So, we have looked at some of my thoughts on running so far. In the previous post – I mentioned some of the things that I thought were important: Physical Fitness Level, Environment, Goals and Dedication (or commitment). These are all important considerations when contemplating running. However, you may have noticed that none of them seemed to involve putting one foot in front of the other and watching pavement move by. So obviously there needs to be a part 2 post to my part 1! You may notice the same lack again – so there will be a part 3! So, here are some more of my thoughts on my favorite form of exercise – Specifically, lets discuss the shoes!
Shoes – Now this isn’t something I would have mentioned a year ago, but “alternatives” have been coming to light and hitting the main-stream running media that I feel should be mentioned.
Normal Running Shoes – These are the shoes you are used to seeing on people’s feet. They might be ASICS, New Balance, Saucony, Nike or one of many other brands. They feature padding under the heel (might be air or gel) and nice cushioned soles to help protect your body from impact. In fact, there is a good chance that you have a pair of these (or something very similar) in your closet right now! This is one aspect that makes them seem like the perfect running shoe! Now there are still some things to think about with running shoes like these – and that is YOUR running form. Now this may be putting the cart before the horse, but it is still worth mentioning for your future knowledge. Running manufactuer’s design running shoes for different styles/gaits. If you pronate (or over-pronate)– there is a shoe for that. If you supinate – there is a shoe for that. I mention this – not to overwhelm you – but to help explain WHY you might get knee pain or shin-splints. You may have, unknowingly, bought shoes designed for a supinator when you are a pronator. So if running seems to cause joint issues – don’t give up! Check with your local running store (such as Fleet Feet) and see if they can look at your gait to help you determine the best style of shoe for you.
Barefoot Running – This seems to be the latest “fad” in running. These are the “prophets” of running – ie: they are loud and will preach. But just because they have a “you are wrong and we are right” attitude (in general) doesn’t mean they may not have something to the idea. Barefoot Ken-Bob (all of the outspoken barefoot runners seem to have added the name “Barefoot” to their name.) has a fantastic website called The Running Barefoot that is a great resource to learn about running without shoes. Don’t let the “preachiness” prevent you from reading as there is some great information there. Barefoot running may (or may not) be right for you – as there is no “right” answer for everyone. But if you are going to try it – PLEASE research it first. It is easy to hurt yourself when starting out. Everything I say in the following section also applies to barefoot running but more so!
Minimalist shoes – These are shoes that have no (or minimal) cushioning and rise to the heel. In traditional running shoes (or shoes in general), you will find that your heel is further from the ground than the toes. This can lead to a shortening of your achiles tendon and calf muscles. In addition the thick soles and lack of flexibility of traditional shoes cause us to use less of our foot musculature and to lose “Ground Feel.” Minimalist shoes try to address this by minimizing the padding and the amount of rubber between your foot and the ground. This allows you to feel the pebbles (But not painfully so) as you run, and also helps you to move from the heel strike to a mid-foot strike (hitting with the heel HURTS!!) and to encourage stepping softer. They also have an enlarged toe-box (or separate toes) to help your feet spread out and work as designed.
You can probably tell I am a fan of minimalist shoes. Running in my Vibram Five Fingers is simply more enjoyable to me. But in full disclosure – I have also pulled my calf muscle 3 times due to over-doing it. If you switch to minimalist or barefoot running styles – be sure to research how to do things like run down hills, and appropriate ways to begin. People are not exaggerating when they tell you to start with a run of 1/4 of a mile. BUT – if you are already a runner, there is no reason you cannot go do your normal run in the shoes you are used to as well.