I’ve been reluctant to post this because there’s a weird sort of stigma among barefoot and near-barefoot runners that injuries should be a thing of the past. For the most part, that’s been completely true for me, but something is going on with my feet and I felt it was important to write about.
The pain is focused on the Extensor Digitorum Longus and Extensor Hallucis Longus on top of my feet, mostly behind the smaller toes, but with some sensitivity over the joint between the first metatarsal and first cuneiform bones. These muscles and tendons are responsible for lifting the toes–which is why I’ve become suspicious of the Bikilas, but more on that in a bit. There is no discoloration or swelling. Pain is most noticeable during the toe-off phase of walking, running mostly feels fine. It is very difficult to raise up on the toes of one foot at a time.
As seems to be tradition with running injuries, I’ve been spending a lot of time theorizing about what could be the cause.
In November, following my post about bad running form, I ran about 65 miles completely barefoot (and LOVED it). I spent a good amount of that time on Barefoot Ken Bob’s advice about lifting the entire foot, especially my toes. But December has been too cold for bare feet with only a few days above freezing, so I’ve been running in the Bikilas which are warmer than my open-top VFF Sprints.
I ran three races in December. The first two were MUCH faster than I normally run. By the third race, my feet were still sore from the previous week and I just wanted to finish without limping. Despite my growing suspicions, all three races were run in Bikilas.
What’s wrong with the Vibram FiveFingers Bikila
One of my first reactions to the VFF Bikilas was that the toes felt stiff. In this video, I demonstrate the differences in toe-flexibility between VFF Sprints and VFF Bikilas.
Toe dorsiflexion is severely limited with the VFF Bikilas. I suspect that trying to lift my toes against the stiffness of the Bikilas either pulled or strained my extensor muscles or caused some tendonitis where they attach.
I’d also considered the possibility of simple overuse or the switch to heavier winter shoes, but I’ve become convinced that the toe-stiffness of the VFF Bikilas is the culprit here. I’m taking some time off to heal, but I’m not planning on running in the Bikilas again for a while. When I do, I’ll be paying very close attention to how my feel are feeling.