Barefoot Running – Yay or Nay?

After my experience with Skechers GOrun shoes yesterday…I was reminded of this article from Dr. David Rudnick’s Chiropractic & Sports Rehabilitation Institute’s August – September 2012 Newsletter. It’s all about barefoot running. I’ve included the article below – but it’s also available in its original format here. (Read more about Dr. David Rudnick in our expert resources section.)

Barefoot Running – Yay or Nay?

“If you want to follow the fad craze these days, just look to companies like Vibram, Merrell and Nike. Vibram is the company that has brought you the soles and treads of many of the shoes you have worn over the years and of course Nike are the people who first brought you the “running shoe” as we know it today. Nike first brought us the waffle bottom trainer, cross trainer, air pockets, “shocks,” Air Jordan, and now its barefoot minimalist series—the Nike Free.”

What initially stymied us when these “barefoot” style shoes first came out was the obvious question: “Why would the same brands that sell us the shoes and offer so many varieties to choose from, now be advocating that we train barefoot, or close to it? “ But are they? The Nike shoes have light-weight, thin, flexible soles and thin vamp top cover material to hold the shoe onto the foot; the Vibram version is more simplistic—a rubber sock with compartments for each individual toe.

So why would Nike and Vibram both go against their own creations and advocate that we begin walking and running barefoot, or at least become “shoe-minimalists” after decades of building shoe and sole lines? There appears to be sound moral reasoning if you delve into the research, but you have to look closely; and if you’d like to try one of the creations, you have to be aware of your personal foot type – but that’s for another day.

Current research has been conducted showing the following:

  • Plantar (bottom of the foot) sensory feedback plays a central role in safe and effective locomotion;
  • More shoe cushioning can lead to higher impact forces on the joints and risk of injury;
  • Unshod (without shoes) lowers contact time of the foot;
  • There are higher braking and pushing impulses in shod versus unshod running;
  • Unshod running presents a reduction of impact peak force that would reduce the high mechanical stress that occurs during repetitive running; and
  • A bare foot induces a neural-mechanical adaptation which could enhance the storage and restitution of elastic energy at ankle extensor level.
  • These are only some of the more significant findings. These issues will not only support injury management benefits for the barefoot runner but increase speed, force and power output.

“Stepping backwards in time a little…during caveman days things were very different and the foot was left bare from birth until death. As a result the foot both developed and appeared different. The sole of the foot was thicker and callused due to constant contact with rough surfaces; the foot was more muscular; it was probably wider in the forefoot; and the toes were likely slightly separated due to the demands of griping the ground. Overall, the foot simply worked differently; it worked better; and it worked more like the engineering marvel it truly is. However, as time went on, man messed with a good thing and took a foot that was highly sensitive with a significant sensory and motor representation in the brain and he covered it up with a slab of leather and/or rubber. Further, man then flattened and then paved the world and his home with cement, wood, pavement and/or tile and successfully completed the total sensory information deprivation of the foot. Not only did man take away critical adaptive skills from himself, he began the deprivation of critical information from which the central nervous system needs to develop and function effectively.”

As a result, we now affix a shoe to a child’s foot before he or she can walk. When the baby begins to walk, all propriosensory information necessary for the development of critical spinal and central nervous system reflexes is virtually absent. Therefore, is it any wonder why there are so many people in chronic pain from postural disorders related to central core weakness and inhibition? Is it any wonder why so many people have flat, incompetent feet and arches? Man has done it to himself. But thankfully man has proven he can undo what has been done. There is much modern medical research that has uncovered the woes of our ways. And as a result, companies like Nike and Vibram are developing devices that will allow some protection from modern day offenses like glass, plastic and metal, but also allow for the slow, gradual return to caveman days.

There are many shoes available that have potentially serious biomechanical flaws. We are happy to discuss our sound reasoning regarding these shoes and their impact on your condition during a consultation. Shoes need to be specifically chosen for your foot type, activity type, walking and/or running style and muscle weaknesses. The wrong shoe choice can in itself be a cause of pain or problems and lead to abnormal mechanics or physical problems.

