Friday, March 5, 2010

Too far, too fast. . .TOP OF FOOT PAIN

I would imagine that I am like any other runner or person for that matter.  When you get excited about learning something new, you want to practice it a lot.  As for runners, when you get bit by the running bug, you want to run more.  The same goes for barefoot running.  Beware of Top of Foot Pain. . .

As I mentioned in my last post, I had been out of running for about 2 years.  I was looking for new inspiration and found the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall.  I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would have an interest in barefoot running.  I just wanted to understand how the Raramuri could run so far and try to apply some of it to my running life.  I didn't even know the book talked about barefoot running.  Well, the book did what I had hoped and more.  It re-inspired me to run again but the twist - run barefoot.

I started running 2 to 3 days a week about 2 to 3 miles each run.  I loved it.  But there was a tiny but important bit of information that I was ignoring.  In the various barefoot bloggers and barefoot websites I had learned (but obviously not listened to) that newbie barefoot runners should take it slow at first.  Take lots of short distance runs and barefoot walks to get the muscles acclimated.  Well, I was excited.  I had the bug.  My runs were going well.  No problems.  Well, not exactly.  I started to notice after some runs a slight pain on the top of my left foot.  I convinced myself it was just my muscles acclimating, right.  I'll just train through it like I did with the initial calf soreness (which disappeared after my 3rd run).  WRONG.  The pain got worse.

After running for about 5 weeks, I thought I was getting the hang of it.  My sister-in-law, who was coming back into town, would be running a 7 mile training run.  I wanted to get up to that distance and quick.  So, one fateful afternoon I went for a 5 mile run.  Well, I tried to anyway.  I got about a mile and a half from the house and the dull pain that had been plaguing me for a week or two was getting worse.  I got to a point on my course where I was supposed to loop or I could start to head back.  I thought I would run another few blocks to and pick up the loop on the other end depending on how my foot felt.  I got to that point and my foot was in definite pain.  Now I was about a mile from my house, barefooted and in running clothes.  Me being the stubborn type didn't want to walk home like that.  So I ran.

I made it to the park around the corner from my house, when I heard a boy with his family shout, "THAT MAN HAS NO SHOES!  DAD! DAD!  THAT MAN IS RUNNING WITH NO SHOES!"  I smiled.  The dad replied, "Well, he looks like he's comfortable."  I continued to smile and said, "Hi," as I passed.  Doing my best to keep my form strong despite the dagger-like pain that was in my left foot.  I cut straight across the park.  I didn't care about mileage anymore, I just wanted to get home and off my feet. I cut across the park on the soft grass (which was a blessing) and back to my house.

After I got home and showered, I searched the blogs and websites for that little bit of information that I had glossed over.  I found out more about "TOP OF FOOT PAIN" or TOFP as many refer to it.  I had it for sure and had it bad.  Going up and down the stairs was torture, walking around the house was torture.

For the next week and a half I perfected the art of an inside/midfoot foot strike and roll to the outside.  I don't know if I looked like an idiot, but it felt better to walk that way.   I was almost convinced that I had a stress fracture in my foot.  I talked to my buddy who is a runner and orthopedic surgeon.  He informed me that I could break a bone in my foot and not really know it.  He had done it (not while running).  A nurse at the school I work at had a "mini-shock" therapy device that chiropractors use for redirecting pain around other nerves.  There was a spot on bottom of my foot under the 4th and 5th metatarsals that I could not feel the shock.  Damn, I thought.  Now I can add nerve damage to broken foot.

Fortunately for me, by the end of the second week my foot was feeling much better.  I went for an easy 1 mile run.  When I got home the pain was mild and disappeared the next day.  I went for a second easy 1 mile run.  No pain afterwards or the next day.  I waited a couple days and went for a mile and a half.  Beautiful!  No pain.  I was healed!

I learned my lesson.  Take it easy.  Don't push too far.  Don't push it too fast.  Now, I'm back in the game.  This time I'm taking it a little slower.


  1. Terri, Thanks for the post! Helped me with a question I had about first starting out! No TOFP as of now. But I think i was really close to overdoing it! It's hard not to when the running bug bites you!

  2. No problem. I'm the type that does too much too soon and just wanted to warn others. It's frustrating when you get sidelined. I'm glad to be back on the barefoot run!