If you’ve been in recently or if you are part of the #Zero25k group I will also have addressed the basics of running form and proprioceptive training for runners, but no harm reiterating.
As a runner it is important that you develop as a runner too. When running don’t just switch off and let the shoes, muscles and limbs do all the work. You have to engage your brain too.
What do I mean?
Well, when the watch or app buzzes, beeps or speaks at the end / start of each kilometer (or mile) do a 10 second top to toe check.
How’s my head? Neck aligned or lolling around the place?
Shoulders, relaxed or tensed?
Arms? Crossing, or swinging pendulum like?
Hips & pelvis? level, twisted, tilted?
Legs? Running balance, stride same length, tension anywhere? Running relaxed from the hips?
Feet? Where am I landing, where is the bulk of the landing force happening? Back, front, mid foot? Am I toeing in or out.
Boom! 10 sec check done, adjustments made and jog on. Don’t sweat the small stuff but stay relaxed.
Secondly when you are not running you need to be prepared for when you are.
One of the key things people do when they invest in the new running shoes is switch off their brain when running and place all the trust in the shoe.
To a point this is fine but as a runner you have to work on the feedback loops to stay aware of your body and keep your ‘brain switched on’.
Very simple things to do whether you are neutral or overpronating (but especially for those over pronating) is to practise your balance by doing a very simple drill.
When brushing your teeth (minimum 2 mins, morning and night) standing in your bare feet, try and balance on one leg. If you can’t balance, lightly touch the sink until you can. One minute brushing the top teeth, standing on right leg, one minute on bottom teeth standing on left. Check your alignment, if you are falling over it means your knee is dropping inside and your foot collapsing.
Practise this drill until you can do this without reaching for support for a whole week.
Once you achieve this you can progress onto the next stage. Which I will tell you about another time. One step at a time.
I’d love to have your feedback and hear what you do to improve your running.
Lower and lower, sleeker and faster, lighter shoes is what we all want.
In my opinion, transitioning to a minimalist shoe for many may be a step too far.
When transitioning to a minimalist shoe ‘form’ should be the first consideration. Do you naturally run as a forefoot striker or a heel striker?
If you are a forefoot striker naturally, ie. without forcing it or thinking about it when you slip off your shoes and run, do you land on the front, outside of your foot as per the diagram below?
If this is you, then it should be no bother to you to effect a transition process to a minimal shoe. Depending on where you are starting from we would expect to see this transition period having different durations for each individual.
If, on the other hand, you are more of a midfoot striker or heel striker you have a lot more work to do to achieve a smooth, injury free transition to minimalist shoes.
Transitioning from this position is a much more gradual change as you are having to work on changing your natural form, re-mapping neuromuscular pathways and developing core strength to help stabilise the pelvic area which will become more active during the transitional phases.
Speak to us about this as invariably you will be best advised to rotate between your traditional shoe and minimal shoes more frequently to prevent tweaking connective tissues or causing injury.
The series of images below graphically represent and explain the differences in the loading of the feet during the landing phase and the effect on capturing and releasing kinetic energy on the propulsive phase.
Hip and knee are flexed.
Ankle is dorsiflexed (toes point up).
Ankle is plantarflexed (toes point slightly down). Foot is usually slightly inverted (the sole is angled inwards).
Land on the middle to outside of the heel just below the ankle joint.
Land on outside of the forefoot (the ball of the foot, just below the 4th and 5th metatarsal heads).
As you land, the ankle begins to plantarflex (toes move towards the ground).
As you land, the ankle begins to dorsiflex (heel moves towards the groud).
Arch of the foot is not loaded.
Arch of the foot is loaded and begins to stretch/flatten.
Impact Foot Flat
Knee and hip flex.
As the ankle plantarflexes, the forefoot comes down.
As the ankle dorsiflexes, the heel comes down under the control of the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, which are stretching.
Foot Flat Midstance
Knee and hip continue to flex.
The ankle dorsiflexes as the lower leg moves forward relative to the foot and the foot everts (rolls inward).
Now that the whole foot is on the ground, the arch begins to stretch/flatten.
The arch continues to stretch/flatten.
This combination of eversion, ankle dorsiflexion and arch flattening is called pronation.
This combination of eversion, ankle dorsiflexion and arch flattening is called pronation,but occurs in the reverse direction compared to heel striking (from the forefoot to the rearfoot not heel to toe).
Ankle plantarflexes bringing the heel off the ground (calf muscles and Achilles tendon now shorten).
Foot’s arch recoils, and the toes flex.
These actions push the body upwards and forwards for the next stride.
In transitioning, a natural heel lander has to overcome the tendency to load the arch in a forward motion. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles the best way to naturally change your landing pattern is through a mixture of your ‘normal’ running and some focused efforts at re-teaching your body what natural (forefoot) running form is all about.
This old chestnut keeps popping up, again and again and again. I’ve also written about minimalism and barefooting before.
It generally starts as a discussion about barefoot running, usually by a newly converted barefooter who reckons it’s the best thing since bread became sliced and very quickly degenerates into a willy measuring exercise between pedants who insist on discussing the relative density and hardness of concrete and dusty, pre-civilisation, pre-societal concrete.
Now I don’t know about you but as far as I understand evolution and progress are usually determined by the axiom ‘survival of the fittest’.
So, based on current trends and my anthropological time machine I have a theory.
Way back when, if we are to believe what we are told, we were fruit and vegetable eaters, eating all round us and then moving on to new pastures in search of new food sources like grazing animals. The current trend of Paleo diet would indicate that this how we developed as a species; eating fruit, nuts, vegetables and seeds in their raw state (in so far as possible).
Then, through a pioneering trendsetter someone picked up a wooden stick and developed a taste for animal protein. (Could you call it a ‘club sandwich’ ? )
This influx of animal protein led to development of better brain function as we evolved, leading to the development of tools for cooking , cleaning etc. Oh, and fire was created or at least the means to maintain it and the knowledge to transport fire from one location to another, allowing us to cook food.
Now as these early men (& women) clubbed and collected food all around them the faster animals and possibly tastier always eluded their reach. No matter how sneaky we were we couldn’t catch these sources of meat. They’d smell us or hear us in the woods and grass trying to creep up until they were in range. All to no avail.
What did we do next?
We started running.
(This has taken generations to get to this point in the story, time machine, remember?!)
We soon discovered that we could run. Now we couldn’t run as fast as the animal we wanted to eat and after a while we realised this. With our brain developing we started thinking and working together as a team with the result being that we got cute and realised we could run longer and further and steadier than the dinner. We didn’t know it at the time but our bodies liked this idea and started to develop mechanisms that encouraged us to run. We got taller, straighter and lighter; we became land running hunters.
All of the reading we do, all of the fora we engage in everything is geared to us understanding that this is the reason we are born to run. We evolved.
I don’t disagree.
I think the first hominoid man who fashioned a pair of foot covers from some animal hide to protect his feet from the dusty, gritty, thorny surface and that offered him some grip on the rocky terrain gained an evolutionary advantage over the barefoot guys.
Apart from the obvious fact that we still cover our feet, providing unassailable evidence of the historical benefit of footwear, that ‘barefooting’ died out and needed to be rediscovered comes down to the simple truth that the guy with the footwear had the competitive edge over the other guy in the chase to get the good looking girls.