from the ground up

Lately several people have asked me what kind of running shoes I wear. I will make a post on my choice in shoe, but first I want to make a post on foot strike because I believe this is key to shoe choice. Please read the following while considering that I only run road. Other runners who get their miles from beaches, trails, or gravel may have a differing opinion (which I would love to hear!).

I have been running for about 7 years. During the first 1-2 years I just bought whatever shoe was cheap. When I started really getting into the sport I decided to spend a little bit more on shoes. A lot of people dread this because errrrrr they’re expensive! But let me assure you, 2+ months with a physical therapist due to an improperly fitting shoe is about 10x as much as even the most expensive shoe.

At first I would go to Academy or Dick’s and just buy something on clearance. After a while, once I felt I deserved to spend more, I would go to a local running store, awkwardly run around while a young sales person observed and recommended a shoe based on my gait. The problem was, I was getting injured- A LOT!

I’ve had many running related injuries, from IT Band syndrome (so horrible I can’t even speak its disgusting name out loud!) to Achilles’ tendonitis, to bursitis, to shin splits. In 2014, the shin splits did me in and I finally went to a PT. [I’m not talking a little shin pain, I’m talking “I can’t walk across my living room because of excruciating shin pain in one leg”]. While the PT was expensive and the anxiety of not being able to run due to injury was/is debilitating, it was the best thing that has happened to me as a runner. It really opened my eyes to common shoe and foot strike related injuries. It helped me realize that I needed to look at running from the ground up.

The first place to start, in my opinion, is to consider your strike. Where does your foot meet the ground? Is your heel striking first? Are your toes hitting the ground first? Or is it somewhere in the middle? Really, the varieties are finite.

For years I was a heel striker. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! A lot of people are heel strikers and are faster than I am. When I was heel striking, my heel absorbed more than my body’s weight upon impact and my lower leg would actually come to a stop during impact (this is common). For me, it just wasn’t working; I was suffering from injury every couple of months.

So, my PT suggested I transition to a forefoot strike… a lot easier to type than it was to transition. With a forefoot strike, my body absorbs the shock of hitting the ground a lot better than with a heel strike. This is because more of my joints are staying bent on impact. I’m also a lot faster than I was before switching. A lot.

The transition was. not. easy. I mean I had to start over completely. I went from 8-10 miles a day no problem, to barely being able to suffer through .25mi. It was a tough, tough transition, but 2 years later I can say it was well worth it for me!

My PT explained the forefoot strike using angles, and my mathematical brain ate that up. Another way to explain it is to take off your shoes, right now, and run across the room. Where is your foot meeting the ground? Ok, you may be on carpet… Now imagine running barefoot on the pavement, concrete, gravel, or across the prairie lands. To me, the thought of hitting the pavement, barefoot heel first, over and over sent shivers up my spine, but that may not be the case for everyone.

If you’re often suffering from injury or pain, maybe consider if a transition is right for you. [BUT, of course, talk to your doctor first, because like I have a law degree, not a med degree]. If you’re just getting into running, maybe try a couple of different foot strikes before committing (believe me, it’s hard to un-train yourself from something you’ve been doing, almost absentmindedly, for years).

The cool thing is, there are so many videos and articles on this type of running you probably don’t need a professional to figure it out. The other cool thing is, it’s your run—just get out there and do it! My sister-in-law always says, “find what works for you.” Run free from oppressive restrictions, run with liberty!

Next time I’ll write about shoes! They are so extremely important and finding the perfect shoe for your strike is of the essence.

 

P.S. My husband, my biggest fan, reads these and would like a shout out. So: I have a very tall, handsome, blonde husband that I’ve been married to for almost 5 years. Get this, he hates running!!! Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much. Just kidding!! He likes to lift weights and make things for our outdoor adventures (hammocks, sleeping bags, etc.) We have been having a blast lately playing Xbox Master Chief collection. Talk about re-mastered?? I didn’t even turn my flashlight on while playing through The Library!

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P.S.S. I forgot to share a pic of my pup, Liberty, in the last post, which would have been much more appropriate than this one. (I’ll get this blogging thing down). Above is a pic of Lib with my shoes–that I will be reviewing in my next post. This was taken right after we got back from a run, she loves laying on the tile to cool off!

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