Running 101

Today we did the 5th long run, this time a 4 miler.  What stood out about this one was Ward hill, a nice little climb past the 2 mile mark of about 150 feet over just over a quarter of a mile.  I know, that’s pretty minor compared to some hills but when you’re standing at the bottom of the hill it’s intimidating all the same.  I did stop to snap a picture before taking off up the hill – in the previous post.

This run was both really satisfying and disappointing.   It was satisfying because I was able to run all the way up Ward Hill.  I was dying at the top and walked a lot of the way down, but it felt good.  But after that I was able to run it in the last mile and a half or so.  I was disappointed because I didn’t run the whole thing, I did stop to walk a few times.  I only got one of my mid week runs in and that really made a difference.  I was set to run Thursday and Friday mornings.  Thursday my calf muscle was bugging me, and I’d pulled that pretty good a year ago so I decided it’s best not to aggravate it, Friday I had to go in to work super early.  I wondered about going Saturday and wonder if that would have been better to do, still not sure what to do about those rest day runs in that kind of circumstance.  Right now I’m thinking it’s better to do the run maybe, because I did not feel ready for the long run this morning like I have the other times.

I think my biggest struggle so far is just trying to figure out, what really is the best way to run.  It’s like running 101 – though my wife teaches at a community college and some of the entrance scores are so bad they have to have things like Math 060 and 090 before they can even get into college level math.  Sometimes I feel like I’m still at that Running 060 level.

I will say, I have felt good lately with my form.  I’ve focused on landing slightly fore front, keeping my knee bent slightly where I land and landing my foot right under my center of gravity.  So much of what I’m seeing out there and reading and hearing, including from the coaches leading our class, is that the forefoot landing is the ideal and is the safest way to run.  Way back in my teens when I ran all over the place, that’s how I ran, so there is a bit of a natural feel to it.

The shoes I’ve been running in are slightly too small and they tend to overcorrect, from what I’ve noticed, so when I was by a pretty popular running store I decided to see what they thought.  This guy got me up on a treadmill and right away he was insisting I should be landing on my heel.  My first thought is, walk away, and walk away now.  He did make some suggestions on what shoes would be good IF I continued to run that way.

Of course at the time I figure the guy’s just a shoe salesman who’s been brainwashed into all this about how corrective shoes are needed to correct all the ways our feet are designed all wrong.  And I’m thinking if I’m not on the same page as this guy it doesn’t make sense to buy shoes from him.  But he does launch into a bit of a tirade, insisting that the foot isn’t as well designed for landing on the forefoot, that there’s so much research that proves that, and oh by the way he’s a physical therapist whose work is with running injuries.

So I get home and look this guy up, and I gotta say his credentials were impeccable.  To start off, the guy was a world class marathon runner, has won some pretty major marathons, he owns the store, and also runs a physical therapy clinic in which he works with, guess what, running injuries.  I found You Tube videos from running websites with this guy talking about various injuries and this is definitely the guy I was talking to.

Here I was brushing off a pretty well recognized expert.  I feel kind of stupid right now.

And yet, I struggle.  I struggle because I find some pretty highly credentialed guys and gals out there who know their stuff as well as this guy or better that will tell you the heel strike is the best way to lead to injury.

Who’s right?  I’m certainly not in a position to say I know more about this than anyone on either side of the issue.

Now there is one thing he said that at least in my mind gave him a little credibility (as if I’m in the position to say whether HE has credibility?  Who do I think I am anyway?).  He did insist that you need to land on your heel but beneath your center of gravity, NOT out in front of you.  And honestly, I think that’s the first time I’ve really noticed a middle ground out there.

But what is a guy supposed to do here?  Here’s a guy who works with this stuff all the time, methinks he might know what he’s talking about.  But there are others who do as well that know what they’re talking about as well, yes?  How do you know who to listen to?

