Long-time readers know that in days gone by I ran marathons and competed in triathlons, that I even trained halfway through to a 50-mile trail ultra before my chronic plantar’s fasciitis blew up my foot, taking the rest of me out with it. The flare-up extraordinaire was due at least in large part to wearing the wrong shoes, then exacerbating the condition by running on uneven surfaces. I mourned. I rehabbed. I painstakingly and painfully built back up my run base, experimenting somewhat successfully with Vibram’s Five Fingers and Newton’s, only to have Eric’s health issues derail us (which punked us both out).
That time — and every time — I ran, walked, did plyometrics or kenpo or even wore non-orthotic daytime shoes, my foot hurt, hurt significantly. Plantar’s fasciitis altered my life. Sure, I could still walk and run, but before PF, I was a rabid trail runner, an aficionado of state and national parks. It defined me, it thrilled me, it gave me joy. Eric and I had planned many more endurance events, including a full Ironman, all of which required me to run. In my heart, I feared that I was kaput. No Ironman. No ultra. No middlin trail runs to look forward to.
Oh, and one other little thing. Running soothed my type A/slightly OCD soul.
So I started to write, and that has turned out quite well for me, but it has filled time and scratched another itch. It never replaced what running trails did for me.
Enter an April miracle. I have a high school buddy who works for Vasque. They make hiking boots and . . . TRAIL RUNNING SHOES. He thought their new Pendulums might be my answer, and he offered to let my try them for free. (Free is one of my favorite words) The Pendulm is a light, minimal trail runner, yet somehow in very little shoe they managed to do something groundbreaking. They added in a stabilizer, most of which (if I understand it correctly) is in the soft insole instead of the hard shoe bed. Bonus: they’re mesh, so they allow your foot to aerate. This is a really big deal in Houston weather.
I got a size 7 pair of the men’s red version to fit my size 9 feet. Quick aside: *I wore an 8-8.5 before having kids and taking up distance running.* This was totally a color choice for me. They have some nice looking woman’s styles, but my feet were angry from past abuse and they screamed for red, dammit. When they came in, walked around the house in them, and I swear to God my feet were orgasmic. I made everyone in the house stick their tootsies in, and they were impressed.
I’ve been working diligently on my lateral stability ever since my PF went nuclear, and this spring was no exception. My husband and I are 2/3 through P90X, a program we’ve done before and highly recommend. I auditioned the Pendulum’s in Plyometrics, or “jump training,” which involves lots of planting and side jumps. Yes, I know, they’re trail shoes. But I had to know how my feet liked them. And normally, my feet hurt the next day after every Plyo session.
Not this time. No pain, ZERO.
I walked around in the Pendulums for a few hours over the next weeks. They still felt great. They felt better than great, actually. They felt awesome.
Finally the time came to retreat to our beloved Nowheresville property and the sanctuary of our soft-floored, drafty “Quacker” trailer. At Nowheresville, trails abound. I hadn’t run them in years, but I was ready to try again. I strapped on my foot armor and took off with my husband. Eric runs behind me. In the past, this has caused him great trauma. I have almost no cartilage left in my ankles, and they lay over nearly flat in all directions. He had to watch me appear to break my ankle over and over and over, before, although to me what he saw as a big deal was just a day in the life. I also tumbled a lot.
“How am I looking?” I asked, after about half a mile on an old dirt road with big stones ideal for rolling your ankles on. I knew I couldn’t be looking too good. I’m a squishy 46-year old woman who loves ribeye and fried chicken, after all.
“Like a different runner. You look good. You look steady. No flopping.”
“I feel good. I’m not having any trouble getting my weight forward.” One key for me to avoid PF is to run with a mid-foot strike, but in order to do that, I have to get my weight in front of me, and concentrate on almost landing on my forefoot. It’s impossible in my shoes from the old days. Ostensibly built to give stability to floppy runners, they over-stabilized and took all control of my stride and foot strike away from me. I ended up logging hundreds of miles with a damaging rear foot strike. Ouchy, oh, ouchy, ouchy, ouchy.
“You’re clearly striking mid-to-front.”
We changed terrain, moving off trail to tackle some hills with uneven ground and tufts of grass along the banks of a pond. We strode across fields of tall weeds and flowers. We ran an old pickup road with deep ruts.
Not a flicker of pain. Not one iota. I absolutely couldn’t believe.
Hard-earned experience taught me not to overdo it, no matter how good it felt. We stopped after three or four miles. I could add distance next time. I didn’t need to prove anything. I’d already scaled Mount Everest that day.
The only negative I had with the first run was I blistered one of my pinky toes. I prefer to run sockless as I generate a lot of heat in my feet, and that didn’t work so well for me. Next time I’ll go with an ultralight wicking sock. Other than that, it was perfection, and I haven’t felt a flicker of pain since.
Thank you God, and thanks to my buddy at Vasque who convinced me to try again.
I just might be “back,” y’all. I just might be back.
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