PF, Goa and Richmond

adam Uncategorized 4 Comments

I’ve had a running hiatus of around 16 months; my how the time has flown. I won’t bore you with the reasons for this gap; suffice to say that it wasn’t intentional, it was circumstances in my personal life to blame (having a mad girlfriend, if you must know). But now I’m back on the wagon again, and have just completed my first month of running each morning.

But before I tell you about that, let me first fill you in on a few discoveries first.

My barefoot running journey, this blog, and this website all started with a few unrelated things happening:

  • Being diagnosed with Planter Facetious [PF] (7 June 2011)
  • Taking a holiday in Goa (Nov/Dec 2011)
  • Seeing a feature on a TV program (7 January 2012)

I noticed after spending two weeks on holiday wearing mainly sandals (zero drop as it turned out) that my PF had gone, at least for the moment. Two weeks later I saw a feature on a TV magazine show, which prompted me to google ‘barefoot running’ – I never looked back.

So fast forward to now and I’ve not run for over a year, and guess what? Yep, the PF has returned.

As it happened, back in February I found myself back in Goa, three years on from my previous PF discovery. I wondered on the flight out there if once again my PF would be cured again (albeit temporarily) by not wearing shoes. And this time, I’d be completely barefoot and not in sandals. I believed that the PF would subside, but I didn’t expect this to only take 48 hours. That’s right, when I woke up on my third full day there, I noticed zero pain in my right heel. The PF pain just didn’t exist anymore.

This didn’t initially make any sense. At home I exclusively wear barefoot shoes, or no shoes at all. Why then when my foot muscles were already getting a natural workout, did being in Goa on holiday make such a difference? The answer it seemed was the terrain and the lack of even barefoot shoes.

Back home, living in London, the terrain is anything but natural. Paved streets, carpeted rooms, etc. Everything is flat, flat, flat. Whereas walking around on the beach in Goa, my feet had to contend with surfaces like this.


Looking towards Sundowner Bar and Monkey island (Canacona island) – Palolem Beach, Goa, India.

 

I wasn’t walking on flat terrain, I was walking on varied terrains, including a lot of walking on the hard packed sand left behind by the outgoing tide. This gave me feet a real workout; far greater than I’d ever get wearing barefoot shoes in a concrete jungle like London. For all the exercises recommended for dealing with PF; stretches, rolling a golf ball underfoot, etc., etc. It seems that walking around on uneven ground barefoot for two days is all it takes to mitigate the problem.

This ‘cure’ however didn’t last long. It lasted the whole three weeks I was in Goa, but returned the very next day upon my return to Blighty. One day travelling; inactive and walking on airport concourses and airplane carpets was all it took to return my PF to what it had been before. Amazing how fast this turn around was in both directions.

So, my return to London also coincided with my move further out from London; Clapham to Richmond. I was determined to start running again with this change of scenery. That’s exactly what I’ve done. I was also keen this time to learn (yet again) from all the mistakes of the past and manage my transition from zero running to something manageable every morning. I couldn’t care less about distance in one outing. I’m aiming for distance over time and getting out there and working my legs every day.

So far my progress has been this: (super slow I know, but no calf or other issues)

10 days at 0.36 km
7 days at 0.60 km
7 days at 0.85 km
7 days at 1.3 km

These distance weren’t exactly planned, they just happened to be the distance of the circuit I choose as a small, and then increasing circle run, mainly based on where the paths are around where I’m now living in Richmond. Tomorrow I should really step this distance up again slightly. Let’s see if I do.

Also I know the history of these distances, not because I noted it down (as I’ve done before on a spreadsheet) but because I’ve now acquired an activity tracker – bought for trying out the MAF Method – but more on that in a later dedicated post.

So… so far so good. I’ve been running again for a month with no problems with either my PF or my calves. I’m hoping that this regular running will activate my lymphatic system and sort out my PF – it hasn’t yet, but watch this space.

