Saturday, 15 March 2014

Showing Some Skin

I went for my first barefoot run of the year today. As the soles of my feet need a few weeks to get used to running without protection, I took it easy, running for 30 minutes in the park followed by an hourlong walk along the canal.   
Sidestepping daffodils and dog doo
I've been running and walking barefoot or in barefoot shoes (Vivo and Luna Sandals are my favourites) for close to 3 years now. As with a lot of things that I have changed over the years, it started with a problem. 

I've always been told that I have extremely high arches and that I should be wearing insoles. I caved in my late teens and got tailored insoles from my German podiatrist. He tutted and pointed out how my arches were already collapsing. Lucky me for finding him and his magic insole wand! 

The years went by and I would always choose flat, cushioned shoes over high heels, use ever more advanced insoles and buy top of the range running shoes (the models were always chosen based on my hideous pronation).

Despite my best intentions, a few years ago, my rather modest running habit starting giving me knee pains. At first, it took me a few days to recover. Then it took me a week. Then two weeks. Then a month. You get the picture. How could this be? I was doing everything right! 

So I found a physiotherapist to sort me out. She diagnosed severe ITB and started me on a program of foam rolling. Makes grown men cry. Trust me. She taped my legs and massaged and kneaded and I slowly started recovering. 

The next step was to do a gait analysis and then to create a new set of insoles. This is where my alarm bells went ding DONG and I started stalling. It seemed to me that doing more of the same would just be idiocy. At the same time, I had also come across the concept of barefoot running via Born To Run. Although I don't think we all should be running ultra marathons in leather sandals (way too much cardio, but that's a different story) there was something very alluring about the simple notion of chucking your shoes and healing foot, knee, hip and back issues. 

So I went for it. I threw out my expensive insoles. I bought new shoes. I started running tentatively both completely barefoot and in my new shoes (CAUTION: if you want to try this, start extremely slowly, your body will thank you). Slowly but surely, the last bit of my ITB disappeared. My arches strengthened and stopped aching from my hourlong walks. My toes stopped going numb from my weakened arches. My hips stopped clicking and getting "stuck". And my knees stopped hurting. 

Funny that. What if I had listened to my physio? The physio who prided herself in having started all her children on insoles as soon as they started walking? Who wondered how people in the olden days coped with ITB? It never struck her that maybe they didn't have it???

Ok, so going completely barefoot is perhaps a bit controversial. Even nuts. Especially in London. Camden is a bit gross, I admit. People look at you funny/ point at you/ laugh at you. So barefoot shoes are a pretty decent option. 

Although I don't mind being called crazy (thanks for the compliment!), shouldn't it be the other way around? Look at your own feet. The shoes you squeeze them into. Have you considered how they may be contributing to your foot, knee, shin, hip, lower back, shoulder pains? Aren't you the crazy one? ;-)
You've lost that squishy feeling, oh-oh that squishy feeling

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