For summer reading I bought myself a book on Barefoot Running. Part out of general curiosity but also for more interested research after my recent 3 week layoff from running because of a painful ITB injury and realising that possible prevention of future injury was orthotics plus stiff stability shoes. Now I hate any shoes that are too inflexible or heavy with a vengeance!
The trouble is that we have visitors staying here on the Isle of Wight with us at the moment which includes a houseful of teenagers/pre-teens. This means that I didn’t actually manage to read much of the book at first because, not only have I been busy but have also had to fight to get my paws on it as it has been passed around smirking teenagers. Some taking the mickey (think ministry of funny walks), others reading it and lecturing me on ‘how to run’ and many more sarcastic and derogatory comments.
Wednesday we were at Yaverland Beach on a pleasant but not too hot day, and my recovering ITB was feeling good so I decided it was finally time to have a first, post injury, short easy run. And why not barefoot? The tide was out leaving a wonderful quiet, long and wide stretch of beach with soft wet sand. For all their sarcasm the kids actually joined me (some more serious than others) and we set off at an easy pace barefoot along the beach.
My leg felt a bit awkward and stiff to start with but was wonderfully pain-free for the first time in a long while. The distance to the far end of the beach was deceptive; it was a mile to the end, by which stage I had lost all but one of my companions. We ran through the waves to make the turn point round a rock and headed back to the group. Then we were running against the wind so it was harder going with sand in our eyes and soon it was only me enjoying the run back. I remembered I should be taking it ‘easy’ so made myself pull up to a walk after 20 minutes, having run 1.8 miles.
What a great feeling running barefoot and to be running again!
Now later that day, or maybe it was the next morning? I finally read the pertinent chapters of the book, including, most importantly the part about BRES (barefoot running exuberance syndrome). Yes. The book is absolutely right. If you over-do it you will feel like someone is sticking daggers in your calves! On a brighter note I was very pleased that aside from the calves agony, my ITB was totally fine and also there was not a peep of niggle from my achilles. I read on to the following chapter and realised that the source of my pain was that a suggested first barefoot run should have been more like 5 mins not 20!
Today, after some home improvised ‘foam rolling’ (wine bottle wrapped in a towel) I managed to get my calves flexible and me pain-free and moving again. Undeterred from barefoot running I did another beach run today but kept it short to 3/4 of a mile.
Lesson learned? Yes. Read the dam book first before you venture into pastures new!
But, Yes, barefoot feels great and I will be continuing with this journey. Definitely where I can on beaches and other suitable surfaces from time to time to strengthen my feet and legs and improve my running. I am also going to go back to minimalist shoes.