Sorry guys, a new post has been long overdue! I have had a wicked summer so far! Mainly packed with entertaining the little ones. However, now I sit in France alone in a beautiful huge Chalet, I have three days to catch up on some writing before I head to Chamonix for the UTMB festivities, so here goes.
On to the title of this post; I love running. I know many don’t, and I felt that way for 19 years. I would miss a bus rather than run for one, honestly. Then something clicked after that first half-marathon I hadn’t trained for. I knew I could push beyond discomfort, and actually find pleasure in doing so, and this forever changed me. The comfort zone is a trap, and true happiness lies beyond this. This is a valuable lesson which changes the way one lives, a lesson I hope my kids will grow to understand.
I never intended to be a minimalist purist in terms of running shoe. I hadn’t read Born to Run (the book that started the minimalist trend) when I started running in sandals.
This is a story about how I ran in sandals for 3 and a bit years, how I found it and where my thoughts lie now. (I hope this story is useful).
PS- those nike cortez ‘fashion’ trainers stood me well for running for years until someone told me I needed a ‘proper’ running shoe ->
I was training for Malta Marathon when I discovered I was pregnant. Can I still do the marathon? I asked the GP. “No!” he said, “you’ll be 6 months pregnant!”. I rang him when I discovered we were having twins, he chuckled immensely, “And you wanted to run the marathon!”.
I was in labour in May 2010. The doctor instructed us to go for a walk along Marsacala seafront to get the contractions really going. As we walked, I was in quite some discomfort and we stopped regularly. (The nurse who looked after me after the C-section said she had seen me, and I had looked in pain). I decided I wanted to walk all the way to the end and back. Once I have set my mind on a distance, I can’t seem to do any shorter than that plan. Even though the contractions were almost on top of each other, I insisted on getting to the end and back. On the return back along the promenade I remember a runner passing us. “That will be me tomorrow”, I quipped. Adam laughed. As it was, it was 2 years and 3 months later that I ran. That was 2 years and 9 months of time off altogether. I had a problem with my C-section and was in pain for 2 years, I had another operation and then three months later was ready to run again.
Sometime when the twins were little I became aware of vibram five finger shoes. I tried to get hold of a pair, but the front of my foot is quite wide (from years of wearing birkenstock flip flops, I believe) so ordering online wouldn’t work. I then heard about luna sandals. These got my interest. The idea of running in sandals in Malta was attractive; letting my feet feel free and fresh. No more blisters or squashed slippy toes. I ordered a pair with traditional laces, the thought being if I didn’t like them for running they would look good for casual. We went on holiday and it was great just packing these sandals. No bulky shoes, no socks, and I could wear them out day and night.
I figured I would be starting from scratch with my running so may as well give minimalism a go.
They drove me mental for running. The leather was breaking almost every run, and I was having to stop to fix them. They felt very comfy, but I had no patience for this maintenance. I then ordered ATS aces, still the same thinnest (venado) sole. The buckle was not as comfy as the smooth leather, but the lack of maintenance won out. When I started trail running I realised quickly the smooth venado sole would not cut it. I ordered some hemp laces to wear with the venados for day to day, and some mono (thicker, trail-friendly grip sole) with ribbon laces, hoping that the ribbon would be as comfy as the leather but more durable (and vegetarian).
In the meantime, whilst waiting for the monos to arrive, I had taken my ATS venados to a shoe maker who stuck an extra bit of sole grip on the bottom. I wear these for winter running in the UK. They are light to pack and much more grippy in the mud/ wet surfaces than without the thin glued-on sole. I usually wear them with injinji socks as this also makes the buckle more comfy.
I wore the luna ribbon monos only once. I am hoping to figure out a better tying method with them, or send them back for ATS lacing. The ‘traditional’ or ‘tarahumara’ way of tying requires a certain kind of patience that I lack. I am still hoping I will figure it out, as I see many successful trail ultra-runners who swear by these sandals, and their running looks effortless. I bought some heavy trail trainers from the outdoor (Mochika) store in Malta, and ran in these when with the group. After one hour though, my feet felt extremely heavy. In the meantime another problem arose…
I slipped on a wet floor in Jan 2014. I broke my coccyx and it took 6 weeks (I think) to heal. Everything felt fine and I resumed running. In July 2014 I was cleaning the house we were staying in in Prague, and my lower back hurt. I had been running daily slow, long distances in lunas. I went to Yoga that evening and things felt worse. I have a great massage therapist in Prague but even he couldn’t bring me much relief. The pain was not a spasm, but a dull ache that increased in frequency over the next year.
The following year in Prague I popped into the luna store there. I tried on some vivobarefoot trail freaks and fell in love (as I tend to do all too quickly with running shoes). They were expensive though I recall and I couldn’t justify the cost when I had just bought new lunas.
A month or so later I found them on Amazon for around £50-£60 and bought them. I ran trails in them and roads in lunas (except for Malta half marathon which I wore the trail freaks as it was raining, and Malta’s roads get quite slippy when wet). I don’t feel confident in on wet surfaces in either venados or the vivos. The vivos were particularly weak on wet slippy rocks.
By the time I finished Gozo Ultra in 2015, I had twisted my knee and with my nagging my lower back continuing to show no improvement, it was time to address the root.
As for shoes, a physio I saw in regard to my knee said I needed more cushioning, but not a rigid/ supportive shoe. I thought this could help my back troubles too. The vivos were not comfy over the ultra-distance. I always wore them quite loose and there was just too much sliding around and lack of cushion (possibly) for such a distance. I hit the ground hard when running downhill, and these facts combined I think may’ve caused my knee. That and maybe not training properly also. But I had committed all the time I could to training. I just wasn’t planning on 55k.
A quick interlude about my back… It hurt most when I did my normal household routines. A long run made it feel loads better. In fact, before Mellieha to Senglea night run (my favourite event of the year, along with Gozo hellfire) my back was hurting so much I was in child’s pose asking Adam to press my back down. After the 30k run it felt loads better, but I knew the pain would always return after a day or two. This is telling. The running was not helping. I took the summer off running, just to see if my back got better. It didn’t.
I popped into a store in Norwich to try to get a pair of “vivos with more support”. I emailed Neil Featherby at Sportlink and he replied with a suggestion of models for my needs.