Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reporting: Nothing Much

Not much to report. I've been getting more busy at work, which means less time to run. I am not an early morning person, so its hard for me to get up in the dark hours of the morning and go running. Besides, its a lot colder out at that time. I did get up a couple of times last week, and only went for about 4 miles each time.

When running barefoot was a new and daring thing for me, I had a lot more to share. Now it has gotten pretty mundane and I don't report as much.

I'm finding that it is a lot easier for me to run a 6 to 10 mile run. I used to be proud as buttons to be able to run that far. Now its kind of routine. I ran a 14.5 mile run on my birthday a few weeks back, which was the longest I've run in a long time. Usually my runs are around 4 to 10 miles each. My technique has settled down fairly well so that I can pretty much run abrasion free. Sometimes if I get lazy, I still get a rubbed spot on the outside of my left big toe. I decided its because it just turns downward a little bit. Not much I can do about that, except put a bandaid on it if I'm worried about it getting worn.

I went out yesterday for a very nice 6.5 mile run in the sun. It was brisk outside at about 50 degrees but was still very nice out. I planned on running the whole distance without walking, which I figured should keep me warm enough, so I wore my running shorts, not my long pants. It was pretty chilly in the shady spots, but I survived.

Some time ago I bought a cute running hat with a small LED light in the front. It barely casts enough light to see where I am going in the dark -- not bright enough to see the little bits of stone that might be on sidewalks, but bright enough to see if I am stepping into a hole or something. Sometimes I turn it on just so I can be seen better by cars.

Its interesting to see the weather turning colder, making me have to bundle up more. People who see me almost always ask me "Aren't you COLD?" I wipe the sweat off my brow and tell them I'm cooking! One time I said, "Yeah - I sure wish I had some gloves!" My feet don't suffer much from the cold. I think they have adjusted with an increased blood supply or something.

I'm just rambling here... feeling guilty for not contributing any new posts for a long time.

Last night I found that I can post my running route on and then view it using Google Earth. Thats pretty cool and it can give somewhat of an idea of what my routes look like. Still, I think it would be nice to have some kind of head-mounted mini-camera that I could film my running routes. I wouldn't want to film the entire run, but it would be cool if the camera could be set up to snap a forward photo every 5 seconds or so. That series of pictures would combine into a kind of motion picture of my running route.

Oh - my old running barefoot shirts I made a couple of years ago were wearing thin and fading, so I made two new ones. One is the same as before "It Takes Balls to Run Barefoot!" and the other one says, "Why Barefoot?" and I list ten reasons. My favorite reasons are "Designed by God!" and "Animal friendly - Earth friendly!"

I better log-off and get busy.

Happy trails (with few sharp rocks) to you!


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Shoeless in Seattle!

Last Tuesday found me up in Seattle with some time on my hands, so I changed into my comfort clothes and went out for a run along the Alaskan Way waterfront. It has a very nice sidewalk running past piers, stores, shops, and lots of people. It leads straight into a nice waterfront park with its own paved pedestrian path. The path was a little rough in places and I
was tempted to jump over to the bicycle path, which looked smoother. But I would probably get in trouble for obstructing bicyclists.

I did a turnaround at the end of the park and was headed back when I saw a gravel path leading up and over the railroad tracks, past a bunch of interesting sculptures. Since I wanted to go in that way, I braved the gravel incline, zig-zagged around the sculptures, and went down the other side - also on a gravel path. I then worked my way up to the Space Needle and ran around its park a little bit.

One cute thing I saw. A little girl about 6 or 7 was standing there with her mother. She was staring at me with big, round eyes of wonderment. Her mother had her dressed in a coat, hat and gloves even though it was 55 degrees out. When I made eye contact with the girl, she suddenly grinned a big toothless smile and waved enthusiastically at me. I swear that kids just "know" that running barefoot is a lot more fun.

I headed back down towards the waterfront and saw that a very long train was blocking my progress. So I headed back up the same gravel path as before and down the gravel path on the other side. Kind of ouchy, but not too bad.

My impression is that Seattle-ites aren’t as barefoot friendly as Portland-ites. I got quite a few comments while running, many not favorable. The friendliest comments came from the street-people camped out along the way. Maybe they felt sorry for me that I couldn’t find any shoes.

Total distance, seven miles.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Some Thoughts on Pain for New Barefoot Runners

1) Switching to running barefoot causes a lot more changes that just on the surface of the sole of the foot. There are lots of interconnected bones, tendons, and ligaments throughout the foot. When you switch to BF, these are suddenly called into play after being mostly dormant and atrophied from being in restrictive shoes for years. Like Ken says, try wearing a cast on your arm for 12 months and then see how strong your arm is when you take it out.

