Barefoot Runners


X-Post: Ankle Equinus Deformity (Read 772 times)

    I posted this in the LLR, and Ashley/runslikeagirl suggested I post it over here too:


    Anybody know anything about this?  I just got back from a visit to a podiatrist, and he says this is my problem.  My right ankle has been bothering me quite a lot for the past six weeks or so, enough to make me run less, take a lot of Advil, and get to know my icepack all too well, but not enough to make me stop running entirely or skip my race.  He looked at my feet for about five seconds before he said this was my problem.  Basically, my ankles are too rigid so that I can't flex my foot back toward my body enough.  This causes me to severely under-pronate, meaning the outsides of my feet are absorbing all the impact of running.  He said I'm like a car without shock absorbers!

    He taped my ankle, prescribed some anti-inflammatories, showed me a couple stretches, told me to hold off running just for a few days (thank goodness not any longer!), and wants to make me orthotics.  He didn't mention PT, but from reading about it online, it seems as if orthics work best in conjunction with PT.  He said this may actually be something that cannot be corrected or overcome, in which case I'll probably never be able to run more than about five miles without a lot of pain & risk of injury. 

    I think part of my problem is that I have a minimally-founded opposition to orthotics.  I've been reading about running barefoot or in a minimalist shoe, and a lot of what I've read has made sense to me.  I haven't changed my shoes or tried running barefoot yet, but wearing orthotics seems absolutely contrary to the logic of what I've been reading.  I'm tempted to skip the orthotics, look for some more flexible shoes (I currently run in neutral Mizunos), and do a lot of stretching.


    So I was hoping someone here might have experience with this.  Did orthotics help?  Is there anything else that helped?  Were you able to get past it, or do you just live with it?  Can barefoot running help me overcome something that is an actual biomechanical defect, as opposed to a messy or wacky gait?


      i find it hard to believe that someone, even with a degree, could tell how flexible you are in that amount of time. did he actually bend your foot back to test this?


      if that indeed is the problem i dont think it would be too hard to correct. you could roll a ball under your foot, tie some weights to your toes, do some trails and hills. those should help strengthen the muscles in your feet and improve flexibility. spending time barefoot around the house might help too.


      i dont get how this relates to pronation either, since the two motions are in different directions.


      thats my .02 FWIW i have a minimally-founded opposition to podiatrists. good luck with it.



        I'm not a doctor, and I have no idea what I'm talking about, so please feel free to ignore this.


        If I were in your position, this is what I would do.  I would lay off for a week or two, until I no longer felt any pain, maybe even ice my ankles.


        Then I would go outside and run 100 meters barefoot on a smooth, concrete or asphalt surface.  Ice my feet afterward.  (Read up a little on barefoot running so that you have some idea of what to expect.)

        Then rest 48 hours.


        Then run 100 meters barefoot again.  Ice feet.

        Then rest 48 hours.


        If no pain in feet/ankles, run 200 meters barefoot.  Ice feet.


        etc.  Run every other day.  Increase distance every other run.  Ice feet for at least the first month or two of doing this.


        If, at any point, you feel the same pain in your ankles, rest an extra day or two before resuming the schedule again.  If the pain continues to return, then barefoot running probably isn't going to work for you.


        The whole point of this is to at least try barefoot running and see if the improvement to your form helps to alleviate the pain in your ankles.  If barefoot running doesn't help, you can at least rule it out and say, "I've tried it, and it didn't help."  Then go ahead and ask your podiatrist to make those orthotics.


        If you're like me, you just want to run without hurting yourself.  Barefoot running isn't a panacea, but it is one possible solution to your problems -- and it's a lot cheaper than orthotics.


        You may also find later, that by running barefoot, you are able to improve your form so much that you can put the shoes back on and run pain free -- that is, assuming you even want to put your shoes back on.


        Best of luck with your problem.  I know it would break my heart for a doctor to tell me I can't run.

          I would suggest grass not concrete for a first barefoot run.


            That is solid advice RunrGreg.  I think I will give it a try.  I've also found a physical therapy practice with a sports medicine focus that just happens to be two blocks from my office.  I'm going to go see them tomorrow & see what their advice is.  It can't hurt to get a second opinion!
              I would suggest grass not concrete for a first barefoot run.


              I would suggest concrete, not grass for the first barefoot run. RunGreg is on the money.

              Creator of RunForth@robraux |

                I was thinking of trying it out on the artificial turf soccer field by my office.  A little softer than concrete, but I can see where I'm putting my feet.  A couple laps of that ought to add up to a quarter mile or so.


                So if I were to incorporate .25m barefoot into a longer run, do you think it matters at what point in the run I do that?  Barefoot at the beginning, middle, or end?


                I have a PT appointment this afternoon and am hoping for more info and advice that includes "you should definitely continue to run!"



                  As I am still at the beginning stages of my transition to barefoot (2 miles on treadmill or 1/2 mile on concrete), I like to do my barefoot at the beginning of my run.


                  What barefoot does for you, especially on a harder surface, is teach you really quickly what good form feels like.  (Bad form hurts when you're barefoot.)  I try to memorize what my body feels like when barefoot running feels good: what my hips are doing, how my feet are landing, etc.


                  After I've gone as far as I plan to go barefoot, I put on shoes to get in some miles, but try very hard to mimic my barefoot form.  I inevitably lose the form a bit over the course of my run in shoes because my insulated feet aren't getting feedback from the ground, but the more I practice, I find I'm able to hold my good form longer and longer.


                  I should also add that Michael Sandler's book Barefoot Running is a great resource that brings together a lot of wisdom on the topic.  Before this, you kind of had to piece it all together from a lot of websites.


                  Barefoot Jason Robillard also has a barefoot book out. I haven't read it yet, but his website is great, so I imagine his book will be too.