Showing posts with label mid-foot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mid-foot. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Running efficiently is naturally wrong

Does form follow function?
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

Remember when you were young and your parents taught you how to run? Of course not. Kids learn to run naturally through a combination of confidence, impatience and excitement. I was thinking about this on my run this morning, as I put attention to where my feet were falling and the length of my stride. It occurred to me that all the books, magazines and web articles I've read about improving running technique are only corrupting what we comfortably do by nature.

I realize that this is a provocative statement. Landing on your fore foot and shortening your stride will make you a faster and more efficient runner, right? I'm not sure. I've observed enough runners to confidently say that the way you look while running is not a true indicator of how well you can actually run. I remember running on the Bethpage trail and seeing a woman ahead of me who was pronating so badly that it was making me dizzy. I increased my pace to pass her, until I realized I'd never catch her. Inefficient as she looked, she totally outclassed me in terms of speed.

I haven't given up on improving the way I run, but I'm no longer willing to fight nature to do it. I've been running in minimal shoes for three years to promote mid-foot landing, but all my running shoes still show wear on the lateral heel, along with the mid-foot. I'm okay with that because (knock wood) I've had very few running injuries during the same time period. I'll still think about the position of my arms and height of my knees when it crosses my mind during a run. The fact is, whether I do everything "right" or go with what feels natural, I tend to run just about the same.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A good run today - but why?

Today's run (street): 3.6 miles

I thought about yesterday's NY Times article when I went out for my morning run. As I took off, I realized how much I've focused on mid-foot landing at the start of every run. Today would be different. Let my foot fall where it may!

It was another perfect running day. I appreciated the experience, and was pleasantly surprised to see few cars and buses on the road. I went out earlier than normal because I had business in the city and needed to catch a morning train. My stride felt completely fluid and I wondered whether I was running more efficiently by not attempting to land on my mid-foot. It could also have been the cool, dry weather that was making the run feel easier.

Moving along this way, I'd hoped to see at the end that I'd compiled an amazing time. No luck there, it was just slightly better than my normal moderate pace (faster than easy, slower than brisk). Still, it was an improvement of 15-20 seconds (per mile) over what I'd averaged this past week. Was it the decision to run without thinking about where my foot landed? Or was it that I had some additional energy today? Perhaps it was the fact that I pushed just a little harder this morning.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mid-foot running, what used to be right is wrong

Coffee bad good, land on your mid-foot heel
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

There are some things that are constantly reported by the media in terms of safety and/or health benefits. Coffee is one. Years ago I read that consumption of coffee is tied to nervous system impairment and hyper-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Recent studies now position it as a super-food with minimum health risks related to the over-consumption of caffeine.

Another subject is barefoot-style running. Back in the olden days (pre-80's), running shoes were minimal in design and people suffered injuries when running. The answer to that was generation after generation of over-built and highly cushioned running shoes with corrective technology to control pronation. But the injury rate remained exactly the same.

Following studies at Harvard University and publication of the book Born to Run, minimal shoe design returned to the marketplace and an emphasis was put on mid-foot landing and "natural" running style. These shoes have captured almost 10% of the market and I'll admit that I've bought into it as well.

Today, the New York Times published an article in their Well blog, with research supporting heel striking as the "more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin." What!?? I was very surprised to read this, because the minimalist approach seems more logical. Why wouldn't a shoe that supports a bio-mechanically correct stride be the better choice?

According to the studies, heel striking seems to facilitate more efficient energy expenditure. This is the opposite from everything I've read before about the subject. I'm not sure what to do with this new information. I'll probably continue to use lighter, flatter and more minimally constructed running shoes because I prefer them. Besides that, despite all my efforts to run with an efficient mid-foot stride, my outsoles still show quite a bit of heel wear.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Puzzling find beneath my Hattori's

Hey, that's nowhere near my mid-foot!
I did both of my weekend runs on the treadmill and used my second pair of Hattori's that have yet to see pavement. Out of curiosity, I looked at the bottoms to see if the tread picked up a wear pattern from the belt and noticed some evidence of impact on the front medial side. That looked like I may still be pronating, even with a mid-foot strike. I also thought that it may just be belt dust that attached to the out-sole.

When I looked at my primary pair of Hattori's I was quite surprised to see that both heel pads showed clear evidence of wear towards the outside edge of the shoes. These are outdoor shoes and there's no other explanation except that I'm still pushing off the heel at some point in my strike.