Potential Harms of Barefoot Running

  • Suddenly going barefoot or wearing a minimalist shoe can be quite a shock to the foot. But that isn’t the only concern one should have when starting a shoeless workout. Runners and walkers alike should keep the following in mind:
  • Why Fix What Isn’t Broken?
  • If you have no problems, no pain, do you need to change anything?
  • Little Foot Protection
  • Shoes offer a significant amount of protection from road debris such as glass, nails, rocks and thorns. They also offer insulation in cold weather and protect us from frostbite in ice and snow.
  • Achilles Tendinitis and Calf Strain
  • Most of us aren’t used to running barefoot, so a minimalist shoe will be a shock to our feet. Also, our muscles will feel overworked. In some cases, this can lead to injury (e.g. Achilles tendinitis or calf strain).
  • May Increase Plantar Pain
  • The bottom of the feet (plantar surface) for most people is soft and tender. Going without a stiff-soled shoe may initially cause plantar pain, or increase the risk of plantar fasciitis.
  • Get Ready for Blisters
  • Almost everyone who switches to a minimal shoe or starts going shoeless will find themselves battling blisters for the first few weeks until calluses are formed.
  • You Will Look Strange
  • Face it: People will notice and they may stare!

*Parts of this article were from a research paper “Thoughts & Research for the Shoe Minimalist” by Dr. Shawn Allen, Dr. Ivo Waerlop, Chris Korfist.

Study by Harvard University on barefoot running.

REVIEW: Skechers GOrun Shoes

Trying out the Skechers GOrun shoes at the Mind Body Sole store in the Wellington Green Mall.

Earlier tonight I headed over to the Mind, Body & Sole store in the Wellington Green Mall for a Skechers GOrun Test Run. It was hosted by one of the runners in the South Florida Runs group – Bryan Fedor – and was advertised as an opportunity give us runners a chance to try out Skechers’ new running shoes – Skechers GOrun – designed to assist with the “longed for” or “envied” mid-foot and front-foot strike. With Bryan’s request that we help make a contribution to sports science, I figured why not head over and try the shoes out!

According to Skechers, “Skechers GOrun shoes are designed to give you a more natural running experience and to allow you to interact with and respond to practically any surface, while at the same time offering the additional benefit of Resalyte™ cushioning. Skechers GOrun promotes a mid-foot strike. The Skechers GOrun brings you closer to a barefoot experience AND provides impact protection.”

In other words, wearing supportive running shoes combined with the practice of jogging have both basically changed our running form. Most of us now run by striking heel then toe, heel-toe. This may be natural and ideal for a slow, easy jog, but while racing? A truly efficient runner moves forward with each step. They eat up ground with every stride. They do not stand still. Most runners according to studies (especially the elite runners) will strike front or mid-foot first. (This becomes very evident when you watch the high schoolers race around the track – especially in a relay race.) Over the past few years a number of brands have tried to fix this by introducing barefoot running shoes and minimalist shoes. Each has its advantage, but I have to admit that I’m impressed with the Skechers GOrun Shoes. Especially from a company that in the past – you wouldn’t necessarily correlate with real running or racing.

The Skechers GOrun shoes essentially force you to move forward. They almost propel you forward. They weigh hardly anything (6.9 oz for men; 4.9 oz for women) and they have built-in high-abrasion rubber “knobs” as I’d describe them that literally make it awkward for you as a runner to run and land on your heel first. They force you to land on your mid- to front foot. I personally felt like I was running on my toes…as if I was in a pair of spikes sprinting around the track. However, I had more padding and support. The running on your toes experience definitely uses more calf muscle – so you will feel that quicker than usual – and all-in-all it does feel a little awkward at first. But it’s primarily a weird feeling because we are so used to running flat footed or heel-toe as I mentioned before.

I wondered to myself how long I could run like this and if my feet would tire out sooner than usual. The GOruns in my opinion are a great way to train ourselves to run on our toes, run forward and run more efficiently. However, as the Skechers rep mentioned, you should probably only start off with wearing them 10% of the time (during your runs) and then adding a little bit each week from there. Starting off with the GOruns on a four or six miler or even longer run could result in soreness or even injury  – specifically an Achilles injury (as is the case with any shoe or running practice that forces you to run on your toes constantly).

