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.

Eliminate Top of Foot Pain Once & For All

It feels like a drunken construction worker with a bright yellow hard-hat dropped a huge red brick on the top of your foot. It’s a dull, nagging pressure wedged between your big toe and the center of your foot. Worst of all, its cause is a mystery. You haven’t upped your mileage or even done any speed work. The phantom ache is a strange Halloween ghost haunting the spaces between your metatarsals and phalanges.

Has phantom top of foot pain ever struck you after a barefoot run?

I had my first scuffle with Top of Foot Pain (TOFP) this summer. At first, I thought it was from increasing my mileage or from doing wind sprints, but as it turns out it was from something else.

What’s the real cause of TOFP?

The number one cause of Top Of Foot Pain is TERRAIN! Most unshod runners ignore terrain; instead they focus on mileage or kilometers. But terrain plays a HUGE ROLE in injury. 4.8 barefoot kilometers on a steep, rocky mountain trail is more likely to ignite TOFP or whip-up pain in your Achilles than an 8 kilometer run on flat, smooth asphalt.

When to See a Doctor?

If the Pain increases when you walk or run. If you have sharp, shooting pains. If it’s fractured, running on it will only increase the size of the fracture, which means longer recovery.

How to Treat TOFP?

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

Terrific Terrain Tips:

  • Avoid Stepping on small stones–especially on flat surfaces; they will pop pain into your brain and damage your foot. Stepping on small stones is the main cause of TOFP. Tiny pebbles push the foot apart and crack bone. It’s a good idea to wear sandals or minimalist trail shoes such as Merril Foot Gloves when running on uneven, rocky terrain.
  • Stretch your feet AFTER you run.
  • Read my post —> The Secret to Superhuman Feet Finally Revealed.

 

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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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Want to Learn Weird Tricks for Healing Barefoot Injuries Fast?

  1. Blood Freeze: Ice Bucket Bath
    Freeze inflammation in its tracks using the ice-bath body hack. Ice baths may hurt at first, but they ease the ache over time. This natural remedy for pain is much safer than over the counter drugs. Best of all it’s a body hack. The cold bath fools your body. When you step from the cold, the circulatory system thinks there is an urgent emergency and floods the cold body part with a warm healing rush of blood. The extra blood flow speeds the healing process. This is the only form of homeopathy your doctor will approve. But it is homeopathy. The cryotherapy mimics injury, thereby kick-starting the healing process.
    Guidelines for Cold Water Recovery

    • Protect the Skin.
      Do not put ice directly on your skin; use a plastic bag or towel to buffer the chill.
    • No longer than 20 Minutes.
    • Red means STOP.
    • At least 10 minutes for muscle aches. It takes the cold about 10 minutes to reach your deeper muscles; so it’s a good idea to apply cold for at least 10 minutes.
    • Wait 2 hours before you REPEAT THE ICE.
  2. Rolling Pin
    Valen's sexy right lower leg with dynmaic rolling pin action, he soothes the aching muscles in his lower leg--the ones that ran 8 miles in sandals.
    Rolling pin to alleviate muscle aches, break scar tissue, and increase circulation

    I’ve posted about this trick before. But no one read the post. This secret works so dang well that I decided to re-post it here. The rolling pin breaks up scar tissue, increases circulation, and leaves your muscles refreshed. It will reveal tightness in spots you thought were fine. Firmly it roll over your lower leg. I start rolling from Achilles up to my calf. Then I move to my ankle over my shin up to my knee. I find a lot of hidden tension in my tibialis anterior. Don’t MASSAGE OVER VARICOSE VEINS.

  3. Chia Seeds & Other Anti-Inflammatory Foods
    These foods aren’t as potent as the over counter drugs, but there not as harmful either. The following edibles contain natural anti-inflammatory agents.

    • Chia Seeds
    • Garlic Powder (1 teaspoon)
    • Cayenne Powder (1 teaspoon)
    • Ginger, ground (1 teaspoon)
    • Spinach, cooked (1 cup)
    • Carrots, chopped and raw (1 cup)

Pain can be your friend. It tells you when you’ve done too much. Without this crucial alarm signal, the body cannot communicate effectively.

Do you have any tips for speedy recovery?
Post a comment.

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How to Wear Shoes & Not Be a Dumb-Fuck Hick

The fight happened early in the morning New Years Day, 2012. It was, clear, cold, and windy. Patches of frost powdered the shaded parts of the road. A few strips of shiny ice painted the rough black asphalt. My Achilles were aching a bit; so, I decided to cut my run a little short. I went down a street on my shorter route, the route I haven’t taken since summer.

Like most other barefoot runners, I ran in the middle of the empty street.

When I heard a car drive beside me, I edged over to opposite side of the road to let the vehicle pass. The driver slowed his rig, unrolled his window and shouted, “You alright!?”

I said, “Yeah, I’m great!”

He said, “Because you’re running barefoot in the middle of the street.”

“I know,” I said, “it feels fantastic.”

