Massage Therapy for Barefoot Runners

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Spring is here and many of us are returning to the great outdoors for fun in the sun and daily exercise. Quite often, our hibernation over the winter months don't leave our bodies quite fit for the eagerness of our spirit. At times, this can lead to over use and eventually injury. It is important to keep in mind our limitations and to take things slowly before we push our bodies. Tendons, ligaments and muscles shorten and become less elastic the more sedentary we are and if pushed before they have a time to readjust to activity you can run into strains (tendons), sprains(ligaments) or muscle tears. It is important to warm up, stretch and make an appointment with you massage therapist. We are here to remove trigger points, rebalance muscle groups and promote circulation back into muscles and more importantly your tendons and ligaments.


Today I would like to talk particularly about runners and to be more specific my fellow barefoot runners. I have been running in my vibrums for over four years now, they have been a God-sent and allow me to enjoy running like I never had before. I had been a long distance runner since college and moved into triathlon. Sadly all of that came to a screeching halt when I sustained a stress injury to my iliotibial band (IT Band) five years ago. The pain from my injury kept me from running no longer then 10 minutes at a time... It was devastating. I couldn't even go hiking. A year later after much rest and experimenting I was introduced to the idea of barefoot running. After a lot of careful research and studying I decided to give it a try. As recommended, I started slow.... Really really slow. It took about a year until I was able to put in a 25-30 min run where I didn't feel the affects in my feet and calves. But the most important thing, my IT Band no longer hurt. I am now up to running half marathons and consistently putting in 6-10 mile runs multiple times throughout the week in addition to my hikes.


As for maintenance, especially when you're first starting out, massage can help you maintain healthy feet, ankles and legs. After a lifetime of “foot-binding”, our tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones need a lot of time, rest and use before you can really jump into running barefoot. While you are building your strength, the development of trigger points and adhesions are inevitable and need to be addressed by your massage therapist. Some of the common problem areas are located within the muscles of the forelegs, ankles and feet. Deep tissue, Myofacial and trigger point therapies are just some techniques that will help to insure your continued muscle and joint health and will keep you happily running for years to come.


Schedule your structural sports massage today!


For proper techniques in developing your barefoot running skills, read the article below. It is chock full of great tips and information. In addition checkout all the resources the web has to offer. Read both sides of the argument and make an informed decision of whether barefoot running is right for you. And by all means, get out side to enjoy this beautiful spring weather.

“A massage therapist’s perspective on barefoot running

Posted on 07/26/2011 by Kathy S.

Today’s post comes from guest author, Joel Banuelos from San Francisco, CA. If you’d like to be a guest author, email your ideas or stories to editor@dailymile.com


Joel is a Certified Massage Therapist specializing in correcting the “physical manifestations of imbalance” that each of us build up in our day to day lives. He works in downtown San Francisco, and has been studying massage for eight years.


The minimal footwear movement in running and athletics has been gaining a lot of momentum in the past decade, as well as a significant share of the athletic footwear market. Whether this is a fad or here to stay only time will tell, and proponents of each side debate endlessly as to why one should, or should not, trade in their runners for a pair of Five Fingers or similar footwear. Because this is a relatively new phenomenon in training, and sufficient research into the benefits and/or hazards is limited, the jury is out in terms of concrete scientific evidence to support or refute the many claims by the proponents of running barefoot or in minimally supportive footwear. And while there exists a plethora of clinical evidence that shows bio-mechanical and structural benefits associated with barefoot running (e.g. improved foot strike pattern, reduced impact forces, reduced aberrant sub-talar movement), there also exists evidence that highlights the risks associated with it (muscle/tendon injuries, blisters, bruising, micro-fractures). So where does this leave you in your decision to dump the runners for less supportive footwear?


