Thursday, July 22, 2010

Getting Back At It

Yay! My first run in 3 weeks! I'm so happy to be back at it. There's nothing quite like the feeling of getting my feet in the dirt on a barefoot trail run! I'm keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that that's the end of the tendonitis!

Considering this is my first post, perhaps I should give a little background. I've been a barefoot runner for just over a year. I started in June 2009. Before that I wasn't a runner at all. I didn't set out to be a runner and I certainly didn't plan to be a barefoot runner. I simply tried a short barefoot run (just a few yards) out of curiosity, discovered that it's incredibly FUN and have been hooked ever since.

Some people transition to barefoot running quickly. I'm not one of those people. The process of becoming a barefoot runner has had its ups and downs for me. On the plus side, the knee, shin and hip pain I would experience any time I tried running in shoes is completely nonexistent for me running barefoot. On the minus side, it is taking a long time (read, over a year) to properly condition the tendons and muscles in my feet and ankles. Twice in the last year I've done too much too soon and I've paid the price in the form of tendonitis.

The latest bout has been extensor tendonitis in my left foot, commonly referred to as Top Of the Foot Pain (TOFP). From what I can tell, it may be one of the most common issues for barefoot runners. From others' reports, it's usually mild and goes away quickly. In my case, I ended up with a pretty serious case that came on suddenly as a result of sprinting during a 1 mile fun run. Slowly but steadily it got much better, but never completely went away.

I finally went to the doctor 3 weeks ago. He confirmed my self-diagnosis of extensor tendonitis. He noted that my calf muscles were exceptionally tight and I had a limited range of ankle dorsiflexion. Since tight calf muscles pull on the opposing extensor tendons, he prescribed stretching and massage to relax the calves. He suggested no running for 3 weeks to allow the tendons to rest.

I have followed the doctor's advice for the last 3 weeks and have noted significant improvement in my range of motion. I finally went out for my first run yesterday afternoon. I'm taking a conservative approach and only went for a short 1 mile run/walk on the trails (less than 1/2 of it was actual running). It felt great and my foot feels fine today, a little tight but no pain. I'm going to take 2 rest days between runs and ramp back up slowly while continuing with the stretching and massage. I'm hoping this does the trick. We'll see.

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