January 6, 2011
If you’re a barefoot runner, you’ve had this conversation many times and you will have it many more. It also explains how our cult requires us to put Barefoot before our name start a blog.
Break free from the matrix!
December 20, 2010
I’ve read blog after blog after message board post about someone who had Plantar Fasciitis and finally cured it by running barefoot. I’ve even provided a small sample of links at the end of this post so you can read for yourself. I’m sure every podiatrist in the world will disagree with me but you can read the reasoning behind why it works and make up your own mind.
What is Plantar Fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is the painful inflammation on the Plantar Fascia tendon which runs along the bottom of your foot. It is caused by the atrophy or shrinking and hardening of the Plantar Fascia tendon. The pain usually condenses at your heel.
How do Podiatrists Treat Plantar Fasciitis?
Some of the treatments include: stretching, night splints, corticosteroids and most often orthotics. The orthotics are arch support inserts patients wear at all times in their shoes. These supports help take the weight off your arch and therefore relieve the stress on your Plantar Fascia. Here’s where the problem begins. The arch supports work for a year or more but the pain comes back even stronger (the Plantar Fascia shrinks more with the support). The patient is then given stronger supports until the pain comes back when they are given even stronger supports. This cycle will continue with really no end.
Why are Supports the Wrong Treatment?
Ask any engineer what is the strongest structure. They will tell you an arch. The more pressure you place on the top of an arch, the stronger the structure becomes. An arch will evenly distribute the weight from the center, or keystone, out through the rest of the structure.
In your foot you have the most complex designed arch. Actually, you have three arches in your foot. The Talus, Cuboid, and Intermediate Cuneiform bones function as keystones to these three arches.
Although skeletal structure is important to arch support, without the ligaments, the arches would collapse. The plantar ligaments (ligaments on the bottom of the foot), which are stronger and larger than dorsal ligaments (ligaments on top of the foot), tie the inferior edges of the bones together. (1)
You can see how your arch distributes your body weight evenly through your foot. The Plantar Fascia tendon controls the flexibility and provides strength for your arch.
A strong tendon means a strong arch. The best way to strengthen any muscle or tendon is to use it, exercise it, make it work hard.
Orthotics or the supports you place under your arch, take the weight off those keystone bones and prohibit your arch from distributing your weight. If your arch is not doing its job, your Plantar Fascia is not doing its job. Ask anyone who had to wear a cast for a long period of time. They will confirm, if you don’t use your muscles and tendons they will atrophy, (shrink and harden).
It doesn’t have to be supports prescribed by your doctor. Look inside your running shoes, you will see a big arch support. These arch supports keep your arch from doing its job and weakens your tendons.
How Do You Strengthen Your Plantar Fascia?
Let your arch do its job. Take away all the arch supports when you run. Allow your three arches to distribute your weight as they are designed to do. Use minimalist shoes or run barefoot. This will put your Plantar Fascia to work. It will become stronger and more flexible. In the summer I run barefoot but during the winter, I run in a pair of Chuck Taylor high-tops. There is no arch support and just a thin flat piece of rubber for the sole.
When your foot is inside your shoes, it does not go through the entire range of motion needed when running or walking. This applies to your toes through your heel which means more tendons than your Plantar Fascia are suffering from atrophy. When you try running barefoot or in minimalist shoes for the first time, you will wake up the next morning with really, really, really sore feet and ankles. But, you will notice it will be the kind of soreness you get from using muscles you haven’t used before. This is because your shoes have been compensating for these unused muscles all these years.
I can attest to this technique working. I went my entire life with flat feet. When I say flat feet, I mean 100% no arch. One year after I started running barefoot, I developed an arch. My Plantar Fascia became so strong it pushed my arch into place. Now when I run, it feels like I am landing on two leaf springs.
You don’t have to take my word for it:
“In my experience, the closest thing to a magic bullet for curing this thing is the one thing my customers tell me the doctor or podiatrist never told them: strengthen your feet. In conjunction with reducing the inflammation and reducing the scar tissue that is built up as a result, making the feet strong seems to be the long term solution to curing Plantar Fasciitis. It stands to reason that if habitually barefoot people don’t experience Plantar Fasciitis while those of us with shoes and arch supports do, there has to be a reason. That reason is likely that their feet are strong while ours are weak.
