4 Epic Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

The mucous sheaths of the tendons around the a...
The mucous sheaths of the tendons around the ankle. Medial aspect. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey, it’s time for an actual barefoot running related post. Here are four of the most common mistakes barefoot runners make and how to avoid them.

  1. Too much too soon (TMTS–one of the many annoying and lame acronyms barefoot runners use. Another one is TOFP-top of foot pain.)
    The thrill of running with naked feet can be packed with deadly dangers. The  sudden rush of new and exciting sensations seduces the barefoot neophyte into immediate long distance runs and into using words with dorky diction such as “neophyte”. Unfortunately, chronic shoe wearing enfeebles the mighty Achilles tendon.  Arch support and heel raising make the Achilles tendon frail and stunt full extension. A wimpy Achilles will cry out when forced to handle the manly tasks of barefoot running.  As a result, it can become agitated easily. Take it easy on the Achilles. It will smite the sissiness of shoes, but it will need some time to recover from a lifetime of being spoiled by shoes.
    Running without shoes also swings all of the muscles of the lower leg into action, especially the calf.
    For these and other reasons, one should be rather conservative when learning to run barefoot.
  2.  Too much tension and stiffness
    Barefoot running form demands a relaxed and fluid body. The stride for barefoot running is much different from the typical heel strike of the shod runner. The feet land beneath the hips, forming a straight line from head to toe–barefoot running does NOT involve heel striking, the legs do NOT dramatically extend in front of the body. Don’t heel strike in barefeet!
  3. Too much pushing off with the ball of the foot and toes
    You want to lift your feet, not push off on your toes. If you develop the hideous ugly blood blister on the balls of your feet, toward your toes, you are most likely pushing off and thereby placing way too much pressure on your calves and Achilles. When I started running barefoot I had terrible blisters because I had bad form. Since I changed my form, I have yet to get a blister! Here are some excellent videos of the proper barefoot stride.
  4. Too much pain, not enough discomfort
    Separating pain from discomfort can be tricky. To improve performance discomfort is required. That’s just the way the body works, you have to push it past the comfort zone to achieve results–as Jillian Michaels says, “to change your body you gotta put stress on it.. when you put stress on the body, your body’s gonna adapt.” But you have to know when to stop, that is, you must push yourself just beyond your limits to improve, but not too far because pushing too far could mean crippling injury. A dash of discomfort is fine, but PAIN is an alarm signal for injury. Basically, soreness is OK to run through, but SHARP SHOOTING PAINS are NOT.
To learn more about barefoot running safety visit my “how to run barefoot” page. It also helps to eat well.
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Treating Barefoot Running Injury without Surgery or Medication

My Achilles is doing much better. In fact, my recovery is near miraculous. I have been able to treat the injury without medication or surgery. I can walk, the pain is easing and I’m even more flexible.

How did I do it?

  • I did not put weight on the Achilles.

    I literally crawled whenever the pain struck.

  • I iced it and then applied wet heat to it with a waterproof electric blanket.

    The warm heat soothed the pain and increased flexibility.
    You can use crushed ice in a bag or towel. Or you can use a fancy ankle ice wrap, which tends to have better contact with the target area.

  • Gentle stretching

    I usually do not stretch AFTER running and that was a contributing factor to this injury. When my heel didn’t ache, I did some gentle stretching and when I say gentle I mean gentle I just pointed my heel upward and felt the stretch, held it for 30 seconds, easing up if it hurt. Stretching has aided tremendously. FOR A SERIOUS RUPTURE THIS IS NOT ADVISABLE.

  • Zazen Deep Breathing

    I resumed Zazen deep breathing, not long only about ten minutes a day. The practice, however, has aided my recovery greatly. I have more energy, I am calm, and connected. DEEP BREATHING HELPED THE MOST.

  • Embraced the Love of my Soul Mate

    The love of my life has helped me through this injury. Having love in your life is wonderful and provides low impact heart racing exercise, if you know what I mean.

I also bought a bike. I can ride it without over stressing my Achilles. I think the circulation from riding also aids recovery.

I strongly advise you to read my Website disclaimer at the bottom of the page. I am not a doctor or physical therapist. I am simply explaining how I am treating a partial Achilles rupture without medication or surgery. Again the rupture was NOT a result of barefoot running; it was a result of running too far too fast and attempting to “run through the ankle pain.” I did all of the “No, Nos” of running. I doubled my mileage, added hills, AND ran with pain. Not a good idea. Best to take it slow and steady.

I’ve been running barefoot for over a year now and my Achilles still ache a little after 10 miles runs. It’s OK to put a little pressure on them. A Full Rupture is UNLIKELY. AS long as you don’t pop a bunch of  anti-inflammatory meds or goggle on pain killers before a run, you should  be OK running with SLIGHTLY achy Achilles. As long as it’s just s slight ache and does NOT alter your stride, it’s probably OK to continue training.

Mean Streets

The road takes much abuse. Cars scar its tough skin. They scrape and mar it. This agitates the surface. No wonder some streets chew up your feet. Sometimes, you can talk to the road. You can tell it you mean it no harm. You might say, “Oh mighty road, thanks for transporting me from place to place. I do my best to keep you safe from my fenders and steel. Please do be too hard on my feet.” When I do this, the road responds. It will alert me of rough patches, steer me from rocks, nails, and glass. It may seem a little crazy, but sometimes crazy works.