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Entries in barefoot running (3)

Sunday
Oct012017

foam rolling 

My shin splints returned. In a way this was a good thing because I've been working on my breathing so I can't run like I used to and it motivated me to get into the habit of foam rolling.

Here's a YouTube video tutorial (someone else's) on rolling out the shins. It's a really good technique for injury prevention, improving short-term range of motion and mobility.

Foam rolling effects deep myo-fascial release as seen in these before & after stills by Rock Tape:

 

 

What you're seeing in the second photo is space between layers of fascia where lymph is free to flow. Powerful therapy! Rock Tape performs a lot of research on best methods. They recommend longer time spent foam rolling post-workout, when your muscles are warmed and worked, than for pre-workout, when your muscles are relatively tight. It's akin to starting superficial and getting deeper as a massage progresses.

 

 

The foam rolling was great at managing my shin splints but I discovered that I was placing my right foot wrong. I remembered that, back in the day, my dance teacher would instruct me to evert while pointing my feet, to overcome a natural over-inversion. I tried doing this while running, paying particular attention to my right foot strike. I'm still having to pay attention as I haven't completely habituated to the new practice, but my shin splints are completely resolved rather than managed. Foot strike rules again!!!

Friday
Sep222017

foot to core sequencing

What do feet have to do with one's core?? Turns out, everything; it all starts at the feet. The most functional movement humans do is walk. If our parts are aligned and neuro-muscularly coordinated we walk and work with ease and without pain. There is a sequence to neuro-muscular firing that is essential to this coordination.  Think of a string of fire crackers each causing the next to ignite. That's efficient. If you had to keep lighting every couple fire crackers you'd get frustrated and you wouldn't get the same effects.

So here's how it works:

We must have enough inversion of the foot in order to effect external rotation of the tibia which, in turn, causes internal rotation of the femur, activates the glutes, then initiates firing of psoas, pelvic floor and respiratory diaphragm. It's a neuro-muscular firing cascade that happens from the ground to the core by virtue of our feet impacting the ground.

We also must have enough eversion of the foot, have enough ankle dorsiflexion and be able to get over our big toe in order to effect adequate propulsion. A number of compensations reveal any inadequacies--walking with feet pointed outward, rolling the feet, twisting the leg, throwing the leg to the side or picking up the foot early. Have bunions? or flat feet? They're the result of compensations.

Neuro-muscular firing initiates while we are anticipating where to place our foot, even before the step is taken. There's an unconcious planning that takes place in walking (and running), one that either serves us well or has become a pathological habit. People who have been raised shod have more foot, ankle and leg injuries than people raised barefoot because the sensory ability of the small, intrinsic nerves of the feet have been dampened. A shod foot trying to walk is like a ear trying to hear underwater--distorted and unsure.

Getting some barefoot time in each day can re-awaken those small, instrinsic nerves, improving balance and proprioception while protecting you from injury over the long term. Many runners who change from shod to barefoot, or minimalist, get injured because they try too much too soon. It takes some time for the nerves to waken and for your body to adjust to using your muscles in new ways. Take it very slow and gradually decrease your shoe's support over time.

Check out Harvard's website on "Biomechanical Differences Between Different Foot Strikes" for more, really cool information.

Saturday
Aug042012

Barefoot running & knee/leg problems

For four years I tried to start running only to be waylaid by shin splints. I would cease training to allow them to heal and then try again, only to continue the cycle. I bought better running shoes (which made a difference but did not solve my problems), massaged and needled (acupuncture) my legs and practiced various stretches and exercises. But each time I tried to start up again, I would succomb to the shin splints. I have also experienced a disturbing lack of control over my left foot when my leg muscles seized up, usually around the second mile. I was unable to lift my left foot voluntarily. It wasn't painful and if I slowed down I could run through it, but it couldn't be healthy.

A friend told me about the research that was being conducted at Harvard University on barefoot running. Careful scrutiny and measurement from video of people running reveal that people raised in cultures where shoes are not worn never heel strike. They land on either the balls of their feet or in the midfoot and then roll through their feet. They also never complain of knee and low back pain associated with their running. Apparently the heel strike is unnatural, caused by the improper alignment of the foot to the rest of the body while in supported shoes, and it sends an enormous force through the joints.

I started toe striking last year. It took conscious effort in the beginning but I quickly adapted. I'm still in my supported running shoes, but just changing my foot strike solved my leg issues permenantly--no more shin splints and no more lazy foot. I hope to transition further toward the unsupported slippers over the next year. Transition is imperative as changing one's foot strike requires use of different muscles and one can sustain significant injury without a slow, deliberate transition.