After seeing a quite few injury posts recently, I have decided to share my injury story with all of you with the hope that newcomers will understand the importance of not doing too much too soon or over training.I would like to start by saying that I absolutely love minimalist shoes, I started wearing them in the summer of 2010 and I will be wearing them for the rest of my life whenever it is possible to wear them.Over the past two years I have acquired Black Kso's, Brown Treks, 2 pairs of Komodo Sports, Trek Ls, Invisible Shoes Huaraches, Merrell Trail Gloves, and two pairs of NB Minimus Trails.I have also ordered some Seeya's and I'm currently awaiting their arrival.Horror Story:
My first pair of minimalist shoes were black Kso's, and from the second I first put them on I would wear them day or night, in the rain or sunshine. I had been taking boxing, kickboxing, and krav maga classes 6 days per week for about three months when I started wearing the shoes. I began wearing them to every one of these classes as soon as I got them. That was my first big mistake, I should have only worn them once or twice per week to class when I first got them, but I enjoyed wearing them so much that I couldn't help myself. I was able to do this for about two months with a lot of soreness, but never any sharp or lingering tendon pain. After about two months I decided that I wanted to add a running routine as well. I didn't practice good form and I didn't follow any specific training schedule. I would just go out and run as far as i could, which was usually 2-3 miles, whenever I felt like it. Sometimes this was twice a week, sometimes this was 4 days in a row, and the whole time I was still doing 12-15 hours a week, of martial arts training every day except Saturday's.
My running form was laughable. I knew that you were supposed to forefoot strike, and I had heard that "Heel Striking" was bad.So what I would do is this: I would never allow my heel to touch the ground, and I would treat every stride like it was a calf raise pushing off the ground with a huge smile on my face because of the great calf workout that I thought I was getting. After a few weeks, I jumped right into an actual running routine where I would run 5 days per week 1-3 miles. About three weeks into this new running routine, I started getting pain in the lower half of the inside of my calves/shin bones. I assumed that i had bruised that area in kickboxing since that is around the same area where a Muay Thai roundhouse kick makes contact, the lower portion of the inside of the shin bone, and I didn't think anything of it. I continued to train 6 days per week, and run 5 days per week. As the weeks progressed, the pain started getting worse and worse. When I was doing my martial arts classes the weight bearing/kicking exercises were killing me, and after a run it would hurt to walk. I started icing my shins, taking Ibuprofen a few times a day, wrapping my shins with a compression bandage, and I continued to train. No pain no gain, right?Wrong!
Finally after a few months of pain and trying everything I could, besides stopping all activities, I could barely walk. I went to my doctor and I was diagnosed with Posterior Tibial Stress Fractures in both of my legs. He said all I could do to heal them was to stop all activity, rest, ice, compress, and elevate my legs for as long as I could each day, and take NSAID's to bring down the swelling for the first week. I was told to do this for 6-8 weeks. I did this for 8 weeks, and it was torture. I had to stop going to my martial arts classes which was my entire life, and I couldn't do any type of training so I just sat around all day doing nothing and being miserable. When 8 weeks were up I jumped at the opportunity to start training again. I started my running routine over and I did two long hikes the first week. Everything was great for about 1 week. Then all of the pain returned and I was back in the doctors office. The stress fractures had returned and I was told again to stop all activity, rest, ice, compress, and elevate my legs for as long as I could each day, and take NSAID's to bring down the swelling for the first week. Do this for another 6-8 weeks. At this point I was totally crushed I felt like all I wanted in the world was to be able to work out again and run, and I had no idea how long this would take to heal. My best friend was getting out of the army and coming home in two months, so I replaced exercise with working more, tv, reading, and eating. When my friend came back I was so excited to get to start training again with him with my new legs. We started working out together, and we played basketball every day. It was a blast, but after a few weeks of playing basketball the sharp never ending pain came back, and I decided that I wasn't going to try any kind of high impact exercise for several months so I would never have to be disappointed by my injury coming back when I returned to training. I did no exercise besides an occasional slow hike once or twice per month. After 6 months, In September of 2011, I finally felt confident that I would be able to run again. I bought some Huarache sandals from Invisible shoes, and I started running 1 mile 3x per week. 2 1/2 weeks later the same pain started returning in the bone after each run and I stopped immediately. I had stopped exercising for 10 months, almost an entire year, in this time I had gone from being lean at 6'1 165 pounds, to weighing 202 pounds. I was fat, depressed, and I thought I would never be able to run again.
