Life is like music; it must be composed by ear, feeling, and instinct, not by rule.

Monday, March 1, 2010

No Traditional Running Shoe Will Work For You - Trust me, I've really tried it

I read this article for the 3rd time this weekend and it's really good stuff for anyone that hasn't read it, so I'm re-posting it:

The author has a very interesting perspective being the father of 2 very good high school and college cross country runners who had a good deal of experience running against and getting to personally know a few African runners that came to the U.S. for high school after training in African and training barefoot until coming to the U.S. .

A few of the things that the author said caught my attention again:

1. When the muscles in the forefoot are weakened, we lose our ability to spread our toes. This forces our feet to overly rely on the mid-foot muscles, which in turn draw heavily upon the ankles, and so on up the leg. Should there be a heel (any size heel on a shoe), the entire body is misaligned; calf muscles are forced to shorten to compensate from the rise in the heel, and even the internal organs must re-adjust as the body is now standing at an angle.

2. Africans engage their feet for their power while in motion whereas Americans are compelled to draw power from their legs that can never quite substitute for weakness in the feet.

3. Based on discussions with 2 elite African high school runners (Luka and Lomong) and watching them run many times, the author said, "When [Luka] and [Lamong] run, the appear to sail. They land lightly on the balls of their feet and spring vigorously from the ground with each step. Neither has a rapid turnover, but both have enormous strides. Their power comes from their feet."

4. Gymnasts land on cushioned mats and they are prone to an enormous incidence of injury. On the other hand, ballet dancers who land on hard wooden floors with minimal ballet shoes, develop great power in their feet, ankles and legs, and are much less prone to injury.

5. When studies were done to try to understand why Africans have emerged as leaders in long distance running, it was found that between Africans and Westerners, there are no inherent genetic differences. That means Africans have made their gains through differences related to their culture.

6. It was said of Bill Rogers that if one were to run beside him, they would not be able to hear the sound of his feet hitting the ground. He ran in shoes that were not much more than a piece of rubber under his feet. The runners, back in the day, developed strength in their feet.

7. The shoes of the past were muscle friendly compared to shoes of today.

8. Barefoot running teaches us correct running form, and correct running efficiency. There is no substitute.

9. The more expensive, the more engineered, and the more cushioned the shoe, the more likelihood of there being a running injury.

10. Americans crash their feet into the ground because their feet cannot see. They are blindfolded by the cushion. If pounding should come from running in and of itself, Native Americans would have spent countless hours with the Medicine Man rather than out their running their 300+ miles a week, and podiatry would be the fastest growing occupation in Africa.

I decided to read this article again after having another enjoyable run in the Evo's and thinking about the Universe 3's and my running experiences over the past 3 years. The last 5 days have been the most enjoyable in terms of how healthy and strong I feel. I forgot what it was like to wake up without pain. After abandoning BF the first time, I will never do that again. Even though I'm impressed with the Evo's, I still run barefoot almost on a daily basis (at least 1 mile barefoot per day and I'll pick it up as the weather improves). I have no doubt that while the Universe 3's were the best available racing shoes I put on my feet, the 9mm differential from forefoot to heel was beyond problematic for me. As the author states, among other things, my entire body was mis-aligned and this would be true even with just a 1mm differential. Bottom line, there can be "no" heel in order to run properly and efficiently. Nothing is equal to BF so the goal is to deviate as little as possible and that starts with footwear with absolutely no heel, minimal cushioning under the foot and room for the toes to expand.

I've noticed while running in the Evo's that my landing is as soft and silent as the VFFs. I assume the same applies to the Feelmax shoe. The Evo, VFFs, and Feelmax all have a few things in common including no heel rise and minimal cushioning. The Evo has the most at 4mm but that is a lot less than any running shoe down to 1mm for the Feelmax. This is why I believe we should remove any shoe with a heel rise from the definition of "minimalist footwear." I'm not saying folks can't decide, nonetheless, to wear racing shoes and figure out how to deal with it as I did with the Universe 3 but racing shoes should not be considered "minimalist," and we should provide a stronger warning to newbies that try this route. Like many, I learned the hard way (or the stupid way) as I remember Barefoot Ken Bob telling me in a personal email " . . . to go straight to BF and do not work your way down," and ultimately he was right. Ultimately, it's about footwear that doesn't "interfere" with the natural functioning of the foot and any heel rise (even 1mm) will interfere with the functioning of the foot.

We all learn as we go and for many of this, it is a "trial and error" approach but I will "NO LONGER" recommend the Universe 3 as I can't do it in good conscious. I felt strongly that one could run in the Universe 3 and while I believe that, I strongly believe that it is just an exercise in "managing the problem instead of addressing and solving the problem." I'm done with all regular running shoes and while I am very happy with the Evo, I'd have no problem trying the Kuusa or Osma if Terra doesn't stay on top of their game. And, if Vibram even offers something for the winter, that would work for me also.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    My Blog List

    My Blog List