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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3 Reasons to Join the Barefoot Running Revoltion

Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno...
Gustave Doré's illustration to Dante's Inferno. Plate I: Canto I, Opening lines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the middle of my training for a barefoot half marathon, I discovered that the old path was lost. Though I did NOT awaken in a dark wood, new thoughts splashed through the volatile chemical cocktail of my mind. The sexy electronic voice of the RunKeeper lady announced, “Time: blah blah minutes, blah blah Seconds. Distance: blah blah miles.” When she finished speaking, the adolescent voice of a blue haired, nose ringed teenage boy filled the void.

“Hey, where are your shoes guy?”

If you have read this blog at all, you will know those words bring out the Hulk in me. I created a podcast and wrote some posts about some of my kick-ass comebacks to that annoying question. (On New Years, I came close to punching a jerk who kept harassing me during my morning run.) But I ignored teenager this time. As he stood there blinking, his mouth slightly agape, I took a deep sip of the crisp Oregon air and realized that barefoot running has taught me three crucial lessons about my world.

  1. The same terrain isn’t always the same.
    The ever changing textures and temperature that the same patch of ground offers amazes me. The same route offers many varied delights that change according to the time of day, the weather, and the stride. Shod runners completely miss the world of sensations beneath their feet.
  2. Crossing Comfort Zones Can Make Some People Cross.
    When most adults see barefoot runners, they tend to assume that there is something wrong with the barefoot runner, not with their world view. Because they can’t run without shoes or or because they know nothing about barefoot running, they assume that what is true for them should be true for everyone else. That said, I have had interesting conversations with people who were genuinely interested in barefoot running. Breaking out of the comfort zone is good for your sole (Yes, I totally abuse that homophone). Every success I’ve enjoyed forced me to step outside the cozy prison of comfort.
  3. I’m much stronger than I think.
    When my gaze hits the rough concrete before it gently lands on my feet, I marvel that my body can withstand the impacts of the unforgiving concrete. But it does. My feet, in fact, thrive on the hard pavement. I find it’s easier to run on asphalt than it is to run on the graveled part of the Tickle Creek Trail. Of course, the asphalt is not as soft as mud or grass, but it’s relatively comfortable, when your soles are up for it.
If you’ve never tried running without shoes, give it a try. Here are some resources to get started safely:
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Sad News

With my previous job, I got so busy I missed the tragic news about Born to Run legend Micah True (aka “Caballo Blanco“.)

It’s odd that someone I’ve never met or spoken to could have such a monumental influence on my life. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for Micha True’s manic itch to run crazy distances in even crazier terrain with the Raramuri.

That’s NOT hyperbole. I’m a barefoot runner because of Caballo Blanco. If it weren’t for him, MacDougal may never have written the bestselling book Born to Run and I wouldn’t have kicked off my shoes to run again.

Since I am slightly Irish, I give this famous blessing to the fallen Caballo Blanco.

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

(And by “God” I mean “universe”; and by “meet again,” I mean “meet at all in the great beyond.” And “Yes!” This is blessing given to the living. But all that crap ruins the rhyme scheme and sentiment. Somehow, I think Micah understands or would have understood, and he would have shown that understanding with a quick nod of his dusty head and a fleeting smile across his cracked lips, before he said, “Run Free, Brother, Run Free.”)

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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!

11 Secrets to Enjoyable Barefoot Running

  1. St. Christopher can Help you Train.

    A long necklace with an amulet or weight will help track your stride. If it smacks your nose or causes temporary blindness, your stride is off. The necklace should not bounce around.

  2. Reflective Street Paint is your Friend

    The Oregon roads are mean and rough; almost like taking belt sander to your feet. Luckily, even the cruelest roads have a secret soft spot: the painted line that marks bike paths. It’s an excellent surface to run on, smooth and best of all it’s white, which means it lets you see most debris and stays cool in the heat.

