I’ve been a runner on and off probably all my life. Never anything serious and I’ve never entered a race. Previously I’d never had any fancy running shoes and pretty much just did it in standard cheap trainers. Then I moved to London three years ago. I found myself surrounded by many runners who all had very fancy running shoes (and the rest of the high-tech kit that goes with them).
So this time when I decided to get back into running I went and booked myself for a session on a treadmill at a running shop to be filmed and have my gait examined. This was so that I could get some “prescription” shoes to help me stay injury free. It all sounded very good, very scientific. It made sense. I was happy to shell out £130. This was an investment in my health after all.
So I started running again. In no time I’d built my distance up to 10k, which takes me about 50 minutes. This is a distance I’m comfortable with and can easily do 3 times a week. I’m not really bothered about running further than this and I’ve no plans to do a marathon.
However the party didn’t last long as although I had no knee problems (which I’d had previous hence getting the prescription shoes), I found that I was having great pain in my right heel, especially when I first got up in the morning. It didn’t seem to affect my running though, so I carried on, thought I could just run through it.
But the pain didn’t abate, so eventually I went to see a podiatrist. He diagnosed Planter Fasciitis and gave me some insoles that I was to wear until the pain went away. He also told me to stop running and gave me an stretching programme to follow. The insoles had extra arch support and also altered the camber of my feet to tilt them outwards. I wore these for about 4 months, stopped running and waited for my feet to get better. They didn’t, if anything they got worse. I was very disappointed and thought I’d never be able to run again.
Then I went on a two week holiday to Goa. As I would be wearing just sandals or nothing at all on my feet I couldn’t see the point in taking my insoles with me, as they’d look silly with my sandals. The next two weeks were spent walking beaches barefoot and everywhere else in my flat soled (un-padded) sandals. I had a wonderful relaxing time and forgot about most things going on in life – just what a holiday should be.
It was only on returning home and seeing the insoles that I’d left behind that I realised that I was no longer having any pain in my heels when I first got up in the morning. In fact there was no pain at all from my foot. The plantar fasciitis seemed to be in retreat, or even gone. But how could this be? I’d just spent two weeks not doing my stretching, not wearing my insoles and for the most part walking around without any shoes on at all. This wasn’t right, was it?
I looked for answers online, but all I found was many other runners with the same ailment and no solution. It looked like I was going to have to live with plantar fasciitis for the rest of my life and learn to manage it.
A few weeks later I happened to be watching Something For The Weekend on BBC1 when they featured a pair of Vivobarefoot running shoes. This was the lightbulb moment when I first heard the phrase “barefoot running”. I went straight online and soon learned that barefoot running wasn’t just about running with no shoes on, it was more about a completely different style of running. A style that many suggested was the natural form of human locomotion. That was until 1972 when Nike invented the cushioned running shoe and made it possible to run with a longer stride, landing on your heal instead of the ball of your foot. I was born in 1970, so I’ve never known anything different. I had to try this out.