09 May 2014

older runners feet

May 8, 2014
          Older Runner's Feet
I’ve been meaning to write out a summary of my thoughts on this issue.
          As I get ready for Comrades and have had the best spell of high volume running I've had in 14                                
          years I've also had quite a bit of foot pain.   Its a real limiter for me, but things are improving.
I’ve spent the last few years thoroughly examining the minimalist shoe argument and I think its not complete yet.
          I've read the books, listened to many experts on podcasts, talked to podiatrists and shoe      
          designers about why minimalist footwear is a good idea for runners.
What hasn’t been examined thoroughly enough is the long term impact on older runners who’ve already had several lifetimes of run miles on their feet already.
Older runners usually have foot problems due to running a lot.
Neuroma’s, bursitis, cysts - I have all of those now and had an Ultrasound last week to confirm that.  Its what I already knew - my feet hurt for a reason!

I’ve been trying to figure out how to reduce my foot pain when running long and part of the answer is reducing impact.
That means:
- running less
- running on soft surfaces
- putting more padding under my feet with Formthotics and very padded/cushioned running shoes.  Putting on a pair of Hoka's was like a miracle for me.
- spreading the foot bones with insoles/orthotics made and adapted for that purpose.

Although we can strengthen our feet, we can’t change the degeneration and stretching of ligaments.
Ligaments are bone to bone attachments with no muscle. They can breakdown, become stiffer and less supportive of our feet.
So even if we change the dynamic aspects (muscles and tendons that are attached to them) of the structure of our feet, some things we cannot change and running very long distances only aggravates those issues.

Bruce Baxter is one of the best, most experienced podiatrists here in Christchurch and he is making new Formthotics orthotics for me.   He is now seeing more and more older people coming to see him with chronic foot pain due to trying the minimalist approach for 1-3 years.  
Once we are old, skinny and have run a zillion miles we can’t get the fat pads under our feet back.  They are gone!
So the smart thing to do is to do what we can to prevent speeding up the deterioration of our feet and run with a lot of shock-absorbing stuff under us. 

Doing things to strengthen our feet and improve our biomechanics is smart, and all runners should do that.
Walking barefoot, doing a small amount of running barefoot on the grass or beach is great.
Doing feet strengthening exercises, stretching the feet, massaging the feet, getting a proper gait analysis, doing run drills  - all very good and should be done.
          I 'll never forget seeing one of my original run heroes Frank Shorter tape up his arches before
          going for a run.    
          He did that 2x/day for-ever.  This was in Boulder long after his elite run career was over and he
          only ran for fitness and enjoyment.  He knew what worked for him.  That's stuck with me.
That’s where I’m at with it all right now.
I hope to run a long time!
My life is a lot more enjoyable with running in it.
I’ve had very long periods of not running, so I know I can still do other things, but I’d rather run regularly.

Cheers, Scott