He said, “I mean you’re running barefoot in the middle of the road!”

I said, “I know. You said that. I’m not blocking your way. Drive on!”

He pulled over into a driveway a few houses ahead of me. He got out of his car and stood by the door, waiting for me to pass. When I was half way down the block, I heard him shout, “Yeah, you better keep running barefooter!”

I freaking lost it, my adrenaline was already pumping from pounding the icy concrete and my endorphin level was cranked up because it was the last leg of my run. I sprinted over to his car, shoved him, and said “What the Fuck! Keep running!? I run where the Fuck I want! How the Fuck I want! And when the Fuck I want! I wasn’t blocking your Fucken way. And if I was, you can drive the Fuck around!”

That scared the shit out of him. His tone changed.

“I was just concerned,” he said, “It’s cold and you’re running barefoot in the middle of the road. I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”

Then, even though I didn’t need to, I decided to state the obvious: the road is warmer in the middle of the street, there are fewer shards of glass, nails, metal scraps, pebbles, etc. in the middle of the street, and the pavement is generally smoother in the middle of the street. That dose of sensible logic relaxed him a bit. It’s NOT freaking rocket science, anyone with a brain bigger than a walnut could have figured it out.

Then I offered my hand in friendship, which, to his credit, he shook. He apologized for yelling at me. I decided to stop saying Fuck and be nice for a change; so I said, “It’s fine. We’re men. Sometimes shouting at each other is how we talk.”

I completely understand his point of view; he sees some guy running barefoot in the middle of street New Years morning. Maybe he thought I was high or something. That’s really stupid conclusion because I don’t know of any drug that would cause a person to suit up in running attire to go for a barefoot run at eight in the morning. I mean a barefoot running pill would kick the asses of other pharmaceuticals.

Jump from Sandy, OR to San Jose, California.  When I ran barefoot in Willow Glen, I did get a few quizzical stares, but no one said anything negative. The expressions conveyed puzzlement rather than objection. It wasn’t as if my being barefoot was like spitting chewed up walnuts in their faces. The few Californians who did speak to me while I ran barefoot said things like, “Right on Brother!” or “You’re hardcore!” or “That’s cool!”

This verbal fight wasn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with idiots saying stupid shit in Sandy.

In fact, I wasn’t going to post this because most of my neighbors are cool–they affectionately call me “the barefoot guy”.

Dear MINORITY of Dumb Fuck Hicks who live in Sandy,

When you see me running without shoes, grow a brain, pretend you’re from California, and just say, “Right on Brother!” or keep your Fucking mouth shut!

3 Amazing Barefoot Running Secrets

  1. Still life with human legs and daisies
    Image by J. Star via Flickr

    Run Recovery. When starting out give yourself at least a day to recover from barefoot runs. Never run through foot or lower leg PAIN. This recovery approach has been the key to healing my unnecessarily torn calf muscle and soleus strain. If I had followed this simple time off for recovery formula, I would have skipped many of my aches and injuries.

  2. Straight gait, smooth stride. The easiest way to check your stride is to wear a necklace while running barefoot. I think this is the seventh million time I’ve written about the necklace trick, but it works. (Valen’s Official Barefoot Runner’s Life Barefoot Stride Checker Necklaces Coming SoonThe other essential way to ensure a safe, soft stride is to have someone video record your barefoot run. This is a surefire way to spot bad bio-mechanics. It’s how I cracked my calf and Achilles problems. When I watched the video of myself running, I saw right away that I was swishing my legs from side to side.
  3. Rolling Pin
    Image via Wikipedia

    Rolling Pin Massage Trick. I’ve written about this one too. Buy a cheap wooden rolling pin (LIKE THE ONE IN THIS SHAMELESS PRODUCT PLUG: J.K. Adams BRP-1 10-1/2-Inch by 2-1/8-Inch Maple Bakers Rolling Pin). The rolling pin will not only release the lactic acid from sores muscles, but it will also break up scar tissue, leaving your muscles strong and sexy. The pin will reveal tightness in spots you thought were fine. It’s easy to use, just firmly  it roll over your lower leg. I start rolling from Achilles up to my calf. Then I move to my ankle over my shin up to my knee. I find a lot of hidden tension in my tibialis anterior. Don’t MASSAGE OVER VARICOSE VEINS.

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What Barefoot Dreams May Come?

G.-B. Duchanne de Boulogne, Synoptic plate 4 f...
Image via Wikipedia

“What dreams may come…?” That’s the plot device Shakespeare used to stop Hamlet from ruining the tragedy. Death, Hamlet decides, is too mysterious; why “fly off” to new troubles? Instead, he stays alive and essentially kills everyone he loves.

But the dreams of today are not road blocks to suicide.  Quite the opposite. The dreams of today are the automatic million dollar money machine cash bank, the instant rejuvenating, anti age cream that boosts metabolism while increasing libido and leads to world domination. The dreams of today are incentives.