 

Comments 4

  1. Hi Adam,
    I just discovered your site today and I could have written it!! All of it except the bit about taking the plunge into barefoot running! But i have been considering it for a while now against a hurricane strength headwind of naysayers i should say. To cut a long story short i was born in 1970 too. Around 2010 i started to get PF and a bunion. Invested in the fancy runners and 3 seperate pairs of orthotics, yes you heard me correctly 3 SEPERATE PAIRS!!!! Two weeks after getting the second pair i ruptured my Achilles playing football. Got a new pair (different podiatrist) and wore them for three years and generally hated wearing them, but i’m not the expert, right. finally threw them in the bin about this time last year after a physio who was working on some back pain said that they were the wrong type and she would recommend another type, a fourth pair would just make me feel silly!. Anyway the only time i have comfort with my feet is when i am barefoot walking around at home. I run fairly regularly in padded runners and if i keep it up i have absolutely no problem . But if i don’t exercise for a week the PF comes back and i have pain until i go back running again. Conclusion: i’ve got to try barefoot!. I’ve noted your advice and others about taking it slowly. But i have a question. I have very high archs. Have you come across any guidance for the ‘high arched’ among us, about 20% of the population apparently. Also, you mentioned the lymphatic system and its relation to PF, whats the thinking there. This too rings a resounding bell with my foot pain. Would love to hear from you, i think my experience is very similar. Regards
    joe

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      Author

      Hi Joe,

      Firstly thanks for finding my site. I’d actually be interested in how you found it, as despite all the work I put into it, I’ve done nothing to promote it, so would be really interested to learn how you arrived here.

      Anyway, I’ve read lots over the years on PF and come to the following conclusions: (apologies I can’t find the reference links right now)

      The ‘-itis’ suffix of the phrase means inflammation. When this ailment was named, it was thought to be caused by a swelling of the planter facia on the sole of the foot. If you do you’re own research you’ll soon discover there is no evidence for this. Whereas there is evidence to show that PF is actually a deterioration of the planter facia. Therefore it really should have been named Planter Faciosis, the -osis suffix denoting the degenerative process that’s really going on down there.

      From another source I then discovered that if you push the big toe towards the rest of the toes – as shoes do (habitual shoe wearing making this deformity permanent) then you restrict both the blood supply and the lymph vessels to the heel area of the planter fascia. So in one foul stroke you restrict the nutrients, while also limiting the bodies ability to remove the waste. Waking barefoot, or in minimal shoes with a wide toe box, allows the toes to splay under pressure. This opens up both the blood supply and the lymph exhaust, allowing your planter fascia to recover (or at least not get any worse). I’ve witnessed this in myself by seeing my PF subside while not running, but using toe spreaders (CorrectToes) in minimal shoes. I believe running further works all the foot muscles, allowing more blood and lymph to flow and further easing the condition.

      One thing you must bear in mind though is that because PF is really a degenerative condition, it may not be possible to recover fully as the damage has already been done, tissue has been permanently damaged or has simply died.

      PF generally affects people who spend a lot of time on their feet, while their toes are squeezed together in shoes. So not only people involved in sports get this; it’s also called Policeman’s Foot for obvious reasons. I’m convinced I’ll be dealing with my PF for the rest of my life, but through a combination of barefoot running, not wearing conventional shoes and perhaps using toe spreaders, I will deal with it.

      I’m glad you’ve found out for yourself that orthotics are a quack’s long term solution to an ailment that most podiatrists simply don’t understand – why would they, they are doing very nicely out of ‘treating’ people who give valuable return business… forever.

      As for the ‘high arch’ question. I’ve not heard anything specific advice for the ‘high arched’, but I do know this. Talk about arch height is mainly bollocks. The established idea is that our arches require support, and shoes can provide that. Without that support are arches will collapse and you’ll become ‘flat footed’. My experience is the complete opposite. As with any part of the body, if you don’t use muscles they will atrophy. Therefore if you get shoes to try to do the job of your arches it will come as no surprise that your foot muscles will atrophy and your arches will effectively collapse. I was told back in 2011 when I was ‘proscribed’ orthotics that my arches were ‘flattening’. I was horrified and keen to do anything the podiatrist told me. It turned out that since I ditched that bullshit conventional thinking that my arches are now much higher – evidenced by my footprint left by wet feet. Why? Because it makes total sense that now my feet get the workout nature intended, my foot muscles are stronger and maintain a much tighter higher arch.

