I an going to start with a scream. AGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
There, I feel much better now thank you. the reason for the scream is that I have just purchased a new pair of running shoes. And my word what a faff that was.
Firstly I am a size 12 (UK). Sometimes an 11 and for trail shoes I was looking for a 13 - to allow my feet to swell when running. Secondly I had researched and had an idea of the shoes I was looking for. The frustration came from either the shops not having my size in - which is annoying to start with, and secondly for the same patter from the sales assistants. No I don't want to try the brand you are pushing I know which ones I want thank you.
Blugh. In the end I bought myself a very lightweight pair of HighTechs. The are comfy and neoprene and have decent grip. Not purpose built trail shoes but should serve what I want them to.
Which brings me kind of to the next point. Part of the issue I had buying trainers is that I have worn my shoes to destruction. Actually I might get a bit more life out of one pair of them, but they are slick in terms of grip and have no padding in them anymore. Which is fine by me as I am used to them. However when people in the shops started talking about 'gel boost', 'double padding', 'blah blah blah' it meant that I shut off. I wanted very low profile shoes which would keep my running in a similar vein to what I had been used to so far.
Which all fits with the book I have been reading since Christmas Day, the very excellent Born to Run . Once again it highlights the benefits that front foot - or at least mid point striking - can have on running health and performance.
Which has lead to an interesting situation. I decided to give it another go, this time starting very very low on the mileage. Once again the speed was greater, even though I did my best to be controlled and mindful of footfalls. Fitness wise I felt fine, as you might expect being a little bit fitter and better than when I was trying this before. However, and it is a big however, I still got the same pains up my calf muscles.
Maybe its just not for me?
Or maybe I am not using my brain when I consider my injuries. If you think about the position of the foot on mid/front foot striking it raised the heel off the ground. This means the heel hardly impacts on the ground as it would with heel striking. Now a lot of data/papers/books/articles state that heel striking is bad for knees and hips as it transfers the impact straight up through the long bones to these areas. Front foot striking minimizes this by bringing into play all of the archway, ligaments and support network that the foot has evolved to have. OK so what I can hear you wondering, does this have to do with my straining of my calf muscles.
Well what if it isn't muscle strain? What if it is actually pain caused by using a tendon more than it is used to being used? Physiologically this would make sense, after all I still ran further in one continual plod than I would if I was sprinting in short bursts about a 5-a-side pitch (the other main time when I am forefront striking).
If it is an awakening of the tendon/ligament and it is due to standing on the ball of the foot more than what it is used to, or at least more continually, then surely I need to keep the mileage low to start with but just keep working on it in order to strengthen and improve that stamina.
I have no idea, if I am honest what the answer is. After all I don't really get injured so why am I once again considering changing how I run? Is it based on the ravings of a few books, or because it means I can still run in completely beat up trainers.
Or is it because I am not getting injured yet. I met with my cousins and uncles for a post Christmas drink recently and the majority of them (including my dad) are all suffering with knee injuries from running. In fact of all of them at least 4 have said (out of 6) that they won't run anymore due to knee pains.
Add to that the fact I am the second oldest in that group and a worrying trend opens up. Maybe I am looking to rebuild how I run not to go faster and further, but to stave off the need to be rebuilt myself!
This becomes especially salient in the light of my aim to run ultra events.
Like any sport the training will be fairly intense and I am expecting to need have to spend some time recovering before I am where I need to be. However my low profile trainers - very little heel - and a conscious effort to land on the front of my foot should see me right. Providing of course I can rein in my enthusiasm and keep the distances low enough to start with.
A few points to finish on. Firstly a quick flick through a load of running magazines show the majority of runners clearly landing with a heel strike. This added to the adverts for high heeled running shoes gives the impression that a more minimalist approach is still not seen to be the normal way to run, despite the evidence to the contrary. It also seems that even though the magazines always cover diet, core strength, stamina and equipment then never seem to have articles focusing on what should be the most important part of running, how you strike the floor.
Secondly I am by hook or crook starting to get more interested in human evolution and adaptation again - it never really went away just went quiet for a while - the evolution of the foot and the relationship between our gross anatomy and the mechanics behind the foot I am finding more and more interesting. Maybe I have finally found something that could hold my interest to study at PhD level?
Who knows? I am sure I will blog about it when I do though.
Happy New Year