For the first time I decided that I wasn't going to focus on trying to be able to run again, I was going to get back in shape by working out at the gym, I would do cardio on my bike, or on the elliptical machine, and I would start eating healthy. After 4 months of working out at the gym and doing 3-5 days per week of low impact cardio on either my bike, or the elliptical machine, I am now down to 175 pounds. I am back to being lean and I am more muscular than ever. The weight training, and healthy eating has increased my bone density, and the 4 months of strengthening my legs without exposing them to high impact has made them stronger and healthier. I have had a lot of time to reflect on how I was training, and what I need to do in the future to avoid getting injured again. As a kind of new years resolution for 2012 I have decided to try running again. I did a couple weeks of research on barefoot running form, and I followed Barefootrunninguniversity.com's routine for running barefoot without injury which included running in place barefoot on concrete for two weeks to practice form before you try any running, which I actually upped to 3 weeks. Then when I was able to run in place 2x per day for 3:00, I started out with 1/8 of a mile slow jog, and over the past two weeks I have been upping my mileage by 1/8 of a mile per run, 2-3 runs per week. I have gone two weeks with no pain, and when I'm running I feel ridiculously light on my feet and I am confident that I will not be injured again.
Some of you may look at this and think "Of course he got injured, he did everything wrong!" And you would be right. But I am not the kind of person who has always suffered with injuries throughout my life. In fact, I have always been the type of person who could just jump into any kind of athletic routine/activity as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, without a second thought. But this time i took it too far: I did too much too soon, I was over training my body, I was using improper form while running in minimalist shoes, and I wasn't getting enough sleep or eating healthy. These are the 5 things that will lead to you getting injured while barefoot running: Too Much Too Soon, Over training, Improper form, Not Getting Enough Sleep to Recover, and Not Getting Proper Nutrients From Your Diet
. I am going to go into more detail on what each of these things entails.R.I.C.E:
Muscle soreness is completely normal when transitioning into minimalist shoes, but constant inflammation and pain in the tendons and connective tissue of your lower legs is not a good thing. If you are experiencing any kind of new tendon pain that doesn't go away within 3-4 days, you need to take a week off and rest in order to avoid a more serious injury that can set you back months. A great preventative measure for inflammation is R.I.C.E which stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate.
This means you should rest your injured body part, ice it for 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off for at least 20 minutes after running, or 3-5 times per day while recovering from tendon pain, and elevate your leg and compress it with an ace bandage or some sort of brace while you are resting.Too Much Too Soon:
If you are already a runner, and you decide to start running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, so you just strap on some VFF's and continue your regular training routine this is doing way too much too soon. You should treat this as a completely new activity and you need to build up your foot, calf, and tendon strength which takes months of training specifically for barefoot running. Another example is a person who has never been a runner, but starts wearing minimalist shoes and decides that he/she wants to begin a running routine. You can't just go out there and run a few miles right at the beginning. Well you CAN, but your chances of ending up like me are very high. You need to go to Barefootrunninguniversity.com and try their running routine, or look around on the web for another barefoot running guide. Any routine that has running a mile or two at the start of it, or that increased mileage by more than 10% per week is not a good routine and it will get you injured.Improper Form:
Even if you find a good training schedule, and you don't do too much too soon, if you are running with improper form, you will still most likely suffer injuries. Proper form has a few key elements: Land on the outer portion of the midfoot and then roll your foot towards your big toe
. When I started running I would land solely on the inside of my forefoot, and this puts unnecessary stress on the Soleus muscle of your calf, and the Posterior Tibial area of your shin bone which is where I got my stress fractures.However, you want your heel to make contact with the ground
, it shouldn't land first and take all the force like a "Heel Strike," but you should be landing with your feet relatively flat and your heel will make contact every step. If you avoid touching your heel to the ground like i used to, this will put tons of unnecessary pressure on your lower calf/Achilles/tendons and will lead to an injury. Next: your feet should be landing underneath your hips and you should strive for a cadence of 180 steps per minute or higher.
The song "Hey Ya" by Outkast is a great example of a 180 bbm song. Your steps should be light, and you need to concentrate on lifting your feet after you make contact.
Focus and think about staying relaxed while lifting your feet after every step. Your feet should kick back quite a bit while you run, not all the way up to your butt, but they should form about a 90 degree angle behind you at their maximum height
while you are running. This will help you to focus on lifting your feet. But you must land light on your feet
, this is the most important factor to avoid injury. Proper form will not happen over night, or even in one month.
I have been practicing my form on a daily basis for over a month and I am not even close to being perfect yet, but I am 100 times better than I used to be. The best way I found to learn proper form was what Jason from Barefootrunninguniversity.com suggested, which is to run in place starting with 15 seconds twice per day, and increase your run time by 15 seconds per day for 2-3 weeks until you build up to being able to run in place for 3 minutes twice per day without any pain or discomfort. If you feel any sharp pain, take a day or two off, use R.I.C.E and pick up from where you left off.
The next step is to start a running routine of 2-3 days per week with at least 1 day off in between runs. I would recommend at least two days off between runs for the first month.
