I’ve officially begun my next training cycle. My goal race- Mind the Ducks 12 Hour in Rochester, NY on May 15th. Training for this race will require something I have historically avoided- lots of miles on flat, smooth ground. I love trails… so much so, it’s all I’ve done this winter. For whatever reason, I decided to go for a long run earl Sunday morning. I woke up at 3:30 and was out the door by about 4:00.
The original plan was 17 Vibram-clad miles. At about mile six, I realized the mileage was a bit optimistic. I turned back. By mile seven, I noticed a familiar twinge on the top of my right foot. Top of the foot pain. The bane of barefoot runners. By mile eight, I was reduced to a shuffle. By mile nine I was unable to run. I walked the remaining two and a half miles. The frigid temps combined with thin, sweat-soaked clothing made the trip miserable.
After returning home, I assessed the situation. It hurt to run. It hurt to walk. If I flexed my foot in any way, it hurt. I hobbled through the rest of the day. I was expecting to be out of action for at least a few days.
I am pleasantly surprised to report the pain completely vanished. I ran 2 miles at a fast pace this afternoon without any discomfort. While I am ecstatic that my training wasn’t derailed, my curiosity is driving me crazy. Why did the pain start and why did it vanish?
Typically, TOFP is a symptom of doing too much too soon. It occurs when the soft tissue of the foot adapts to the rigors of barefoot or minimalist shoe running. It’s not a serious condition and it does require one to back off training to a degree. This was different. The run was shorter than the trail runs I’ve done over the winter. Could it be the roads? Could the flat, repetitive nature of road running have been the culprit? Or was it my choice in footwear?
I was wearing my venerable Vibram KSOs. I’ve had these shoes for about three years. I’ve run approximately 700 miles in them. They have been my choice for gym footwear since I purchased them. They smell horrible. And I love them. However… they could have been the cause of the injury.
It has long been speculated that the strap on KSOs that transects the top of the foot somehow causes TOFP. I have always questioned this assumption… it simply doesn’t make sense from a physiological standpoint. Having said that, I’ve had three incidents of TOFP in the last four years. Each one occurred when wearing those KSOs (I do almost all of my running barefoot.) Part of the mystery may be the tightness of the strap. If over-tightened, others have reported experiencing TOFP.
My question to the greater barefoot/VFF running community- what are your experiences with this? Is it something you’ve experienced? Anyone have a good theory that explains the physiology?