Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Sprint To The Finish At Yahoola

Dave and I met up at Yahoola park again(I am thinking about changing locations since it is getting boringish). He mentioned he was weezing at the end of our last run since we upped the pace. We agreed to take it slow for this run and just run at a conversation pace.

We took a slightly different route since some core kids from the college were running circles. HOW BORING! Please someone, give these kids an adventure.

So anyway, we were coming up on the 5K mark. We had half a mile left when he asked me what his time was. I told him he had 4 minutes until the 30 minute mark(he is at a race with my dad to get a sub-30 5K. Well, I forgot a 5K was ~3.11 miles and told him he had 4/10 of a mile left. He took off into a sprint. We sprinted for a few minutes side by side. I looked down at Runkeeper and it said we were past the 30 minute mark. I didn't tell Dave. He kept going hard. Toward the last few tenths of the mile I told him he wasn't going to make it, but he kept pushing. We ended up hitting the 5K mark in 32 minutes, which is great for him since he first started running last week.

We walked a 1/4 mile lap and went out to eat some breakfast(I have to restore my calories somehow right?) I ended up eating biscuits and gravy, home-fries, and scrapple(special order).

All in all a great run! I am going to take a few days off since I am having some top-of-the-foot pain. When I run again I am going to take Barefoot Ken Bob's advice and run as described below.

"Pain in the top of the Foot

Many of us have experienced pain on the top of the foot – sometimes following a distinct “snap” sound during push-off (or in my case, when I once kicked a sand hill).
I can’t give a specific diagnosis, but, as a general diagnostic guess, I believe that, living in a shoe-addicted culture, our foot muscles atrophy from lack of use. In any case, I do have the benefit of the experiences of many other (especially newbie) barefoot runners behind me.

Personal Experience

Though not from “pushing-off”, I have personally experienced a similar pain, following a snapping sound. I was running on the beach several years ago (barefoot – naturally), and I didn’t pick my trailing foot up enough to clear a small sand hill. When I kicked the sand hill, it torqued my foot backwards, and I heard/felt a loud snap. The interesting thing, though probably I shouldn’t recommend doing this, is that I not only finished a 5K race the following day, without any pain, by using the techniques below, But I even managed to finish 2nd in my age division! (O.K. it was a small event)

Do You Know When You’re Singing Off-key?

But on to the actual problem…
Ever try learning a new song while wearing earplugs?
Many folks, particularly those wearing “transition” footwear, might think that these pains are simply a result of trying “too much, too soon”. But, If we had actually been barefoot, we probably wouldn’t do too much too soon, our soles would complain, LOUDLY. And “too soon”, doesn’t necessarily mean “before we have toughened up” (to endure our off-key singing) - it really should mean, “until we have learned to sing on key.”
When we remove rigid shoes, and especially if we replace them with minimalist footwear – which blocks some of the feedback from our soles, feedback which would encourage us to change our running technique, to a more gentle way of running (singing on-key), which would reduce stress on our feet – and then those minimalist shoes don’t provide the support necessary to do the “push-off” we might be used to doing in more rigid shoes – that is, we continue to run as if we had the support of rigid shoes, without the support of rigid shoes – then, we are asking for trouble!

Typical, but Unnecessary, Pain for Beginning Barefooters

The best way to avoid this type of injury (and perhaps most running injuries) of course, is to transition to Running Barefoot, by;
  1. Removing our shoes
  2. Not replacing our shoes!
  3. Taking the time to relearn HOW to run, this time, gently, as if our shoes aren’t supporting and cushioning our feet, while gradually allowing our feet to build and develop from the gentle exercise they had been denied while living inside rigid shoes.
Take the time, like a child, to feel the earth beneath your soles, to discover how it feels for your soles to interact with the earth, to play and experiment (are the two really different?) with touching the earth with your bare soles. And since you probably aren’t an infant, to understand that it can take months for your bones, tendons, ligaments, etc. to develop the strength necessary to run barefoot – and that is if you have taken the time and attention to learn how to run gently!

How Strong Do Our Feet Need to Be to Run Badly?

I can’t even begin to guess how long it takes to develop the strength to run badly, without injury - perhaps forever, as many folks who try, are forever plagued with pains and injuries (their solution, sadly too often, is to take more drugs, and run even more).
If we are trying to run the same way we ran with shoes (assuming we weren’t, then, running as if we were barefoot), except without the rigid shoes, then we are most likely going to, at some time, suffer from some sort of pains, as we are discussing here. And rigid shoes are going to create their own set of problems, so best to just Run Barefoot, naturally, or at least, as if we were barefoot. But, before we can run ”as-if” we are barefoot, we must first, almost necessarily, be barefoot – we must remove the earplugs, so we can hear the tune, and learn to sing on key!

