold here and I have not gone out to run since the Buzz and Woody Best Friends 5K a couple of weeks ago.  Don't worry -- (were you worried?) -- I've got plans and I shall be getting back out there.  I'm just re-grouping.

But I did tell you that I at long last started black sash training for Kung Fu.

Now that I have graduated to being mainly minimalist, barefoot, or in socks almost all the time, it felt really really weird to put on the old pair of running shoes that I had been using for Kung Fu.

Not only did it feel weird, but I was finding that I could not stand them.  It seemed like the outsides of my feet were raised up on some kind of platform and this was pushing my feet inward, but then there was this bump in my arch that was digging in when my feet were inward.  I could feel my toes cramming in to the front of the shoe and pressing up against it. I felt so-o-o-o uncomfortable and I knew that I needed to be doing this in a much more minimal shoe.  As I went uncomfortably through my workout, I made a firm decision to get a different pair of shoes for Kung Fu.

The experience for me was like that old story about the Princess and the Pea.  The real princess would feel the pea under all those stacked-up mattresses because she was so sensitive.  Well, I felt like I have become a real Barefoot Princess, and that my feet have developed into these sensitive soles that can feel every lump in her shoe, just like the princess could feel every lump from the pea under the mattresses.

In fact, at one point during the class I was taken by surprise by this very painful foot cramp in the arch of my foot.  It felt like I was getting a Charlie Horse in the arch of my foot and I couldn't believe what was happening.

We had just finished our third set of jumping jacks and push-ups and were about to go into the third round of crunches, when the charlie horse cramp hit the arch of my left foot.

I was in so much pain that I couldn't start my crunches and I just lay there.

I had to focus and try to relax the muscle cramp.  But I knew that it was because of the shock my feet were having from being in the supported and bolstered running shoes.

When I first joined Kung Fu over 4 years ago, I was of the mindset that I would need a lot of support in my shoes because of my weight.  I tried using my then-current running shoes, but they provided too much traction.  We do Kung Fu on this foamy kind of exercise mats and my feet were literally sticking to the mat and when I would switch stances, my feet would not follow that easily, putting a lot of pressure on my twisted-up joints.

So, I took an old pair of Brooks running shoes that were smoother on the bottom because they had worn down and they had seemed so perfect, just like my running shoes for running had always seemed and felt.

(Ran out of my alloted free space on Google Blogger's Picasa.  Rather than purchase more photo space, I'm trying out this photobucket thing until I figure out how I'm going to manage.)

So, I will be looking in to what shoes I shall use for Kung Fu from now on.  I did a little research tonight, but I can see that it might take me more time to decide. I'll write another post with some of what I'm finding out about minimalist shoes for Kung Fu.

A few months back I had tried to use my Vibrams for Kung Fu class, but the Vibrams had a little bit too much grip on the mat and I believe it caused me to get a strain in the area where a person gets a toe turf injury.  I wrote about that here:  "No Run for Me Today: Minor Surgery Instead"

Traditional cotton Kung Fu shoes like the ones you can see here --  Cotton Sole Kung Fu Shoes -- may be my very first option.  They only cost about $10.00 and reading the reviews makes me think they will be just the thing.

The funny thing is that way back when I first started Kung Fu and I thought I needed support, I saw a picture of these shoes and thought, "Those look way too flimsy.  For sure I will need more cushioning and arch support, etc.... blah, blah blah."  Now, I'm looking at the same shoe and thinking, "This looks perfect!"  It's amazing how much I've changed without really realizing I was changing.


Ewa said...

I feel your pain. We went skiing and the boots that used to feel so comfortable were making my feet scream in pain for the first couple of days.
I do not expect to see minimalist skiing boots anytime soon. :(

Joe said...

I didn't realize Kung Fu was done in shoes. I'd probably try the $10 traditional shoes first, but ZEMgear booties might also work. They're very close to barefoot without the extra traction of VFFs.

Avocational Singer said...

Oh, Ewa, so you have transformed into a Barefoot Princess too! Actually, I would not be surprised if some of the knowledge gleaned from all the minimalist crowd does not spill over and affect ski boot design in some way or other.

@Joe -- Thanks for the suggestion to check out ZEMgear booties. That's what's great about getting feedback on blog posts. You learn of new things.

barefootjosh said...

Do you have to wear shoes for kung fu?

Avocational Singer said...

Very good question, BFJosh -- Do I have to wear shoes for Kung Fu?

Kung Fu is traditionally done in shoes and I'm not sure of the reason for that. I talked to my Sifu about it a year ago, and he believes very strongly that one should wear shoes (and he's tried it barefoot). He wears Nike Frees.

I think he requires us to have shoes on the mat.

But I did see someone doing it in socks at one of our classes. I'm worried socks might be very slippery.

I'm worried about jumping high and landing and I'm worried about twisting on the soles of my feet.

I did do some barefoot jump-roping last spring and I was surprised that I could jump longer barefoot than with shoes.

But the twisting -- well when we're barefoot running we're not supposed to slide or twist or rub when we have good form. But I do wonder if the soles would toughen to accommodate that new action.

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