Friday, July 22, 2011

Huaraches can teach you about past injuries

Leather top huaraches I made some Barefoot Ted-style huaraches with a leather top. I had trouble with keeping the laces over my heels so I added little side tabs to thread the laces through. I also didn't want to have the laces touch the ground so instead of a knot on the bottom between the toes I embedded a loop of leather to thread the laces through. That's why there are two straps coming between my toes. It's looped around the leather. In this picture I tied them by weaving them around my ankle. The most fun thing with the huaraches is you can tie them many kinds of ways. I usually just wrap the extra lacing around my ankle.

I've gone for short runs in them a couple of times. It feels great. I love running in them. But I do a lot more walking than running so I bring them to work and take a walk in them around the lagoon at the university. The trail around the lagoon is mostly level but it's overgrown so it is a pretty good test of whether the sandals are good for hiking. I like how free my feet feel in them.

I have had a really hard time walking in them. The leather top seemed really slippery. I tried oiling the leather but it still felt slippery and dry. Then I tried sanding the leather but it was still too slippery. Then I hammered lines into the leather with a chisel and hammer. That didn't seem to do anything about the slippery feeling. I tried tying them tighter but not only was that uncomfortable, but eventually the laces loosen and so it's not a perfect solution. I had hoped to possibly hike in these, to feel really close to nature and to really strengthen my mountain woman feet, but it seemed impossible to walk in them. The slipping made walking difficult and hurt the bottoms of my feet.

My right foot slipped a lot more than my left foot. If anything, my left foot was fine. I've heard the barefoot runners say that the huaraches teach you to have better running form. I wondered what my left leg was doing that my right leg wasn't. I went for a walk around the lagoon with the objective of trying to figure out what I had to do to make my legs work evenly.

First I thought maybe I just needed to take shorter steps. That sort of worked but not really. I tried walking on the outside edges of my feet. That didn't work either. I kept trying to walk slower or take shorter steps or otherwise compensate but nothing was working. I remembered I had heard about hip extensors and how stretching and strengthening them is supposed to help. I wondered if maybe I was doing something different with my hips.

I paid a bit more attention and it seemed that my left leg was extending backward more than my right as I stepped. So I tried stretching my right hip more when my right leg went back. No more slipping in the sandal! That was the problem. I wasn't walking evenly. I was extending my left leg back but not my right. I evened out my walking so both legs extended back and I wasn't slipping in the sandals anymore.

I finished my walk and wondered what would be sore the next day. Well, nothing really was sore in my hip, but my heel which I hurt hiking from Etna to Seiad Valley on the PCT felt a little sore. I had pushed myself to walk too fast and hurt my heel where the achilles attaches. I remember hiking in Washington with a pronounced limp and trying to walk straight and normal but not being able to. I had overcompensated and caused a change in my gait that was apparent in Washington and continued to this day.

The huarache runners say these sandals will teach you a lot. They really did for me. I'm trying now to walk more straight and hoping that I'll be able to fix whatever I've broken. I'm not sure how to heel the old injury to my heel. Hopefully it'll all work out.

I hope to keep running, too. Hiking is something I can only do on weekends now. I'm not supposed to take any time off from work until I've completed a 6-month probation period. That means no vacations until end of November. So I am hoping that running can give me some good exercise now that I'm so sedentary at work all day. Also, I had as a goal after completing the PCT to run a local ultramarathon. It'll be a long time, if ever, before I can run a 40 mile distance, but I would like to be able to do it.

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