Wednesday, 31 December 2008

a FiveFingered revolution in running

the last few years i have experienced more and more knee pain as i have run. which has meant i run less and less.

last july, when i ran the NYC triathlon i seriously didn't think i was going to be able to finish the run. as i ran from the eastside river park to central park (feeling like a true olympian with all the crowd cheering), my knees started to hurt really bad. i decided at about mile 2 that i would run a mile and walk a minute. a technique i heard about years ago. at about mile 3 it became clear that i needed to run a 1/2 mile and walk a minute. the run distance continued to shrink. it really really hurt. thankfully, i saw the finish line and was able to finish, but seriously didn't run for months after.

i want to continue to race triathlons, so this month i have been doing some research on running technique and knee injury prevention. i shared some stuff about chi-running or pose-running. the basic consensus from kinesiologists, physiologists, and podiatrists is that our feet are built to run with weight landing on the ball of the foot.

so for a few weeks i have run in my asics trying to get my body leaning over enough so that i can get the balls of me feet to strike the ground first. it has been really difficult and i felt like i was really combating my shoes. my shoes are designed to promote/facilitate a heel strike stride.

reading up on the kinesiology and physics of the heel strike it is clear that this is the MOST inefficient way to run AND can lead to injury. a heel strike is a natural brake. so each time i was landing it was like i was putting on my brakes and then trying to roll over to hit the accelerator (the ball of my foot). also heel striking increases the level of jarring and torque on the knees.

i started reading about barefoot running, which i have always loved but have no place in dc i can go run barefoot and i discovered the vibram FiveFingers:

i am SUPER in love!!! i got mine at hudson outfitters for $60. which is a killer deal if you are thinking of updating your trainers.

i have only run a few miles in them so far, because you have to build up calf strength. when you run on the balls of your feet you use WAY more calf muscles. but so far i can feel an INCREDIBLE difference.

  • first of all, i would always feel like my toes and the muscles between my tarsals and metatarsals needed to really stretch after i ran. they felt cooped up and yucky. when i would do yoga, it would always feel so good to go from downward dog to upward dog because my toes would curl and those muscles would stretch. when i run in the fivefingers, my toes are stretching the whole time and that pain doesn't exist. in fact, it feels like i am kinda ridding myself of stress stored in those muscles as i run.
  • i feel NO knee pain. my knees feel great (though my calves are totally sore)
  • it is obvious that our bodies are not designed to heel strike. i can't image doing that in these shoes or barefoot. it would jar my whole body and probably crack a tooth. so, the need to really work to run on the balls of my feet is eliminated with these shoes. it is the natural way to run.
  • and i am faster. i feel like i might have even picked up at least 30 seconds in pace if not more.
  • AND people on the mall really stare at my feet, especially little kids. though i am so fast, it might just be because of the blur (ha).

i don't know if i am going to run in these for the cherry blossom or if i will get these newton racing flats. these seem really cool and i have heard good things about them too.

plus they are kinda awesome looking!

if you want more info here are some good articles about running on the balls of your feet and shoes...


Snowbunny in the City said...

I have been a toe runner for a few years. Works great. :)
Now, if I was only more awesome and went running more often.

Dianna said...

on this recommendation, i just bought a pair online. Blue.
Get this--they're sold out of most sizes at HTO. Apparently, the five-fingered revolution has started!