Gloves for the feet, anyone?

I’ve decided to start a category in my blog called “Rojak” to post on stuff other than investing. “Rojak” for those who are not used to this Singaporean term simply means mixture in Malay.

I’ve been an avid runner since my NS days. After BMT, I was posted to a unit that emphasized a lot on physical training and so my love for running grew. We had running training day and night most of the days. Thus, after I ORDed in Nov 2008, I still continue running frequently. However, I took a break in July-Aug last year due to holidays in Australia. I didn’t run for the whole one month and when I started running again after I returned to Singapore, my shin splints problem started (actually I have been having slight shin splints during NS days but it didn’t bother me that much as after the Australia trip). I’ve been having this shin splints problem since August last year and it was very frustrating. I had to forgo some races that I signed up for during that period due to the shin splints problem. Just 5 to 10 mins into a run, I will start getting shin splints and my ankle will cramp up at times.

I went to see a sports doctor at Changi Sports Medicine Centre and he said I overpronate my feet while walking and it may be a cause for the shin splints. He gave me several appointments to see a podiatrist and a few other specialists. I didn’t go for all of them thinking it will be a waste of time. I also went to consult a physiotherapist on my own accord and he said my legs are weak. However, he was surprised of my “weak legs” as I run frequently and have taken part in long-distance races. He told me to do some strengthening exercises and some Yoga exercises. I tried them at home for a few weeks and got frustrated that my condition didn’t improve. I then decided to just rest at home and not run for at least half a year to see if the condition improves.

Half a year later, I started running again and did the shin splints disappear? NO! They still persisted! I was flustered and went to Dr Google for some advice. I toggled with different search terms on shin splints and overpronation and read up on articles on a few sites. I then came to a conclusion that my Mizuno shoes of 2 years was causing the problem. So, I decided to go Running Lab at Funan and buy a shoe customized to my running style and overpronation. The shopowner recommended Asics GT-2150 for overpronators just like what my google search showed. I went on to purchase the shoe and was hopeful that my problem will be cured after using this new pair of shoes. Did my problem go away? NO! I still had the irritating shin splints problem.

I continued running through the pain for the next 1-2 weeks as I couldn’t bear to stop running permanently. While running during one of the training sessions, I realised that I could hear slapping of my feet on the ground. I went on to google on this and realised that doing a heel-strike while running causes slapping of feet. Doing a heel-strike is also not good for the feet as it’s like putting brakes on and restarting. The proper way is to do a midfoot-strike. However, most high-tech cushioned shoes give rise to a heel-strike and most runners have a heel-strike. I realised I do too after thinking through my running style. I then went to google on how to get rid of heel-strike and become a midfoot-striker. I saw some sites that showed barefoot running gets rids of heel-striking and automatically brings about midfoot-striking. You can try running barefoot at home and see how it feels like. We were naturally born to run as a midfoot-striker but shoes made us a heel-striker. I wanted to try barefoot running but was afraid of all the rocks, needles, glass and whatever not strewn on the ground. I came across a site that makes a pair of shoes called “Vibram Five Fingers“. It’s basically a flexible pair of shoes with very thin rubber shoes. This minimalist shoes simulates barefoot running with some protection from the elements on the ground.  I went on to google on vibram five fingers and read rave reviews that running injuries disappeared for the runners who tried it. Their leg muscles also became stronger.

I decided to try a pair of Vibram Five Fingers as I really wanted to get rid of shin splints. Thus, I went to buy a pair at Tangs Orchard and tried running in it yesterday. I must officially say it was a great experience and I didn’t have any shin splints problem at all throughout! I suddenly “transformed” into a midfoot-striker and came to a conclusion that my heel-striking was the cause of all the problems. The only caveat is that the calf muscles will be slightly sore on the first day and maybe the next day as the muscles get a good workout. The sore will disappear within a few days.

For runners who are having running injuries like shin splints, ITB, Achilles Tendonitis, etc, running barefoot may cure your injury.

Recommended sites and video:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1170253/The-painful-truth-trainers-Are-expensive-running-shoes-waste-money.html

http://www.runblogger.com/2009/12/vibram-fivefingers-and-barefoot-running.html

http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/4BiomechanicsofFootStrike.html

http://therunningbarefoot.com/?p=623

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4 thoughts on “Gloves for the feet, anyone?

  1. Very impressed by your scientific approach to solving the shin splints problem. I hope the problem goes away for good. If it doesn´t then consider whether running is really good for the body. Since running necessarily involves stressing the joints it may have long-term ill-effects. An alternative is swimming, and I now train at least three times a week, as well as doing my yoga practice four times a week. We value investors need to take good care of both mind and body. By the way, have you read Moneyball by Michael Lewis…it´s about baseball but gives great insights into value investing. A great read. Graeme

    • Hi Graeme,

      Thanks for being such an ardent reader of my blog! Haha.

      I think running is inherent in us. When we were young, we were running all the time. The Tarahumara tribe in Mexico were renowned for their long-distance running without any shoes on. The Kenyans run well too. I don’t know how to swim for nuts so swimming is out for me.

      I will look out for the book you recommended. Currently, I’m reading “The Dhandho Investor” by Mohnish Pabrai. So far, it has been a very interesting read. You should catch hold of that book.

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