“Wow, I really regret that workout”, -no one, ever.
Today we continue on our topic of running! For those that are jumping in, there are previous posts that help this one make more sense. Basically, I am outlining Kelly Starrett’s book, Ready to Run, for my clients, friends, etc. that will probably never read it.
Standard #2: Flat Shoes
This is just as easy as it sounds. Wear flat shoes. As much as possible. Every once in awhile for special occasions, ladies, you can throw on a heel. But the majority of the time spent on your feet should be in flat shoes, or better yet, barefoot. This is the same as having “zero-drop”, meaning that the heel is not raised above the forefoot. In order to justify that a running shoe should have an elevated heel and be loaded with stability technology to restrict motion and maybe an orthotic, you have to prove that being barefoot is a broken state that requires fixing. It is not. Dr. Starrett paints the perfect picture for most marketing ads: “There’s a smile on the euphoric and skinny runner’s face, even though her leg is snapped into full extension out in front of her body, jamming her calcaneus into the concrete, buffered by the pillow of cushion injected into the compression-molded midsole”. This is actually the exact image that comes up when I google “running pics” (left). It’s crazy. The controversy is that some say the runner in the picture that is heel-striking is simply running naturally, right? No. It isn’t. If you had her take off her shoes and run 100 meters down the sidewalk, the heel-striking would vanish. She’d be landing on her forefoot. Starrett insists that if you’re heel-striking, you need to stop. Small children don’t naturally heel-strike. Around first grade is the time you see kids begin heel-striking. Hours spent sitting at desks and wearing the latest cushioned shoes messes up their natural gait.
Dr. Nick Campitelli is a runner and podiatrist in Ohio and publishes his own running blog. When he was going through podiatry school he couldn’t find a single thread of research that supported building up the heel cushion in a running shoe over and above the forefoot. This was a running shoe industry transition that started in the 1970’s. Before that everyone was running in flat shoes-Keds, Converse, Asics, Tigers. Instead of prescribing orthotics for his patients, he targets work on the abductor hallucis muscle (right), a muscle found on the medial side of the foot that has the unique and powerful job of abducting the big toe (as briefly discussed in last post). The other picture is of a 34-year-old woman runner that came to him for help. It is a before (left) and after (right) pic of her arches. She had motion-control shoes and orthotics that weren’t doing anything to prevent knee and back pain. Both of her heels and knees were valgus (pronated inwards). Why didn’t her shoes help? After 2 years, Dr. Nick finally got her on the right track. He introduced a zero-drop shoe and worked to get her arch muscles firing.
Pick one day a week for your whole family to just go barefoot. Walking around for at least a day with no support for your feet is a great way to reconnect with what is naturally supposed to be happening all the time in your feet. Make sure your children are barefoot as much as is safely possible. Some physicians believe that shoes are simply part of your child’s clothing, while others believe that shoes are important therapeutic tools capable of correcting deformity and preventing significant disability later in life. Dr. Starrett reminds us to keep these key points in mind:
- Optimum foot development occurs in the barefoot environment
- The primary role of shoes is to protect the foot from injury and infection
- Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility
- The term “corrective shoes” is a misnomer
- Shock absorption, load distribution, and elevation are valid indications for shoe modifications.
- Shoe selection for children should be based on the barefoot model
- Physicians should avoid and discourage the commercialization and “media”-ization of footwear.
What’s another great way to screw up your basic foot mechanics? Wearing flip-flops. When you walk in flip-flops you have to clench your big toe to keep the thing from slipping off. Avoid this at all costs.
The bottom line is this: there is no overnight fix. If you’re used to heeled shoes, and you lack dorsiflexion, you may need to work down gradually to a zero-drop shoe. Don’t do it suddenly or it will be painful and you’ll most likely give up on it quickly. Plan a minimum of 6-8 weeks transition. Use the 10% rule: If you’re heading out for a 3 mile run, run one-third of a mile (10 percent of your total distance) at the beginning of your run in your new minimalist shoes. Each week increase the amount of time you spend running in your new flat shoes by 10%.
*Some images provided are directly from Dr. Kelly Starrett’s book, Ready to Run