I follow your site and blog and your writings have been a powerful influence in getting me to start running again at age 48. After many years and many injuries I finally heeded to the doctors’ advice that “running causes injuries” and “running is not for everyone.” Doctors and experts told me that I was an “overpronator” and suffered from “patella misalignment,” and that the combination of these two so-called conditions made me unfit for running.
Only recently, after accidentally stumbling into an article about minimalist shoes I started researching into this topic. I’ve been running again for two months trying to follow the advice of Danny Dreyer and Barefoot Ken Bob (I own both books) plus information on sites like yours (By the way, your videos showing your stride are priceless). I run exclusively either barefoot or in FiveFingers.
In two months I’ve changed my landing from heel to forefoot, beaten plantar fascitis and completely avoided knee pain. Amazing. I’m so excited that I think I may have been running too much, so now I’m keeping a log and measuring my routes .
All through my adaptation period I’ve dealt with sore calves, but it’s the “good” soreness, the one that comes from your muscles working, not from injury. Yet recently I started feeling some discomfort in my Achilles tendon and I immediately slowed down my training as I remember a friend developing a painful long-term tendinitis. A local doctor said that I need to move away from zero-drop shoes and consider higher heels and inserts… so I think I’ll go looking for another doctor.
Anyway, I don’t think this is medical, I think this is a form issue. Could you please, if possible, share with me some tips to reduce the impact of my new running technique on my tendons? I apologize if this is not the right way to ask a question for the “Ask Experts” section, but I couldn’t find other way to do it. Whether you find the time to answer my question or not, thanks for your attention and for taking the time to educate runners on healthy running.
P.M., Dallas, TX
Dr. Mark responds:
Ccongrats on your journey into learning and discovery. Yes the very progressive approach is important; you are loading things in the correct way now but many of your structures need retraining and gradual applied stress to achieve adaptation without overuse.
Many get what Ken Bob describes as the “Barefoot Exuberance” syndrome sine you are feeling free again. What you do outside of running is critically important. get in a very thin flat shoe for work and chuck the desk chair. Have a stand up desk and as you work do some one leg balance and even use a slant board to do some gentle stretching of calf/Achilles. Over weeks and months this gets your whole kinetic chain and core strong.
On gait. follow the Chi/Ken Bob advice: really light and soft short strides. There is nothing called too slow. I train really easy and slow. This lets me wake up wanting to run the next day.Let me know your progress. And yes….the doctors are your worst enemy.
Dr. Steve Gangemi aka Sock Doc responds:
Good to hear you’re back into running despite what others wanted you to believe. Well done! Many people who have run (and walked) improperly for so long due to poor gait mechanics and improper footwear have developed a shortening of their Achilles tendon. So now that you’re running in very minimalist shoes and barefoot those tendons are going to slowly, and naturally, elongate themselves out. You definitely do not want to go back to high heels or inserts, as you have already figured out.
There are two main ways I’d recommend you reduce the impact. First, don’t over-do your new barefoot gait by running too much, too fast. If your Achilles are starting to hurt, you need to back off a bit either in distance or use the VFFs more than barefoot. Second, look for trigger points in the calf muscles and vigorously work them out, as I show in my Achilles Tendonitis video. That will reduce the strain on your Achilles significantly. Do not look for trigger points in your Achilles, but the actual calf muscles. It will be tender in the Achilles but you will just aggravate the problem. This is the link between your sore calves and your Achilles discomfort. The muscles are overworked, and now your Achilles is having to work way too hard. So correct it now before it gets worse.