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How Barefoot Running fixed my Back

Editors note: Guest post written by Bedrock Runner Wes Downing

Growing up, I quickly became involved in the fast growing sport of lacrosse. I was always told, while shooting, to cork my back as much as possible and release, much like a golf shot or baseball swing. As a result of my Lacrosse shot, I’ve struggled with a ‘bad’ back since sophomore year of high school.

An MRI revealed a bulging disc in my lower back, something that is incurable on its own. The doctor told me I had 2 options, rupture my disc and get intensive surgery, or strengthen the muscles in my lower back around the dics. Fearing the permanence and complications involved with surgery, I set course to strengthen my back in every way possible.

I tried the gym, running in shoes, P90X, and surfing. Throughout the process my back would feel sometimes better or worse – however nothing in particular seemed to work. Early this year I seriously re-injured my lower back because I did not warm up enough before a pick up lacrosse game. I was bed ridden for 2 days.

At this point I started considering more drastic options to help my lower back. I saw a friend running in sandals and after a lengthy interrogation about the benefits of barefoot running and walking – I decided to take the leap and give barefoot sandals a shot.

Resting at the top – mid trail run in Virginia.

I began running in Bedrock Sandals mid March 2012. I really took it slow at first by running ¼ mile increments on soft trails and beaches. As I continued running and building my barefoot endurance my lower back began to considerably strengthen. After 4 months of barefoot running my lower back feels unbelievably better. I believe that getting back to a natural stride – uninhibited by the structure in conventional footwear – has realigned my lower back. I now am able to fully enjoy the activities that once plagued my lower back and am excited to continue my barefoot journey.


Barefoot Running – Tips, Resources, Videos

Are you just starting barefoot running, thinking about starting, or just trying to increase your mileage? We thought we would share the information that we’ve learned over the past 3 or so years transitioning to barefooting.

Bedrock soles after around 800 miles of wear. Analyze wear patterns to evaluate how your striking your feet while running. In Nick’s pair above you can tell that he strikes with the outside of his forefoot and pushes off with his big toes. 

Ease into it

Gradually transition into your new barefoot shoes. Almost all serious injuries caused to barefoot runners comes in the initial transition stages. Even though your feet and body feel amazing and think “Hey – I could go another 5 miles” – do not listen to yourself. Your body has become accustomed to running and walking in shoes for most of your life and will need to be slowly guided into the barefoot transition.

Too much too soon (TMTS) can cause foot stress fractures which can easily take months to heal. Our best advice is to slowly and consistently increase your mileage barefoot. If you begin to feel any pain in the top of your feet – take a running hiatus until it recovers completely.

Form matters

Running with the correct barefoot form matters. There is, however, no one right way to run. We like to analyze videos of runners who’ve never worn shoes and try to imitate their grace. Here are a few quick points we try to work on while running. To improve your running form try the 100 up exercise before and after each run. The exercise breaks down your running motion to reinforce good technique. If nothing else it serves as a great pre-run warm-up.

Forefoot/midfoot strike

Don’t strike the ground with your heel first. You’ll find that you naturally want to strike the ground with your forefoot or mid foot. There’s no exact recommended spot (forefoot or midfoot) – just do what you find natural.

After barefoot running for a couple years, I now strike the ground more on my mid-foot area as that feels more natural for me. Experiment to find what kind of foot strike is most comfortable and natural for your body.

Short, Quick Stride

Get rid of the long stride you may be accustomed to. The shorter your stride the less stress you put on your body when your feet meet the ground. If you start to feel aches or dull pains on a run try to noticeably shorten your stride – it may help reduce impact.

Good Upright Posture

Keep good upright posture while running. Posture will help keep your running form in tact when you start to get lazy after some mileage.

 

Resources:

Online Reddit barefoot running community

Barefoot Running tips from Harvard

Forefoot strike vs. Heel strike videos

100 up exercise

Earthing


Bedrock Trail Kits

Over the past several months we’ve helped sandal wearers with re-burning their nylon plugs when they’ve worn out after a few hundred miles. Although possible to remelt the bottoms of the nylon straps with matches or a lighter it can be difficult to do in a pinch (middle of the woods).

We’ve decided to create simple lightweight repair kits to replace worn out plugs on the go. We’re giving these out for free to any and all existing customers interested. All new customers will receive a kit along with their sandals.

The kit contains one pair of nylon plugs, black fabric tape, black thread, a sewing needle, and a strip of fine grained sand paper. The kit ingredients enable sandalers to bond a new plug to their old thong strap in around 5 minutes.

Steps (shown in video above):
Lace a replacement plug through the thong strap hole. Then temporarily bond the old thong strap to the replacement plug with the black fabric tape. Next use the thread and needle to sew back and forth along the tape square – permanently attaching the new replacement plug to the old thong strap. Then use the sand paper to cut the thread once knotted. Once done you’ll have a brand new plug.

Black Fabric Tape, Black Thread, a sewing needle, and sand paper.

Replacement nylon strap plugs with a recycled bike tube elastic band.


4 days on the AT

This past weekend part of the Bedrock crew headed north up valley to section hike the Appalachian Trail (AT). We started just north of Shenandoah National park and walked south for 70 miles.

Our good friends, The Brothers 3, thru hiked the entire Appalachian Trail last year. Their stories inspired us to hike the part of the AT that runs through our backyard.

Along the way we met a few dozen thru hikers headed northbound. They started in Georgia about two months ago (April) and will hike 2,000 miles until they finish in northern Maine. Every thru hiker assumes a trail name that describes them in some way. One of our favorites, Sparrow, had just hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) last year and is hiking the AT this year with an ultra-light 9 lb pack. He ripped out a few pages of his trail map and gave them to us for our last 45 miles southbound. He generously did so expecting nothing in return. We’re sending him a pair of bedrock sandals for the 1000 miles left on his journey.

Camp.


Cooking up some midday grub and finding shelter from rain.

Leaving our mark on an AT hut.

Sewing up a hole in my old college pack. I’ll use this until it dies.

Worn.

Kickin back after our last day – overdue for a wash. Hiking barefoot or in minimalist sandals builds up foot and ankle strength fast. Once your feet are acclimated the benefits are big. No rolled ankles, blisters, or athletes foot. We can’t wait for more.


Gone Fishin’

Last weekend we ventured up to northern maine to try our luck catching wild brook trout and land locked salmon.

We headed up to Mt Katahdin with a few fly rods and a canoe big enough for 3. Luck found us and so did some rising brook trout.

Wet wading in the chilly West Branch.

Sharing a rock.

 


Bedrock Marathon + Happenings


New Rugged black straps

We’ve been hard at work this past month building sandals and hosting our trail marathon in Charlottesville, VA. We will be making the trail run into an annual event  – so if you missed it – come out next year! Look for some new adventure trail races we’ll be hosting in the future (think long water + rapids crossings – perfect for sandals!).

We got new rugged black straps pictured above (1/2” wide but stiffer) into the shop which have quickly become a favorite. The Fox Trot Running store (Duncansville, PA) and Sole Source (Harrisonburg, VA) are now stocking them! If you live nearby check em’ on out!


Trophies for the Winners of the Bedrock Trail Marathon / Half


Hanging out after the race


Bedrock Sandals Prize Table!


Sandals going out to Fox Trot Running Store!