About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I spend countless hours running in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, TX. I call it "going to church". I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Self Experimentation

Why not experiment on myself to find relief from plantar fasciitis? What have I got to lose? I listened to my podiatrist for the last four months and the only outcome was that he became richer.

Santorio Santorii or Sanctorius of Padua (however you want to call him) was the earliest known self experimenter. This 16th century professor meticulously weighed himself, his food, pee and poop for thirty years in the earliest study of metabolism. Talk about being obsessed with your weight, but let’s give this guy some credit; Shangri La Diet wasn’t discovered yet.

 Seth Roberts, modern day self experimenter and author of The Shangri La Diet…, has discovered answers to many life problems like insomnia, inflammation, balance/reflexes, and procrastination. In his own words: 

“In my experience, you need four things to make useful progress on health:
1. Good tools. Computer, numerical measurement.
2. Experiments. You need to systematically change things.
3. Knowledge of what others have learned. You can’t do experiments blindly, there are too many possibilities. You have to choose wisely what to change.
4. Motivation. You have to really care about finding something useful.”

After four months of zero progress on foot pain, I have decided to experiment with the barefoot running thing (systematical change). OK, maybe it’s not that systematical, but nevertheless, it is change. I have stopped wearing orthotics, cut back on cushioned shoe use, and have started 30 minutes of barefoot walking every other day.

I have been reading studies and testimonials from runners who have overcome injuries like PF by running barefoot or in “minimalist shoes”. (knowledge of what others have learned) For those who don’t know, minimalist shoes are low to the ground, non-cushioned, flexible, with no raised heel and a wide toe box. They allow the foot to function freely like a caveman’s. (Somehow Homo sapiens were able to function without shoes for eons.)

A team of Harvard researchers led by Daniel Lieberman have published a study in Nature Magazine called Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners. The information and videos show that barefoot runners land with less force which may minimize running injuries. Dr Lieberman emphasizes that he is not proclaiming that running barefoot will lessen injuries and that more testing is needed.

This Harvard website has a plethora of topics from “running before the modern shoe” to tips on transitioning to barefoot/forefoot running.

If you are interested in learning more, I recommend Jason Robillard’s, The Barefoot Running Book. (First 52 pages are free on his website) So far, I have learned to start slowly, walk in a relaxed state, use a mid or forefoot landing by “kissing” the ground, and to start on hard pavement for “feedback” and to learn how to land softly.

The theory behind barefoot running is that shoes (and orthotics) prohibit the foot from functioning in a natural state. Cushioned (raised heel) athletic shoes cause runners to land with a jarring heel strike which leads to more injuries. Barefoot walking/running also strengthens weak feet.

Having not been able to run for quite a while, I’m ready to find something useful (motivation). I have chosen something that I believe in --nature. Strengthening my foot the way nature intended could help me get over this dreaded condition. I’ve been trying out some minimalist shoes and have decided on the Merrell Trail Glove. I will keep you updated on how my self experiment goes. Please let me know what you think.

See you on the trail.


  1. Hi Greg!
    First of all great blog and congrats on all your running feats!

    Like you I have plantar fasciitis and I have been trying to get rid of it for more than 1 year. I just bought a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) device like the one you used and I would be curious to know if it worked for you or not at all?

    Also did you try this shockwave treatment? It seems to be the most efficient technique out there...

    And last but not least how did you go with your bare feet running program? Any improvement?

    Keep running!
    Cheers, Alban

    1. Hi Alban,
      No on the Tens unit, but everyone is different. Physical therapy seemed to work the best and they did use an ultrasound type of wand on it which seemed to help. I also tried minimalist shoes and some barefoot walking, but didn't get any relief. I stopped using my custom made expensive orthotic and switched to a $30 New Balance one on a recommendation from my therapist. If my PF comes back, I will return to physical therapy and try lots of icing and stretching. I feel your frustration. Hang in there and it will heal. Never lose hope. I've been running hard on it now for over two years. Thanks for reading!

    2. Thanks for your reply Greg! It's always good to hear from other people and see what has been their experience with PF.
      All the best to you.