So your pains could be the inside structures of your foot adjusting to the new uses demanded of them. At first, your foot is likely to respond with some cramping and pain - trying to resist the changes. This is why you want to start BF running slowly and build up gradually - let those bones strengthen and those tendons stretch.

2) Also, shoes have a tendency to deform the shape and structure of the foot components. These need to readjust and move to new positions, sometimes, which can be painful. (Ever wear braces on your teeth?) My feet have gotten wider and flatter (laterally) and my arches have increased (axially). Yes, bones can move and tendons can adjust their length, but they complain in the process. If you push the changes too hard or too fast, you can end up with stress fractures, so be careful and don't over-do it!

3) There is correct BF form and incorrect BF form. Bad form causes more pain and problems than correct form does. After running with a certain form in shoes for years, your form does not magically change just because you kick off the shoes. The pain in your feet might be the result of some lingering elements of bad form. Study the basics of proper BF form and practice them. Sometimes its harder to re-train the brain than it is to re-train the feet and legs! My own challenge has been to remember to place my feet *beneath* my center -- not out in front, and to keep my knees *bent*.

Early on, I noticed that I kept drifting back to my poor form ways. To overcome that, I had to toss out any idea of running fast or far at first. I would start a run by literally just running in place, freezing in my brain that feeling of BOF placement beneath my body, bent knees, etc. -- then gradually leaning into it to get forward movement. As long as I could keep that same feeling as running in place, I kept on going. But as soon as I noticed I was putting my feet too far out in front, I would stop, and begin the process all over - running in place, etc. This way I was not practicing running with bad form; I was forcing myself to run with better form by interrupting the bad stuff.

Lately, I remember to place my feet beneath my body by telling myself that I need to step within my shadow at high noon. It might not be high noon and I might not have a shadow, but I know where it would be and where I should place my feet. Even when running faster, and my legs are lifting backwards higher and my knees are driving forward with more intensity, I still place my feet beneath my body. That is the 'happy zone.'

Still running and loving it!! -- Ryan

Monday, October 15, 2007

Foot Placement

The question has come up in the past about the best foot placement to follow. I sometimes feel that I am running with my feet placed on parallel lines (like the left side on my diagram below), but sometimes I wonder if they should be placed on one center line, like the right side. Sometimes I do run along one line, like when I'm running on top of a curb or on a painted fog line. I'll have to experiment and see what difference it makes.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

How I Lace My Huarache Sandals

I 'Gimped' up a simple drawing to show my new tying method. Here it is:

Sunday, October 07, 2007

New T-Shirt

My home-made t-shirt has pretty much worn out after several years of use. So I made a new one, pretty much the same. Here are some pictures of the new one:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Huarache Sandals

A fellow-barefoot runner has run with the Tuharamara (sp?) Indians down in Mexico and discovered their ultra-simple sandals they make. He copied their style and explains how to make your own sandals on his website,

I think he posted somewhere about the straps wearing out on the sides where they go through the soles, so I came up with some little tabs on my design for the straps to go through in such a way they never come in contact with the ground.

The side tabs are positioned just in front of the ankle bones. I made my tabs a little wider than necessary. I may move the hole closer to the bottom of the sandal and keep the tabs smalled - but then, I might not. I figure if they are a little longer, they will bend easier. So maybe I'll just leave them the way they are.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

More on Barefoot Running Form

I found some photos of runners which show very well the correct running form I mentioned in my earlier post. Here they are. A picture is worth . . .


Pictures (Top to Bottom)
1. Ken Bob Saxton
2. Rick Roeber
3. Ted McDonald (in Vibram 5-Fingers)
4. Brett Williams
5. Zola Budd

Monday, July 02, 2007

More Thoughts on Running Form

A new barefoot runner posted in that he sustained a stress fracture in his foot because he was trying to land on the balls of his feet without changing the rest of his form. Ouch! This is why it is so essential to change the whole running form, not just how your feet contact the ground! Here is what I wrote in response to his post:

Hello and congratulations!

You have been very effectively "taught" by your foot how NOT to run!
Barefoot running education may be free, but not without costs, sometimes.

I also suffered a stress fracture in my left foot almost identical to yours - I was doing the same (wrong) thing by trying to land "ball" first without changing the rest of my running form. This happened to me just about 7 or 8 months into my barefoot running career. I was 50 years old at the time and, like you, had to "un-learn" many years of wrong running form.

