Connections

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I occasionally have a problem with bruising on the ball of my right foot. It’s not been a huge issue, but it’s bothersome. Sometimes, it keeps me from running for a couple of days. More often, it simply means that I need to wear my huaraches for a couple of runs until the tenderness goes away. What’s more annoying is that the fact that I know something about my form isn’t right, but I haven’t been able to figure out what.

Until now. The answer is simple. It’s all in my head. Literally.

I have a habit (like many runners) of not holding myself upright when I run, especially when I’m tired. I lean forward slightly with my upper body, and my head goes forward too. Otherwise, I do all the right barefoot form things, like “lift knees,’ “curl toes,” and “lift before you land.” But I lean.

And, when I do that, the following things happen:

1/ My stride lengthens slightly, on my right leg anyway.

2/ I don’t lift off as quickly, again on my right side.

3/ My cadence slows down.

All of that, I think, brings prolonged and unwanted pressure on the ball of my right foot. It gets bruised, the skin gets worn, and, eventually, that area of my foot either gets blistered or thin and vulnerable to injury. In fact, the only places I’ve ever had puncture wounds have been on the ball of my right foot. Puncture wounds aren’t much fun.

So, for the last few runs, I’ve been holding my head high. I still scan the ground in front of me, but I’m careful to strand up straight. It seems to be working.

The weird thing is that I now find (because I’m paying even more careful attention) that if I tilt my head ever so slightly to the left, I seem to run a little more effortlessly and gracefully. Now what the heck is that about?

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14 comments

  1. Hi Alan, I love this kind of form-analysis post. I didn’t realise you had a steel rod in one of your legs! Man, your story gets more intriguing. I’m really happy for you if you’ve found the solution to your bruising problem (In fact, I’m guessing from your last dailymile post that the change in posture is working out as that sounds like a perfect LSD run – ‘Numbah One!’)

    1. Yes, I think I’ve figured out that “head held high” is bringing good results. In my last couple of runs, I’ve found that keeping my belly/core firm helps me keep a better pace, without degrading my stride and cadence. Thanks for the happy!

      As for the metal in my leg, the story is this: In May of 2005, I was hit from behind by a truck while cycling (training for an ultra-distance event). The result was a broken femur and a major concussion. I was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where I had emergency surgery. That meant a stainless steel rod being placed in my left femur, from just below my hip joint to just above my knee, with a couple of plates and pins to hold it in place. It also meant 14 months of physiotherapy to get me to the point of being functional again. I started running at the end of that period of physiotherapy. (I’d been away from running since 1980.) The concussion resulted in a permanently stretched optic nerve, which means I have to wear glasses for reading (which I didn’t before).

    1. No, I never wear conventional shoes. I run barefoot and, very infrequently, in Invisible Shoe huaraches. When I’m not running, I’m either barefoot or in flip-flops.

      1. After reading some of your posts and getting to know you a lil better I can see its definately not shoes. Has this just started happening or has been going on for a while? I’m not an expert here but I would like to learn with you and help as best I can =]

      2. Steve, it comes and goes. I can go for quite a while without any bruising or tenderness. Once it happens, though, it takes a while to heal completely. Then I go for quite a long while before it happens again. I’m convinced it’s something about my form. It may be linked to a leg length discrepancy, as I have a stainless steel rod in my left femur, and have been told by both the orthopedic surgeon who did the operation and the physiotherapist who helped me through the months of post-op rehab that my legs “of course” would be different lengths. Or it could simply be that I don’t run correctly. šŸ™‚

      3. Have you read anything Michael Sandler has produced? He was in a bad accident and also has a leg discrepancy. Maybe he can or his work can help you. His book Barefoot Running is pretty good, if your into barefoot running šŸ˜‰

      4. I know of Michael Sandler, and of his book. Haven’t read it yet, though. I looked up some stuff about leg length discrepancy in runners, and found that it doesn’t have much of a bearing on this. After all, the argument goes, we only land on one leg at a time, so even larger differences in length don’t affect anything.

  2. Are you guys taking short strides? Something like marching in place but leaning slightly forward to gain momentum.

    Edgar

  3. I’m also having troubles with bruising on the balls of my feet. The left seems more prone to it.
    It’s funny, I’m reading everywhere how important it is to keep straight and not leaning forward. When I see myself run (in videos or in shoppning window reflections) it seems my problem is almost the opposite. I am almost leaning back!

    I now try to have music with me with the right beat to help me keep the cadence high. As soon as I get slow on the feet I get all kinds of strange pains in my chins.. :/

    1. Martin, you’re one of my posture role models! In the photos and videos I’ve seen of you, you appear to be standing tall and straight. I wish I did as well.

      And with all due respect, I have to ask, “How many chins do you have”? I think you meant shins. šŸ™‚

      1. You’re too kind šŸ™‚

        Doh! Sorry, I must apologize for my not so well written english,just slightly better than google translate I’m afraid..
        I was actually a ctrl+t, ctrl+k away from googling the word šŸ˜‰

      2. I was just teasing you, Martin. in fact, your English is excellent – and my Swedish is there at all. šŸ™‚

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