Off & Running
a Blog of Life on the Run

May
24,
2011

 

I've never been one for going with the flow, doing what everyone else is doing. I was never the person who would jump off a bridge because my friends did. My life was my own and it was never going to be boring. So why would I want to be like everyone else when it came to running?

“Let's go for a run.”
“I don't run.”
“Why?”
“I have chronic asthmatic-bronchitis.”
“Let's go anyway.”

We ran to the park and back. Two miles. I huffed and puffed but I did it. I ran 2 whole miles.

The first year I signed up for a 5k, then a 10k. I started running further, doing training runs and making myself run faster. I hated running but I loved how it made me feel when I was done. Sweaty, achy but fulfilled and happy to have accomplished something. Three years later, I'm so grateful I got dragged out on that first run.

Most of my life I've fought my mother on shoes. I hated shoes, socks, everything that made my feet feel constricted. Until I started running, I only owned one pair of sneakers at any given time and they weren't the most supportive. Heels are the bane of my existence. If I'm in them it's because I have flip flops in my bag and am obviously meeting an important client or have a hot date.

When I started realizing that running was going to be a part of my life I went to a running store and got fitted for a pair of what you all call 'running shoes' (ahem... sneakers). They watched me walk, found the right cushioning. I ran a couple more 5K's & 10K's and on my 29th birthday I ran my first Half, the Parks Half Marathon. Then the pressure set in. My knees and hips ached and groaned and told me that they wouldn't work anymore if I kept beating them this way. My non-runner friends told me that humans weren't built for running. I knew they were wrong. I LOVED running.

I honestly don't remember how I found out about them but somehow Vibram FiveFingers came into my line of vision. Due to my love for being bare footed I knew I found what I was looking for to replace my sneakers and socks. City Sports carried some of them and the girl taking care of me was wearing them at work. I tried on a pair of these magnificent frog-like shoes and was in love. $75 later I found myself a new owner. Reading up on them more I found that it was better for human bodies to run without shoes than to use all the support... but DC is not the African plains.

While taking my Vibram Sprints out for short runs to get used to them, my girlfriend Diana bought me Born to Run for helping her through her first 5K. I trotted along beside her in my Sprints and after finishing I dove into this book. I could give you a whole lecture on why you need to stop wearing sneakers but your feet are probably used to them and you'll end up with bad knees anyway... so I won't bother. This book showed me what I had been missing while running on cement in cushioned shoes and got me out of the norm and into the woods heading out on trails with my frog shoes. It also showed me that normal sneakers cause us to be more heel-strikers no matter how our bodies were meant to run. I had to retrain my body to run correctly. Not an easy task.

About 6 months after purchasing my Sprints, I ran the Parks Half Marathon again. It poured that morning and the paved trail was muddy so I took it easy. The last two miles of the race were rocks and Sprints allow you to feel everything so I knew it was going to be tough. At the 11 mile mark, a friend of mine met me to bust out the last two. I finished with bloody, muddy feet 14 minutes over my time from the year before. It was the last day of being 29 and I felt like I had still accomplished something. Although my feet were cut from the wet seams of my shoes, my body felt like I could just keep going.

A week later, my body felt like I hadn't just run 13 miles. I wasn't aching, my knees and hips were working just fine so I went for a 5 mile run. I was elated! I felt like a million bucks. Until mile 4.5. A sharp pain burst up through the top of my foot & confused me into thinking I stepped wrong. I walked for a bit, tried to run and ended up hobbling the last half mile home.

For 4 months I recovered. My foot was swollen so big that it wouldn't fit in my shoe – and I wear Dansko & Birkenstock – it was huge. I couldn't walk my dog. I could barely walk from my house to my car. I was so frustrated with hurting myself that I had to find out what I did. After talking to a few people, I found that I had sprained my foot due to not letting it recover. 13 miles on pavement after only 6 months of training in my non-cushioned shoes caused a hairline fracture in my foot and ended up causing me to lose running time.

What everyone said about FiveFingers was correct – you have to take it slow. Just because your body feels like it's ready to go doesn't mean your feet will be ready to carry you. Taking it slowly would have prevented me from being injured but I thought I could take on anything. My feet didn't grow up in the dirt, they grew up on cement and pavement in cushioned shoes with too much support. I retired my Sprints to gym work only as they showed superb ability to grasp the floor and keep my feet & ankles stable while doing squats and BodyCombat.

Next up, I bought a LivingSocial deal to Potomac Running Company and headed out to buy another pair of FiveFingers. What I found was that they had a different kind that had a harder sole so that not every branch and rock was felt while running. These blissful shoes are called Vibram FiveFingers Bikilas. They are comfy, cover my whole foot and although they caused blisters at first, once I learned about moleskin and my runs were much more smooth while my feet were less guarded, more free.

Heading off to Europe with my man, I found that the Bikilas were more compact to pack than regular sneakers. While in Germany I introduced them to new soil and took them for a relaxing 5m run in the forest. A leaf-covered trail was just perfect with soft ground beneath my feet and cool air to greet me. Such a refreshing morning. A few days later I went on my favorite run ever – a 7m run with the halfway point crossing the bridge at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Now, I'm pain free, taking care of my feet, my feet are taking care of me and my body is getting older but feeling none of the aches it should with all the running I do. Strapping on my Bikilas and heading out for a 4m run with my 2-year-old dog, Griffin, is just what I need in the morning. The feeling that I can fly along with the quietness of the world waking up gets my days started.

When will your feet be free? 

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