For those of you that do not know from mid july until the end up September I battled strong heel pain that would run up the arch. During this period I tried everything that I could to treat/cure this. Some of the things I tried included, icing, physiotherapy, chiropractor, acupuncture and strengthening as outlined in “Dealing with Arch/Heel Pain From an Athletes Perspective”.
From mid-september to the end of October I continued treatment seeing a chiropractor twice a week and icing regularly and saw improvements but they were gradual and I still had foot pain while running 20 minutes on October 21st. It was at this point that my coach suggested that I try the Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System.
First I will describe the system and then I will give an outline with how it worked for me. I used the 3/4 length active length (as shown in the images below) in my running shoes, as they have non-removable footbeds and then the full length active in my walking and biking shoes. I would recommend having 2 pairs though as it helps you adapt quicker to them.
This system includes 2 footbeds (3/4 or full length depending on if you have a removable footbed) along with 6 different arch inserts per foot. These inserts gradually increase the height and stiffness of the arch increasing strenght, adjusting posture and aiding with proprioception (these are the benefits I saw). The user manual says that about every 7-10 days you should upgrade to the next level of insert. This is incredibly simple as all you have to do is pop 1 out and place the new one in. However what I found is that unless you are no longer noticing them you should not move up to the next level or your feet will cramp up and blister may occur due to more of your arch being in contact with the shoe then normal. Furthermore if I have a hard run I will move to a lower level of insert so that the arch does not get aggravated by the increased stress on it.
I saw benefits from my barefoot science footbeds within 2 weeks of walking and doing easy runs in them I was able to run pain free and within a month I was once again able to do tempo efforts. This is a process that I believe would have taken me 2 months to achieve without the footbeds. 2 months later I am still doing all my runs in the footbeds and will continue to train in them as I find they give me a better feel of the ground. This is as they are not a rigid orthodic but rather more of a hard cushion under the arch that flexes. This allows the foot to still flex naturally while activating many underused foot muscles.
Happy 2014 to everybody and best of luck in the upcoming season.