But if you, like me, are wondering if you should be racing in the GOruns, and if so, how long of a race is appropriate…then you’ll be comforted to hear this. Meb Keflezighi wears the Skechers GOruns and he just won the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials held in mid-January. Yes, he ran in them for 26.2 miles. Now I’m sure there were a few tweaks made to the shoe to add a little bit of extra padding and support for the long 26.2 mile race (that’s common for any athlete wearing their sponsor’s shoe/product)…but all-in-all the shoe is pretty much the same thing. And for me, hearing that Meb wore the Skechers shoes in the race and will wear them again (the special red, white and blue Olympic version) in the London Olympics – was all I needed to hear. So look for me on some upcoming runs and races trying my Goruns out with a better, more efficient, forwarding moving stride! And I’ll let you know if any PRs result!

Learn more about the debate over heel-toe and toe-heel striking here. There is evidence on both sides! And here is a good video of the two types of strides – if you are confused.

As I side note, while doing some research for this post, I read this article about the difficulty athletes go through getting sponsors and then getting an adequate salary. Skechers really got behind Meb – as it sounds from this article – and that’s pretty cool. Read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Skechers GOrun website.

A Former HS Standout Returning To The National Stage

A fantastic read from Running Times Magazine about former Florida High School standout Mason Cathey and her return to the national (and potential world) stage. I found out that Mason was training for the Olympics a few months back and was truly inspired to hear about her journey back to competitive running/racing. She was a star in high school and someone I competed against every so often. (She was in a smaller A so I did not see her as often as you would think.) She went to the University of Florida and did not live up to her own expectations (I am sure) nor others…But after college, she began coaching at a few colleges and saw that she could train with her team of runners, and do well. She also apparently still had the bug. She has since competed along side of some of the best out there today…and I will be rooting for her at the USA trials in the 3K Steeplechase in June. Good luck!

Read the Running Times article here: Vaulting Onto the National Stage

And here is a small excerpt from the actual article if my lead-in wasn’t enough!

“My first sighting of Mason Cathey is burned on my retina like a sunspot. It was February of 1997, and it was my first day as volunteer pole vault coach at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Florida. I was standing near the first turn of the track when this spry, blonde,14-year old girl raced by. What stood out about her—other than the fact she was 50 meters ahead of everyone else—was her form. Most girls, for whatever reason, waddle when they run—their arms swing across their body instead of forward—but not Mason. Her running stride was more like Bob Hayes, with the powerful hip torque, equating to a stride length that was not indicative of her 5’ 6” height.”

New “Golf Ball” Inspired Track Suits

High-Speed Nike Running Suit Inspired By The Golf Ball 

Nike just unveiled the TurboSpeed suit that can supposedly shave off 0.023 seconds from an athlete’s time in a 100-meter sprint. With the world record for men in the 100-meter currently 9.58 seconds, 0.023 seconds can make quite the difference! The “superhero-like” full body suit has small dimples covering the arms and and along the shoulders and back. These holes are inspired by the texture of golf balls that provide more aerodynamic movement and speed. This is much different than the current speed suits that fit athletes very tightly and leave a lot of skin showing!

According to an article in Runner’s World, the new suit will be worn by runners from USA, Germany, Russia, and China at the London Olympics. And Nike is predicting that the high-tech sportswear could break personal best and world records.

See more photos of the track speed suits here and here.

So what are your thoughts? Will this be like the swimsuits from a few Olympics ago that were banned from competition fin 2009?

If you recall, Jan 1 of 2010, record-setting bodysuits or swimsuits were banned. Before being banned, the swimsuits had led to 108 world records in 2008 and many more in 2009. According to experts, some suits were suspected of creating “air trapping” effects that enhance speed. Read an article on the banning here. Not to worry, the USA swim team at the Olympics (the women at least) will be wearing a new design by an Iowan – the same guy that designed the banned ones four years back…Read up on it here.

