Thursday, October 25, 2012

Transitioning to Your New Shoes

Well, assuming you actually want to follow the "advices" from my shoe post, you're probably going to have some issues at first. The first thing you need to worry about is correcting your form. I'll probably do a longer post on form, but basically you want to keep your feet underneath you. Don't reach out with your stride! Land on your forefoot. Toes first, then let the heel come to the ground. Let the calf stretch and return the energy with ease. Don't feel like you are pushing off the ground. Just let your feet lift up and catch you from falling. Quicker steps help with this. Increase your foot speed without increasing your body speed. Short, small steps like running on hot coals is correct. Basically, this is important because running with a light, flat shoe gives you no room to strike the ground with your heel anymore. Over striding and reaching forward with your foot basically guarantees you are landing on your heel. One of my early mistakes in form was actually over striding but still landing on the forefoot. This still creates a ton of force on the legs and produces a breaking action with every step. Remember: forefoot landing AND keep the landing underneath you.

So when I first transitioned to a flat shoe, I got really sore, tight calves and Achilles tendons. The best thing to do is take a day or two off to recover. You're just using new muscles. It's no big deal. At first, it may actually seem harder to run this way, but really it's just new. You are recruiting more muscles, so actually when you get used to it, running will be easier. The more muscles you use, the less work each individual one does. You also are reducing your impact on your legs and body, so while you get sore muscles at first, you are actually causing much less actual damage.

When I first transitioned, I actually was running every day so I didn't have the luxury of taking a day off. I was running in New Balance MT 101s. I had also bought a pair of New Balance Minimus Trail (MT 10). I thought I was going to be using these (MT 10s) as my main shoe because of the Vibram bottoms. The heel drop was 4mm though and it was killing me! I was stumbling and tripping all over the place in those things after living in zero heel drop land. What I did was alternate the 4mm heel drop shoe with the 0mm heel drop shoe. The 4mm heel drop was enough of a raise, that my calves were not stretched and utilized as much with each step. This allowed me to recover and continue running at the same time. So my advice is to alternate your old shoes with your new ones until you can run in your new ones comfortably. Some day I'll do a post on my philosophy of running, but I very much believe it's far more important to get aerobic benefit out of a run than trying to build leg muscles. The goal was actually to rest my legs while still doing aerobic work!

I should also throw out another thing. I think it's important for people to do some running in minimalist (zero drop and light weight) shoes. I know that some people really do need the motion control, stability, orthotics stuff. I'm not against it if you need it. I just think it's hard to determine if you need it until you have been running for a long time. Doing a short run a week in minimal shoes will help strengthen the foot and main running muscles and improve your form naturally. Sure 95% of your running will be in your main corrective shoe, but some minimal running will benefit you greatly.

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