This is puzzling because I know I'm landing on my mid-foot when I run in the Hattori's and the white EVA shows an imprint that supports that fact. Clearly there are two points of contact when I land and I'm guessing that I glance off the heel and then strike ahead of the arch. No too bad but not what I want. Perhaps I'll make a trip to a local running store in the next couple of weeks and ask to have my gait videoed. Even if my theory is confirmed I'm not sure if there's much I can do unless I want to go back to a lightweight stability shoe.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Kinvara reunion

Hello darkness my old friend

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles

It was surprisingly cool this morning when I stepped out for my run at 4:00 AM. I'm guessing that the temperature was in the high 50's and the dark skies helped to exaggerate the cold. There was a little humidity to soften the air but overall it felt more like early spring than summer. I wore my Kinvaras just for a change from the Hattori's. I expected the Kinvara's to feel like an old friend, but instead, I found them tight on my mid-foot. I wondered if the Hattori's flat, arch-less, platform had changed my perception of how a foot bed should feel. Interestingly, I have no such issues with the Mirage that has a 1-2 mm higher ramp angle.

Once mobile, I observed the way I was landing in the Kinvara and curious to see if I would strike closer to the heel than in the Hattori's. It seemed like I was landing on my mid-foot but it felt different than it did prior to going ultra-minimal. My energy level was okay but my form was not fluid. This has been the case all week. I felt that I was moving along well this morning (and I was compared to Wednesday) but my overall pace was still 30 seconds per mile slower than I would have liked.

The long weekend is almost here and I think it's time to get back to speed work. Perhaps my fast twitch muscles need a wake up call.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Does a mid-foot strike mean no more bad runs?

Today's run (street): 2.55 miles

Since I've transitioned to mid-foot striking I've rarely experienced a bad run. Some runs are are better than others but it's been a long time since I'd described the experience as akin to having sand bags strapped to my legs. This morning I had pronounced stiffness in my lower legs and my knee felt slightly tweaky so I moderated my pace and went with that. The result was a slower than normal overall pace but I still kept it in the 9:00 minute range.

The key to a better running experience seems to be landing on my mid-foot which negates any pronation tendencies. I've noticed that I run more upright with a straighter line from head through my hips and this seems to make my running easier. Plus, this opens up my center which facilitates easier breathing. It all seems to add up to a more efficient process. I'm fairly convinced these benefits are for real.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Runner's World got it wrong on the Hattori

I'm happily in the middle
Yesterday afternoon's workout (Cycling): 4.6 miles

After a year of trying to adapt to a mid-foot stride I am finally sure that I've actually done it. Not everyone is comfortable running this way but (fortunately for me) my transition was fairly painless. The Saucony Kinvaras helped that a lot. I'd assumed, after running in the Kinvaras for over a year, that I'm landing closer to my mid-foot. However, the 5-6 mm ramp angle of  both the Kinvaras and the Mirages made it difficult to know that for sure.

Every sharp rock that I land on with the Hattori's (as happened on Saturday) confirms that I'm landing on my mid-foot. Sunday's run of almost seven miles in the Hattori's showed me that heel cushioning and forefoot padding aren't necessary for middle distance running. A mid-foot stride lets your foot's natural shock absorbers -- the arch and the ball -- disburse the pounding.

Experiencing this, I was dismayed to read Runner's World's characterization of the Hattori as a "trainer for efficient runners to use as cooldown shoe or for speedwork drills on grass." This bias surprises me. I'm certainly not an efficient runner when running in highly constructed, stabilized and cushioned running shoes. But when I run in the Hattori it's a whole other story.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What's behind a default running pace?

Today's run (street) 2.5 miles

Paces are a funny thing. I often find it difficult to gauge my speed as I run. There's a default pace that I maintain when I'm not thinking about performance. That's usually my starting point for taking it up a notch in a tempo run or slowing down to conserve energy on a longer run. I'm still not sure why my stride and cadence always seem to lock in around 9:30 per mile. Why not 9:00 or 8:30? When I run I sometimes imagine that I'm in a race with other runners. I do this because in races my pace usually drops into the 8:00 range. The theory is good but the practice is usually unsuccessful. Just imagining competition doesn't seem to help my performance. I'm sure there's much more to it than simply having others (real or imagined) by your side.

This morning I took off on a very cold morning with no regard to my speed. When my Garmin chirped at the first mile I looked at the watch to see that I'd paced it at 10:06. This was a surprise and even a shock because I'd felt like I was moving faster than that. I picked things up and by the 1.5 mile mark I was running closer to 9:40 per mile. Still not fast but definitely faster. I wasn't thinking about my speed but I was concentrating on where my feet were landing. My average cadence has increased about 3% since last year which I thought should yield faster paces overall.

I think my focus on mid-foot landing might actually be preventing progress on speed because, while my steps per minute may have increased, my stride length has probably decreased. I'm okay with that because as I build my base I'm expecting to continue increasing cadence to the point where my speed does increase. Since I can rarely tell how fast I'm actually running I should probably look more often at my watch to see how I'm performing. I've always resisted that because I don't like the pressure to maintain a specific speed. I guess I need to decide what's most important.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mid-foot running is great but where's the speed?