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Runner’s World Article: “The Reanimation of Alison”

Alison Delgado, a runner, was nearly killed while riding her bicycle; her own husband (a fellow doctor) was part of the rescue effort. Despite her injuries she came back and is running (and winning) again. Amazing story in the June 2012 issue of Runner’s World Magazine

It’s late afternoon, early last October, and runners and their families and friends have gathered in Cincinnati’s Ault Park for the popular 5K known as the Reggae Run. The brisk air carries the scent of grilled meat and the metallic twang of steel drums. Vendors set up tents, adding to the party-like atmosphere of the race in which runners often sport fake dreadlocks tucked into red, yellow, and green Rasta tams and call out a spirited “Ya, mon!” to cheering spectators.

Near the starting line, where a dozen or so top runners stretch and jog in place, Alison Delgado scans the crowd of spectators. She’s a slight, 28-year-old local runner with auburn hair and a smattering of freckles. Spotting her husband, she waves him over.

“Tim, I gotta run fast,” she tells him, her hazel-colored eyes darting back and forth.

A year ago, Tim might have just nodded in agreement, but these days encouraging his wife’s competitive nature is not his priority. “Ali,” he tells her. “Remember, relax, have fun.” Then they exchange a quick kiss, and Tim steps back into the crowd.

Moments later, the starting gun fires, sending nearly 4,000 runners off through the undulating park. Tim, slim but athletic, quickly turns away from the bubbling scene and hurries toward the park’s summit, which offers a panoramic view of the city. He wants to be in position near the finish line before Alison arrives.

On paper Alison should be a contender in the women’s race. Two months earlier, in another 5-K, she PR’ed with a time of 18:39. Even more impressive is that at the 2005 Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, when she was just 22 and a recent college graduate about to enter medical school, she won her debut marathon. She crushed a field of 1,467 women in 3:03:52, three minutes, 40 seconds faster than the second-place finisher. “When I crossed the finish line,” Alison would say later, “I thought, Oh my God. I did it. I really did it. Without a doubt it was one of the best days of my life.”

And yet, while memories of that victorious run remain fresh, they can’t obscure all that’s happened in Alison and Tim’s lives over the past year, events Alison is reminded of each time she looks into a mirror—or hears, as she does now, the anxious tone in her husband’s voice. When Tim finally spies a tiny bobbing blob of pink and black beginning an ascent up the quarter-mile hill, he calls out, a bit more relieved than excited, “It’s Ali! It’s Ali! She’s in first!”

Read the full feature story here.

 

What To Buy The Runner “Mom” In Your Life

It’s Mother’s Day this weekend and because there are sooo many moms out there that are now running (casually and competitively alike) I figured it was a great opportunity to recommend some fantastic gifts for the active and/or running mom in your life. Here’s the list, which ranges in price, as well as activity level and interests.

  1. Fruit or vegetable delivery from a national chain and/or local stand. I’ve seen a few of these offers on Groupon lately as well as advertised via email. This is a great option for the healthy mom in your life. Add some color and unique vegies/fruits with this convenient and thoughtful gift. Options include: Harry & David’s Organic Fruit of the Month Club or here in Florida Annie’s Organic Produce Buying Club of South Florida. Prices depend on option you choose.
  2. The Nike+ Fuel Band is brand new and a pretty interesting concept. The device is worn snug on your wrist and tracks your activity for the day…turning it into “Nike Fuel.” You start off with a goal of how much movement you want and the lights turn red, then yellow, then green as you near that point of desired exercise. It’s $149 but if even if it just serves as a reminder to start working out and moving, it’s worth it!
  3. AdvoCare Products: Is the running mom in your life looking to tone up and lost weight? Get her on the AdvoCare 24 Day Challenge program – and better yet, do it with her! It’s amazing what someone can accomplish in just 24 days. Help motivate the mom in your life by getting her started on a quality lifestyle, diet program. The 24 day program (complete with recommended add-ons) can cost around $250.
  4. The ultimate gym bag! The Gaiam Everything Fits in the Bag is eco-chic and can keep anyone organized. Just $60, this is an easy gift for the active mom in your life!
  5. Who doesn’t love leggings?! They are comfortable yet cool; light yet covering; and useful for whatever activity or non-activity someone is doing! For under $30, these Yoga Foldover Leggings can be yours!
  6. EA Sports Active for Wii! So much fun yet hard and great for working out in the home and burning calories! It’s under $33, but remember, you still need the Wii!
  7. A 60-minute massage! Yes, how could I forget. Dr. David Rudnick of the Chiropractic & Sports Rehab Institute in Boynton Beach offer regular massages as well as Raindrop Massage! I’ve had the latter and it is truly amazing! Learn more here.
  8. And no running mom gift list would be complete without the jogging stroller! So here is just one option. Of course, do you research as there are many out there and it’s important to find the right one so you actually use it!

Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Running!

Epsom Salt Baths…Who Knew?!

Your body is tired; your legs are sore; you are stressed; and you have a race coming up. What should you do? Try an Epsom Salt Bath. Runners swear by them and lots of others are becoming fast believers. I mean, if you can’t trust a runner who is taking a bath mere hours before the biggest race of his or her running career, who can you trust? Below, I’ve included a few other tidbits as to why soaking in a hot bath full of Epsom just may do the trick. (You can alternate between ice baths and Epsom Salt baths; just leave some time in between so there is no chemical burning of the skin from the temperature change!)

  1. Most know of the importance of iron and calcium for our bodies, but what about magnesium? It is the second most abundant element in human cells and the fourth most important positively charged ion in the body. Magnesium helps the body regulate over 325 enzymes and plays an important role in organizing many bodily functions, like muscle control, electrical impulses, energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins. And most of us are deficient in magnesium, so soaking in a bath with Epsom salt, which is high in magnesium, is one of the easiest ways to get a quick lift.
  2. Epsom salt, known scientifically as hydrated magnesium sulfate, is rich in both magnesium and sulfate. While both magnesium and sulfate can be poorly absorbed through the stomach, studies show increased magnesium levels from soaking in a bath with Epsom salt! Magnesium and sulfate are both easily absorbed through the skin. Sulfates play an important role in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins and the proteins that line the walls of the digestive tract. They stimulate the pancreas to generate digestive enzymes and are thought to help detoxify the body of medicines and environmental contaminants.
  3. Researchers and physicians suggest these health benefits from proper magnesium and sulfate levels, as listed on the web site of the Epsom Salt Industry Council:
    • Improved heart and circulatory health, reducing irregular heartbeats, preventing hardening of the arteries, reducing blood clots and lowering blood pressure.
    • Improved ability for the body to use insulin, reducing the incidence or severity of diabetes.
    • Flushed toxins and heavy metals from the cells, easing muscle pain and helping the body to eliminate harmful substances.
    • Improved nerve function by electrolyte regulation. Also, calcium is the main conductor for electrical current in the body, and magnesium is necessary to maintain proper calcium levels in the blood.
    • Relieved stress. Excess adrenaline and stress are believed to drain magnesium, a natural stress reliever, from the body. Magnesium is necessary for the body to bind adequate amounts of serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of well being and relaxation.
    • Reduced inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps.
    • Improved oxygen use.
    • Improved absorption of nutrients.
    • Improved formation of joint proteins, brain tissue and mucin proteins.
    • Prevention or easing of migraine headaches.

Directions

  • Measure 2 cups of Epsom salt into a standard bathtub. Instructions on the package will provide dosage for smaller baths, bowls and foot-soaks.
  • Fill the tub with hot water, checking the temperature to make sure it is safe and comfortable for soaking in. Swish the water around to dissolve the Epsom salts.
  • Soak the sore muscles or body in the Epsom salt bath for 15 minutes or so. The recommended minimum time is 12 minutes, three times each week, according to the Epsom Salt Council.
Sources 
Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/health-benefits-of-epsom-salt-baths.html#ixzz1uU0zmgHX

 

Wait…You Want Me To Take Time Off?!

Yes! It’s a shocking but truly critical part of training and running. You must take time off! Now, I’m not preaching for anyone to take off every other day or every weekend – and still expect to improve their running…but I am saying that moderation is important and therefore rest is a critical part of improving as a runner and athlete. Your body needs it to heal; and your head needs time off at times as well for a break!

