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Happy Feet, Happy Flight

Written by Coach Colin

As many of you know, I spend the entire year training and studying film for the club ultimate frisbee season from June-October. With that preparation comes a lot of time in the weight room and tons of sprinting, agility work, and drills with teammates in cleats, so we can play at the highest level possible, as soon as possible. With so many reps at such a high level of intensity, the body needs a lot of mobility work and maintenance to perform the way it needs to and avoid injury. Body maintenance looks like a lot of things, right? Time spent on a lacrosse ball, deep tissue trigger point massage, stretching to keep range of motion, intentional nutrition, and the list goes on and on. I was getting an hour long trigger point massage every two weeks (holy ouch!), a cumulative ~20 min on a lax ball at least 3 times a week, and taking workouts easy when I had to, in an effort to keep my body functioning and performing like I need it to. So why tell you about my mobility routine when the title is about feet? I want to let you know how much I was doing for 90% of my body and how important and impactful the one change I made has been. 

Rewind to the middle of July. My team is competing in a tournament in Colorado. I had completely taken the week off to make sure my body was ready to compete. During the warm up before our first game, I had to stop and take some vitamin I (ibuprofen) and head to the trainer. My calves and achilles were so tight I couldn’t do anything more than jog. I got my achilles taped up, let the anti-inflammatories flow, and got through the weekend.  Post-tournament, I was completely out of commission for 3 days. I was talking to Coach John and he gave me the “shoes are stupid” schpiel for about the millionth time. But on time one million, I decided to try it out. 

I stopped wearing shoes. I wear sandals to get from point A to point B, but I spend all my time at work without shoes and I do every workout barefoot or in cleats. I’m about a month in. For the first week, I still could barely walk AND my calves were crazy sore. I was thinking things like “I’ll give it another week, but so far this is all for nothing.” Week two brought some pretty surreal stuff. I could feel the lowest part of my calf getting sore and feeling it activate as I was taking steps. The tracks of compensation that I had identified with my trigger point were sore up into my hamstrings, but in a way I hadn’t felt. It was like my hamstrings and calves were learning how to function again. Weird pangs of a semi-sharp pain when I would walk that were totally foreign to me. After a couple more days, everything felt normal. Better, even. I felt like my calves and hamstrings were connected in a powerful way instead of feeling out of sync and throwing my foot into the tread- hoping for the best. 

I’m about a month in of the “no shoe life” and my flat feet have developed a little more arch. My calves aren’t sore every day when I get out of bed anymore. It legitimately feels like someone gave me a brand new pair of calves. It makes sense because our feet are the foundation of every movement we do, unless we are sitting or lying down. If there’s a problem with the foundation in your house, that’s a problem you’ll get fixed or you will move. We can’t really swap out feet, but we can get started rebuilding the muscles that have spent time dormant while in cushy clouds of comfort. I am extremely surprised that not wearing shoes has enhanced my overall quality of life. The transition is jarring, so I’d recommend phasing into being barefoot as a process. Going from a running shoe to something that is zero-drop is a great first step. Next mix in some barefoot training, with your zero-drop shoe. Once you are comfortable, get yourself a pair of Vivo barefoot shoes (Vivo Barefoot Shoes), and you’ll be well on your way!