Hi - this thread is about transferring to barefoot running (well, actually minimalist shoes) to help an achilles / ankle problem longer term - and whether that's sensible or not!
There's a lot of info to take in here so please bear with me. Hopefully some of the info i'm giving (from my physios) might help some people out there with the same problem too.
I started running c.2yrs ago and did my 2nd half marathon last September. I noticed soreness in my achilles in the mornings & at the start of runs after running the half (maybe came on during the build-up training, I can't remember). I went to a physio and they told me to stop running, which I did. She felt the problem was an ankle sprain the previous year contributed to a lack of dorsiflexion (stiff ankle joint) as I couldnt get my knee to the wall easily even with my toes against it; but also stiff calf muscles.
I stopped running & it improved but I have built up slowly to 15-20miles per week and i'm back where I started with the stiff achilles in the mornings & at the start of runs.
Back to a new physio who says the same as the first. I have decided to cut down to <10miles per week (3x3mile runs) but feel very frustrated by that. I have to do lots of calf lowers, calf raises (raise on strong side, lower on weak side), and ankle joint stretches for improving dorsiflexion.
Having reads lots about achilles & ankle joint movement on the Net and in this forum.. I decided some of the issues might be coming from the way I run & the shoes I run in. I wear Nike Structure for mild/moderation over-pronation. So I just had gait analysis at a running shop & it seems I don't heel strike at all, i'm a forefoot runner. I am also way over-striding. I haven't had a chance to update my physio since as she's away - so anyone know if this could cause the problems?
So i'm thinking of switching to minimalist trainers (sort of barefoot running but not quite) - in fact I already bought some Merrels. This will suit the way I run anyway, and allow my ankle to move more naturally where as my current trainers allow it to be lazy.
This is great for my running gait and my ankle (hopefully) but what about my achilles?
I am worried it will make it worse! I don't want to risk making my achilles worse as I know that's the only reason the physio is telling me to limit my running.
I know I have to build up slowly with these shoes - I did 3mins (literally) on the treadmill in them today.
Any advice would be much appreciated. Otherwise, I hope some of my info helps someone out there.
...here's the thing.
If you've got an injury due to poor form or poor control or poor stability in a part of your body well away from where you feel you symptoms, simply swapping shoes and/or altering technique is not goign to be a whole lotta help.
As you've seen a few physios and haven't got better with them treating your achilles/foot, then I very much doubt you've got a problem down there.....
Get proper stability, not a different running stylee....
Don't just change to barefoot running without any proper coaching - the style and cadence is quite different from running in ordinary trainers.
vivobarefoot are a good company and have qualified coaches - i had a clinic with one and felt it was money well spent. I could never have guessed all that he told me about technique etc
OK this makes total sense now.
I have a slight leg length discrepency (only 5mm) on the same side as the injury. This slightly tilts my hips/shoulder on the left side & I get neck & lower back pain. I menioned this to my physio last time as I wondered whether it may be the source of injury but now I am wondering even more.
I will check this out. Thank you for your help.
Chandl3r -- Body weight excercises are all you need, it may be worth attempt to locate a local body balance class (yoga, pilates, Tai chi) - I really find that this type of class helps my flexability, core strength and stability which works well for me.
Personally I think Six Physio is giving you solid advise, I had knee issues which nobody could resolve untill I had a full and propper biometric assement which Identified a week hip, solving this resolved my issues. You need to take a sensible approach towards addressing issues, ramdom acts such as changing shoes rarely improves things long term.
I hope your condition cleared up. Would be good to find out.
My opinion on your predicament is as follows:
It is very simple to fix this to be honest with you but no amount of chatting on a forum can better a one to one session with a good coach.
The VIVOBAREFOOT shoes and coaching philosophy work very well indeed. I am a certified VIVO coach and I have to say what I learned was truly a revelation.
If you continue to have problems I would advise you to go to the VIVOBAREFOOT coaching clinic site and seek out a coach near you. It will change the way you run and with a bit of determination and persistence from yourself you will make permanent and quite dramatic improvement to your running technique and look forward to running without fear of recurrent injury.
That's great news! Lack of mobility in the ankle is a common one. It's usually easy to fix too, you just need to keep doing those exercises to maintain the range of movement and to get your calf/achilles to relax/lengthen enough to work correctly.
Sounds like you have also fixed the other problems of over striding and landing on forefoot deliberately which is good.
When you get chance though, I'd still recommend you spend a bit of time with a coach because they can make absolutely sure you are running with good posture and the way VIVO works, you get instant feedback and a very simple way of maintaining that posture.
Really good to hear you have recovered and made positive changes!
Feel free to get in touch if you want/need any advice going forward.
As the previous have posted, I would sort out mechanics of how you run before changing shoes... fix the underlying issue.
Over-striding is asking for injury... as with every footfall the lower kinetic chain has to deal with the ground reaction force until your centre of mass catches it up. Get your feet underneath your body more.
A tip for keeping cadence up is to mentally count 3 footstrikes every second. So in your head say 1-thousand, 2-thousand etc and you should have done 6 steps.
CHAND3£R: Shorter strides. Try concentrating on the cadence not on the stride length. Land with your foot right underneath you, not out in front at all. I average 190/minute; I find it easiest to count for every left-right so I generally hit a count of 95/minute. You might find it easist first to try this slower than you usually run. You can find metronome sites online - I set my laptop up near the treadmill initially, playing a 180 metronome beat loudly - I'm sure you can get one for an mp3 player. Or you can buy an electronic metronome - there are some fairly cheap on the web, but check they'll do 180 - some only do set speeds and 180 isn't one of them.
Chandl3r, getting to the 180 (guidline) is easy if you posture is good. It is difficult to maintain if you have postural issues because one helps the other. Good posture helps you to position the body in the optimum way for good rhythm.
180spm isn't hard and fast either. mostly for endurance running expect it to fall between 175 to 185.
Metronomes help greatly for you to understand what you have to do with your legs to get them to fall into the beat at different running speeds.
With regard to overstriding: don't try not to overstride because conscious effort interrupts the subconscious act of running - it slows things down and that will cause over striding!
Posture is key but ten minutes with a good coach and you would see what I mean.
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