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Foot injury possibly from wearing Vibram Five Fingers

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  • Foot injury possibly from wearing Vibram Five Fingers

    Hi everyone,
    I injured my foot about two weeks ago, and I think it might have been because I switched to Vibram Five Fingers without properly conditioning my feet first. But I'm not sure so I'm going to give a description of my VFF runs below, and hopefully someone can tell me if my injury was caused by running too much in VFFs too soon. And if so, what to do about it since I really don't want to experience another foot injury, but I also don't want to give up on those VFFs.

    The first time I ran in VFFs, I thought that I'd avoid the kind of mistake that all other newbies make so I started out really slowly -- I ran in them for 3 minutes after a run in regular shoes. That was really kind of inconvenient so I didn't run in them again for a week or so. Then I decided, well, screw it, so I just ran in them for 4.75 miles on the treadmill. My calves weren't sore afterward, and my feet didn't hurt except for a blister. Two days later, I think I ran 4 miles or so in regular running shoes and then switched to VFFs for 2.5 miles on the treadmill.

    The following week I ran 6 miles in VFFs on the treadmill. (I also did other runs both outside and on the treadmill in regular shoes in the interim.)

    The week after that I ran 6 miles in them again, except this time one of those 6 miles was outside. I was fine after the run, except for blisters. Two days later I did a 7-mile run in regular running shoes (I switched back and forth between VFFs and regular running shoes because of the blisters). Later that night, I felt a slight pain in the arch area of my left foot when I walked. It went away the next morning, and I forgot about it so I went running again in the evening, wearing regular running shoes. After about half a mile, I felt this sharp pain in the arch area of my left foot (it was kind of painful but not horribly so, and it only lasted for a second). I stopped, shook out my foot, then gingerly started running again. It seemed okay so I kept running (bad idea). I ran 3 miles at a slower pace than usual. That night I was limping. But the limp mostly went away the next day. I rested for three days, and on the fourth day, I did something incredibly stupid--I went running again even though I knew that my foot wasn't completely healed yet. I ran 3 miles in VFFs, very slowly, and needless to say, the run exacerbated whatever injury I had before. This was 9 days ago, and I'm still limping although it's gotten a lot better.

    I also haven't seen a doctor yet. I didn't think that it was a big deal at first, but I did some research online, and now I'm afraid that it's a stress fracture (although it's more likely a plantar fascia strain). I'm going to see a podiatrist next week just to make sure that it's not a fracture.

    The pain started after I did a run in regular running shoes, not after a VFF-run so I'm not sure if the injury was actually caused by wearing VFFs. I've been running for a couple years now, and I've never experience a foot injury before.

    I'd like to keep running in VFFs, but I would really like to avoid another foot injury. Is 4-6 miles at a time too much for beginners? What's an appropriate distance to start with? Sorry for the super long post, but any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks!

    My journal

  • #2
    What type of surface are you running on???

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    • #3
      You might find your best advise here: Switching also, check out their other FAQs

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      • #4
        Alright man. If you don't listen to your body you're gonna get hurt. Wait for it to stop hurting and heal and then try running again. But if it hurts, stop! What did you expect would happen if you keep running on an injury caused by running? I hurt myself all the time doing stupid stuff like that, but I'm learning (I'm also fairly young, 21, and it helps to heal quickly) Only advice i've really got is to learn from your mistakes.

        Best of luck,
        Paul

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        • #5
          I am not a runner, and I have had foot problems in the past. It took me at least 2 months of wearing VFF's around the house and in the evenings before I could really walk long distances comfortably or wear them all day on the weekend. Now I can pretty much do whatever I want to in them. My advice wear them in the evenings and on the weekends until your really comfortable in them before attempting a long run. I do love doing sprints in the grass with my VFF's, but my sprint workout is much shorter than the distances you are running.

          Hope everything heals up quickly Serenity.
          Strive for healthy today.

          Satisfaction is the death of desire.

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          • #6
            Gotta listen to you body! I can't believe you would risk it and run that far that often in VFFs when you weren't ready for it. I've had my KSO's for a few months now and went from running 40 miles a week in my asics to working up to 8 miles a week (this last week) in VFFs. Definitely have to take baby steps to avoid injury in these.

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            • #7
              Even during CrossFit WODs I haven't run more than 400 meters in my VFFs yet and I've had them a couple months now but then I didn't really get them for running. One of the guys at my gym told me he got multiple stree fractures running too much too soon in his VFFs.

