Thursday, April 23, 2015

Start from the bottom

This is part of a series I'm writing about distance running for beginners. The purpose of writing this information is because there is not a lot of really solid, well-researched, practical advice from slow ass, chubby runners. You can find a lot of advice that might not suit you at all. All of this comes from experience for training for and running a marathon and training for a half marathon (and future second marathon). I'm not a licensed professional and any medical questions should definitely go to a doctor. I hope this series provides practical information and encouragement for you to train for your first half marathon, marathon, or ultramarathon. Advice for shorter distances is readily available all over the internet. You can find all of my posts in this series under, So you wanna run a marathon?


Today, let's start from the bottom and talk about the most important piece of equipment you will need in order to run any distance, even a 5k. We're talking about your feet, and the shoes you'll put on those feet. I have to start with a word of caution:


This is not popular advice, because so many people seem to revere the people at their running store, especially if it's a locally owned running store. But you have to remember that these people are trying to sell you shoes and are not degreed or licensed professionals. Now, there's a slight chance you'll find someone, like I have, with a degree in kinesiology. If you run into someone with a degree in exercise science, orthopedics, physical therapy, or even a certified pedorthist (which requires licensure in Ohio but not in every state), by all means, listen to them. However, what you are more likely to find is a runner aficionado or experienced runner who wants to parrot at you whatever the latest issue of Runner's World has to say or whatever they've heard in their experience. If this is the case, you will receive WRONG INFORMATION.

Here are some terms you might hear when it comes to your feet:
Arches : high, low, flat, fallen
Pronation or Supination (also over pronation and under pronation)

What you should know is that these terms don't actually matter. They might be good to know, but they have no bearing on what shoe you should wear or whether or not you'll likely incur an injury. There is no scientific evidence to support that your arches or the way your foot rolls should impact the type of shoe you wear.

What you need to worry about is the width of your feet and how much space they need to run.

This is an example of a shoe from feet that supinate (roll out). You can see what your feet do by checking your treads on something you've worn a lot.

Here is the thing about running shoes; they have been created because of myth and conjecture and not because of actual biomechanical science. The person trying to sell you those shoes knows none of this. What the shoe salespeople know is what's popular, what they've read in a magazine, what they think they know from selling shoes over the years. What most running companies know is what's popular, what's the latest buzz in technology, and what they can sell. The major problem is that shoes are made too narrow and have a very high drop

The drop of a shoe is the difference in height between the heel and the toe. Look at a couple of typical shoes:

The top is a Reebok (utter crap) and the second is New Balance (fairly respected in running shoes)

Do you see that wedge under the heel that raises the heel above the foot? That is bad. High drop is bad. Zero drop is good. However, if you go into a running store and request a zero drop shoe and tell them you're a beginner, they are going to discourage you. They're going to tell you your foot is too weak and it's too dangerous and will lead to injury. This is simply untrue.

The conventional wisdom in running shoes is more cushion, especially under the heel. Because the conventional wisdom is that most runners have a heel strike instead of a mid-foot strike. The argument is that a heel strike causes more impact in the foot, which travels up the leg, and causes more injury. There is no evidence to support this. Runners of all feet types, those who pronate or supinate, and runners with varying arch types, runners who heel strike or don't, can all experience injuries just in different places.

The main problem for new runners is that they are told to buy shoes with tons of cushioning, most of the cushioning in the heel. They're also told to buy shoes with stability for pronation. Do not buy these types of shoes. The best shoes for new runners are zero drop without stability and with moderate cushioning.

I want you to watch this video now...

That's Mikhail Barysnikov practicing jumps. You might've noticed that his shoes have no cushioning. You might notice that he jumps way higher than you are ever going to jump. (Unless you jump off a roof!) One of the unique things about me and my knowledge is that I'm classically trained in ballet and have danced at the college level as well as dancing types of swing and ballroom dancing for over a decade as an adult. My feet are strong, but yours might not be. The reason your feet might not be as strong as mine, and certainly not as strong as Mikhail Baryshnikov's, is because you've been wearing shoes your whole life. Shoes keep our feet weak. Shoes prevent all of the muscles in our feet and ankles and calves from developing properly. Heels, even highly cushioned heels do an incredible amount of damage to our feet. Furthermore, shoes that are too narrow prevent our toes from spreading as far as they need to and don't give them room to swell as you run longer distances.

You need a zero drop shoe without excessive cushioning in the heel, without excessive stabilization, with room for your feet to spread out and to swell as you run longer distances.

There's only one shoe on the market that does this. They are not paying me to write this. I'm telling you this because I've been running for three years and have had six pairs of shoes that were all wrong for me. I'm telling you this because I want you to start off on the right foot, in the right shoe.

Damn, look at all those muscles!

The thing that no one ever really talks about is all the muscles involved in running. There's a lot. They talk a lot about injury and a lot about protecting your foot, but damn if we don't ignore how shoes limit our feet. Shoes absolutely limit our feet and cause them to be inflexible and bound in ways that are not natural. So don't do that to your feet!

Look, if you're just starting, then just start with a zero drop, moderate cushioned, wide shoe that gives your feet plenty of room and forces your muscles to work! You won't notice your calves working differently, because this is your first shoe. Start slowly, running a mile three times a week, then add mileage slowly from there, allowing your muscles to develop and your feet to strengthen. You have plenty of time to reach those running goals and you should do it with the strongest body ever.

Worst case scenario : these shoes don't work and you get a different shoe.

That's probably not going to happen, honestly. What's more likely to happen is that you will develop properly from the start, with a natural gait, and with very strong muscles.

Want some even better news?

Since shoe companies upgrade and change their technology and designs and colors every year, you can usually get last year's model for cheap. Since you're new to this, you don't need the latest version, because last year's model will suit you well. So, click on over to Altra's close out page and check out the neutral running shoes and get yourself a deal! (Or go to Amazon, Zappos, or 6pm and get them for even cheaper!)

Pretty damn excited that these shoes are currently en route to my house!