Nearly two weeks ago I saw a podiatrist about my achillies issues. I figured since the Melb Mara attempt, I didn’t really have a long run to recover from so I could use the time where I would have been recovering from the marathon more wisely by seeing a professional and get some guidance on recovery of a more important issue.
I have seen a pod in the past regarding shin splints and also the fact I only ever get injured in my right leg but I didn’t agree with him. He came well recommended by various runners but I just can’t do what someone says if I don’t think they’re right. His answer to my problems at the time was to wear heavy supportive shoes with orthotics and to rest for a few weeks if that didn’t improve things. I did the exact opposite and started running in the Five Fingers. Injuries cured!
Fast forward to now, I think I upped my mileage a little too quickly several times this year. I felt invincible in the Five Fingers and I guess although I am much better biomechanically, I am not immune to overuse issues. I ran a 53.5k ultra in the Five Fingers when my previous longest distance in them was 30k. What was that they say about building up gradually in them? I also added a few runs home from work, which happens to be 18k mostly uphill, and I think wearing the Five Fingers may have put some strain on my achillies during these runs, but also I did wear Asics too sometimes on these runs, and they added pressure to swollen bursa, particularly on my right foot.
This time I found a podiatrist who is a distance runner. Some of his published articles are on his website and I liked what he had to say. He advocates the Nike Frees as a training tool so I figured this guy was about natural foot strength and not heavy cushioned bricks with orthotics. He had no surprised reaction when I mentioned the distances I do and although he had not seen the Five Fingers before, he did not think anything weird about them. As I have been told several times before, he said my feet were perfectly aligned. He had me do some single leg squats and lifts and said I was strong, which I have also been told before. As I have had PF and achillies issues, he suggested tight calves were a cause, in combination with increase mileage. When he mentioned the tight calves I realised that yes, they are so tight that they sometimes are on the verge of cramping and it is just mind power that I force them to relax, although they still remain tight. I have haglunds deformity in both heals, but mostly the right. That is bony growth that will never disappear but the pod said I will be running pain free if I do what he says.
Operation Recover consists of halving my mileage for 2 weeks, running in the Nike Frees (I got the 3.0s although the pod did prefer the 5.0s), and using a heal lift in my shoes to alleviate the achilles. I need to stretch, massage and ice. And he had no doubt about me doing the 64k Bruny Island Ultra in November. Already I am noticing improvement with my achillies! I feel a bit of a dill that I had to pay someone to tell me to stretch and ice (duh!) but that with the small heal lifts make all the difference. I have been running in the Asics DS Trainers for a week and then I got the Nike Frees and have been wearing them for a few days. They are so nice. I will be wearing them at the Bruny Island Ultra.
I can’t wait for my achillies pain to disappear completely. At the moment my left foot is 100% and my right foot is 85%. I want to be able to run in the Five Fingers again, but they just touch the sore spot on my right heal so I can’t wear them just yet. Dad was in the States for most of this month and he bought me a new pair of the FFs! I wanted the next size up so I could wear socks more comfortably and also hoping they will not put so much pressure on the haglunds bump. The shop didn’t have the next size up in woman’s, but they did have the same size in men’s which seem to be about the equivalent of one size up. Dad’s partner tried them on for me and the results seem good so far. Unfortunately her feet are a couple of millimetres smaller than mine and that makes all the difference in the FFs but I think these should be good. Dad will send them up to me next week and I just can’t wait to wear them! According to Cool Running, 2 other people will be wearing FFs at the next Sri Chinmoy race so even though I wasn’t sure about going to that one (all the way in the western suburbs) I am now really looking forward to it to meet other FF wearers. I find it funny there are now 3 of us in Melbourne wearing them but there is no shop here even to try them on!
I want to say a few things about the Nike Frees if anyone is reading this and is curious about them. I tried on the women’s 5.0s and found them a little narrow, especially as I am used to being able to wiggle my toes about. They were very difficult to get on my feet because they do not open up wide where the laces are. They were not particularly light, and the upper was some fake suede material, so not even particularly breathable. I found this odd as I had heard several guys say how light and great the Frees are. So I tried on the men’s shoes. What a difference! Naturally they are wider, the upper is all mesh, and they weigh next to nothing. I bought the men’s 3.0s. I just can’t believe how comfortable they are. They are the first shoes I’ve bought that don’t give me blisters! They feel like wearing regular shoes, but are almost as light at the Five Fingers! They are like Five Fingers with cushioning. My heart rate is low in them, like in the Five Fingers (my HR is noticably higher in heavier shoes), so I can run faster with less effort. They are great for rough surfaces and long distances when you can’t be bothered using your feet muscles! My feet are improving in them. My blisters from the Asics are disappearing the same way they disappear when I wear the Five Fingers. Once my achillies get better, I will continue to wear the Frees for long runs and take much more time building up longer distances in the Five Fingers.
Incidentally I also got a pair of the Asics Speedstars. I was thinking they would be a good choice for the Bruny Ultra and I’ve been looking for them for ages and even got my dad to look for them in the States with no luck. I just happened to win some! I have tried them on and they fit ok, but I haven’t run in them yet because I am still enjoying the Frees and they just don’t compare in terms of weight. I also won heaps of Asics clothes! The material on them is really nice, it’s part bamboo/part polyester. The bamboo just feels so luxurious and silky smooth. Unfortunately Asics are not my favourite running clothes brand. I just prefer the fit of Adidas and the material of Nike. But I don’t care if it’s free! On yesterday’s long run I felt like an Asics billboard! Cap, singlet, shorts and socks all Asics! I was wearing the Frees though so not quite head to toe in the one brand. There is a competition on the Asics site to win all this stuff and they are drawing a winner each month. I entered again because I would really like to try the Pirhana shoes. They look like nice flats and a good option for road marathons if my feet aren’t up to it in the Five Fingers.
I don’t know why I am suddenly interested in all these shoes. I guess it is my achillies injury. The truth is I can’t wait for my achillies to improve so I can get back to the Five Fingers. They are my favourites, they are the coolest, and they are great conversation starters in races! Local runners seem to know me in the Five Fingers and now instead of making comments about my odd footwear, they now make odd comments to me if I don’t wear them!