      Anyway I’ve blabbed on enough. If you’re still with me, invest in a pair of minimalist shoes. I mainly buy Vivobarefoot, not because I’m paid to say that – I wish – but because I’ve been wearing them for the past 6 years and they are brilliant. But do bear in mind that as with barefoot running, you will need to work on your gait when walking too. Otherwise you may find yourself having sore heals from your walking style now that the padding as been removed. You’ve spent 40+ years walking with shoes on and have learned to walk in the most efficient and painless way with them. Walking barefoot and in minimal shoes requires some re-training to be successful, however there is almost zero information out there on barefoot walking. I’m just in the process of creating a section on this website to address just that. But please don’t let me scare you off, I thought nothing of changes to my walking gait until a year ago. So I guess you don’t need to worry about it just yet. Convince yourself about the barefoot running first and then you’ll never look back. The biggest challenge you’ll have to overcome is the social conformity one.

      I hope that helps. I you want any further information/advice just email me direct on adam@bareshoes.co.uk.

      Thanks,
      Adam.

      1. Hi Adam,
        Thanks for the detailed reply. I thought I’d reply here so that others may see the conversation. Reason is that I think there are a lot of people out there trying to find their way in the dark and it might benefit form reading this. I should say of course that I don’t know you from Adam (ahem!) and of course everything in this thread is not scientifically validated, at least from my side. I think that is important because there is a lot of quakery out there and I don’t want to put this across as a validated opinion. Also I want say that I have no vested interest. I’m a scientist so I habitually doubt everything I hear and read (no offence intended)! There just seems to be so little real research work done on this so there may be some value in sharing my personal experience.

        I came across your site while googling about bare foot stuff, in fact I was trying to find a supplier of barefoot shoes I can wear in the office. I don’t remember the exact path but I got to Vivobarefoot before I got to you. I think I’ll give them a go but they are bloody expensive!! Spending money on shoes has been a necessary evil in my life so far, so maybe I’m biased.

        I agree with you on the orthotics bollocks! I could have bought many pairs of bare foot shoes with the money I’ve spent on those things, I guess they must work for some people but for me they’ve been a dead loss. For the record, I wore othotics almost constantly for 9 years. I got rid of them a year ago and can honestly say my feet feel better without them. E.g I have more sensation in the soles of my feet. It may not surprise you that I feel like a bit of a twat for falling for the sales pitch, several times!

        Re high arches, I agree! One of the selling points of orthotics is that they provide arch support. Which never really made sense to me. I will never have dropped arches so why the hell do I need to keep them up? In fact I believe the arch support has weakened my calf muscle, the inside part above the arch. Non-scientific but since I got rid of them i can feel that muscle working harder when I run. My conclusion is that it wasn’t being worked when I had arch support. Even if that’s all in my head I still believe I don’t need them. I did Tae-Kwon-Do for a number of years, before I had foot problems, involving lots of bare foot bouncing and jumping and never had a problem. In other words my feet work perfectly fine. However, if I ask a podiatrist they will say I have a ‘condition’ called cavus foot. I think I know where I’ll stick my cavus foot the next time I hear that!

        I live in Ireland and came across this site a couple of months ago (https://barefoot.ie/transitioning-to-barefoot) I’ve been doing the exercises but not as consistently as I should. I’d be interested to know what you think of the transitioning plan? At least its got some sport science input.

        Anyway thanks again, and i’ll keep an eye on your blog. Maybe give you an update in a few months on my progress.
        regards
        Joe

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          Author

          Don’t worry too much about your ‘non-scientific’ opinions. There is no actual science to anything shoe manufactures have to say, and almost no science to everything written about barefoot running; for and against. One of my aims for this website is to offer what I’ve found out myself, either by research or my own experiences. I always say that no one should take my word for it and they should find out for themselves. The trouble is that the big shoe manufacturers have spent decades persuading ordinary people that their pseudo-science non-sense is real science. Therefore as there is no money to be made in researching barefoot running, there is no initiative to do so. There is some science out there, but as you would expect, it deals with the minute and can’t answer the laymen’s ‘is it better or not?’ questions. This subject isn’t black or white, and studies only target specific questions, and they are usually floored too.
          Regarding starting/transitioning. I don’t have a specific plan to suggest, but I do have some tips on the subject here.
          Good luck – the journey you’ve now on has only just started.

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