Latitude: West of Pain. Longitude: Dead-on Mojo

So where am I right now? OK. That's a rhetorical question. I don't mean where AM I right now as in the shower or the gym, or the hospital or on a ski lift (I wish). Although knowing myself, the hospital isn't a stretch if I've just been to the gym or on a ski lift. But I digress. What I mean is, where am I in terms of my goals? Well running goals anyway, because life goals beyond that are a little messy right now.

Its been about a year and four months since I ditched my motion controls.

Last January I was suffering from achilles soreness, calf soreness, and my normal knee pain (most likely my ITB issues). I was bitchy and frustrated. If you happened to be around me a year ago you probably would have slapped me. I was fed up. At my wits end. Wanting to run, but not really being able to comfortably.

It was also around a year ago that I started my strength and conditioning training. I started doing whole body movements and weightlifting to strengthen my weaker muscles. I also began integrating flexibility and mobility work (like trigger point massage, foam rolling and various stretching exercises) to work out some of the junky muscle tissue I have. My muscles and joints are like Rice Crispies. Lots of snap, crackle, pop going on. Its not normal. I'm not normal. I know this. I'm not OK with that right now which is why I'm trying to fix it.

Looking back on last year I ran seven races three of which were relatively pain free: The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k which I ran completely barefoot (and often forget that I ran it at all), The New York City Barefoot Run where I was seriously hungover so I wouldn't completely qualify this as pain free (my head hurt), and my Rock-N-River Trail Marathon which I ran in my Pace Gloves with no ITB pain at all. 

I find it interesting that two of the three races that I ran without my normal knee pain were completely barefoot, on flat roads, and short in distance. But my other successful (and slightly freakish) race was on the opposite end of the spectrum. My marathon was obviously long in distance, in my Merrell Pace Gloves and on hilly technical trail for the most part.

The "fails" where my knee was acting up happened to be longer runs on challenging trails  (except for my triathalon which was on road).

So I have no idea what kind of conclusions to draw from this data (I'm just not left-brained enough) but a few things are apparent almost a year and a half later...
  1. Transition to barefoot/minimal running was difficult for me. Probably due to the fact that my issues go deeper than what good form alone can fix. That, and I didn't understand, to the full extent, barefoot/minimal running concepts before I jumped in. Yeah. I have been known to jump first, then think.
  2. I tried to do too much too soon. Yeah. I'm a victim of TMTS. Hey... can you keep a stripper from stripping? Seriously though, I had to run. It was my therapy.
  3. I will never go back to wearing ultra motion control shoes. OK. I have to be careful with saying the word "never" (I have a personal rule about that), but I think its safe to say that I have no intentions whatsoever to ever put a heavy block of motion control crap on my feet again. I've changed my feet and form for life.
  4. My running goals are not compatible with running 100% barefoot (as in sans the shoes). I want to run some serious distances on challenging trails and I don't have the patience to do it at my barefoot running pace. That being said, I still ADORE running completely barefoot and will do it as often as I get the chance.
  5. Barefoot running and even running in minimal shoes is not a magic bullet. I've learned that you can't just learn good form, ditch the shoes and VOILA! You're a perfect runner with no pain! It takes time and experience. And if you're like me, it may take a serious look into your training regimen and body type to figure out what's really going on. As it turns out flexibility and mobility are key for me. Good form helps, but it doesn't eliminate all my issues.
  6. It was totally worth it. Not only can I now run with lighter shoes and better form for longer distances, but there are clear benefits:
My feet are stronger - the muscles in my feet are stronger to the point where my pronation (which was pretty severe before) has lessened quite a bit. When I walk now my feet don't collapse and roll.
My ankles are stronger - My ankles use to feel like they had the core strength of a spaghetti noodle after some of my trail runs in my old motion controls. They would be tender to the touch for days after a simple 6 mile trail run. They were only a little sore after my last 50k.
My plantar skin is thicker - Ok. This sounds a little gross, but the soles of my feet are thicker from barefoot running. In my opinion, I think this helps when I wear my minimal shoes on trails. I know its not good to run with sticks and rocks in your shoes, but if something gets in there its not as painful as it could be and the thicker skin seems to help reduce blisterage. (I know. That's not a word. If you haven't noticed I like making up my own vocabulary - and grammar - for that matter.)
I haven't felt my neuroma in months - I'm not sure if this has been a benefit of barefoot running or not, but I do know that I would have issues with nerve pain every now and then just below my second toe when I ran in ultra motion controls. On the downside, I can't wear the thinner soled Invisible Shoe huaraches for this reason, but the thicker soled ones aren't too much of a problem for me. I've never felt the nerve pain running in my minimal shoes (you may prefer to call them barefoot shoes) or completely barefoot.
I can wear heels! - I know a lot of you are probably cringing at this, but its true. Although most of the time I prefer to wear flat shoes with no heel at all, there are times when I want to rock a pair of sexy heels. I'm not talking six inch heels here (although I could use the height advantage) I'm just saying it's nice to be able to wear a heel at all! That was something I never could do because of my weak feet and ankles. 
I've met some really cool down to earth people - Really. The barefoot running community is a fun and inspiring group to be around. These people are genuine and impassioned. And a little crazy. I'm OK with crazy as long as crazy has a sense of humor.
So I've got my bearings now. I'm slightly west of no pain, a little north of flexibility, but I'm dead-on mojo now. And the direction I'm headed is a 50 miler sometime in the near future. We'll see. If I have to bitch slap my body into submission I will.

And speaking of mojo dead-on... I plan on hosting a Zaps Threads Giveaway soon! I've been working on a new tee design (life has limited me in the creative department), but I will keep you all posted on that coming up! Keep your eyes peeled.
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  1. Love it! Thanks for the insight and great post. Except for the time (almost 1 year for me), I have been on the same path. Difficult, tmts (also my therapy), not a fully barefoot runner, etc.

    Keep on running, girl...keep on posting!!

  2. Great post.. many similarities to what I'm experiencing.. love to barefoot, but love rugged trail running more, and not sure I'll ever get to the point of doing that barefoot, and not sure I want to, but who knows. In the interim, I know minimalist works best for me :-)

  3. For a while I used to slip back into the old' heels. Now, I just toss them aside when I'm looking for my minimalist dress shoes. I'm two years barefoot. It'll be interesting to see if that happens to you too.

    1. Rose, I don't know. I've ALWAYS worn minimalist dress shoes because I didn't have a choice. I tried to buy heels and wear them a couple times, but I never could. Now that I can, I'm tempted to buy some. We'll see.

    2. Although heels are no good for the feet, I do have to say they are sexy as hell, haha


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