I am of the opinion that if you are interested in treading without the shod, by all means do so, but do not expect miracles right away. In fact, you may be in for some rather uncomfortable moments if you plunge quickly into this form of training. As a sports massage therapist, I have seen a variety of athletes in my practice over the last 8 years; many of whom have suffered injury due to improper footwear and others who have overtrained in Five Fingers. I have seen clients get wrapped up in ‘Five Finger Fever’ and limp into my office after a single run; I also have clients that have experienced improved foot and ankle strength after a strengthening program that they did in their Five fingers. There is no definitive answer as to whether or not one should train in supportive running shoes. As we all have different body structures, movement patterns and athletic history, each of us will adapt to a new shoe (or lack thereof) in different ways. If you decide that you wish to venture into Five Finger or barefoot running, consider the following points:


Go Slow. I have seen excited clients that thought that the Five Fingers were going to change their lives overnight. Problem is, they did, just not in the ways that were hoped for. Take Casey, for example, who went out on her usual 8 mile run the day after the purchase and spent the next week limping around town with unusually sore feet, calves and hips. Treat barefoot/Five Fingers running as a new training endeavor and ease into your mileage.


Walk, walk walk… then run. Many of us have gone through most of our lives with our feet bound in shoes, or other supportive and cushioned footwear. How many of you walk barefoot or in your five fingers more than 30 continuous minutes a day? Imagine the adaptive stresses that we place on our bodies when we decide to plunge into barefoot running without any preparation. I’ve recommended that clients walk a few hours a day in their Five Fingers for a period of a couple of weeks before venturing into the world of running. Take them out on hikes on the weekend, and when you are comfortable start your runs with lower mileage and a comfortable pace. Building in this way will allow your body to adapt to the change in footwear/environment and minimize the potential hazards associated with barefoot running.


Cross train. Many of us can benefit from more stability and support from our feet and ankles. For those of us with hypermobile ankles, overpronation issues, ligamentous laxity or past tendon injuries (strains, tendonitis, etc.), a strengthening program can be of value if you’d like to make the transition to the Five Fingers. Foot and ankle instabilities can change with increased strength of the lower leg musculature, and working toward this goal can help with a smooth transition to barefoot and Five Finger running. By cross-training in your five fingers you will gain not only strength, but also the adaptive mechanisms necessary to make running a more fluid process.


Try the track. Let’s face it, asphalt and concrete were not engineered with runners in mind. I treated a client a year back that went on an overambitious Five Finger run on the concrete and came into my office with bruising and a stress fracture in her foot. She was a pretty extreme case, but potential danger arises from overtraining on an unforgiving surface. Part of the reason for the development of shod footwear is the fact that many of us run on concrete and asphalt and benefit from some sort of cushion/padding/support to minimize the pressures and forces that transfer into our bodies with every foot-strike. If barefoot running is your goal, I would caution you against running on concrete and asphalt. A good quality track or turf is a much better option if you have access to one. Firm-sand beaches and trails are also preferable and offer a varied terrain that can serve to further strengthen the foot and ankle complexes. And, yes, even the treadmill is a better option than the sidewalk in this regard.


Keep your old shoes. We are all built a little different. For some of us, Five Fingers or other comparable footwear will not fit our feet comfortably. They may chafe, bruise, or simply not fit the contours of your feet. For others, we may struggle to adapt to this new environment in our feet and ankles. If you are the type of person that is very rigid in your beliefs, mentally or emotionally inflexible or ‘fixed’ in the routines of your life then transitioning to a new form of running may not be very smooth. If the Five Fingers do not fit, don’t wear them; and if they do not mesh with your ability to feel comfortable in them, they may not be the best choice for you.


This last point is very important. Many of us can get caught up in the excitement of a new path to better performance. This excitement can cloud our judgement and cut us off from the impulses that our bodies are trying to communicate. Not everyone will have the same experience running in Five Fingers; nor will we have the same experience standing, walking or squatting in Five Fingers. I have worked with clients who have suffered due to Five Finger running and others who have benefitted from Five Fingers and barefoot training. I myself own a pair of Five Fingers and have come to enjoy training in them regularly. I use them when I work out at the gym (including short treadmill runs) and for moderate hikes and long walks. I have felt benefit from this form of walking/training, and the Five Fingers have helped me strengthen my feet and ankles in a very comfortable and manageable way.


I have followed the above recommendations when training in my Five Fingers and hope that if you decide to start running in them that you keep these points in mind too.“

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