Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


Guest Post: Memoirs of the Hapless Injured Girl

As runners we tend to cherish and memorialize milestones – pictures of our first race, the mantle especially built for our age-group awards, blogging about our first trail poop.  Zazzle and CafePress offer an assortment of tshirts, mousepads, mugs, and stickers to help us commemorate nearly any achievement, and if we’re lucky we can find one plaque that celebrates several categories.  Recently though I hit a milestone for which I found no sticker – “Congratulations!  Your Injury Just Halted Everyday Life.”  I’ve made a lot of adjustments since hurting myself but remained fairly self-sufficient, until last week.

And the answer to your first question is: yes, I did look for a greeting card.

This may not sound like a big deal but think about it:  Most distance runners train alone. We are responsible for logging our own mileage and make a point to run our own races.  We are used to, and generally pride ourselves upon, being self-sufficient.  My husband calls it being stubborn, but I digress.  Requiring assistance to complete normally easy tasks can be a big deal for someone used to doing things (like running 18 miles) by themselves, or who hasn’t quite come to terms with just another injury that has become a long-term injury.  Realizing I had reached that point was a big deal for me.

 I dreaded the idea of giving in to this reality because that would signal that I was definitively very broken.  Utter brokenness would mean The Husband dedicating time and energy to my care; I didn’t want to become a pain in the ass.  Difficulty completing just everyday tasks meant that the road to running recovery would be very, very long. See? I even made a graph to illustrate my point:

You see, I’m used to my body readily and easily completing whatever task I ask of it.  I lift heavy weights.   I contort into the most awkward positions when doing yoga or helping The Husband repair something in my little Saturn SC-1 coupe.  I pick up socks with my toes and on occasion extend my leg in front of me to open a door. I lay on the bare terrazo floor just because my dog likes me to.  Nothing has ever seemed impossible until now; except maybe flying (but only because I don’t have feathers). But anything else was certainly within reach.

You’re probably wondering during what monumental task did “fuck dude, I really can’t do this” occur to me.  Well, I was buying dog food.  My gym buddy could legitimately argue that my self-sufficiency was foresaken the first time he had to bring me weights for dumb-bell press…but according to me, it was the dog food.

 I live with about 260 pounds of cuddly canines that consume massive quantities of food.  Tractor Supply has very large bags of food for a good price but I wasn’t sure someone would be available or willing to help me put it in the cart and take it out to my car.  But my local grocer, Publix, has a reputation for outstanding customer service.  The sole factor determining my purchase –  which store would definitely offer assistance.  There’s something depressing and humbling about requiring assistance rather than voluntarily asking for it; I don’t recall ever having to have help.

I was embarrassed. I don’t look broken, would they believe me or think I am just being lazy?

I was cranky. Some underpaid brat kid who doesn’t even want to be there is going to be forced to serve me.

I was sad. Man, I can’t even carry my own freaking dog food.

But to my surprise, the experience was actually pretty good. So good, in fact, that I wrote to the Store Manager:

I wanted to take the time to inform you of the awesomeness of your customer service, specifically that of Dominic.  Last week I begrudgingly asked for assistance with obtaining large bags of dog food.  My movement is very restricted due to a recent injury and I haven’t quite come to terms with its limitations.

He was like a helpful shadow, never once leaving my side.  Not once did I get the feeling from him or any other employee that I was taking up time or that he should be elsewhere in the store.  Dominic didn’t rush my transaction and even pointed out sale items.  Not only did he procure my items, he also commandeered the cart and offered to visit other parts of the store if I needed.  He took my items through checkout and waited afterward to take them to my car when he could have just as easily pawned me off to whomever normally worked that line.  Additionally, he placed the large bags in the trunk in such a way that they would be fairly easy to remove.

Dominic’s is the first outside assistance I have sought.  Because of his service I’ll be less embarrassed about asking store personnel for help; for someone like me, who isn’t used to requiring assistance, that’s important.

 I’ve asked for assistance one more time since then, and it was equally pleasant.  I mention it because the person who helped me was cross-country runner who jokingly reprimanded her coworker for allowing me to pick up a 12 pack of beer soda.  She threatened to ride home with me to make sure I didn’t pull that stunt again.  Thinking about it makes me laugh now.

It’s been hard to come to grips with my limitations;  I mean, I pretty much went from being able to do anything to virtually nothing in a matter of a few weeks.  Finding the couch more comfortable than the memory foam bed isn’t so frustrating, and I don’t get angry that it’s painful to bend over the sink to brush my teeth.  I pretend my back support is a sexy corset.  Okay not really, nonetheless I rock that damned back support.  Baby steps right?

This whole getting injured thing sucks.  Not being able to easily complete daily tasks sucks even more.

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At least backpedaling is exercise.

So, today I went back on all my beliefs about footwear. I bought these.

