Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Shoes Make the Runner, Right?

Or lack thereof, perhaps.

I'm certainly not the first person to take on the issue of whether or not running shoes (in the sense that most of us understand them to be) are actually good for you and your running. Many would argue that we need them in order to run correctly: they provide arch support, cushioning for your heels--there's the idea that this is a case of human ingenuity and technology improving upon the bodies we were born with.

Of course, this is the ideology that I grew up with, that we need shoes with good arch support and fat cushy heels to make running possible. Then again, I also considered running to be something anyone can just do, no problem.

As you know (if you've been reading up to this point), this summer has proved to be a major shift in the way I think about fitness, and running has not been an exception. P-dazzle and I have come across a running technique known as POSE running. We're still in the early stages of learning how it works--it's a complicated technique that asks, in many ways, for you to unlearn a lifetime of thinking of running a certain way. Basically, it's hard, especially when you're trying to learn it from YouTube videos. But it is a legitimate technique--the man who developed it is an Olympic running coach, and it's commonly accepted in the CrossFit community--several of the trainers on CrossFit Endurance teach the method themselves.

My own motivations for learning this technique are that, for as long as I've participated in running, I've had persistent knee pain. Up until a few months ago, I dismissed this as the collateral damage of being active. However, it does strike me as strange to think that a body that is made for movement, whose ancestors have been moving for thousands of years, would have chronic pain because of the very same movement. At 22 years old, I shouldn't be dealing with joint pain.

So, P-dazzle and I have been taking steps to learn about this running method, which is rather difficult to do without paying to have a trainer instruct you. But we're working with the wealth of the internet, so we are still fortunate to have some reliable resources.

One thing that we've found, however, is that it is really difficult to use this new method with the traditional running shoes. One main tenet of the POSE technique is to do away with the heel-strike, which is how most of us run: slamming our heels hard into the pavement, leading us to need all that extra cushion that our running shoes so happily provide. The alteration that POSE makes is that the foot strike the ground not on the heel, but on the ball of the foot, with the heel lightly "kissing" the ground to get full calf extension. (There are other components, too, and many of which I don't have a very good understanding, but this is what has been essential to me so far.)

So, in order to develop my new runnin' skillz, I either need to go barefoot (which is awesome on grass, not so awesome on concrete) or buy some "minimalist" shoes. There are different ways to go with this option; you can shell out some big bucks for some Inov-8s, some Vibram FiveFingers, or some other brands that I am less familiar with. Unfortunately, this is a rather expensive option, so P-dazzle and I were resigned to the fact that we'd just have to wait til Christmas.

However, P-dazzle found a website that was selling Vibrams at a major discount, and so I splurged! They came last week and I've had a few opportunities to try them out, and they are pretty cool.

Here's a picture:

Because I was getting them at a discount, I was stuck with pink, but they're fun and I have definitely noticed a difference when I try running on the balls of my feet rather than my heels. Pretty exciting stuff. Hopefully this will put me on a more serious track with training; lately I've just been messing around and doing strength workouts instead of running and endurance.

Thanks for reading, y'all.

1 comment:

  1. I still think they're kind of goofy looking, but I'm glad you like them! :)
    Also, be careful! I just read the other day: "If you didn't grow up running on bare feet, it's extremely risky, resulting in everything from stress fractures to arthritis." - John Brummer, spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. Making sure to land on the balls of your feet probably helps, but we didn't grow up running that way, so maybe you should ease into using them all the time. Just a suggestion.
    Good luck with your training!