Thursday, October 15, 2009

Something for the Everyday Runner

I have been thinking to myself and asking what I have to offer the average every day runner. Here is what I have come up with. I am not an elite runner by any stretch or even a very good runner. Like most of the people out there running, I am trying to live a healthy lifestyle and maybe be the best runner that I can be. When I find something that I enjoy, I throw myself in to it 100%. What I can offer is the chance for that person who wants to better them self or run healthier to succeed in that.
The idea that a runner needs to have six-pack abs and great strength through weight training is completely untrue. Unless you are a sprinter there is no need to have bulging legs and great strength. Now please don’t misunderstand me, a runner does need to be strong and try and do some strength training if they want to improve, but weights are not needed for this. Your body and provide all the resistance you need to increase your “running strength”.
However, I digress as I am getting ahead of myself. My desire for this first article is to speak on the idea that a runner needs a cushioned, stability, or motion control shoe is a bit of a misguided understanding of what the human body requires to function when running. Most of the shoes that I will be speaking of will be products that I have or am running in currently. I have spent two years working in the running specialty field so I have had access to many different shoes. Even as my preferences and interest in natural running changed during those two years, the market dictated putting people in shoes that they necessarily did not need. I once asked my employer why we did not carry some of the natural or barefoot type shoes (Nike Free, Puma Alsten, Ecco Biom, Vibram Fivefinger, etc). His response did not surprise me. Since most people have been wearing stability type shoes most of their lives, their feet and lower legs have become weak and atrophied. For someone to switch to a natural/barefoot type shoe takes several weeks and months of a slow break-in period. Many Americans are not that patient and would go out and run their normal runs (whether that is 3 or 13 miles) in these new shoes and most likely injure themselves almost immediately. This would then come back on the store for having sold them the shoe, even if they were directed to slowly work up distances in the shoe. What is difficult about switching to these types of shoes is understandable. Let’s say you are currently running 20-30+ miles a week with daily runs anywhere from 3-10+ miles. Then you decide you want to go natural/barefoot and what to try out the Nike Free 3.0+. You WOULD NOT want to go out and run anymore then 1-2 miles 2 or 3 times a week to start. The only way you could get away with this is if you were a very biomechanically efficient runner to start with. If you step back and really think about it, this is very true of most individuals.
Now I am taking a small leap here and think that if you are here reading this, then this does not describe you because you are trying to find out where to start to make these changes.
On with the shoes:
My current running line includes the Nike Free 3.0 and Lunaracer. I use these shoes as my everyday trainers and for my races with the distances above 5k. Generally I lean toward the Lunaracer in these instances. My current short distance shoe is the Mizuno Universe 3, which is about as close as one can get to running barefoot and still be in a “shoe”. For trail running my two main shoes are from Inov-8. I run in the RocLite 285 and the X-talon 212. I also have as my everyday shoes; the Nike Free 5.0, Ecco Biom A and the Vibram Fivefinger KSO. I do some short trail runs in the Vibrams and also some short runs in the Ecco Biom A. Although I do find the Eccos to be a comfortable casual shoe I have yet to find it comfortable to run in. I must admit that is has been several months since I last ran in shoe and my running form has come a long way since then. I hope to try and get this shoe back into rotation soon.
To give you an idea of my physical make up, I have low arches and was often told that I overpronate. I have a slender build and would not be considered a heavy heal striker. Because of this, prior to my switch of running style/shoe I have been through a gamut of stability type shoes. I have experienced the New Balance 760 series, Brooks Trance, Infiniti and Axiom, Saucony Hurricane, Mizuno Inspire and Nike Structure Triax. For trail running I would generally use the Saucony Xodus, Brooks Cascadia and the Mizuno Ascend.
As you can see I have had some pretty good experience with several stability type shoes. So why/how did I change to a more natural/barefoot running shoe?
This was not a trivial matter by any stretch of the imagination. During my last year of running Cross Country I hurt my hamstring in mid-September 2008. Because of this I was not able to run until mid-March 2009 or other cross training aids. So when I started running again at the end of March I was only able to run about a mile or two because of conditioning. At this point I decided to start making changes to not only my running style but to my running shoe. I will eventually get into what sources I used for to help me determine what was best for me. Over the next several months I went through various types of minimalist shoes to find what I was comfortable with. My list for this is long and I will not bore you with that, unless requested at a later time. I said previously in this article what shoes I decided to work with. I am not able to complete training runs 6+ miles in either the Free 3.0 or the Lunaracer.

With the winter racing season starting to rev up I will be putting lots of miles on these shoes over the next several months and I will be able to give more information on the hold up of these shoes as I approach the 300-400 mile range.
I plan on getting into more details on the process for my switch and what you can do if you feel like this is a switch you want to take. Feel free to ask any questions that were not answered here or if you want more detail on where to go to make the start. I also welcome comments and constructive criticism. I want this forum to help as many people as possible. I will get to all your questions as soon as I can.
Until next time.
*** I also what to put a quick note in here that when I speak of natural/barefoot style shoes, this does not include the Newton running shoe line. These shoes are designed for a mid to forefoot runner and has styles that do have posting (stability technology). ***

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