My advice, now, to you is this: Let the foot heal completely, expect 8 to 10 weeks for this. Don't push it at all during this time!

After your foot has completely healed, start back to using it very slowly. The most important thing is to NOT repeat the process that got you injured in the first place!

Yes, you can learn to run barefoot correctly. The hardest thing for me was (and is) to release from my MIND my old running form and force my new running form in its place.

When you are completely healed, I suggest you try this:

Run in place, barefoot, for some period of time before actually moving forward. The reason -- you cannot land wrong on your feet while running in place. In fact, I challenge anyone who wants to try it, to really try landing heel-first while running in place! Good luck!

While running in place, don't push off with your forefeet. Think about lifting your entire foreleg by lifting your thigh and knee straight up. Notice that your shins stay at a nearly vertical angle each time you put your foot down. Experiment with bending your knees. What happens when you bend your knees MORE than you think is necessary? Notice how easy and natural it is to land forefoot? Notice the nice stretch in your Achilles?

Implant in your mind the feel of this running form. Close your eyes and imagine you are running miles upon miles over hills and highways while using only this form. You are trying to re-train your brain to forget your old form and to accept a different form of running.

When you are ready to actually start going forward, don't change a thing about your foot and leg action. The only thing you need to change is where your hips are in relation to your shins. While running in place, your hips and torso are pretty much directly above your (nearly vertical) shins. To move forward, let your hips and torso be a little more in front of your shins. Keep knees bent. You're moving forward! Yay!

Good running form feels a little precarious at first, as if you are balancing on the edge of a forward fall. This is because your body's center of gravity IS balanced on the forward edge of your comfort zone. If you hold that feeling while running, you will have many hours and miles of smooth, effortless running in store.

As soon as you feel your form start to change (your brain is getting in the way) STOP. The problem is, IF you let your brain convince you to move more into a 'protective spot' -- that is, relaxing your form so your torso is comfortably and 'safely' in the middle of your strides -- you will no longer be running easy and your feet will take a beating for sure! You WANT to be at the leading edge of your forward stride. So correct your brain: Run in place a little bit, and start to press your hips and torso ahead of your shins again. Allow yourself to LOVE that precarious position.

I think of the difference between running in the correct zone and the incorrect zone in terms of triangles. Imagine your hip is the top point of a triangle (looking from the side), your forward foot is the front point and your rearward foot is the back point.

Poor form wants to balance your top point in the middle of the front and back points - a 'solid' 'safe' position, but terrible for your feet. In this 'solid' position, your front foot blocks your forward movement and you have to pull and push your body weight forward with your legs to get your center over the spot where your front foot first slammed down.

Correct barefoot form tips the triangle forward so the top point is over the front point and the rear point is somewhere up in the air. It feels precarious. But its very easy to lightly place your foot directly beneath your torso and you keep moving forward without any push-off. With your knee bent, your 'front' foot is naturally and effortlessly placed BHB without forcing it.

So, to run barefoot easily and safely for your feet, joints and muscles, learn to run inside of that forward, precarious balance position.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Diet Experiments

We got a book called The PH Miracle which talks about how diet can control your body's PH levels for optimal health. One of the things they talked about was eating a green salad for breakfast!
I thought that sounded really weird and not very appetizing so I didn't think much of it.

Then I read an account about a guy who went and lived with the Tuaharamara Indians in Mexico to see how they can go on long (150) mile footraces and not even seem tired. They broke all the rules of health. The night before the race, they smoke, drank booze, stayed up all night partying, and at the crack of dawn took off running and didn't stop until the following morning. Sometimes their races can go on for a couple of days. What was the secret to their amazing endurance? One of the things was what they ate for breakfast. This caught my attention. They ate a green salad each morning! They also chewed on corn soaked in water, kind of like an all-day munchie food.

So that clinched it for me. Last Friday morning, I helped myself to a large green salad for breakfast - nothing else. I thought I would be starving by 10:00. I went the whole day on just that salad and I felt absolutely fine. I skipped lunch because I went on a 10 mile run instead. I have had nothing but salads for breakfast every day since, and every day I have felt just fine. Well, today I am feeling a little hungy. Its 3:00 p.m., no lunch yet, and I just got back from a 9 mile run. I think some fruit would be nice, so I'll go get something soon.

I am going to continue with this salad for breakfast thing for a time and see how it goes. So far I am very much impressed with it!

