Saturday, March 24, 2007

Why my feet are weak and sore

When I lived in Phoenix, I had a lot of trouble with my feet. I would do several hours of Saturday yard work, and my feet would be so stiff and painful that I literally would have to crawl into the bathroom on Sunday morning. It would be Tuesday before my feet felt normal. I knew that I had a very stiff skeleton, so I went to a bone specialist. He said that the problem was weak muscles, and that I should do whatever exercise I wanted to strengthen the muscles. I started running.

I ran for eight years before I ran my first marathon. By that time I was in Massachusetts. During that time, my feet muscles were strengthened, and I didn't have much trouble with my feet while running. I ran four marathons in two years, and then I stopped the marathons due to time constraints. I still continued to run during the next 10 years but not long distance. Around 20 miles/week with 5-7 mile runs.

Then I ran even less when I moved to Utah 14 years ago. Probably 10 miles/week and short 1-2 mile runs. It was about four years ago that I decided to get serious with my running. By the time I started this blog in January 2004, I was up to 3-4 mile runs.

I've had no problems with my feet during the past four years as I worked my distance up to 15 and then back to 13 mile long runs and 30-33 mile weeks. My feet felt fine when I ran the Great Salt Lake Half Marathon in August 2006, but I started feeling a slight weakness in my left foot during the fall of 2006. It was the same type of weakness that I'd felt in my feet back when I first started running. No pain, just a weak feeling as if my feet couldn't support my weight. During last fall and this winter, the weak feeling slowly became a bit more pronounced, but I ignored it. It finally reached the point last week and this week such that after eight miles, I could feel some pain in the foot. It was exactly the same feeling that I'd felt 30-40 years ago before I started running and during the first few years of my running.

As I thought about it this week, after my 10-mile run on Thursday, I realized that after I stopped running marathons and reduced my mileage, especially after moving to Utah, my muscles in my feet had become weaker, and my old problem was returning. I realized that I had moved up in mileage too fast and that I needed to give my body more time to adjust to the stress of running. The reason I didn't run my first marathon until after eight years of running is that I ran about 20-24 miles per week for five or six years, and that allowed my muscles to become strong. This time, however, I went up to 33 miles/week and ran a half marathon after only two years of running after my auto accident in August 2004 in which I started running with 1/8 mile for my first run after the accident. So, I'm pretty sure that my problem is just that I've rushed too fast into distance running.

The big question is what do I do in the future? I still hope to run the Salt Lake City Half Marathon on April 21 if my feet can handle that distance. I have two weeks of training plus my scheduled two-week taper, and during those four weeks, I will keep my mileage to 8 miles or less. I hopefully won't have a problem with that lower distance, and I will start the half marathon. Whether I finish the race, time will tell :) Whether I run the World Senior Games in October will depend on how my feet do during the summer. At least now I understand my problem and the need for more time to build up my feet. I'm hoping that my feet will make a pretty fast recovery since they should be stronger than they were when I first started running. I look back on all of this and realize that I've been blessed; it could have turned out to be much worse.


  1. You could always run the SLC Half Marathon as a training run if your feet are still weak. Maybe you're due to another visit with a podiatrist? Hang tough my friend, no need for me to tell you to take it easy!!

  2. I've made two visits to a podiatrist in past years, and in both cases I was told that my joints were so stiff they couldn't do anything for me. After my first visit, I discovered correction shoes, and they have worked well.

    Concerning the half marathon, I should do fine for the first 8 or 9 miles, and then, if my feet act up, I'll have to walk-jog the rest. During the next two weeks, I'm cutting back on my mileage, so this month will be like having a four-week taper. This will give my feet some rest and recovery.

  3. Last year I had to have a 4 1/2 week taper for the New Las Vegas Marathon due to my jaw surgery, yet I somehow managed to get a personal best and Boston Qualifier! Shucks, maybe all our tapers should be four weeks!!