              Edit: I take that back, there may have been a 5 round WOD with 100 meter runs.

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              • #8
                Hey man,

                I did a 10K the other day on pavement, with hills, running and finishing in the top 30 out of 500. Let's just say I was hauling ass. Anyways, I hadn't ever run in Vibrams more than 400 meters.

                I couldn't walk for two days, calves on fire, achilles hurt, appeared to be a stress fracture on left foot, glutes dead, quads useless...let's just say I was a WRECK. I am still recovering, 10 days later...stress fractures get mis-diagnosed all the time it is most likely a bruise.

                Participate in the following activities: ice baths, icing after runs/workouts, foam rolling, elevating, solid sleep and great nutrition.

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                • #9
                  holy moly 6 miles in vibrams?!
                  definitely gotta condition your feet properly first.
                  im used to running large runs barefoot so vibrams dont bother me so much. the only thing that bothers me about em is that they kinda cut into the tops of my feet a little, like they are too tight around my toes/top of my feet but they feel lose other places. so i prefer barefoot to vibrams. i only wear em wen i need the extra protection, like im going hiking. otherwise, barefoots.
                  "The first wealth is health."
                  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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                  • #10
                    I can top your injury

                    At 50 I'm probably significantly older than the average member of this blog. which is partly why my VFF injuries are worse; we old folks don't heal as quickly.

                    Like many, I read Born to Run and was enthralled. I started running about 10 years ago and within two years started to have knee trouble. After a few more years, I just gave up -- with great regret. Then the book...
                    6 months ago, I bought the green/grey VFFs. I walked and ran on a soft beach a couple times over the first week -- 1-2 miles, tops. The next week I ran on a treadmill and after about 1/2 mile had a cramp-like pain in my calf. It turned out to be a pretty wicked strain of the calf muscle. I waited it out for about 3 weeks. Ran again -- another 1/2 mile and new pain in my arch - most likely plantar. Waited another 5 weeks and ran another 1/2 mile on a firm beach. Next morning, wicked pain in the arch. That was 12 weeks ago and it's gotten much worse, improved, gotten worse, etc.

                    Foot doctor said it's plantar. I actually think it's more specifically the flexor hallucis longus, the tendon that runs from your big toe, flosses through your ankle and connects to one of the calf muscles. I can feel a swollen, inflamed node on the tendon about the size of a pea. Whatever the specific diagnosis, the treatment's the same -- rest, stretching and ice. All of which I've been doing and none of which is yielding any sign of improvement.

                    I really want to believe in the rationale that I should be able to run in these shoes -- that my feet were "born" for it. I'm bound and determined to prove it, but I'm going to have to wait at least six more weeks and then only walk for another six weeks before I actually try to run a hundred yards.

                    Am I crazy? Can anybody give me some encouragement?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by leftrare View Post
                      At 50 I'm probably significantly older than the average member of this blog. which is partly why my VFF injuries are worse; we old folks don't heal as quickly.

                      Like many, I read Born to Run and was enthralled. I started running about 10 years ago and within two years started to have knee trouble. After a few more years, I just gave up -- with great regret. Then the book...
                      6 months ago, I bought the green/grey VFFs. I walked and ran on a soft beach a couple times over the first week -- 1-2 miles, tops. The next week I ran on a treadmill and after about 1/2 mile had a cramp-like pain in my calf. It turned out to be a pretty wicked strain of the calf muscle. I waited it out for about 3 weeks. Ran again -- another 1/2 mile and new pain in my arch - most likely plantar. Waited another 5 weeks and ran another 1/2 mile on a firm beach. Next morning, wicked pain in the arch. That was 12 weeks ago and it's gotten much worse, improved, gotten worse, etc.

                      Foot doctor said it's plantar. I actually think it's more specifically the flexor hallucis longus, the tendon that runs from your big toe, flosses through your ankle and connects to one of the calf muscles. I can feel a swollen, inflamed node on the tendon about the size of a pea. Whatever the specific diagnosis, the treatment's the same -- rest, stretching and ice. All of which I've been doing and none of which is yielding any sign of improvement.

                      I really want to believe in the rationale that I should be able to run in these shoes -- that my feet were "born" for it. I'm bound and determined to prove it, but I'm going to have to wait at least six more weeks and then only walk for another six weeks before I actually try to run a hundred yards.

