7.25.2007

Breakthrough on Feet!

...aka my takeoff on the title of a downhill skiing technique book published years ago.

In the past week I had been reading and paying more attention to online discussions and articles about running form, particularly in terms of midfoot striking, as opposed to heel striking. Since starting running I was pretty aware that I am a hard heel striker--the outside edge of the heels of my shoes always show wear long before any other part of the shoe. And in recent months I have been plagued by pretty much back-to-back injuries...nothing serious, but the sorts of things that take some of the joy out of things.

I've also been frustrated at my lack of speed and inability to break beyond ~11 minute pace for my easy runs. Granted, a year ago I was probably running closer to 11.5-12 minute pace, but I've been at 11 minutes for a good 6 months, even with increase in miles and speedwork.

So, back to the foot strike thing...I've concentrated on landing more midfoot, or with a more flat foot, rather than heel-to-toe. 2 nights ago I was having an entirely crappy, painful, slow run...but during the last 15 minutes I decided to incorporate some of the techniques that "Chi Running" promotes--namely the foot plant and more erect, forward leaning body. Almost immediately I found that my turnover rate increased, but with no added effort--and my shin pain almost instantly decreased substantially. Hmmm...

Today I decided to try being more mindful of my footstrike and posture for an entire run (I had planned on 90 minutes, but the humidity was kicking my ass and my asthma, so I called it good at an hour). Not only did I feel more light on my feet, but I cut my pace by :30-:45/minute...hello?! That's HUGE!

Now I feel like I've found my Holy Grail of running! I want to do more reading and research, but from what I have already read it appears that adapting from heel striking to midfoot striking has cured a lot of folks from chronic injuries (like knee problems, shin splints, foot issues, chronic compartment syndrome/calf problems...all things I have dealt with). Chi and Pose running experts also recommend switching to a more minimal shoe (Pose folks actually push for some barefoot running, but I'm not that brave/nuts), as the thick, oversized heel in modern running shoes actually encourages heel striking.

I had been planning to grab a pair of New Balance 1223s as soon as they are available...but now I think I may hold off. At $135 I'm none too eager to spend that kind of money if I don't need to. Instead I just ordered a $90 pair of NB 902s, which is a lightweight performance stability shoe. I'd likely not wear these for anything but speedwork and shorter races...at least not until I know if they would work for anything longer. They are less stable than any other shoe I have worn, but moving away from the heel striking should go a long way towards minimizing the overpronation issues I have. My light-med stability 767s may be perfect for most longer runs and races, as they don't have *too* oversized a heel area.

I'm still using my Asics Gel Kayano 13s for some runs, but the more I wear them, the less I like them. They just never have fit like any of my wide NBs, even though they are technically wides, too. Tell that to my 3rd toe on my right foot, that is still healing from a blister, since the shoe narrows too rapidly and rubs into it (even with almost an inch of space beyond my longest first 2 toes). I am convinced that they contributed to my right knee problems, too--and I have read 3 other accounts of runners who have had similar issues. Very strange.

Saturday I have my only 10k race of the year--the Grand Haven Coast Guard Fest 10k. Shouldn't be any problem to kill my PR from last year, as it was 1:11:11. Avoiding any tragedy I should easily get under an hour--even if I run heel striking the entire way!

;)

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