Grazing for breakfast...


What A Difference Form Makes

After doing a lot of moaning and groaning about how sore my feet have been the past couple of weeks, today I 'went back to basics' and really focused on maintaining my form. What a difference using good form makes!

I completed a 9.1 mile course without any problems at all - in fact, I felt like I could have just kept running forever. Where before I felt bruising and hypersensitivity, today I felt warmth and a happy tingling in my feet. I seemed to just glide over rough spots, and I was unaware of the passage of time.

So, even though I probably sounded like a "moaning Susan" when talking about my runs the past couple of weeks, today's run more than made up for all of the sorry, pitiful runs I had recently.

The main difference was that I really made sure I was putting my feet down beneath me, not even a little bit out in front, and keeping my stride close to the center line. I experimented with taking short steps, high steps, low steps, high back leg lifts, etc. and none of it seemed to make much difference. The key was "center down" foot placement. I noticed that doing a high rear leg lift along with a higher knee lift in front, while still doing a center-down foot placement, made my forward speed pick up quite a bit.

It was a fantastic run for me. The wind blew, the rain came down hard at times, the sun came out and dried up all the water, it hailed, it blew some more, and we ended with a hard downpour and thunder. What a rush!

At the end of the run my feet not only felt more than fine, they tingled like they were ready to get out and go again!

Big NW Smiles


Friday, February 16, 2007

Still Learning

Running barefoot has been such a challenge to me! But a very enjoyable and rewarding one.

I've been thinking about why my feet still suffer from abrasions while running. Something in my form is still not right. I've narrowed it down to two things: 1) I'm still trying to place my feet too far in front of my body; 2) I am allowing my trailing foot to remain on the ground too long.

I just checked out Nicholas Romanov's POSE running site and learned that he recommends a quick lift of the trailing foot, getting it off the ground immediately! I have definitely been letting mine trail behind me too much, probably causing a "pulling-forward" scuff. I have also felt that I allow my legs to go too straight, probably connected with leaving my feet against the ground too long. If I keep my knee bent and pull my foot upwards immediately after each step, I should (hopefully) be able to eliminate the abrasions I have been suffering.

My heel pads and the pads over the outside edge of my feet have built up very nicely and are quite strong. But I cannot seem to develop similar pads over the balls of my feet because of the abrasion problems. I hope by employing faster foot lifting to reduce abrasions and then build up more padding on the balls of my feet.

Happily running


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Still Running

I am still running, although at reduced distances than in the past. I've been letting my left toe heal up. I ran 29.5 miles total a couple of weeks ago, then I only ran 19.5 miles last week. Last week my second run was 13 miles, a new PR for distance!! I felt very achy throughout much of the run, probably because it was pretty cold and windy out and I did not wear long pants. I'm sure my form was not up to par which probably contributed.

This week I have gone out two times, but only 4 miles each run. I'm thinking about doing a longer run today, 12 miles maybe? Its cool out, kind of rainy (drizzly is a better term) and some winds, so I'll have to gauge my running accordingly.

Happy trails!

Astronaut Antics

This news report about Lisa Marie Nowak has got me thinking. What a great opportunity for Depends! They ought to fund her defense team. I can see a whole course of new ads appearing on TV.

A desperate, haggard looking lady is driving down a lonely highway late at night, piles of fast food wrappers and pop bottles strewn about her car. Scene changes, she is still driving, piles of wrappers and bottles getting larger as time passes. Mile post signs whizzing by: 350 miles, 495 miles, 631 miles, 849 miles. As she passes mile post 900, a voice-over announces: "Depends! They keep on working when you got to keep going!"

Just a thought.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

I sent Nancy Pelosi the following letter by email:

I just learned about the anti-Bush protesters who sprayed graffiti on the US Capitol steps. The Capitol police were ordered to stand back and allow the anarchists to commit criminal acts in their presence. Since the Capitol police act under your direction, how can you justify giving such an order?

In your new precedent-setting position you are under the strictest public scrutiny. Protesters can certainly voice their opposition to our President but criminals are NOT allowed to deface our nation's capitol building! Allowing criminals to run rampant and intentionally do nothing to stop them when it was in your power to act is tantamount to being in complicity with them. Do you really want your name and office associated with a criminal conspiracy?

