The most common running issue I deal with is runners knee. Pain in the knee, if a chronic complaint can be debilitating, often the result of cartilage, ligament or meniscus damage.
Recovery can be slow and surgery can be eventually be recomended to some.
Shorter term knee pain should therefore be quickly investigated and all avenues explored before going under the knife.
Causes of knee pain are often down to alignment and form. Muscularly we all have leg imbalances and during the repetitive movements of distance running the excessive forces these apply to our knees, hips and ankles are compounded to affect the joints resulting in swelling, stiffness and pain.
Often the exterior leg muscles are tight and pull the knee cap laterally and cause it to irritate the inflame as it runs off centre away from where it's supposed to glide along depressions in the other knee bones.
Easing tension in the leg muscles with acupuncture, moxabustion and cupping can really help with this form of imbalance. Acupressure to points along the ST channel can instantly relieve pain.
Another reason for knee pain is poor form. Landing hard on the heel amounts to using the knee as a shock absorber. The knee is a hinge joint and not designed to absorb any forces. So how do we avoid this? Well naturally humans run with a bent knee and forefoot landing. Modern running shoes of the last 40 years with their high heel-toe drop promote a heel strike running form and so sent force up through the joints of the body.
Try it out;
Standing in your barefeet jump off the ground and land alternatively on your heels and balls of the feet. It won't take you long to fiqure which is more comfortable and natural..
So should we change the way we run?
Well it's not for everyone but running in your barefeet is actually a very beneficial way to run if you want to protect your joints and avoid some types of injury.
What about glass?
There very little of it, use your eyes.
What about stones?
Relax your body esp your shoulders and they won't hurt much, also use your eyes.
Won't my feet get ripped up?
The forces needed to damage your feet are abrasion and pounding. Take it slowly and learn to land and pick up your feet smoothly. This will prevent skin damage to your feet.
How long will it take to transition?
The longer the better. How long does it take children to learn to run? Dont pressure your self and start really slow, let your feet be your guides.
Won't my feet get callused and ugly?
Not at all, the skin thickens over time but stays smooth with proper form and slow build up.
What about "barefoot" shoes?
They can be great but let you away with poor running form and so can result in injury. Use them once you've mastered your barefoot running form.
Can you go far and fast barefoot?
Plenty barefoot runners run sub 3 hr marathons. So yes it's possible but if your competitive now, the transition requires you to slow right down and may take a while to build back up. You may get faster in the long run or maybe not. You will likely benefit your knees and body generally tho....
Having run a few 5k races last season barefoot. I'm now back training up to run a few this year also. I started with walking 5 mins and am now running 14 mins. I added a min a day and took about a month to get this far.
Barefoot running in Cork, Ireland
If you intend on starting barefoot running, read up ( alot), take your time and contact me if you want to discuss training, form, injury or any thing else. Good luck and enjoy- its a lot of fun !