Today's run (street): 2.6 miles at 9:32

Stepping out in the Kinvaras for this morning's run reminded me why real running shoes, even lightweight minimalist ones, serve an important purpose. I did well with my pool shoes on Sunday and had no residual aches or pains after my run but my feet felt far better during today's run in the Sauconys. The Kinvaras are almost flat between heel and front foot but they aren't built as low to the ground as some other lightweight trainers. The slightly higher platform allows for a little more cushioning and provides a comfortable ride. My longest run in them so far was 5.5 miles but I have no concerns about doubling that distance (except, of course, for my own limitations). It's interesting that I've lost a lot of speed in the last couple of months. My first runs in the Kinvaras were under 9 minutes per mile. Now I'm averaging closer to 9:30 miles most days regardless of the shoes I wear.

It was 85 degrees and humid when I started my run at 4:05 AM today. With no sun and a slight breeze it wasn't bad. For some reason the Garmin foot pod always over-counts distance on the Kinvaras, probably due to the flatter angle of the upper compared to my other shoes. This translates to faster paces on the FR60 display and more distance captured. I always check my route against Gmaps to find the margin of error and saw that the indicted distance and pace (2.67 mile & 9:18/mile respectively) were overstated by 3%. I can rarely tell while running at 4 AM whether I'm tracking mid 9:00 miles or high 8's so I'm often disappointed (and occasionally delighted) when I calculate based on Gmaps. Regardless of pace or distance I got out there in the heat and covered some good ground while reinforcing my mid foot striking style. The speed will come. I keep telling myself that.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Another good Kinvara run

Today's run (street): 2.5 miles at 9:11 per mile

We have friends arriving later today who will stay with us over the weekend. I think we're due for some decent weather today but I decided to forgo my usual Friday city run in favor of an early morning run. I checked last night and with sun and temperatures in the 80's by mid day, it made more sense to go out in the dark when it was still relatively cool. I've worn the Saucony Kinvaras the last four times I've run this week and I do like the feel of the shoe. I know many people who are highly sensitive to the nuances of every shoe they wear but for me the threshold for satisfaction is low. The shoe either feels good or it doesn't. The Kinvaras feel good and I believe they are helping me strengthen my legs by forcing more of a mid-foot striking style. The people at Jackrabbit showed me that I tend to come off the heel (albeit quickly) when I run which contributes to my pronation. I don't know if a neutral shoe like the Kinvara heads off pronation by guiding the foot towards the front. I haven't suffered any problems running in this neutral shoe so that may be the case.

My run today felt faster than yesterday's but it was actually a little slower. I think going out at 6:15 AM gave me an advantage yesterday. I simply run slower at 4:00 AM. That's okay though, this morning's run felt energizing and good. I'm not sure of my run schedule for the weekend. My guests are not runners so I'll probably go out early tomorrow, before everyone else is up, and be done in time for breakfast. I have no real goals for the weekend but I need to think somewhat about my conditioning. We're heading to Colorado in a few weeks on vacation and with elevations of a mile or more I'll want to be as prepared as I can.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The great mid-foot debate continues

After being told by the salesperson at City Sports that the store wasn't planning to carry the Brooks Green Silence shoe I contacted Brooks to find out where I could find it in NYC. The Green Silence is supposedly in stores this week and I'm curious to try it. With its low heel-to-toe offset and lighter weight I'm curious to see if it's the shoe for me as I adapt to a mid-foot/front foot running style. Brooks told me that Jackrabbit's in Union Square got a shipment so I plan to get down there this week if I can. This new shoe may not be ideal for me, after all it's a light trainer/racer, and it may be too minimal in terms of comfort. After all the anticipation for its launch I need to see for myself.

The current issue of Trail Runner has an article that posits both sides of the heel vs. front foot argument. They offer the fact that a study of elite runners in the 2004 Sapporo Olympics showed that 75% of these athletes land first on their heels when they run. To quote from the article, "There's no [scientific] evidence that heel strikers are injured more, no evidence that mid-foot runners are faster..." The article goes on to recommend that runners should do what feels right. They suggest that if adopting a front foot style is awkward it's probably better to run on your heels. The article did recommend some shoes specifically for mid-foot running: most inov-8 models, Newtons, NB 100s and 840s (The "ChiRunning" shoe) and the La Sportiva Skylite. Remember that this magazine covers trail running which explains why trail shoes are included in this recommendation.

I didn't run this morning because I felt like rest would do more good than exercise. I'm seeing my pulmonologist tomorrow and I don't want to overdo it lest he order me to stop running. I'll get back to it on Thursday after three days rest. I miss the experience but I know rest is the right thing for me this week.

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