Starting As If Going Barefoot Is New to You – Because it Probably Is New to You

Standing, walking, and running, while barefoot, exercise and help develop muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc., on the top of the foot, but only if we run correctly - and most beginning barefoot runners do not run correctly. After years of wearing shoes, and trying to ”power” themselves through each run, pushing-off has become an ingrained habit. Add to this, that, we, sadly far too often, get the advice (usually from “experts” who have never run any significant distances while barefoot), that ”Running Barefoot IS running up on the balls of our feet” – but Running Barefoot really is NOT running up on the balls of our feet - NOT if we want to run barefoot without injury, in the long-run (so to speak).

Building up Gradually

So, as we build up distance walking and running barefoot, the plantar (sole) muscles, grow stronger with exercise, and we often end up straining the weak upper foot muscles (until we begin to change our running technique as described below). This pain is like some sort of counterpart to Plantar Fasciitis, a similar pain in the soles and heels (common among shoe-wearers), which seems to respond well to barefoot exercise of those tissues.

Exercising While Walking or Running Barefoot

I used to recommend the exercises below, for this problem. But, more recently, have come to the conclusion that the best solution involves learning HOW to run barefoot, which, when done as described below, will provide the same sort of exercise with each and every step, as well as providing a less stressful, more gentle stride.  Specifically, the problem seems to occur (along with other problems) if we have a tendency to “push off” while running (and most of us do have this tendency – just look down and watch your trailing foot, just before you lift it off the ground), and especially if we add the “ball-of-foot” landing as mentioned above – so that the foot never really gets a break, or at least not a good break, as in a rest, but it is likely, eventually to get a break, or at least a severe strain, if we don’t give it a rest, by letting the pressure distribute across the entire sole, by keeping our heel down.
But It isn’t just about NOT pushing off, but also a  failure to let the ankle flex as the foot is lifted, resulting in too much pressure on the balls of the foot, and strain along the length of the foot.
Instead of pushing off, begin lifting your foot BEFORE it lands. Also, do not try to get up on your toes. Instead, try to keep your heel on the ground, until the foot begins to lift. In keeping your heel down, you will be exercising the muscles and tendons on top of the feet. Basically, while the foot is in contact with the ground, try to keep your entire sole on the ground.
But, let’s go a step further, and take an ACTIVE roll in this. Let’s PULL the front of our foot up, in order to allow the heel to stay on the ground – actually, we WILL need to pull the front of the foot up, if our knees are bent enough – if we don’t NEED to PULL the front of our foot up, then we NEED to bend our knees more…
And that’s how we prevent these injuries. If you are already injured, try the following simple exercise, which I devised, and have recommend with good success, as reported by folks who have suffered this type of injury or pain in the top of the foot (but, I now believe these exercises will rarely be necessary, if we follow the above advice on running technique – which provides the same type of exercise during each run).

Extra Exercise

Note, this exercise is no longer necessary, and not even recommended (I left it here, just for reference, and those who have already injured their foot), as you can get a better version of this, with every single step you take, while walking and running, simply by lifting your WHOLE trailing foot (not just the heel) – a fore-foot lift.
Place a small weight (up to 5 pounds) on top of the toes, and resting the heel on the ground, GENTLY lift the weights a few times each day, with the front of the foot.
With a small dumbbell you can curl the toes up, to keep the dumbbell from rolling off the front of your toes, while lifting. Leave only the heel of the foot on the ground, while raising the entire fore-foot. If you try lifting the weight with only your toes, while keeping the balls of your feet on the ground, your toes probably won’t be long enough to lift the the dumbbell.
The heel can also be raised slightly, by placing it on a book or board or something, which tilts the foot forward, and keeps the weight from rolling too far back on the foot.
As far as body position, I’ve done this exercise lying on my back, with my knees up, sitting on my butt, with my knees up, sitting on a chair with my knees bent, or even standing, with my knees straight (but not locked), and lying on my stomach (see below).
Also, since this isn’t a case of injured tissues, or overuse, but more a case of tissue not getting enough exercise,  in my experience, the pain does not go away UNTIL I do the exercises! (or change the way I run – see above)
Just be certain to pay close attention to how it feels WHILE exercising. Be sure to exercise both feet, even if the other foot doesn’t hurt… YET…, and respond appropriately. If any of these exercises exacerbate the pain, then STOP! If the exercises cause sharp pains, there may be some tissue damage to address with your health-care provider.
In my case, the feet seem, immediately, quite happy to be exercising (and running correctly) – though in all fairness, it took me a few weeks to figure out this exercise, so some healing had already occurred (but the pain persisted, until I started the exercises).
Do NOT be afraid to try variations of this, and other exercises! Remember, it is lack of variation or balance that likely contributed to the problem in the first place.
Barefoot Larry recommends stretching these tendons.
Another variation can be done while in bed, laying on the stomach, and hanging the feet over the edge of the bed. GENTLY push the top fore-foot against the side of the mattress. Remember, GENTLY. This is not a contest to see how far you can drag your body toward the edge of the bed, this is about gentle balance. If you build these top muscles too much, you will be out of balance, once again, with the muscles and tendons in the soles, then your feet might start curling into a ball. Besides, you might never be able to fit your bulging muscular feet inside shoes again – hmm… maybe that’s not such a horrible side-effect, after all…"
Source Pain in the top of the Foot

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