I’ve been injured for almost ten weeks and I’m still not better. Today the pain creeping over the top of my foot was enough to make me limp. So I figured it’s about time. It’s about time I give in to the fact that my foot needs to be protected, supported, immobilized if it’s ever going to heal. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point because it was hard for me to reconcile my idealized opinions about barefoot walking and running with the thought of wearing a shoe that’s exactly the opposite. It sort of feels like talking with my mouth and backpedaling with my feet, as it were.

Nevertheless, I found myself at the local mall during my lunch break, looking for….something. A gel insole, a sneaker, a shoe, anything that would stifle the formidable ice pick slamming into the center of my foot with every step in my (really cute, flexible, otherwise extremely comfortable) Vivobarefoot kicks. I tried on 14 pairs of ugly sensible shoes at DSW and walked around a bit in each pair. Some were too narrow, some were too stiff, some had really weird cushy heels that made my ankles wobble. Then I put on these monstrosities by Born. Clog-like shape. Cushy insole with significant arch support. Cast-like stiffness to the leather upper. The back half is so built up they almost qualify as high heels. I struggled into them, stood up, and took three steps. Five. Ten. I couldn’t believe it…the pain just wasn’t there. I guess these shoes had just the right amount of whatever-it-was-my-foot-wanted. I’ll be damned.

So the lesson here is sometimes you gotta say to hell with over-engineering the solution to the problem, and just go with the thing that happens to work.

That’s not to say I consider these fugly shoes my solution. In fact it’s the opposite. After several weeks of seeing a physical therapist and watching her pay attention to only one of the many ouch spots of my foot, getting no firm diagnosis of the problem and seeing no real improvement other than from the resting I would have done anyway, I decided to get a referral for a podiatrist. The hard part with that, of course, is that the good sports podiatrist I know of through a friend doesn’t belong in the network of doctors to which my PCP is willing to refer me. Unfortunately, the only podiatrist she can refer me to is more familiar with corns and nail fungus than sports injuries. After some persistence and much time spent getting bulldozed by the receptionist on the phone, I secured the referral and an appointment with the sports podiatrist next week. Hooray for small triumphs.

Wish me orthotic-free luck!


Notes from the bottom of a barrel

The last 35 minutes has been the lowest point of my entire running life.

I have run through pain before. Sore knees, sprained ankles, not much has ever kept me from running for very long, especially in the last year. But it’s been five weeks since my last run and my rebellious streak told me that I should try to run a little tonight while I was walking my dog. I made it only a few hundred feet before I had to stop. It hurt so badly. There was a bench on the side of the path. I sat down, I rubbed my achey foot. And then I cried a little.

I am at a point of utter despair. I try to tell myself that this is all temporary, and that if I am patient I will run again before it gets cold out and this will all be a lesson in my rearview. But while I’m limping back home with a dog pulling on his leash for me to move at the speed he is used to, nothing seems temporary. I feel like a caged animal. Like a loser. Weak. Un-athletic. Fat. I start to re-evaluate myself: maybe I shouldn’t be running barefoot. Maybe the people who tell me barefoot running is stupid are all right. Maybe having sore knees and sprained ankles in regular running shoes is preferable to this. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to run fast. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying to run long.

Maybe I shouldn’t be running at all.

But how can that be? Running is one of the greater forms of happiness in my life. It just seems so unfair that it should be taken away from me. I trained all winter for the chance to meet so many new goals this summer. I am frustrated at this loss of time.

I realize this setback of mine is a satisfying opportunity for naysayers to dust off their I-told-you-so soapboxes. I’m tired of trying to explain that it’s not the shoes. The fact is that the shoes have given me so much, so much more freedom, so much more distance. The shoes have rekindled my love for the sport. But I squandered what the shoes gave me by demanding more than they could give me…more than my feet could deliver. It was a stupid move and I will pay for it with many I-told-you-so‘s.

I’m not sure where to go from here. Maybe next time my physical therapist tells me not to run I won’t. Maybe next week I’ll break down and start using the dreaded stationary bike at the gym so that I don’t completely undo all my endurance while I’m waiting this out. But either way, until I’m running again I don’t think I’ll be smiling very big.

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Running Injury #382

I hurt my foot while running long, several days ago,
Exactly when it came about I’m sure that I don’t know.
I limp at work and limp back home, I wince and I complain;
My body doesn’t see I have no time for sprains or strains.

Next week I have a Fun-Run with a Barefoot Superstar,
And in two weeks a 5k, right up the street, not far.
Three weeks from now it’s International Barefoot Runner’s Day,
And I’m supposed to lose my shoes and run for five more k.

The sun is out, the birds all chirp, “It’s spring, come out and run!”
My friends post miles on Facebook, they’re having so much fun.
How sad I am, and longing to wear my running shoes today,
But I know if I’m not patient, I’ll be gimpy all through May.

So when I’m back, it’s barefoot time, at least for part of the way;
No uphills, downhills for awhile, at least not like Great Bay.
My cadence high, my feet relaxed, how graceful I will be;
Oh how I wish that was today, this wait is killing me!