Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Moving Towards Flatter Shoes

The 4 mm difference in heel-toe drop between my new shoes (Saucony Guide 5) and my standard (Brooks Adrenaline) took me off guard. My first run was actually quite difficult, as I felt significant stress in my shins and calves as well as - surprisingly - my hips after this run. The main difference, detailed here, is that the incredible cushioning of the shoes pretty much force you to land on your mid to fore-foot so I did some research to determine what exercises and/or stretches would help me transition to a different foot landing.

The best guide I found for determining if you are ready for “minimal” running was this excellent article by Jay Dicharry, a physical therapist and director of the Speed Lab at the University of Virginia. (Here’s a bonus summary of the article.) So I did his test and passed all three (thank you Yoga!):

  1. You have to be able to isolate and control the flexor hallucis brevis. This is not an intuitive move for me, but I was was able to do it. 
  2. Demonstrate ankle and plantar fascia mobility.
  3. Single leg balance. 

(BTW, Jay's book Anatomy for Runners, sounds like a must-read.)

So according to this, I have the ability to run with a reduced heel-toe drop. But it still felt really awkward. What to do? Here’s my plan of attack:

  • Foot massage. If you visit me at work, make noise as you arrive because odds are I have my shoes off and am massaging the bottom of my feet with a tennis ball. Doing this has helped my foot strength immeasurably.
  • Toe lifts. An exercise typically used to prevent shin splints (I can attest to this!), you can simply stand with your back against a wall, heels a few inches away from the wall. Then slowly lift your toes up as far as you can, 10-15 times. (Just like this, although I typically do it on a flat surface not a platform.) Repeat 2-3 times if you can, but due to time constraints, I usually only get 1-2 cycles in. 
  • Calf Stretching. I try to stretch out each calf for at least 20-30 seconds. (I’m sorry, but I’ve tried and failed at holding stretches for three minutes
  • The Stick/foam roller. I swear by this. I roll my calves with either the stick or the foam roller after every run – and sometimes both. (The foam roller is also great kid entertainment: I roll my muscles, and then the older ones put it over their arm and play superhero while the infant tries to chew it.) 

So far it’s been working. I ran a decent-paced 5 miler today with no discomfort at all! I'm hoping to wear the Guides for a long run (10 miles) by March, if not sooner. If anyone has some other exercises they recommend, i'm all ears!

Related Posts:
Improve your running form
Foot Strike Fads:
My never final say on barefoot running

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