Monday, October 19, 2009

Run with Less on Your Feet

I've had my share of injuries. Most notably in terms of bad shoes patella-femoral tendonitis (runner's knee), two broken sesamoid bones, and plantar fasciitis. So now that I am training harder in preparation for the olympic marathon trials I have come across several things that I feel I need to incorporate into my training to take me to the next level (or next four levels, cause I have a long way to go). I have learned that shoes can mess me up. When I ran in high school my 20-40 miles a week I just wore some shoe that I had from a sports store. I usually only had one shoe for the whole year. I had no major injury in high school. In fact when I was 15 and 16 I trained for and ran a half marathon in the winter to try and keep in shape. One year I wore a pair of Nike waffles designed for cross country on the whole 13.1 mile pavement and dirt road corse. No injury and no pain that I remember.

Then comes college and I began to up my mileage and take an interest in what went on my feet. First it was what felt good in the store. Then it was what felt good three months later. About that time I was upping my mileage even more and it was what got me through 500 miles without an injury. I used stability shoes for a long time then switched to motion control and stability for the last two years.

We begin in January of 2006 while wearing a cushioning (women's) shoe (NB 1060) from New Balance I developed runner's knee. While clearing that up I moved to stability shoes. I went through two pairs of the NB 766, two NB 767, one NB 768, one ASICS 2110, one Nike I don't know the model, one Saucony Progrid Omni, one Brooks Adrenaline 7, and two Brooks Adrenaline 8. During that time I had a few flats that I used now and then like the NB 901 and Saucony Grid Tangent 2. Unfortunately I tried a more motion control type shoe and once you move up it is hard to move back down. I went through the Mizuno Wave Alchemy 6, Brooks Addiction 8, and Saucony Progrid Stabil. The thing is with that much motion control my feet are forced to move a certain way and I end up with knee pain or hip pain if I run too many miles. Basically the same thing as the cushioning shoe of yesteryear. So recently I moved back down and I'm on my second pair of Saucony Progrid Guide, a stability shoe.

My junior year in an indoor 5000 race I was wearing a pair of Nike Ventulus leopard print spikes and I smashed my sesamoid bone. At least I had never had pain there before but I had several problems after that. I took a month off and did some moderate to light training and ran a decent half marathon that spring. That summer I tried to incorporate barefoot running for the first time by doing strides. Bad mistake. Take that broken sesamoid bone and smash it at five minute mile pace into the ground. It really flared up and the doctor said I should take six months off from running. Yeah, I did that once it won't happen again if I can help it. Instead I put an L shaped patch under my foot in my shoe that took the pressure off. Needless to say I have been quite hesitant to take the shoes off since then. I have since learned that the key is to start by running slow and running short distances.

In my efforts to make my feet stronger the past six weeks I have been trying to do a few runs of about a half mile barefoot at the end of my regular runs. I've worked my way up to a mile. It is kind of humbling because a half mile or one mile is so short. Anyway a strange thing has happened: my stability shoes hurt a little. I have some orthotics in the boots that I wear during the day and they are starting to hurt as well. I have started to run more in flats. I bought a pair of Saucony Grid Fastswitch 3 and after only 40 miles in them I want to wear them all the time. My feet hurt more in shoes now than anytime I can remember. This recent obsession led me to buy two more pairs of flats a few days ago. The experience the last several years going through a pair of $90 shoes every two months makes me want to design and sell a $40 shoe, a flat, that is good enough for 500 miles. We don't need all of this motion control. The problem is that the rubber they use for trainers is designed to last 400-600 miles but in flats the rubber is often only made to last 100-200 miles so you can actually wear through the sole much faster in flats.

Has anybody really good ever gone barefoot you might ask? Yes in fact Abebe Bikila won the 1960 olympic marathon in Rome barefoot on cobblestone streets in 2:15 and set a world record in the process. That's all the information I need. If he could run 2:15 on cobblestones barefoot nearly 50 years ago I should be able to run a 2:18:xx under better conditions. Note: then he set the world record at 2:12 and won another gold medal in 1964 at Tokyo wearing shoes.

So what is my plan? Build slowly to get to the point where I can comfortably run one of my morning runs (3-7 miles) barefoot on the turf or on grass. This process should take two or three months. Right now I am at one mile comfortably barefoot near 8:00 mile pace. I also plan to run much more in flats because they keep the heel low to the ground similar to barefoot running. Wearing a shoe with a higher heel allows the calves and Achilles to get tight. I will still keep a few pairs of my stability shoes around for runs if my feet are tired or for technical trail runs. I would also like to try a pair of Newton shoes if I ever had $150 to spare. I will also continue to do foot stability, flexibility and strengthening exercises several times a week. These I will try to do for the rest of my running career because 20 minutes a week spread out over four "workouts" is completely worth the time that it will save me from being injured.

For more information:
Runner's World article by Amby Burfoot. He talks about Abebe Bikila some., it's pretty self explanatory.

Anton Krupicka wrote a good, down to earth, blog post about minimalist running. For those that don't know he came strait out of college and set all sorts of ultrarunning records.

Born to Run by Chris McDougall is about a tribe of Indians in Mexico that run hundreds of miles at all ages nearly without injury. They wear thin sandals to protect their feet from the elements.


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