                      Am I crazy? Can anybody give me some encouragement?
                      I did the same thing, though I'd been wearing my Vibrams casually for about a year, then I took a 3 mile walk... at a fast pace... and developed Plantars. This was 10 months ago. I'm still having trouble with it, but it doesn't hurt nearly as bad as it did. My understanding is that Plantars can take up to two years to heal on its own. So... give it time.
                      Start weight: 250 - 06/2009
                      Current weight: 199
                      Goal: 145

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                      • #12
                        I'd really recommend walking around in a forefoot gait for a long time before ever running that way.
                        http://www.theprimalprepper.com - preparing for life's worst while living for the best

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                        • #13
                          I think the problem people have with them is that we are seeing articles and research about "barefoot running" so often now, that people want them to be running shoes. I have 3 pairs, and I do run in them, and have run up to 6 miles in them, but they were walking and general wearing shoes first. I wear them everywhere because they are so much more comfortable than any other shoe I've ever worn. You really have to let your feet get used to the concept of barefooting first by allowing all of the small muscles in your feet to strengthen slowly by learning to walk in VFFs comfortably for months before running. If you want to keep running, then keep your regular running shoes, but wear your VFFs for everything else. After 3, 4, 6 months (whenever your feet are so comfortable in them that you don't want to wear other shoes) start doing sprints on a soft surface in them. Sprints have you up on your toes automatically, so you're reinforcing the correct running position for barefoot shoes. Choose a park with grass, a school track, or another softer-than-sidewalk surface and just do a tabata sprint session (sprint 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, repeat for 4 minutes, then die).

                          Once you've sprinted in them for a few weeks, then do short regular paced runs. You have to learn to run on your forefoot to midfoot in Vibrams, which is completely opposite from the heel strike regular running shoes nearly force you to use. Your feet, ankles, and calves will all be sore after just a mile (if that), so don't expect to do an actual "long run." Just run as long as you can stay up on your forefoot, and then walk. Your running times will eventually get longer.

                          This method really worked for me, and as of January this year I was no longer able to run in my NewBalance running shoes at all. I tried, just to see what it would feel like again, and my knees started hurting pretty badly (enough that I couldn't run for days) after only 2 times running 3-4 miles. My feet, knees, legs, and hips all feel great running in Vibrams now, and I'll never go back to running in traditional running shoes. It does take a long time to transition though (it took me over 6 months), so you just have to take it slow.

                          Walking around on your toes for blocks at a time really helps too, it's great practice for running up on your forefoot.
                          Last edited by hannahc; 08-09-2010, 01:03 PM.
                          You are what you eat,
                          and what you eat eats too - Michael Pollan

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by leftrare View Post
                            I really want to believe in the rationale that I should be able to run in these shoes -- that my feet were "born" for it. I'm bound and determined to prove it, but I'm going to have to wait at least six more weeks and then only walk for another six weeks before I actually try to run a hundred yards.

                            Am I crazy? Can anybody give me some encouragement?
                            You are not crazy. But you have to remember, that you have been wearing regular shoes for 50 years. That doesn't undo itself over night. Shoes make our feet mooshy and soft. Even if you are an athlete, your feet will suffer atrophy from wearing shoes, and your toes will have bent unnaturally close and pointed instead of the wide spread you need for balance. And it's not just the muscles of the feet that are soft and weak. There is an incredibly complex and intricate network of muscles in your ankles, legs, and even low back that aren't getting used. Even if you're an athlete.

                            Thankfully, this CAN be undone. But growing your bones apart and strengthening muscles that have been atrophied and misshapen for decades.

                            Use your VFF's for leisure and gently build your endurance without rushing. Use them around the house, for short walks, and strolling and just work up use. Save your sneakers for hardcore running.

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                            • #15
                              Exactly -- think of it as if you're going into physical therapy after coming out of a leg cast. Gotta take it easy and build up very slowly, err on the side of caution, etc.!

                              (I don't have my VFFs till Wednesday, but that's the analogy I always think of. My brother has had a lot of orthopedic surgery and had to learn to walk again from scratch to match his new build... this must be similar!)
                              "Trust me, you will soon enter a magical land full of delicious steakflowers, with butterbacons fluttering around over the extremely rompable grass and hillsides."

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