Marketers sell hope and make desire. How? They speak to the heart, not to the brain. Logic comes AFTER the emotional decision to buy. It’s not good it’s not bad. But it’s the way marketing works. So, they appeal to our feelings, they tell us stories or better, yet they try to get us to tell ourselves stories.

The Barefoot Running Industry is no different. Take this commercial which stars long distance running super star, Anthony Krupicka.


The music, the scenic footage, the “all natural” feel are not accidental. The ad is designed to make you dream of injury free barefoot running. It sells the dream of being an all natural runner.

The reality of barefoot running is that you’ll probably get injured at some point. You’ll step on glass, aggravate your Achilles, stub your toe, or have pain on the top of your foot. The dream of injury free running is there. But the reality is too. There’s nothing wrong with dealing with running injuries. I have had my share from running barefoot.

It seemed that I traded upper body problems for lower leg problems when I started out. I’m still getting over a terrible tear in my right calf. Yet, I’m still running barefoot.

Am I crazy? Maybe a little. Am I glutton for punishment? Maybe a little. Do I secretly hate myself? Maybe a little less. But I carry on not because I’m chasing some dream of injury free running, but because running barefoot actually makes me ENJOY running. That isn’t a dream. That’s a reality. I look forward to my barefoot runs.

While I do think that many of my lower leg injuries have disappeared, I don’t think they’ll be gone forever. My feet are much stronger than before. But I think that constantly running on hard concrete regularly does test the integrity of the foot.

Maybe injury free running isn’t a dream, maybe this time next year I’ll have a different view. But won’t sell that dream until it’s real.

I’m not barefoot runner because I think it will keep me from being injured. I’m a barefoot runner because I love the way it feels, I like being connected directly to the earth, I enjoy feeling the wet cold asphalt, the squish of moist fallen leaves, and the rough texture of the road; heck, there’s even a part of me that enjoys the glowers from my neighbors.

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Silly Soleus Strain

I strained my soleus doing eccentric heel drops. I contintued to run and stretch the tight muscle, turning a level 1 strain into a level 2 strain. Now, I’m battling muscle spasms,  a deep ache, worst of all I have to ride a bike to get some amount of cardio. No barefoot running for a few weeks.

I took the wrong approach. I’m training for 30 mile run, but during my training  the deep innards of my calves were sore and my Achilles was barking. I decided to stick with my mileage and ignore the aches. That was a mistake.

I’m treating the strained soleus with MICE (Movement, Ice, Compression, Elevation) instead of RICE. I am not stressing the muscles, but I am using them until they start to ache. Then I rest and recover and use them again until the onset of the ache, then I rest and recover. And by movement I mean walking on the treadmill or around a stroll around the block. I’m also walking up hills BACKWARDS. That’s a great trick for sore Achilles too. When you run or walk backwards up inclines, you dramatically decrease the load placed on your Achilles and Calf and dramatically increase your ability to trip–in fact, everyone who sees you walking or running backwards and barefoot will think you are “trippin”.

From what I’ve read, the movement increases blood flow to the damaged muscle and keeps it working, preventing atrophy from disuse. The trick is NOT to overdo it; otherwise I’d just be resetting the injury and building a bunch of scar tissue which would lead to further issues.
I’m also adding some massage with tennis balls. The tennis balls or other hard, curved objects break up the scar tissue.  Some people use broom sticks, rolling pins, and of course the stick. The Stick is a total gimmick, a rolling pin does the same thing AND you can use it to ward off reptilian humanoids.

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5 Ways Barefoot Running Beats Bicycling

Cyclist Léon Georget in 1909.
Image via Wikipedia

I am recovering from a strained soleus. No I did NOT strain running barefoot. I strained it because I thought I was strengthening my Achilles. I did eccentric heel drops, an effective Achilles strengthener and treatment for sore Achilles, the heels drops overloaded my sore soleus, I kept doing them, turning a sore muscle into a full blown strain. That’s where the crappy bike riding comes in. Whilst riding, I realized why I am a barefoot runner and not a bicyclist. (I would just ride my unicycle, but the unicycle is different animal from the bike. It is much better. Unlike a two wheeled bike, the unicycle  swings all of your leg and core into action. I know that just mounting it would put pressure on my tender soleus.)

  1. Bicycles boil your but. Even the soft seats are a pain after a while. Having the constant pressure of the hard saddle leads to to a super sore, bruised butt.
  2. Bicycles cost big bucks. They’re not exactly money pits and they do beat rising gas pricing. But they are expensive. And do require maintenance from time to time.
  3. Ugly Clothes. You have to wear spandex shorts, a tight shirt, and a helmet, none of which are very comfortable or fashionable.
  4. Flat tires and maintenance. Changing tires on the side of the road is a hassle, even if you have the right tools.
  5. Just a quad workout. Yes, bikes do work your arms too, but the major muscle is the quad. My quads are fine, I hate they way they look when I bike a like. My leg feels out of balance. Barefoot running gives you sexy balanced legs and feet.
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