Run Doodle Run

The long road to 26.2


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I thought new shoes were supposed to be fun??

Remember in middle school when buying gym shoes was so easy?

Step 1) Walk in to the sporting goods store
Step 2) Find the coolest/best looking/whatever floats-your-13-year-old-boat shoes
Step 3) Whine until your parents break down and buy them in your size

Easy, right?

Yeah, I wish it was still that easy.

There is so much conflicting information out there about what kind of shoe you should be in or avoid. Some people swear that all pronation should be controlled, while other say only extreme pronation should be controlled. There are lots of well-meaning articles out there touting the dogma of pronation control, and this has been the accepted practice for a long time now. New(er) research says that you should just buy the shoe that’s the most comfortable to you, regardless of what it’s specs are. Then there’s the minimalism vs. maximalism debate (not to mention the myriad options on the spectrum in between). Then there’s the colors. I know “they” say color shouldn’t matter, but I’m sorry, it does. Clashing is lame, no matter how fast your mile. #sorrynotsorry

And that’s not even taking into consideration the people who argue that people shouldn’t even run in shoes!

Geeze, that’s exhausting…

Admittedly, I have long been of the mindset that even though your feet may over-/under-pronate, most people don’t “fix” that in their daily lives. Your body adapts to whatever your quirky gait may be by adjusting accordingly throughout your life. If I don’t “fix” it in my daily shoes, what impact will “fixing” it have on my natural mechanics and what might the unintended consequences be? Basically – if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Of course, as soon as persistent injury – or even a single injury that can’t be assigned to a particular, acute event – enters the picture, it’s time to re-evaluate.

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For the last three years, I’ve been running in the Brooks PureCadence line – a 4mm drop shoe with moderate cushioning and a smidge of stability. I ran in the 1st gen and 3rd gen. I have loved these shoes since day one. Truly. They served me well through so many races and were wonderful through the half marathon distance.

I don't have a problem.

I don’t have a problem.

However, when I decided to take on the marathon, I considered switching it up for two reasons: a) more cushioning for the greater distances, and b) a higher drop to help my persistently achey achilles.

Given my past experience with finding new shoes, I was pretty nervous to go through the ordeal process again.

Several weeks ago I met with a physical therapist (who is now my new PT), who recommended trying out an 8mm or 12mm drop to help my achilles, when I came hobbling in to her eval clinic. I first tried the Saucony Guide. They didn’t feel awful, but they didn’t feel great. And they irritated old shin splints which had been behaving for the last year.

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So I took them back and exchanged them for the Mizuno Wave Inspires. (They clearly didn’t leave much of an impression on me – I had to go look back at my receipts to remember which pair came second!) They were nice shoes, but the rise on the shoe was really high and irritated my ankle bone.

Sooooo I exchanged them for the Asics Gel Kayano. This is a well-known powerhouse shoe that tons of people have had success with. It must be good – it’s in its 21st iteration. Third time’s the charm, right?? It’s a 13mm drop and super, super cushy. Honestly, they felt like slippers when I tried them on. I took them out for a hilly long run, but had to switch out of them halfway through – although they made my achilles feel amazing, they were causing some serious pain in my left forefoot on the uphills and flats. The pain got so bad that I switched back into my PureCadences halfway through the run, willingly sacrificing my achilles’ comfort for my forefoot’s comfort.

After this experience, I think I figured out what the problem was – too high of a heel-to-toe drop, along with too-cushy of a shoe, seems to cause the excruciating forefoot pain. So back to the (oh-so-amazing and accommodating) running store I went, for option #4. Brooks Ravenna. Cushioned but not squishy. Slightly lower 10mm drop. Supportive with a noticeable arch. I took them out for a spin on the track and they felt okay, so I decided to run my 18 miler in them. The arch support was higher than I’m used to, though, and that caused foot and leg discomfort for the first several miles, and then around mile 7 the forefoot pain came back and didn’t go away for the remainder of the 18 miles. Hoping that that was just because we were running on such a hard surface, I ran one more track workout in them, but no dice. Plus, they absolutely destroyed my feet! The 4th time was not the charm, either… *sad face*

I swear I'm not diseased...

I swear I’m not diseased…

I spoke to one of my coaches, who is also the manager of our running store, about all of the issues I’ve been experiencing and all of the shoes I have been through and she recommended the Saucony Zealot. It’s a lot like the PureCadence – lightweight with a minimal drop – but it has a cushier (but more adaptable) ride. It’s technically a neutral shoe, but has a flat, solid sole that doesn’t allow for a whole lot of motion. I took them out tonight and so far they feel good (*fingers crossed, knocking on wood*), but I’m not getting my hopes up just yet. Having been in the higher drop shoes for the last several weeks, my achilles is feeling better than it’s felt in a year (yay!!) and I’m nervous about returning to a lower-drop shoe. Plus, they are kind of squishy, which makes me nervous.