In theory, wearing shoes and arch supports do for our feet what our feet should be doing for themselves, which ultimately ends up weakening our feet. As our feet become weaker, we need more and more support, and a cycle of dependence is in place. This is the reason people may feel some relief when getting arch supports or orthotics, but a few months to a few years later, the pain comes back worse than ever. I rarely meet customers who love their orthotics, and even those that say they like them admit that they are dependent on them and wish they didn’t “have to” wear them. In essence, they don’t. Even dependence on arch support can be reduced by returning the feet to their natural state by making them strong. To say that we “need” support is to argue that we weren’t created right or that evolution didn’t work.
Keep in mind that Plantar Fasciitis is virtually non-existent in barefoot populations…Returning our feet to a more natural state by reducing the inflammation that has built up, breaking up the scar tissue, and then strengthening the feet will have very positive effects with arch and heel pain and throughout the body.” -K. Golden Harper, Runner’s Corner- www.Runners-Corner.com
SportsScience.org conducted a peer reviewed study of barefoot running and came to the following conclusions:
- Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of ankle sprains, either by decreasing awareness of foot position or by increasing the twisting torque on the ankle during a stumble.
- Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of plantar fasciitis and other chronic injuries of the lower limb by modifying the transfer of shock to muscles and supporting structures.
- Running in bare feet reduces oxygen consumption by a few percent. Competitive running performance should therefore improve by a similar amount, but there has been no published research comparing the effect of barefoot and shod running on simulated or real competitive running performance.
- Research is needed to establish why runners choose not to run barefoot. Concern about puncture wounds, bruising, thermal injury, and overuse injury during the adaptation period are possibilities.
- Running shoes play an important protective role on some courses, in extreme weather conditions, and with certain pathologies of the lower limb.
Here’s those links to a few people (out of many) who have cured their PF by ditching their shoes.
November 16, 2010
Laying there in the operating room, I watched the nurse reach over to my I.V. bag and say, “I’m going to turn on the happy drugs now.” I had heard many people say once those drugs hit your blood stream everything is LaLa land. After five minutes of listening to the operating crew talk about going snowboarding, I thought, “I don’t feel any different. These drugs aren’t working.” The next thing I knew, I woke up in the post-op. My wife told me I came out of surgery over an hour ago. My gigantic elephant foot was wrapped up and I couldn’t see it. I also couldn’t feel a thing from my knee down. But the good news, both of my hands still worked well enough to hold a beer. Not that this would happen for sometime considering the drugs I’m taking.
Here’s what a normal heel should look like. You can see it is solid and sturdy.
My heel had this tumor that ran all the way through the center. Notice how thin the bone is on the bottom. This is where I risked breaking my foot.
Here’s the entire size of the tumor. I really didn’t have much bone left.
This is the after shot with only one screw. The doctor decided to go in at a different angle to help me get back up and running.
If you look closely, you can see the bone graft material used to fill the cavity left by the tumor. They used to use bone graft material from your hip but now they use a synthetic material which actually works better than your own bone marrow.You can also see the square section they cut out and screwed back on with what looks like a drywall screw.
Now I just stay off it and wait for the bone to grow back.
October 19, 2010
I have read a mind numbing pile of studies done on atrophy and here’s why; I’m having a tumor removed from my heel bone and my left ankle and foot will be in a cast for six months. For someone who lives to run, this is not good. Most studies of atrophy and muscle deterioration are done on people who have worn a cast for six weeks. This is the average time a person is in a cast from a fracture or surgery. I will be in one for 24 weeks. Here’s a summary of what I have learned will happen to my leg.
After 3 days atrophy will begin. By week six, I will have a 54% muscle loss. The protein breakdown that causes this deterioration works on half-life progression. This means it is a slow decline up to the halfway point then it accelerates exponentially. To make it worse, the atrophy and muscle loss does not stop when I get the cast off, it continues until I get my full range of motion back. I have read posts from several people who have had injuries and or surgery similar to mine. They report taking six months to get rid of their limp, due to atrophy, and two or three years of PT only to find they may never run again. I will not settle for this outcome.
