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Are You Ready to Train?

Posted By Robyn Hughes, ND

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April 02 2015
Kevin

I’ve been wearing “minimalist shoes” nearly full-time for almost two years, and going barefoot indoors, as well as brief excursions on rough pavement and forgiving round gravel.

In that time, I’ve never been able to go more than about 3 miles walk/jogging in Vibram FFs or Xeros at a single go… while my commute is a bit over five miles… so I end up carrying “regular” sneaks and socks and switching into them when the pain gets really bothersome. But other than that, it hasn’t been bad, and progress – though slow – has been happening.

But then I had a couple or three months without the commute and got soft. To resume, I tried a much shorter “minimalist” portion on alternate days with cycling in between. In just over a week, I’ve got miserable plantar fasciitis/fasciosis. The pad of my right forefoot is puffy, tender, and spends a lot of time just hurtin’. Did I mention that I stand at work, almost exclusively? But some of the worst pain is in bed, in the middle of the night.

Anyway, I think a salient couple of points are that:

a) I noticed the first real pain after CYCLING

b) Because the foot problem won’t let me walk/jog the commute… that leaves …. yes… cycling.

I don’t have bindings and cycling shoes; I have running shoes or minimalist shoes. As I’ve been forced to think about the situation, it seems that cycling makes the problem worse, because my foot and calf stay engaged in that extended position (ball of foot working the pedal) for the whole trip, because of the soft soles.

I’d hate to have to buy stiff-soled, narrow (… my feet have widened), constricting, dedicated cycling shoes, as well as the binding-style pedals to go with them, just for a few weeks.

So, where do I go from here?

How does one keep a semblance of conditioning when one can’t go any distance on foot, and cycling seems to be part of the problem?

Obviously, I got on this rant after reading what you said about replacing walking/running with cycling to get through foot injuries.

Kevin, in Ottawa, Canada, eh?

April 16 2015
Natural Footgear

Greetings, Kevin,

Thank you for your comment. You make some excellent points, and I appreciate how frustrating it can be to be unable to commute (by foot or by bike) due to foot pain. The first order of business, I think, is to address your current plantar fascia pain. I suspect that you may already have visited our plantar fasciosis page (www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17889104-plantar-fasciosis), but we also have another page on our site that talks about the underlying cause of this common foot problem (www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17889940-plantar-fasciosis-the-underlying-cause).

As unintuitive as it may seem, manually restoring the big toe to its normal anatomical position (i.e., in line with the first metatarsal bone and the inside edge of the foot) is absolutely crucial in treating and preventing plantar fascia pain in most cases (as it removes pressure on the blood vessels that cleanse the plantar fascia of metabolic byproducts and debris). Consistent Correct Toes use (www.naturalfootgear.com/products/correct-toes) is the best way we know to do this.

These simple stretches and exercises, especially the Big Toe Stretch, may also prove beneficial in restoring the health of your plantar fascia and rehabilitating your feet (www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17915320-top-exercises-for-feet-toes). Note: You can perform the Big Toe Stretch on both toes simultaneously by looping a thick elastic band over each of your big toes and gently stretching your feet apart.

Until your plantar fascia pain resolves, it may be best to avoid any activities that would aggravate the problem (including running or cycling, in your case). In terms of cycling contributing to your current foot pain/problem, what shoes are you cycling in? If your cycling shoes have any of these problematic shoe design features (www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17890808-problematic-shoe-design-features), this may be contributing to your plantar fascia pain on the bike. Note: flexible vs. non-flexible soles are probably not a huge factor here).

Going with a pair of conventional cycling shoes isn’t going to help much, as these shoes are notoriously unhealthy for feet. There are few good options for a foot-healthy cycling shoe (yet), but we’ve put together this article that offers some suggestions on how to modify dedicated cycling shoes for foot and toe health and comfort (www.naturalfootgear.com/blogs/education/17861648-cycling-shoe-surgery).

You had mentioned that you’re on your feet almost constantly while at work. What kind of footwear do you typically wear while at work? If you’re wearing more conventional type footwear for most of your work day, it may be possible that any beneficial effects of the minimalist footwear you were wearing is being negated. I’m not sure what your work environment is like, but we do offer some dress shoes and casual shoes that may be helpful (www.naturalfootgear.com/collections/mens-shoes). A lot of people who spend most of their work day on their feet (nurses, servers, hair dressers, etc.) have benefited greatly from these shoes (especially when used in combination with Correct Toes).

In terms of building or retaining conditioning until your foot problem resolves, the pool is always an option. Swimming and other aquatic activities can be a great way to maintain fitness levels without exacerbating existing foot problems. Mixing in a little strength training is another option, as is participating in gyrotonics, yoga, and other movement arts (e.g., tai chi, qi gong, other martial arts).

Thanks again for your question, Kevin! Please do let me know if you have any additional comments or questions.

Kind regards,
Marty Hughes, DC

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