Barefoot running

It’s been a while since I’ve written here.  It’s only nine days till Helsinki City Marathon.  I thought I’d have a lot to write between Ottawa marathon and Helsinki, but no, I haven’t been writing anything.

After Ottawa, I thought I’d try something new. Barefoot running. That has been in my mind at least last couple of years. After reading Finn’s “Running with Kenyans”, Jurek’s “Eat and Run” and starting to read McDougall’s “Born to Run”, my urge to run barefoot certainly hasn’t diminished.

So I did like many other do. I went and checked where to get Vibram Five Fingers. It seemed to be hard to find any from traditional stores, so I end up ordering pair of VFF EVO Bikilas from Amazon. I also started to investigate barefoot running more deeply, and found Xero Shoes. I ordered pair of those too. What a deal, shoes with 5000 miles warranty for $30!


Bikilas came just in few days. I had read a lot about how to start slowly and not to run too fast and too much in the beginning. I especially liked Xeros Shoe’s founder Steven Sashen’s writing “How NOT to start barefoot running“. My favorite sentence there is: “which part of 200 yards was confusing to you?”. Steven makes it very clear: you should start with short distances.

I was thinking after reading that, ok, good understood, now I will wear my VFFs and do 10k really fast,  and that’s what I did. It felt great. I was running faster with lower heartbeat than normal. My Polar told my Running Index was 60, which was highest running index I ever achieved (edit: actually no, 61 is, which I got on my second VFF run. 60 I’ve done before too). Must be because of barefoot running and not because I was tapering last two weeks from Ottawa marathon.

With or without Vibrams. Notice lower heartbeat on blue – with Vibrams.

My calves got really sore next day and I barely could walk. I was expecting that, since I knew I ran too fast and distance was all too long. I rested a couple of days, and did 5k with Vibrams. Rested couple of days more, and did another 5k with well cushioned running shoes. My feet were still quite ok. Little soreness.

Xero Shoes

Then I got my first pair of Xero Shoes. I did the laces and instead of running with them, I just started to wear them. They were nice. Nice to walk with, nice to drive car, nice to go to pub and have few. Great sandals. Next morning I got anxious, and I had to try to run with them. They were nice to run with too. Totally different compared to Vibrams. Xeros give you instant feedback if you are doing something wrong. They do the flapping sound. Seemed I had hard time to get my right foot not to make the sound. I tried. I ran 10k, 5k and sometimes there was less noise than others. I figured out, that my muscles are too sore, so I thought I will take a break for one week or so.

Xero Shoes after muddy 10k run

After one week, my feet were ok. No soreness everything felt good. I decided to do a run with Vibrams this time. 10k. Immediately when I started running, I noticed a little pain on my right achilles tendon. Usually my left foot is the problem child, but now first the flapping sound, and now pain! Maybe similar pain I noticed just before Ottawa Marathon. It eased during running, but after run it was still there, and made me really worried. I had read a lot about achilles pain, and to be honest, I was freaking out that I had been able to create my self chronic achilles pain. I decided to stop running totally till there was no pain.

The pain just didn’t go away. Not after one week. After two weeks, ok, no pain. I did indoor cycling and weigh training, but did not run. Then I started to do a bit longer bike rides. 50k, 10k, 30k. Not much pain. In the morning, no pain. Another 50k bike ride and boom, pain is back.


That’s when I scheduled an appointment for physiotherapy. The PT trainer created me a program how to strengthen and stretch my calves and soleus. I got also interval training program for running. First run: 5min walking then 3 x (1 min walk + 1 min run). 25 days to Helsinki City Marathon and my runs are about 2k including walking. Eh!

After couple of weeks PT, I did my first continuous 5k run. My aright chilles hurt after run, which was depressing, but it did get normal just in couple of days. I don’t think I’m going to run marathon in Helsinki, no way. Even if my achilles would be ok, I haven’t been running almost at all. Last weeks I have been cross training even less. So yes, it’s not going to happen.

The dog

We got dog, a copper nose beagle, a week ago. We have been wanting a dog for a longer time, but this one came without no thinking or planning at all. We went to look for dogs. Rescued dogs. We met Carter, and kids thought oh how cute he is: “Daddy, please!!!!”. Ok, yeah, why not.

When the lady came to do house visit before the signing of the adoption papers, I asked about how about jogging. Yes, but start slowly so dog gets used to it. Gradually! Yes sure, I know all about that. Start slowly, that’s my middle name.

So we did first 20min run between normal walk. He did great. Certainly he can do more than that. Next time 30min and about 5k plus walk before and after. No problems. I went and checked beagle forums. I learned beagles can run easily 20k and much faster than any people can run. Oh wow, this just might be an excellent running dog. We did 5k in the morning, so sure we can try 10k in the evening.

I had not run more 6k for over month now. Dog, I don’t know. This was yesterday. I didn’t know how my achilles was going to react, and will I have to carry the dog last 5k, but that’s what I decided to find out. First we walked the hilly sections of the route. That way dog gets his chance to do the sniffing and stop on every tree and so on. And I didn’t need to run on hills, which my PT instructed against in the first place. Besides, walking for first 15 minutes is a good warm up.


We started to run. Between 6’00” and 5’40” pace. First 5k went really well. I had some pain but dog was doing fine. Then till 7k still fine. I noticed that hiatus from running is easy to feel. With very moderate just a bit faster than 6’00” pace and I feel it everywhere.

We managed 10.3k in around 1 hour. My achilles was sore after the run, so I did the stretching, skipped the strengthening exercise and put some ice to ease the moderate pain. Today morning I had no pain which is really good sign. Some stiffness though. Dog was also doing great, so the distance wasn’t too much for him.

10k with Carter
10k with Carter

This morning we also did 40min walk and 10min run just to warm up my calves and soleus before morning stretch. He likes to pull the leash a bit, so mainly we actually concentrated on that. To get rid of pulling the leash.  While running he actually does not pull, but while walking he does, so still some work with that.

Helsinki City Marathon

Anyway, no Helsinki City Marathon for me. That’s reality, although mentally I’m still thinking that maybe if I can do 20k this weekend, then I could at least think of doing 10k run 1k walk, but I don’t think so. I’m not in shape to run, and I don’t think it would make any good to my achilles tendon, but we will see about that.

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