Samantha Wood Knows Strength In Running Starts With The Feet

Samantha Wood will be joining me on the show today and we will have no shortage of topics to talk about.

This physical therapist recently finished her third Leadville 100 miler and has also competed in the Spartan World Championships several times.

I am looking forward to going a few easy miles with my fellow Altra Red Team member Samantha Wood.

Samantha Wood

Running Found Her

When Samantha was in middle school she joined the basketball team.

Her natural talents didn’t necessarily favor basketball and her coach suggested she try the track.

It was as a freshman in high school that Samantha first joined the cross country team.

Samantha improved steadily and found a love for the sport.

After high school, Samantha went on to run collegiality.

Post-graduation, she joined the military as a way to pay for Physical Therapy school.

Her running continued even in the military as she continued to find new goals and compete along the way.

Samantha Wood

Dreams Of Going Long

Samantha was still in college when she first thought about running a marathon.

Less than a year after graduation, Samantha ran her first full marathon and earned herself a Boston qualifying time.

In 2008 at the age of 22, Samantha ran her first Boston marathon.

She also ran her first ultra, a 50k, that same year.

As a younger runner, Samantha was able to get away with inconsistent training and racing frequently.

It was in her mid-20’s that she began to notice her body breaking down more if she didn’t train properly.

Her wake up call came at the age of 25 after she completed her first 50-mile race and found herself injured afterward.

After that ultra, Samantha stuck with nothing longer than a marathon until 2016.

Bad Technique Led To Injury

Samantha was struck with a string of injuries for about 5 years.

After much research and patience, she correlated her injuries to poor running form and the incorrect shoes for her.

Samantha slowly transitioned to minimal shoes and spent much of her time barefoot to strengthen her feet.

Changing motor patterns can be challenging to do and often it requires switching to minimal shoes.

Prior to Samantha rehabbing her feet, she was unable to walk without pain.

After 3 months of consistent foot exercises, she was able to run barefoot on the road without pain.

This was her first time running without pain in 5 years.

That same year she completed the Pikes Peak marathon in minimalist sandals.

Transition Plan, Not Transition Shoes

Samantha has learned a lot over the years, both personally and professionally, about how to create strong and durable feet.

People need a transition plan not necessarily transition shoes.

The assumption tends to be that more must be better.

The two biggest takeaways that Samantha wants everyone to know are:

  • Learn and practice basic foot exercises.
  • Find the best shoe for your needs.

Something as simple as walking barefoot can go a long way to strengthen feet.

Start small when adapting your feet to going barefoot.

Samantha also recommends using toe spacers to help regain a more natural alignment.

Make The Commitment

Building resiliency in feet and legs takes patience and consistency.

Exercises must be done every other day at a minimum in order to explore movements and master them.

Samantha lives by the rule that you should build something before you need it.

It has been 5 years since Samantha has had an injury and in that time she has run quite a few races.

She recently finished her third Leadville 100 and competed in numerous Spartan races.

Running the same race multiple times has given her a better plan on where to push and where to hold back.

Running Through Obstacles (Literally)

Samantha competed in her first obstacle course race, a Spartan Beast, in 2015.

She admittedly had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Samantha performed so well that the All-Army Team invited her to join their OCR team.

Her strong performances at Spartan races have earned her free races through the OCR organization.

Every year Samantha has a goal to qualify and compete at the world championships.

Her best placing was 12th and her worst year she came in at 24th.

Samantha is enjoying running while she is still able to do it.

She knows her time in the sport isn’t guaranteed and takes each day as it comes.

This post is accompanied by an episode of my podcast, Diz Runs Radio.

Click this link to listen to my conversation with Samantha Wood.

Subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get new episodes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Originally published at on October 14, 2019.