Are You Making This Barefoot Running Mistake?

I made a huge mistake the first three years of my barefoot running.

What did it cost me? Well, I partially tore both my Achilles tendons, I gave my  tender calve a level 2 strain, and I probably fractured most of the tiny bones in my naked feet. The mistake that I made is well known, often ignored, and entirely misunderstood. Like most barefoot runners eager to bare their soles on their neighborhood streets, I suffered from TMTS (too much too soon).  But what does that really mean? I’m sure you’ve seen those annoying letters on many blogs about barefoot running. For me, and I surmise for 99% of the other barefoot runners out there, TMTS means you’re running far too often and often too far. If I had only known what I know now, I would have been able to run further, longer, and with fewer or no injuries in a shorter amount of time! My transition from running with cushioned shoes to bare feet would have been seamless–it was seamless, I meant smooth.

What is the secret that I missed, the one that would have saved me from injuries  and allowed me to run more without running too much? It’s simple, but it’s a secret that most runners will resist. Some runners might even stop reading this blog when they discover what it is:

The secret to decreasing injuries, speeding up recovery, and increasing running pleasure, my dear friends, is to include brief and structured walk breaks into every run longer than one mile.

Most runners will wince as if they have just sipped curdled green milk. They think that running is running and that means continuous running, not walking, which in their minds, is cheating.  That’s the way I felt for ten years. And for ten years, I battled injuries. But once I cranked up my mileage during the training for my marathon, I discovered that walk breaks are not cheating at all, instead they’re smart. They also allowed me to increase my weekly mileage without tiring me out or damaging my body.

Principles behind Structured Walk Breaks:

• Continuous running results in quicker fatigue & increased risk of repetitive motion injury.

• Walk breaks lead to quicker recovery.

• Walking during a run decreases stress on the spine, knees, and feet.

Why you Should Give it a Try

• It’s a smarter way to run.

• Allows you to carry on all of your life activities – even after long runs.

• The walk breaks motivate people of all fitness levels to get off of the couch and run.

• Helps runners cope and overcome fatigue allowing them to run longer distances.

• Delivers all of the benefits of running (cardio, stress relief, & endurance)  without exhaustion or pain.

In the past when I ran my ten milers, non-stop, I would be spent for the rest of the day. My quads would be sore and stiff like cement, it would take me a full day to recover. With walk run, I can recuperate the same day. During my marathon training, I was able to run twenty-two miles early in the morning and still work  a full eight hour day without much fatigue. I was tired but highly functional in a job that requires walking, lifting, and lots of standing. I know that there is no way I could have worked without using the run walk method.

Here are some great resources about walk run to get you started.

Amazing Last Minute Gift Ideas for Barefoot Runners


Portable Ping Pong is the Perfect technique for scuffing up your newly refinished table, ripping much needed elbow holes into your clean, freshly painted sheet rock, and planting family rivalries that will last decades–all in the comfort of your kitchen! Yes, to  accomplish all of that mayhem with just one gift takes some balls.


X-Box Kinetic is the digital version of the portable ping pong nightmare above, only with less wall ripping and table scuffing and more ways to water the seeds of hatred between the people you love.


This Tool is perfect for recovering from the Achilles & heel pain your hippie barefoot runner claims he or she no longer has 😉


Homemade Beer will give them an excuse to brew their own B-12 and listen to bottles shattering in cupboard at midnight while giving YOU the joy of drinking something that instantly pickles your taste buds, crunches your face into a tight fist and forces you to say, through your quivering, puckered lips, “It’s different Jim, really different.” And then, when Jim isn’t looking, you pour the “beer” on a helpless plant and a few seconds later the helpless plant is withered and dead and YOUR hair is green.

Are Your Achilles Barking and Biting Like Wild Dogs?

You’ve discovered the many wondrous sensory delights of experiencing the world without shoes. You enjoy tasting the many exciting textures beneath your toes,

but there’s this nagging tightness in your calf and some weird,  tension and unpredictable pain in your heel. When you really think about it, you might also be experiencing some of the following symptoms:

  • A grating or cracking when you move your ankle.
  • Swelling, heat or redness at the base of your heel.
  • A bump on the tendon where it attaches to the heel.
  • When you pull your toes up, there’s some slight weakness.
  • You may notice that your Achilles feels stiff first thing in the morning.

What’s the Problem?

Achilles Tendinopathy

Achilles tendinitis is typically not related to a specific injury. The problem results from repetitive over-stressing to the tendon.

Insertion-Achilles Tendonitis / Bone spurs / Pump Bumps
Achilles pain can strike barefooters at the base of heel. This form of Achilles ache is also known as “insertion tendinitis”. The spurs result from over stressing a popular foot ligament, the plantar fascia.

Extra bone growth where the Achilles tendon attaches to the heel bone can rub against the tendon and cause pain. 

What’s the Most Common Cause of Achilles Aches?

Chronic over-use. In the ridiculous world of barefooting acronyms this problem is dubbed TMTS (Too Much Too Soon). TMTS injuries afflict athletes who put too much stress on their bodies without adequate time for recovery. Here are some common causes of TMTS injuries:

  • Primary Cause:
    Sudden increase in the amount or intensity of exercise activity
    —for example, increasing your BAREFOOT mileage without giving your body a chance to adjust to the new distance.
    YOU SHOULD TAKE SHOD MILEAGE WITH A GRAIN OF SALT. Just because you can run 10 miles in shoes, doesn’t mean you can run 10 barefoot. All barefoot mileage should be regarded as NEW TRAINING ACTIVITY. 
  • Secondary CAUSE related to Primary CAUSE:
    Tight calf muscles—When calf muscles are given too  much work, they become slackers and transfer load to the Achilles. BAREFOOT RUNNING WILL PUT YOUR CALF MUSCLES TO WORK. Even WALKING BAREFOOT will add STRESS to your CALF MUSCLES. You must allow time for recovery. MASSAGE tight calf muscles with a ROLLING PIN after BAREFOOT WALKING AND RUNNING. (See Below.)
How do I Fix Ache-y Achilles ?
Rest.
Compression.
Elevation.
Rolling pin to alleviate muscle aches, break scar tissue, and increase circulation

 

 

 

Rolling Pin Massage alleviates tightness in the calf and can lead to a speedy recovery from Achilles tendinitis.

How do I avoid Achilles Pain?

Monitor your training volume, intensity and frequency of training carefully. If my Achilles ache, all I have to do is check my training. For instance, last week they were aching a bit. Upon reflection, I realized that I had inadvertently added 7 extra barefoot miles. No wonder, they reacted a little.

It’s important to vary your stride when you run distances longer than 3 miles. One of the many benefits of running without shoes is ability to alter your stride on the fly.

Barefoot running should be taken gradually. Here is a link to a FANTASTIC BAREFOOT HALF MARATHON TRAINING SCHEDULE. It provides plenty of rest days. I used it to run a half marathon at Wildwood in OR.

Watch this Video to Find Out Even More about Treating Achilles Pains:

Remember:

Abrupt changes in training load are the primary cause of Achilles tendinopathy. Slow and steady wins the barefoot race.

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