I am a minimalist runner. Or, more accurately, I am trying to become one.
I started out as a “shod” runner after going through the process of having my gait analyzed (I overpronate) and purchasing a pair of stability running shoes. I’ll be honest and state that I initially loved them. This was mostly due to the fact that when I began running in January of 2011 (using a program called Couch-to-5K) I started in shoes that were definitely NOT made for running. Thus, I had some knee issues, so when I purchased the stability shoes it felt like I was running on clouds.
Then I needed replacement shoes a mere 3 months later (I am hard on shoes) and they had already upgraded the model. So, I purchased the newest model and thought they seemed fine, at first. Then I started to up my mileage (I am trying to train for my first half marathon) and I got up to 5 miles. After that five mile run, I got a pretty painful foot injury. Of course, this could have been a case of TMTS (Too Much Too Soon) because I had taken a few days off from running and then did the five mile run (previously my longest run was a little over 4 miles).
The pain started near the ball of my left foot (on the outside and underneath) and ended in front of my heel. I could not locate the pain by touching or pressing on my foot, but could not walk without limping. In addition, I started to experience Plantar Fasciitis symptoms on my right foot.
I thought I had done too much or perhaps the new model was not good for me (they changed the heel cup a bit and I bought the regular width, whereas my first pair had been 2E, as I had lost weight). I may have forgotten to mention it, but I am overweight, as well. I started running at about 95 pounds overweight and I am now about 35 pounds overweight. So, I am sure that may have played a part in my foot issues, as well.
I went to a Sports Medicine doctor who X-Rayed both feet and said the bones were fine, but that I definitely do not have “runner’s” feet. I have mid to low arches, lack of motion in my ankles, and I overpronate (according to him). He said, of course, I can still run, but to take it slow and wear orthotics in all of my shoes except for my running shoes, as he states that the running shoes already offered enough support. He also said he did not know what was wrong with my foot but said possible tendonitis and he gave me a prescription for some topical anti-inflammatory cream and told me I should be fine in a few days.
Well, a few days passed and my foot was still bothering me. I did not run during this time. I did notice, however, that it was better when I was barefoot. Then, I went on a hiking trip to Stone Mountain, GA. I tried to hike up the mountain wearing shoes, but my foot still hurt.
So, I took off my shoes and hiked the mountain barefoot with no pain.
I purchased Born to Run for the drive home from GA and it made me want to capture the joy of running. It also made me realize that maybe it was the shoes giving me issues and that there might be a reason why my foot does not hurt when I am sans supportive shoes. It may have also made me want to be an Ultra Runner, but I am definitely nowhere near that caliber of a runner…yet.
I purchased some Vibrams (Bikala LS) and I love them because they do not make my feet hurt. I did my research and, although most say to start out completely barefoot and then transition to a minimalist shoe, that seems very difficult for me, personally. I would like to try barefooting, but it is uncomfortable to do so. At this time, I am trying to run successfully in the Vibrams.
I did wear the Vibrams for walking a few times before trying a run. I wore them while hiking and while walking around an amusement park. I did experience the calf pain that everyone refers to when wearing minimalist shoes or going barefoot (this is due to the fact that traditional shoes have a raised heel and, thus, they shorten your Achilles Tendon and calf muscles). So, once you are walking in a natural position, your calf muscles feel it since they are not accustomed to this.
After the heinous pain subsided (after about 3 days), I went for a short run (about ¼ of a mile) and it felt pretty great. I was landing on the balls of my feet with my heels lightly touching the ground. It was a whole new experience as when I wear shoes, I am a heavy heel-striker and pretty flat-footed when I run. My steps were so light, comparatively, that my breathing was heavier than my step!
I have since gone for about 4 more runs with the Vibrams and am now up to 2 miles in them. My calf muscles do not hurt any longer, but may do so when I try to up my mileage more. Best of all, my foot does not hurt when I run!
I will keep this blog updated so that people, if they so choose, can follow the (mis)adventures of an overweight (that will change soon) minimalist (oh and did I mention, S L O W) runner.