Running Again

(I am in transit for several days and have queued up some items for this period. They don't have anything to do with the grim news breaking from Gaza and the ongoing BP grimness, as of the time I left early on Monday. More on those later.)

I mentioned several months ago my joy at seeing Actual Scientific Results proving that "fore-foot" running, where you land on the front half of your foot, is better for you over time than the "heel-strike" running I see all around me (now that I'm back in a place where you can run without choking) by people running in thick, heel-cushioned modern shoes.

Little did I know that I was aligning myself with a popular modern theory. At readers' suggestion, I read Born to Run and discovered that I had been "speaking prose without knowing it" -- that is, running since the olden days in a style that is now coming back into fashion. In the olden days (my first Boston Marathon: 1969) you didn't do "heel-strike" running because there were no fat, cushioned shoes and you would injure yourself if you tried. In these modern days, fore-foot running is recognized as being easier on the joints and suaver overall. So it says in the book!

Two reasons for an update. First, at one of my sons' urging, I've gone all the way and recently adopted the Vibram "Five Fingers" running shoes that enforce a fore-foot running style, since they're like running barefoot and have zero padding on the heel. I instantly love 'em, because to me running this way feels entirely natural. (Five Finger shoes on father and son -- hint, this is sort of a trick photo.)

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(Hint 2: You can see the effects, on calf size, of running this way over the years.)

The other reason is to open a discussion of the heartbreak of the Achilles tendon. I am of course very lucky that at this stage of life the main thing that's wrong with me (physically) is one very beat-up Achilles tendon. The technical term goes beyond the familiar tendinitis to the much grimmer sounding "tendinosis." My style of running: much easier on the knees, maybe harder on the Achilles. I didn't run in China for years because of the air; I have done only a little these past few months because of the weather and out of fear of aggravating this damned tendon, which doesn't hurt now but still looks bad. In hopes of a viable running future in barefoot shoes, I am trying one course of treatment at home, but am considering another, and I solicit advice from the running-injured public.

    - Home treatment: "dynamic stretching," as explained in great detail at this "Sports Injury Bulletin" site. This seems to help, but who knows.
    - Contemplated treatment: "active release technique," or ART, based on the theory that firm, external massage pressure to break up accumulated tendon-scar tissue will allow cleaner re-healing. Before I knew that it was an established approach, I had one such treatment by a friend-of-a-friend when visiting Seattle and felt better, at least that day. I have learned since then that this is a branch of chiropractic technique. The one bias that my small-town doctor dad drilled into his children was against the chiropractic world. For some reason, that seemed a really big deal to doctors in the 1960s. I don't really care but am looking for advice: has anyone solved the heartbreak of bad Achilles tendons with ART treatments? Or "dynamic" stretches like those described?

I will tally results and put them to use. If everyone says, "Give up," there's always biking, the rowing machine, etc. Or just having a beer. And meanwhile I love the new shoes.