Realizing the shoes are the problem

I’ve gotten a lot of e-mails from readers who have found my blog by searching for different running injuries. Those emails prompted me to dig through the search terms to see how people were finding my blog.  I think the number of people finding me by searching for jogging stroller recommendations was equal to the number of people finding me with running injury questions! I guess that makes sense – I’ve had 3 different injuries (runner’s knee, peroneal tendonitis, and posterior tibial tendonitis) in the 2 years I’ve been blogging.

I’m pretty sick of being injured. I’ve taken time off for injuries, taped my knee and tendons in place with KT Tape or Rock Tape, been to a sports medicine doctor, been to a sports massage therapist, been to a chiropractor, cursed various body parts, blamed the jogging stroller for my injuries, googled my symptoms until my fingers went numb (only a slight exaggeration), and I’ve tried different shoes. I have tried SO MANY SHOES. I’ve been through the specialty running store gig several times – watch me run on the treadmill and video tape it, watch me walk around the store, look at my feet, watch me run around the store, make me special insoles. Conclusion – I need neutral shoes. No, I need neutral plus shoes. Actually, no, I need stability shoes.

When I was pregnant with Ezra and had to stop running when my posterior tibial tendonitis became unbearable around 20 weeks, I was really frustrated. Sure, pregnancy hormones played a role since they cause tendons and ligaments to become more flexible, but there was more to it than just that. Around that time, I picked up a book I had started months before but never found the time to finish: Born to Run.

I know the rest of the running world has already read the book so I’m a little behind the times. As I got farther into the book, I realized something – it really was the shoes. Maybe, just maybe, all the traditional running shoes I was trying to solve my problems were only making them worse. My shoe epiphany prompted me to send an e-mail to fellow blogger Miss Zippy since I knew that she had a history of running injuries and found barefoot/minimalism to be part of the solution. She led me to some great resources, one of them being the Natural Running Center. Their website is full of really useful information about barefoot and minimalist running.

I know people think that barefoot/minimalist running is a fad. It’s actually not. It’s the way we are supposed to run and the way humans ran until the modern running shoe was invented in the 1970s. I’m not saying that every runner should go ditch their regular running shoes, but having a thick built up chunk of material under your heel that elevates it above your forefoot isn’t exactly natural.

When I wore traditional running shoes and began to run into several injuries, I was running in the Mizuno Wave Prophecy. I don’t know if there is a running shoe out there that has a more built up heel than the Prophecy. When I started experiencing injuries, I tried a slew of other traditional running shoes and nothing seemed to help. That’s because all the shoes were the problem. Years ago, after my first marathon, I experienced so many issues that my doctor recommended orthotics. Do you know what the orthotics did? They caused more injuries. I developed Achilles tendonitis and got so frustrated that I pretty much gave up on running consistently for a couple years.

Now, I wasn’t about to ditch the shoes all together and run barefoot once I had my shoe epiphany. I don’t want to get my feet dirty :). You also won’t see me wearing the stereotypical shoe of barefoot runners – Vibram Five Fingers – because I feel like I need some cushion under my feet since I run on sidewalks and pavement. Ultimately, I decided to go for a zero drop shoe (meaning there is no drop from the heel to the forefoot) that offered some cushioning; my shoe of choice was the Altra Intuition 1.5. It’s a zero drop shoe with a nice roomy toe box. I loved them from the moment I put them on my feet. I have a lot more to say about my transition to minimalism, but I’ll save that for another post.

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I’ll try not to get all preachy about barefoot/minimalist running. If traditional running shoes are working out for you, then there’s no need to rock the boat. BUT if you have been through a lot of running injuries like I have, then do some research and think about whether or not making the switch is right for you. For now, here are some excellent resources for the barefoot/minimalist curious readers:

Natural Running Center

Sock Doc

Barefoot Running

Christopher McDougall (author of Born to Run)

Born to Run

Altra

Skora Running

Comments

    • Kristen says

      It’s hard to find shoe that’s just the right height! I had pretty stiff calves and achilles when I started running in the zero drop shoe so it was definitely an adjustment. Foam rolling helped immensely.