This looks very bad for you. Shame on you for preventing the Capitol police from doing their job! They were there and ready to act but their hands were tied by orders from your office. Shame on you for putting your petty political bias before the integrity and respect of the institution of our United States! Shame on you for allowing yourself to be seen as a vacillating woman reluctant to exercise the power she holds to defend the honor of our Nation! I am frankly very surprised that you would so easily allow your name to be tainted by consenting to such a stupid act of violence.

I hope you buck up and improve the position of your office before the nation regrets your abuse of your new position of power.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Reporting In

Funny how I feel the need to "report in" to my blog here. I feel like I'm writing only to myself, but still, just in case...

I went on a long cold run in December and got hit with snow and sleet on the way back, making my feet numb from the cold. That's to be expected, nothing much to worry about. However, I must have stepped on a little baddy and got something in my left big toe. I thought I had just bruised it or gotten a regular blister. So I waited an appropriate length of time for it to heal, kept it bandaged, etc. Only it wasn't healing very well.

Okay, I thought, it must have been deeper than I thought. Give it more time, etc. More time went by and still it remained very sore and tender. It affected the way I walked and I had to severely reduce my running, although I did venture out a couple of time with the toe bandaged up nicely. During one run it actually felt pretty good, but later on I noticed what appeared to be a deep blister that had broken open. So I removed the dead skin around the edges and saw a little piece of glass sitting in there. Ahah! The culprit!

I removed the piece of glass easily and thought it would heal up quickly now. Only it was still very sore and tender despite all the Neosporin and bandaging. One night I lay in bed and it was throbbing. That told me one thing -- infection and pressure. Sure enough, it had partially healed over the top but was still festering inside. Once again I opened it all up, removed the dead skin, and this time got serious about clearing this thing up. I drenched it with tincture of Iodine, bracing for the sting which never came. For the next week, I kept on changing the bandaids and respotting it with Iodine. Finally, it is starting to feel better! I feel like it is healing properly.

On Monday this week I went out for a 4 mile run, but I felt so good it ended up being 7.5 miles! Skipped Tuesday and went out again yesterday (Wednesday) for a longer run of 10 miles. I felt the effects of not running much these past 3 or 4 weeks! Stiffness , muscle fatigue and harder to keep in my proper running form.

Today, Thursday, I'm considering if I want to run again. The ambitious part of me says, Yes! Keep pushing yourself to gain more strength and endurance, gain back what you have lost. The lazy part of me says, No! You must rest after yesterday's run. Maybe I'll compromise and only run a short 4 miler (ha-ha, like I did last time?)

I am going to see if I can be ready to run a marathon on April 14th in SLC. I'll have to get my miles up and my form down to be ready for that!!

That just inspired a cute saying, "To get your miles UP you must get your form DOWN!"


Monday, January 01, 2007

Review of my Barefoot Running Career

I began running barefoot in August 2004 as recovery from a very painful and debilitating bout of plantar faciitis. My running developed from a "zero" level and progressed very slowly. I was up to running a couple of miles at a time by March, 2005 when I got a stress fracture in my left foot. So I had to take about 10 weeks off for that to heal. It left me with some toes on my left foot that are no longer straight. I picked up my running again in June, 2005 and have been steadily building since then.

I've had to overcome my brain which kept on imposing its own idea of how running should be. This has taken a long time to overcome. So my running in 2005 was very spotty, lots of foot abrasions, setbacks, and disappointments. My longest runs were about 4 to 5 miles with the need to rest and heal after nearly every one. Despite the difficulties, I have actually enjoyed running barefoot very, very much! I have felt my deeper foot structures strengthening and developing along the way.

In 2006 I was determined to figure it out - to get it right! So I re-examined my running form and really concentrated on practicing pure correctness, so my body could overpower my brain. It has been working. I have focused on key form habits that I needed to develop and each time my running has improved. By the end of 2006 I have finally been able to run with very little to no foot abrasions at all, which means I have been able to start pushing my distances up. This has allowed me to develop my cardio-vascular conditioning as well as strengthen my running muscles -- thighs, calves, hips, back, etc.

My running development took one small downturn one month ago with a piece of glass in a toe that developed a very deep blister around it and then got infected (because I kept running on it). So I finally got to the bottom of it, got the glass out, and have been healing. I have run very little for the past couple of weeks because of it.

This last week I only ran 6 miles, a test run which went very well. But I still felt I should rest and recover some more so I have been taking it easy!

My goal in 2007 is to build steadily upon my current levels, develop more cardio-vascular and muscle strength, then to run more races, including 1/2 marathons and marathons! I want to travel and run with other barefooters, too.

Looking forward to 2007 - a very good year!