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So next time you’re due for new shoes and plan to go in to your LRS for a proper fitting (something which, despite all of my opinions, I still totally support), be an educated consumer. The fitter may be an expert on shoes, but you’re an expert on you. Only you know what works and what doesn’t work for you. Only you know what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to question them or speak up if something just doesn’t feel right. And don’t be afraid to take full advantage of their return/exchange policy. Trying out shoes is part of the game – don’t feel guilty about putting mileage on shoes and then returning them. Running shoes are no small investment and can totally make or break the running experience. It’s so important to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth – and getting the best experience for your feet. You can’t #findyourstrong or #runhappy if your feet hurt. 🙂

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Weekly Wrapup

This week was another light week. Our Tuesday track session was cancelled due to thunderstorms. I feel kinda bad – earlier that day, because it was so ungodly hot and humid, I joked that it would be perfect if we got a cloudburst while we were in the middle of the workout to help cool us down. Well, we did. It came in just as we were gathering for our pre-workout powwow. It was cloudy, and then all of a sudden our coach was like “it’s down pouring right over there” – and then not ten seconds later it was down pouring right over us. Like a biblical-style downpour. So we all huddled under the bleachers until we heard thunder, and then ran back to our cars as quickly as possible (although a nice woman from our group gave my mom and I a ride back to our car so we didn’t have to sprint 3/4 of a mile huddled under our teeny, broken umbrella).

I woke up was startled awake Saturday morning by my mom, after getting maybe 4 hours of sleep (I’m looking at you, insomnia). We had agreed to walk the dogs early so she could get in her workout, which would double as my extended warm-up, and then I’d head out for my run. I eventually dragged my exhausted self out the door and we got in a nice 2.53 mile walk , which pretty well exhausted the westies but just energized the Beast, who spent the rest of the day zooming around the house. After the horribly humid and rainy week we had, a storm rolled in Friday night and cleared the air – we really couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather for a walk/run. I seriously hope the next two weekends are this nice for my upcoming races.

Once my mom headed back home with all of the doggies, I went off for my run – in my new shoes (and new KT Tape)!! Woohooo! They’re just as marshmallowy as I remember my first pair of PureCadences feeling.

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Because of the new shoes, the addition of the KT tape, and the extended time off, I decided to keep my run shorter than I had planned, but to also try out something new-ish. When I was in PT, my therapist had me run on the Alter G with a metronome to keep my cadence quick and steady throughout the run – so I whipped out the metronome app on my phone, dialed it up to 170, and set off on my way. I tried to focus only on my pace, breathing, and mechanics, avoiding my Garmin whenever possible; however, I couldn’t help but notice that my pace was a fair bit quicker than normal. I was astonished when I hit the end of my 3.1 mile run – 31:51! I have NEVER run that fast!!

I am definitely going to be using this method again next week in my 5k race. I’m a bit concerned about the nuisance the metronome might be for other runners, but the way I figure, it just might help them reach a new PR too 😉 (“ahh! run away from that annoying woman!”) Eh, whatev. Plenty of people do far more irritating things during races. And it’s only a 5k – it’s not like someone else will have to listen to that for hours on end.

Later Saturday evening I went out to visit an old friend of mine who was in town for the weekend. Lauren and I have known each other since we were in 2nd grade and it was great to catch up. She lives in NYC, which while it’s close, is just far enough away that we really don’t see much of each other. It was a nice chill evening – she popped a bottle of wine, I brought over cannolis to celebrate my awesome run and her kicking ass in the Baltimore 10 Miler that morning – and we just drank and chatted all night. It’s funny how much things change over the years, but how much they really do stay the same.

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And of course, lest I forget – Happy Father’s Day to my daddy!! He detests cards, so this counts as the official non-card acknowledgement of fathers day 😉

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The Pronation Debate

pro·na·tion

[proh-ney-shuhn] 

noun

1. rotation of the hand or forearm so that the surface of the palm is facing downward or toward the back (opposed to supination ).
2. a comparable motion of the foot consisting of abduction followed by eversion.
3. the position assumed as the result of this rotation.
4. any similar motion of the limbs or feet of animals.
(dictionary.com)

Pronation. It’s something all runners hear about, but as emerging research suggests, it’s something few runners – or physical therapists, or shoe fitters, or trainers, or anyone – fully understand.

I’ve written on this topic a number of times, usually in frustration alongside a bad shoe experience. I have long been of the belief that if my foot over-pronates on its own, and gets me through life without injury every single day, why do I suddenly want to change that simply because I am running? What other up-chain effects is that change in natural motion having on the rest of my body?

It seems like every time I go online lately, there’s a new study regarding pronation making the rounds. The most recent one, from Runblogger, highlights much of the same frustrations I have and discusses some of the newer research as well. If you have a chance, I strongly recommend giving this a read – if nothing else, I hope it at least begins a conversation among runners regarding the utility of using “pronation” (and its close cousin, arch height) as a knee-jerk primary means for determining which shoe to choose.

I have been told that I need everything from a neutral shoe to a motion control shoe. How’s that for a conclusive model of pronation control? I have found, however, through trial and error, including picking a pair of shoes on my own out of frustration, that for the distances I am running, I do best with a touch of stability. Too much stability? It feels like I’m walking on the outsides of my feet (remember when we were kids and used to do that to be silly? Fun then, not so fun when running 13.1 miles). Too little stability? Well, it turns out that my problems with too little stability aren’t at all related to my feet – that’s simply where the weakness manifests itself most visibly (because, let’s face it, that’s where all eyes are when watching runners, especially when watching runners trying on new shoes). No, my stability issue actually lies in the hips. It took a slow-mo analysis of my gait after a stress fracture to figure this out. But how many people actually go through a gait analysis like this? Sometimes it can be difficult to see, or feel, exactly where a weakness lies.

Shoes are too expensive to be ignorantly fitted, and PT isn’t a bargain, either!