Here are some of the reasons why a runner may need some time off from running:

  • A Planned Break: It’s been a long season with lots of hard training and racing. It may be the end of the school year and therefore end of the track season; it may be the conclusion of winter 5K and marathon racing in South Florida; and/or a full year of back to back to back marathons without sufficient race. All of this leads to the opportune time for a planned break in your training. In high school, Coach Rothman instructed us to take two weeks off from running in between Cross Country and Track. This meant immediately after Cross Country states or regionals, we took exactly two weeks off before beginning our training (low mileage to start) in preparation for Spring track. We did the same in the Summer right after Track and before the long summer of mileage build-up as well. Between High School and College, I personally took off approximately four weeks as instructed by my new college coach. (Looking back…I should have spent some time during those four weeks doing alternative exercise/activities and not just laying on the couch. It may the return to summer training much more difficult! Learn from my example!)
  • Aches & Pains…Or Worse…An Injury: Listening to your body as a runner is so important – potentially more than any other sport. All of us have aches and pains at times and you need to  know when something is hurting more than it should and/or for a longer period of time than it should. You need to know when simply applying ice or going for a massage will do and when you need to visit a trainer and/or doctor. When an injury happens, the doctor or trainer will often tell you to take off upwards of two or four weeks…so do yourself a favor and take off a few days, a week or more on your own when you are feeling a pain that you know isn’t going away. And in the meantime, try out some cross training. (Check out our recommendations/ideas here.)
  • Other Reasons: Taking a break may also be needed if you feel tired, sick, or that your training it in a complete rut and there is no way to get out. Sometimes in this case the running break will help you more mentally than anything!

According to experts, in the hierarchy of training, breaks rank right up there with threshold runs, intervals, reps, and steady running. All have a purpose and when placed in proper sequence can and will ultimately build on one another. Leading to a stronger runner, and a better you!

Remember, breaks from running are also a great opportunity to look into cross training. Take the time to bike, swim, roller blade, ski, etc. This may also be a good opportunity to focus on your strength training exercises and increasing the number of trips you are making to the gym to “just lift.”

Tips To Improve Your Running

Jason Fitzgerald

I just read this great post by a marathoner, coach and blogger at StrengthRunning.com. I’ve pulled out some of my favorite tips courtesy of Jason Fitzgerald, but feel free to read the entire post here.

Don’t want to read on but want your own specified 5K beginner training program, click here.

  • Do a long run! It doesn’t matter if you’re training for a 5k, triathlon, or ultramarathon – the long run is one of your most important workouts of the week. Aim to run anywhere from 20-30% of your total weekly mileage during your long run, depending on your fitness and goals. The long runs boosts your aerobic capacity and allows you to run faster for longer. It helps you become more efficient, creates more mitochondria (the energy producers of your cells) in your muscles, and strengthens your cardiovascular system. (Melissa: I personally have trouble getting in long runs on my own so I schedule them for Sunday and plan to run with my running group (SouthFloridaRuns.com). Oh, and I get them done early! Before I can change my mind and before the sun gets too brutal. Remember the purpose of the long run isn’t to do them so fast. It’s to get in the mileage at a good, solid pace. Meaning – don’t go too slow or you won’t get the benefit and you’ll be out there all day!)
  • Run twice a day. Running twice a day is an advanced strategy for reaching the next level of performance. I only recommend it for runners who have at least two years of consistent training behind them. In addition to adding volume to your schedule, which will help increase your aerobic capacity and running economy, adding an easy morning run will help you prepare for afternoon workouts. After you’re comfortable running easy twice a day, a morning run will help you shake out the kinks and increase blood flow before an afternoon fast workout. This was a staple in my college years and something I continue to practice today. (Melissa: Common in college, running twice a day is the easiest way to get in extra mileage – especially if you are expected to hit upwards of 70-80 miles per week. It’s amazing how an easy 3 miler 5-6 days a week can add nearly 20 miles to your total.)
  • Dynamic Stretching and Core Strength: The warm-ups prepare your body to run by increasing your heart rate and blood flow to your legs. Isn’t that what a “warm-up” is supposed to do? (Melissa: Both we hardly did when I was in high school but since then Coach Rothman has added them to the routine. It turns out static (or sitting) stretching before you run isn’t that good. Save it for after the run. Before the run – keep yourself moving.)

All Things Running Related