  1. says

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you said barefoot isn’t for everyone. In your case, you tried many things and continued to get injured, and so trying barefoot was a logical step. I think so many people (perhaps even me) read Born To Run and thought, I need to run barefoot! simply because. I’ve had injuries, too, and have tried minimal shoes but haven’t found them to help – or hinder. Anyway, so glad you have found a solution to your injury woes. Being injured sucks because all you want to do is run! I wish you an injury-free running future!
    Alison recently posted…Break All the RulesMy Profile

    • Kristen says

      Thank you, Alison! I definitely agree that barefoot running isn’t for everyone. I already know that true barefoot running isn’t even for me. I like having something on my feet :).

  2. says

    Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog yesterday! I’m sorry about all of your injuries. I recently received a pair of Saucony Virrata zero-drop shoes to try and review and I found that they made some weird hip injury that I have been battling for 6 months disappear. I too have been curious about the barefoot/minimalist running thing yet skeptical, but after giving it a try I am officially converted too! I’m glad to hear your zero-drop shoes are working well for you!
    Janice – Fitness Cheerleader recently posted…The Blog Post That I Wrote on My iPad & Pictures of My New Hair CutMy Profile

    • Kristen says

      I’ve been hearing such great things about the Virrata. I’m glad the shoe is gaining popularity because I think it helps that a more mainstream brand is promoting running in a more natural way. Glad they’re helping you run pain-free!

  3. says

    Thank you for this post! My mild plantar fasciitis is still sticking around and I need to buy new shoes. I was thinking of researching more about minimalist running so I just might try out the Altras.

    Assuming I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.
    Karen recently posted…RWK Virtual 5K- 13 Weeks to GoMy Profile

  4. Tina says

    Thank you for an excellent post. I’ve been having knee issues (runner’s knee) ever since I did my first 10 mile race. I then went to an orthopedic who sent me to PT and to also get a custom knee brace. I then took it easy for a while and started training for a 1/2. I took my training nice and slow so not to cause injury. I wore my brace religiously and did the strength and stretch exercises the PT told me to do. Ran my 1/2 and had issues with the other knee. Still today I have issues with my knee to the point that I wasn’t going to run again, but that won’t happen. I love running too much.

    After reading your post, it got me thinking about my shoes. DH has been telling me to change to minimalist shoes for a year now but I wouldn’t listen to him. I’m going to check the sites you list above and see if this is what I might need to do now. Thanks again.

  5. says

    It really is what works for the person. I’m trying to stay more aware of how my feet interact with the ground. There is a transition period where you have to become comfortable with making the “minimalist” move.

    I’m happy that this may be the solution for you. We definitely want you our on the roads (er, pavement) with us running healthy.
    Pavement Runner recently posted…Playlist Thursday: My First TimeMy Profile

    • Kristen says

      The way your feet hit the ground is most definitely one of the most important factors. It’s something I’ve been paying such close attention to these days. It makes a big difference!

  6. says

    Thanks for the shout out. I love those shoes–they are a constant in my rotation. I really hope this all works for you…it was a panacea for me. Keep us posted on how it goes (and if you ever get a chance, head down to Shepherdstown and check out Two Rivers Treads..fun town, fun store!)
    misszippy recently posted…There is no downside to running…My Profile

    • Kristen says

      Of course! I really appreciate all the advice you’ve given me :). I really hope to check out the store at some point.

  7. says

    omiword! I am so with you. I spent most of last year injured and so frustrated I wanted to scream. I got Born To Run for my birthday in November and read it somewhat skeptically to start with…by the end I went out and got myself a pair of zero drop too and I have NEVER looked back. Most of my friends thought (still think) I am a nutter but when I ran my first half marathon a few week back in them…and STILL no injuries AND have doubled my mileage I think they are beginning to at least consider the fact that natural running is JUST that – natural!
    Mel B recently posted…The Acid TestMy Profile

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