Discovering new and interesting sources of pain

In Barefoot running, Luna sandals by All This Running AroundLeave a Comment

Before I started to run in Luna Sandals, I did quite a bit of reading up on what I could expect. It was clear from the outset that I was going to be using different muscles than what I’d been used to, and that there would be a period of adjustment. And so there was. The first half dozen or so times I ran in them, afterwards I ended up walking like Jean-Claude Van Damme after he has to wallop that tree with his shin about a billion times in Kickboxer.

But my shins weren’t the problem. It was all about my calf muscles. They weren’t happy. I wouldn’t have been, either. Imagine having had an easy life for nearly four decades, only to be thrown into some repeated hard labour without any warning. They let me know about it. They hurt. A lot. At one point I couldn’t actually walk up the stairs forwards, I had to kind of clamber up sideways like a pathetic crab. But the thing was, this was always the day after the run, never during. Bit by bit, they began to adjust. Now I’m very pleased to report that they are prepared to accept working for an hour or more without complaint. Progress.

But just as I thought I was getting the hang of this barefoot business, along comes another problem: sore feet. Prior to last week, the only physical irritation I’d had with my feet was a single blood blister on the sole of my left foot. It took me by surprise. I became aware of it about a mile from my car, towards the end of a fairly easy four mile run. I was convinced there was something stuck in my sandal, or that I’d somehow managed to get a bit of glass in my foot. But it wasn’t a problem, and certainly didn’t hang around long enough to properly get on my nerves.

Fast forward a good few weeks, and I’d enjoyed quite a bit of pain free running. No major issues anywere. I went through a brief (and scary) stage of getting some mild pain in the top of my foot, but again it didn’t last. Last Thursday evening was beautiful where I live, sunny and warm (for March) and just the slightest breeze. I set out on my regular six mile route around a couple of local villages, a route I must have run twenty times in my Lunas without any problem. About two miles from home, I started to feel a blister on the ball of my right foot. This was new. It wasn’t too painful, so I carried on. About a mile later, that was joined by another pain, this time in the tip of my second toe. I was getting closer to home (obviously) and was reluctant to stop. But I kept thinking about how barefoot running isn’t about going through the pain barrier, but listening to your body.

I spent so long thinking about whether to stop and walk the last part that by the time I’d decided to, I was only a couple of hundred yards from my drive. I carried on.

Removing my sandal revealed the mother of all blisters on the ball of my right foot, and a big juicy blood blister on my second toe. I should probably not have watched the films of David Cronenberg during my formative years, because I find it impossible not to fiddle about with stuff like that.

[label type=’warning’]Warning! Grossness ahead! There will be blood. And pus.[/label]


I grabbed a needle from a kitchen drawer and sterilised it. That is assuming that dropping it into some boiling water sterilised it. It must do, right? I don’t know, I didn’t check. Anyway, I washed my hands, grabbed some kitchen roll and went to work. I went for the huge blister first. I had anticipated a bit of mopping up, but actually a bucket would have been more useful. It was simple and quick enough to drain, so I moved on to the blood blister on my second toe.

I’ve never had one of these before, except maybe if I’ve bashed my thumb with a hammer or something. (I’m talking accidentally, I don’t bash my hands with hammers for fun.) So I didn’t really know what to expect. I suppose that, logically, I should have expected some blood, but it still took me by surprise. But once again, it was pretty straightforward to deal with, and besides a bit of throbbing in my toe while I was in bed, apparently no ill effects.

But I was a little bit perplexed as to why I should suddenly have started having these problems with my feet. Had my form changed without my realising? Was it a delayed reaction to switching over to Lunas? I had no idea, and to be honest I was pretty concerned about it. I’m running in a half marathon at the end of this month, and whilst I’m not worried about the distance, I’m desperate to run the course in my huaraches. Clearly that wasn’t going to be possible if my feet were going to be killing me after four miles.

I left it a few days and tried again. Same route and a similar pace. At first I thought I’d dodged a bullet, but it turned out not to be the case. However, although the large blister started to come up again, it was nowhere near as severe and didn’t require any attention afterwards. Still I was concerned, though.

At that point I went online to see if I could find anything helpful. I came across what instantly became my favourite barefoot running blog so far, the excellent Straight away, before I even started reading his posts, I saw a link for ‘Feet Pics’ and headed over. I’m not generally into looking at other people’s feet, but it was a big relief to see exactly the same thing as was happening to me on somebody else’s foot. Josh runs mostly barefoot, no sandals or shoes, and by the looks of things he’s pretty damn good at it. And yet, despite winning races, despite running sub-three-hour marathons with nothing on his feet, he still doesn’t think he’s mastered the art. I have a long way to go, literally and figuratively. But that’s ok. Anyway, if you haven’t already had a look at Josh’s site, it’s well worth it.

So tonight I’m going out in my Original Lunas again, and we’ll see how it goes. My friend Matt is coming out for a run with me this weekend, which I’m really looking forward to. Plus I just had to great news about getting involved in an event happening close to where I live – more on this soon!