Maybe there’s not an absolute always right answer.  I do read several who are advocating you have to find what’s natural for you.  That yes, there are some things that you really should avoid doing like landing with your foot way out in front of you, But I still don’t know what to do with how adamant experts can be on both sides here.  With that, maybe I just have to keep going with what has been comfortable for me to this point which is continue to land on my forefoot, and just be smart in how I do it all, and maybe not stress so much about some things and enjoy the running a bit more?

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About Ron Walter

I'm just a guy who was so out of shape he couldn't run to get out of the rain. I'm taking my life back. It's not always perfect, not always successful. The victories though are greater than the defeats. I plan to keep it that way.
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4 Responses to Running 101

  1. maxsdaddy says:

    After finishing my first half marathon back in March, I developed pain in my ankles. At first it wasn’t that bad, but the more I ran, the worse it got. At first it would be tender after I ran, but after resting a bit, it felt ok. But over time, it hurt before, during and after my runs, and eventually the pain worked it’s way into my heel and achilles tendon area. Not sure if I altered my stride because of the ankle pain or what.

    Well I went to the podiatrist and when I mentioned I ran, she asked me what kind of running shoes I ran in. I told her minimalist shoes and she went on about a 10 minute diatribe about how bad those shoes were. It’s hard to know what to believe. Here you have your sources, with great credentials and a sound medical background who says that landing on the heel is ok as long as it’s not out in front of you when you land. But the forefoot/midfoot folks have just as much compelling evidence to say that landing on the heel is bad.

    It’s all so confusing, and maddening. Maybe the answer is, there is no one right answer. Maybe if you are someone who is tall, or overweight one style may be better, but if you are short and have a small frame, maybe running on the forefoot is the way to go. Or maybe running long distances on our feet is just a bad idea no matter how we run. And maybe if I run with a forefoot strike, I will develop heel and achilles problems, and if I run with a heel strike, I will have knee and shin problems. Maybe there is no one perfect way of doing it.

    I haven’t been able to run pain free for about 2 months now. Podiatrist told me no running for a month. I got a new pair of Saucony running shoes, which are more substantial and supportive. Can’t wait to be able to run again and try them out to see if my pain goes away 100%.

  2. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in what you said. When it comes to running I’m a novice with a capital NOVICE, and yet here I am cringing when I see running magazines showing pictures of people running and landing on their heels way out in front of them and I’m thinking why would you promote that? Amazing how reading a few articles and a couple of books makes me such an expert, right?

    I do read a lot of barefoot/minimalist running gurus who insist on extreme caution when transitioning. After a lifetime of all the support and cushioning in our shoes, our feet really need to build up strength before they’re ready for barefoot and minimalist running.

    I do wonder if, for a big guy like me, maybe the answer is more of a mid foot landing. And that’s where I appreciate the wisdom of the guy at the store in that if you are doing a heel landing, it still needs to be under you and not way out in front. But you used the right word: Maddening! How do you know??? The problem with things like tendinitis is that by the time you start getting symptoms, it’s too late.

    • maxsdaddy says:

      Yes sir, the road back has been slow and frustrating. I am supposed to do another half marathon in October. Hoping I am well enough so I can do some training in August and September to get ready. Of course when we have a week of weather like we did last week, when it’s 95 degrees with 85% humidity, getting the order to stop running is a little easier to handle :-).

      I think the surface you run on and the number of miles you run is also significant in choosing the type of footwear. If you are a trail runner doing 3 miles at a time, a more minimalist shoe is probably just fine. But if you are training for a half marathon or marathon and doing 10+ mile training runs on hard surfaces, I think a minimalist shoe will hurt you in the long run. And if you wear minimalist shoes, there is little to no cushioning in the heel, so if you land on your heel, it’s going to hurt.

      Good luck trying to figure it all out. It’s hard to ignore all the ads and articles in magazines, but I think the key is finding what works best for you.

      • I’m thinking if I were living in 85% humidity we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion because you couldn’t pay me to get out and run in that stuff!

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