  3. Be a Boy-scout or Girl-scout Bring a First Aid Foot Care Kit for Longer Runs

    Always be Prepared. A good kit should include alcohol or first aid wipes to clean cuts and abrasions, tweezers to pick out glass, pebbles, or thorns, adhesive bandages to cover cuts, scrapes, and the freaky blood blisters that blossom on long runs, and a mobile phone.

  4. Run in the Middle of Low Traffic, Residential Roads (NOT in high traffic areas–duh) or on the Flat Sidewalk.

    The asphalt is smoother and there is less debris. The roads in Oregon are beveled convexly to prevent flooding. Not only are they magnets for sharp metal, glass, and bolts and nails, but they also alter your stride, causing excessive wear on the side of one foot.

  5. Run through Stiff Mud

    Dude, mud is freaking awesome to run through. I love it. Feels great between your toes, but you can also use mud to check your stride. Find some flat, stiff mud, the consistency of clay; it should be stiff enough to record your footprint. Run across a patch of mud. If you see a deep hole toward the front of the print, you’re putting way too much pressure on your toes. I bet your calves and Achilles ache hard. Don’t try to tip toe land. Just let your foot land naturally.

  6. Solve Math Problems or Mind Puzzles

    Some people over think their stride. They get all caught up in technique and form; instead of just running and trusting their body. A good way to “forget your stride” is attempt to solve math problems while you run. The cognitive load will let your body’s natural rhythms take over locomotion. And you get a good brain workout, which is important.

  7. Skip, Jump, and Dance

    Yes, people already think you’re crazy for running without shoes. Embracing the weirdness can prevent repetitive strain injuries, which over stress bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. A skip, jump, or pirouette will vary the movement and will make you laugh. Who cares what other people think? They’re not out running barefoot. Varying the terrain you run on can also help. Grass and trails offer a variety of surfaces.

  8. Run in Place or do Jumping Jacks Before Cold Runs

    There’s no doubt that running on icy roads will numb your feet. But if you warm up before you go out, they will stay warm all the way through. Personally, I don’t like to run when my feet go numb–something is wrong. On cold days, I run on the treadmill to get warmed up, then go outside for my run. Usually, my hands are colder than my feet when I do that. It’s not a good idea to run with numb feet, you can seriously injure yourself.

  9. Have a Come Back Ready

    Unfortunately, some people are close minded idiots. They will hurl all sorts of insults or questions at the lively barefoot runner. It’s a good idea to have a come back. I learned this when riding a unicycle, “Where’s the other wheel?” people would ask. I had two stock responses: the funny one and the get lost one. The funny one, “Never buy anything from HalfOff.com”; the get lost one, “Real Men/Women only need one wheel.” For barefoot running, I usually just say, “Shoes are over-rated” or “Shoes are for weak feet.” That usually shuts up the person. Or I just ignore them.

  10. Eat Chia Seed Gel before your Run

    Chia Seed Gel is super easy to make. Just add three parts water to one part Chia Seed. The gel has NO flavor. Really, it tastes just like water, but it’s packed full barefoot nutrients: EFAs, fiber, protein, and since it holds a lot of water, it keeps you hydrated. If you want something a little different, you can make Valen Longfeather’s Chiacolate pudding. Substitute Chocolate Soymilk for water. Now you have a tasty chocolate flavored health food that you can make in minutes.

  11. Smile

    Studies have shown that smiling lifts your mood, even when you’re a upset. There’s some sort of neural connection between smiling and happiness. I’m sure there’s an evolutionary explanation–something about bearing your teeth, adrenaline, and mating. But I’m not an evolutionary Biologist. I’m a wild barefoot runner. If I were and evolutionary biologist, I would specialize in crypto zoology. All of my scientist friends would laugh at me UNTIL they watched me running barefoot in a pack with a Bigfoot, a Chupacabra, and a reptilian humanoid, then they would be totally astonished and afraid of me. I would not strike them down or organize a cryptozoolical uprising. I would, however, make them take off their shoes and do science barefoot. They would give me a plaque and money. They would want to worship me, but I would not let them. I would tell them to smile more. They would say, “The scientific reason for smiling and happiness is…”

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