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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Natural Heel Strikers

Just in time for my tentative moves towards minimalism, comes news that not all barefoot runners are created equal. That is, not all native tribes that run around barefoot land on their fore-foot. Quoth Scientific American:
"The findings don’t necessarily mean that a goal of mid- or forefoot striking for recreational (shod or unshod) runners is misplaced—or that those looking for a more minimal or “natural” running form should opt for a rear-foot strike instead. The research simply shows that there appear to be more than one style of running for people who have grown up running without shoes."
Although i'm sure some people will take this as fuel to say "Shove it McDougall!" the reality is that, despite what purists say, I think all of us at RR&RS believe that people should do whatever works for them. For example, part of what's spurred my running renaissance over the last few years has been running in the Brooks Adrenaline (the prototypical stability shoe), which is diametrically opposed to the minimal trend. And that's okay! Having said that, I'm enjoying my experimentation with the Saucony Guide 5, feeling my feet and legs getting stronger, which is a good thing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

First Impressions of the Saucony Guide 5

I made my first foray away from the traditional running shoe dimensions by picking up a set of Saucony Guide 5s. Until now, I've been alternating between the Brooks Adrenaline and Saucony Guide 4, both of which are over 11 oz and have a 12 mm heel-to-toe drop. By contrast, the Guide 5 weighs 10 oz and has an  8 mm heel-to-toe drop.

I'm going to wait until I've run longer in these shoes to totally geek out about them, but here are my first impressions:
  • The 4 mm heel-to-toe drop makes a huge difference. I feel very strange running in them, since the lack of suburb heel cushioning does force you to land more on your front foot. More on this in a future post.
  • The cushioning in these shoes - concentrated in the mid and front foot - is simply sublime. Feels like wearing a shoe with space-age padding!
  • I’m not completely comfortable in these shoes yet, because I feel like I need to increase my shin and calf strength in order to change my foot strike. Again, more thoughts on this in the near future.
In short, my first impression is that it's an amazingly comfortable shoe with moderate stability features designed to promote a forefront stride. I'm happy I bought them, but we'll see how effective they end up being. I'll report back after 50-60 miles in them.

Recovery Runs

Between the three of us, we often debate the benefit of so-called "Recovery Runs".  In those debates, I am most often arguing FOR recovery runs.  I have to admit, however, there isn't much that heals the body as well as good old rest.  Still, I do recovery runs multiple times per week instead of simply taking those days off.  I'm not going to debate whether they promote blood flow, flush your legs of the waste created by harder efforts and so on and so forth.  I'll leave that to the magazines and bloggers with a more scientific background.  Recovery runs serve a different purpose for me, however.

The primary reason I'll hop on the treadmill for a nice and easy 3 miler, or slowly run a short, flat loop near my house after a tough workout is so that I feel better going into the day after that.  Feeling better on that day means I get in a more productive workout.  I can't say my legs are "healed", but taking a day off between one hard workout and another hard workout isn't the recipe to success for me on that second workout.  If I were to take that day in between completely off, I would stumble through the first few miles of the run before I finally got my legs under me.  By doing a recovery run on that in-between day, I tend to start off feeling much more fresh and ready to get into it.

This approach, of course, still takes into account the fact that I need days off.  I hope that I can get to the point where I'm able to run every day and be no worse for the wear, but I'm certainly not there yet.  I will generally take a day off after an "Easy Run".  Easy runs are a whole other beast that I think is very well covered in the linked article over at The Logic of Long Distance.

I think understanding easy runs is a big part to understanding how to approach a recovery run.  An easy run is neither too fast nor too slow.  It's very much like Goldilock's favorite temperature porridge, JUUUST right (for the day, for your physical state on that day; perceived effort vs. actual effort).  A recovery run, in my opinion, cannot be too slow.  Whereas on an easy run I would recommend hiding your watch and not thinking about your splits, rather, listening to your body and judging your effort based on how you feel, with a recovery run, i think you actively need to keep your run at a pace you consider SLOW.  For me, at this point in my training, I tend to run recovery miles anywhere between 9:00 and 10:00 per mile pace, depending on the conditions I am running on/in and how beat up I feel on that day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book Review: Pete Townshend's "Who I Am"

Pete Townshend is a dauntingly intelligent man – so much so that he rightfully gained a reputation as the “go-to” interview in rock music from the time The Who exploded on the scene in 1965 to the early 90s when he released his last solo album.  His blog, before mystifyingly disappearing behind a paywall at, was an extension of his interviewing voice, a piercing intellect that’s pretentiously well aware of its place in history but tempered with an almost crippling sense of humility. In addition, starting in the mid-80s, he  spent a long period of time as an editor at Faber & Faber. All of this made me anticipate his memoir, Who I Am, released late last year, all the more. I mean, Townshend’s such an articulate thinker, his take on his own life was bound to be good.

So it came as quite a shock that he didn't devote the insight he demonstrates in other arenas to his own life.
On the whole, Who I Am follows the typical rock-star narrative of formative years, early fame, excess, and a leveling off. Dates, albums, and names (so very many names) speed by in numbing proliferation. Occasionally, the book comes alive when he takes the time to detail more specifics, like his childhood, some of gestation periods of his more famous albums, and when relating the confusion that led to his arrest on suspicion of child pornography (he was quickly exonerated). While I suspect that his publisher really cut the narrative to the bone in order to get his whole story within two hardcovers, this is a book that could have been so much more - where's the open ended musings that mark the best of his past writing?. Ah well... As Hall n’ Oates sang, “All I see are missed opportunities.”

Sunday, January 6, 2013

INOV-8 Roclite 295 update?

UPDATE: The new 295s are in!  If you are reading this page, you probably want to check out our review, here.


I've been loving these INOV-8's Roclite 295s for trail runs.  They are light, extremely flexible, and have just enough cushioning to provide protection over miles and miles of rocks and roots.

Recently, however, they disappeared from Running Warehouse's online store - and have been replaced by an updated version, available for pre-order.

While they keep the same color scheme, these otherwise appear to be a very different shoe.  Running Warehouse measured the previous version, men's size 9, at 10.5 ounces, and the new version aat 9.7 ounces.  (If those measurements hold up, Inov-8 should relabel them as the Roclite 275 -- but the number 295 is right there on the toe!)  Running Warehouse also measure the prior version as having a 21 mm heel and and a 12 mm forefoot.  The new versions come in with a 17 mm heel and a 10 mm forefoot.

Beyond that, I can't find any information, not even on INOV-8's website (that is, unless you speak Swedish).  Hopefully they still feel just as good as my old ones!