You start running 1/8 of a mile, and you increase your run's by 1/8 of a mile every run. Eventually you will get to the point where you can increase it by more than 1/8 of a mile and still be under a 10% increase per week, but until then, stick to 1/8 of a mile increase per run.Over Training/Getting Enough Sleep:
If you want to avoid over training you must give your body enough time to recover from your workout. Over Training will not only injure you, but if you are over training while working out you will lose muscle, and reverse progress. Over training of any kind can also lead to you feeling lethargic, or unmotivated to workout over time. This is because your body is trying to tell you that it needs more rest. Another key component that I don't think people talk about enough is getting enough sleep. In my opinion this is the most important part of preventing injuries in any kind of activity, and it is also one of the things people ignore most often. I know I used to sacrifice sleep if i needed to do homework, or if i just wanted to have more time to browse forums after a long day of busy activities, it is not worth it! The absolute minimum amount of sleep required is 6-8 hours of sleep per night, but everyone is different. The best way to know if you are getting enough sleep is to go to bed early and wake up on your own without an alarm, if this is not an option, aim for at least 8 hours. Sometimes it is impossible to get 8 hours of sleep, if you can only get 6 hours one night, then either take a 2 hour nap at some point during the day if you can, or get an extra two hours of sleep the next night to make up for it. Your body does 90% of it's healing/maintenance while you sleep. If you are cutting this short, you are limiting your gains from your exercise, and you are increasing your chance of over training/ getting injured. If are starting a running routine take at least 1-2 days rest between runs; aim for something like Monday, Wednesday, Friday if you are doing 3x per week. Or Monday/Thursday if you are doing 2x Per week. Once you have been running consistently for 6+ months while following a slowly increasing training routine you can work your way up to 4-5 days per week training if necessary, but a lot of people have had plenty of success running 3x per week.Not Getting Enough Nutrients From Your Diet:
This aspect of training is ignored even more than getting enough sleep, and it can play a key role in your progress, and injury prevention. You need to make sure you are getting enough, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium if you want your bones/ligaments to stay as healthy as possible. Eat lots of bananas, avocados, nuts, oranges, and fresh organic vegetables. Drink a glass or two of nonfat or 1% milk every day if you can, and make sure to eat at least a couple cups of vegetables most days.And eating an Iceberg lettuce salad with 1/4 of a tomato, 25 croutons, and a gallon of ranch dressing isn't what i'm talking about. Eat fresh leafy greens whenever possible. What I found to be the easiest is to just buy a bag of frozen mixed organic vegetables at Costco. They sell this big bag with Soybeans, Peas, Carrots, Corn, and green beans. The huge bag is $5 and will last you a few weeks. I just put a cup or two in a bowl, add a little salt and pepper, and microvave it for 3 minutes, stir it once in the middle. Bam it's quick, easy, and healthy. I used to hate vegetables with a passion. I was raised on a diet of cheese, milk, cereal, cheez-its, chips, butter, and bread, but I forced myself to eat them over the past 5 months and now I really enjoy them. Start out eating them just 1/2 cup at a time and slowly increase to being able to eat more. Cut out the processed junk foods, filled with trans fats, and simple sugars, and replace them with avocados, nuts, and complex carbs like oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, fruits and vegetables. If you can control the amount of simple sugars you eat, you will balance your insulin levels which will improve your mood drastically, and, since insulin is directly related to fat storage, keeping your insulin levels from going way up and way down will cause your body to store less fat. I promise that you will feel so much better, both physically, and mentally if you start eating more healthy. And above all else, eating healthy will help you to maximize your recovery, gains, and progress from your workouts.This is the running routine that I am currently using and that I highly recommend: http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/barefoot-running/
Hopefully this post will help some newcomers who didn't realize how seriously you could be injured in minimalist shoes. They are great, and it is not the shoes that are doing any damage, but if you do too much too soon, use improper form, over train your body, don't get enough sleep, don't eat right, and don't take a break and use R.I.C.E when you start feeling lingering tendon pain, then you can really hurt yourself. I have experienced, first hand, the excitement and fanaticism associated with minimalist shoes, and barefoot running. It is so tempting to just go nuts and do whatever activities you want, as much as you want when you first start training. But I have gone through the most painful and miserable experience of my life because of my lack of knowledge and inability to stick to the basics and follow these guidelines. I could have been in much better shape, and could have been able to run marathons by now if i hadn't have gotten so severely injured. Instead I am much worse off then I was before I started wearing minimalist shoes. If you follow these guidelines, anything is possible and you won't get injured, i wish I could go back in time and show myself this post, but I have learned a good life lesson in moderation and I am treating it as a good learning experience which will hopefully save some people from making the same mistakes I did. Good luck to everyone, and have fun the right way.