One advantage I have over them, they didn’t start their battle against muscle loss before the cast and did nothing while wearing the big hard boot. Here’s my plan: I will begin stretching and working my calves, legs and ankles more than ever. My theory is if I start off with monster calves when I get the cast, there may be something left six months later. I’ve been exercising regularly and consistently for years. It’s not like I’m starting from scratch. While in the cast, I will do isometrics several times a day on a regular basis. Yeah, I know this will not stop my muscles from deterioration but it should slow it down. Along with the isometrics, I will use electronic muscle stimulation. This will help keep the nerves functioning and help some with the battle against muscle loss. Studies have shown that exercise in general it helps retard the deterioration even if the exercise is not in the area of atrophy. So, I plan on continuing to lift weights and convert my runs into swimming workouts.
I know when the day comes I get the cast off, I’m going to have this thin rail of a lower leg and an ankle that no longer works. But, my plan is to be running again in less than year from that day. What makes me think I can recover faster than everyone else? It’s easy, I’m über-human.
October 18, 2010
It’s so strange counting the days down to my last run. Hopefully, I will run again.
September 21, 2010
When I started barefoot running, I read a few books on Zen to help me relax while on the long runs and it taught me how to breathe (I know that sounds strange). This lead me to pick up a book called ChiRunning by Danny Dryer. It talked about this method of injury and pain free running. I thought as a barefoot runner, I already run pain and injury free. I read the book anyway and learned a lot in the process.
The ChiRunning method helped me fine tune my form and focus even more on relaxing while I run. I still use many of the Zen methods and tips from Barefoot Ken Bob, but the Chi method helped me move to a new level.
I was already running with most of the techniques mentioned in the book. I did learn a few new tricks like keeping my hips forward to align my spine. Focusing on rotating with my lower back instead of my hips gave me a great improvement in energy use. Running up steep hills sideways was just way cool. One thing I learned which was not mentioned in the book, to avoid shin splints, you can also run down steep hills with the same sideways form you use going up.
Once I started to master this form, my distance increased tremendously. I did 12 and 15 mile runs back to back with no problem. The only cap I had on how far I could go was my schedule. I only have so much time I dedicate to running and the rest goes to kids and work.
I would recommend this book to all barefoot runners as a supplement to help improve your running form. If you’ve ever wondered how those ultra marathoners can go as far as they do, this is how they do it.
March 8, 2010
This turned out to be my wife’s first hash.
We met the group at the Boulder Brewing Company. Both of the hares looked muddy and full of burs which gave us a warning of things to come. After a quick chalk talk, we were off.
Nothing to spectacular at the start, just simple paved trails and easy checks. About a mile into it, we came to a check where the trail split into two directions in front of a fenced off baseball field. I thought this would have been a great place to make us climb the fence, but the pack split in two. Both directions turned out to be false trails and we climbed the fence as the trail headed through the baseball field, which lead to another vacant field where we wondered aimlessly until we found trail on a bike path next to a stream. I told my wife that we will most likely be crossing that stream at some point.
After a rather long back check, the trail took us across the stream, into the forest and to our first beer check. Here we talked about the best movies where people are eaten by pigs. Tongue Hole pointed out that Speedbump had already lost the trail and would most likely miss the beer check. Octopussy with the shirt that read, “Meat is Murder, Tasty Tasty Murder” asked if we should try and find Speedbump. The reply came, “Why would we want to find him? He’s a lawyer.”
As we took off back down the trail which made us cross the stream once again, we ran into Little Head wandering through the forest. In an effort to short cut the trail he got lost and found us by following marks from an old trail. He led several of the hounds on the imaginary route he took to get there and the rest of us followed the actual trail.
At the next stream crossing, Pig Pimp decided she was too drunk to cross and looked for a bridge. Somehow the number of people on trail was half of what we started with. Soaking wet and out of the river, we wondered through a thick forest with only the occasional dot of flour to tell us we were probably on trail. By the time we made it out of the forest, only four of us remained. I got a cactus needle in my Five Fingers and had to run the rest of the trail barefoot. The route led us down some railroad tracks, through a small hobo village complete with cardboard shelters and old sleeping bags and into an office park.
At the circle, Speedbump asked why there was no beer check. I had to drink for having a private party when WWWWWayne asked if I would drive an hour up to Ft. Collins and give him a ride to the next Denver Hash. With the torch Speedbump found on his personal trail, he demonstrated how Hashers can turn anything into a phallic symbol. My wife was called into the circle so many times they came very close to naming her “Get Your Ass Over Here.”
Not that it was a race, but the pregnant lady finished first.