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The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 8:41 am
by Ron
I'm posting this tidbit in the "Training Talk" section of our forum because I feel it relates directly to it.

A RunZone member asked in a recent thread about sore calves, and the relationship racing flats play in such. I think most runners that train in traditional trainers with a high heel to toe drop experience sore calves after racing in light weight flats with little to no heel to toe drop. This is because without the heel build that our trainers have, the calf muscles begin to contract prior to the heel touching the ground much like doing toe raises on the edge of a step. Training a few days a week in your flats as well as some barefoot running in the grass can help develop your calves, and minimize the post race calf soreness.

Barefoot and/or the Minimalist Approach:

* Not so well know fact: Jack Daniels is a promoter of barefoot running and incorporates it into his own running. He also feels that todays shoe designs can actually lead to injury.
Source: Running Times Article 5 Minutes with Jack Daniels On barefoot running.

Personal Experience:

I have now undergone 3 surgeries on my left knee with the latest being a radical procedure called a Arhrosurface. This procedure is sometimes referred to a compartmental replacement, or re-surfacing. I am back to running now, but only after struggling trying to find the proper shoe. I can not run in any kind of trainer at all without experiencing significant knee pain. I tried a much flatter and more flexible shoe (Nike Free 3.0) and had better results, but still not great. One afternoon I decided to forget the shoes and just run on the sidewalk barefoot for a couple miles and see how that felt. The result....NO KNEE PAIN and so the research began.

I knew running barefoot in the greater Cleveland area year round as well as on concrete and gravel surfaces was not a viable option so I started looking into the Vibram fivefinger type shoes. I tried a pair on at a local running store and found having materiel between my toes uncomfortable. But when I tried running in them they felt so good that I bought them anyways. I knew right away I was on to something when my easy effort pace was about 5-10 seconds faster per mile and had no knee pain while running. Since then, I have purchased a second pair off Ebay (about half the cost) and moved to running exclusively in them. This transition has only taken place about a month ago, so I am still experimenting.  So far I have run a long run of 12 miles on the roads with them and have been gradually increasing my weekly mileage.

My latest knee surgery was 5 months ago now, and the surgeon who performed the procedure feels I am way ahead of schedule with my recovery and is in disbelief that I can run more than 10-miles already. I plan on racing a 5k around Halloween, and then a 1/2 marathon in November just for kicks and who knows, with a little luck, I may be able to resume a regular racing season next year.

Oh, you may ask: Are your calves sore? You bet yah! Sore as hell, but they're getting better everyday.

Anyhow, I thought I would share my experience with others who my be suffering from chronic injury and can't seem to figure out what the cause is. It may be the shoes!!!

I can update my progress if  anyone finds interest in the subject.

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:08 pm
by Radical Ron
This is absolutely fascinating to read.  It wasn't too long ago you were at the end of the line and running for you was over.  To learn you're about to do a 5K and an HM in the next few months has made my day.  Good for you!!!

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:29 pm
by TexNav
That's great. I was just commenting to AP a few days back how I have been running so well lately in the Nike Pegasus 28s, when I have more times than not been on the more minimal side (5.0s, SpeedStars, Kinvara 2s, etc.). That being said, just last fall it was Brooks T7s which were the only shoe I could run in when having some really bad plantar fascia pain. At the same time the Brooks Ghosts I'd bought last fall, thinking that some cushioning would help, actually only worsened the PF issues big time! It supports something AP stated to me recently, and that is that our shoe needs can evolve and to go with whatever works when it comes to daily trainers whether they be cushioned or minimalist. To paraphrase something he'd told me some time back: whatever gets you to the starting line healthy.

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 10:33 am
by Browatt
Very interesting post. 

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:17 am
by rycase
Very interesting post Ron. The one thing that I believe is an important takeaway - regardless of the subjectivity placed on what is right (minimalist vs. traditional) in the eyes of magazines, online forums, etc. - what is truly matters is how this has impacted you. Just as I am sure my diet may cause others to cringe , it works for me. These shoes/ rubber socks  ;D have obviously had a tremendous impact on your ability to get back to running.

Great read  8)

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 3:18 pm
by Tinman
Hey Ron,

I am thrilled for you, brother! It's awesome that you can run again. There's nothing like running!

Your friend,


Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 5:30 pm
by Ron
Thanks everyone for the support. There was no guarantee I would be able to ever run again after my last surgery so I'm thankful for every step I can take.

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:51 am
by runthe8
Just wanted to say I've experienced the same thing with the minimalist type shoes.  After my knee surgery and my visit to Jay Dicharry (whom I now think of as my running savior  :D) I've transitioned first to Newtons, and now I'm running in vivobarefoots most days.  I've also tried Merrell barefoot shoes but I don't like them as well as the vivobarefoots. I feel much less pain in any of my chronically injury prone areas (knee, plantar fascia, and Morton's neuroma) when I run in these shoes.  I'm out of the orthotics I "needed" for 30 years.  And yes, my calves are often sore in the morning, but I keep them functioning with my foam roller and lacrosse ball massages.  I've also noticed that at age 49, I have more muscular calves now than I did as a collegian (not saying much, but still). 

BTW, Jay Dicharry has now published a book that explains a lot of what he does.  It's called Anatomy for Runners- Unlocking your athletic potential for health, speed, and injury prevention.  If you have chronic injuries or just want to avoid chronic injuries, get your hands on a copy.

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:36 pm
by TexNav
Hey Ron, I wanted to check in to see how your race went (presuming you were able to), hope it went well and that it was a pain-free and encouraging race!

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 8:15 pm
by Ron
Hey TexNav, I skipped the local 5k and ran The Buckeye Half Marathon instead in October. I don't think I could have picked a much worse weekend for it as Super Storm Sandra was passing through, but I still managed to go 1:32. The race was solid for the most part passing though 10 miles in just a tick over 69 minutes, but the last three were directly into a headwind with the wind driven rain right in my face. I lost a few minutes during that final stretch but still finished 22nd overall and 2nd in my age group.

Things have cooled off quite a bit here in the north east lately with overnight lows in the 20's, so I think I'll just be targeting for next season at this point. The knee is still holding up with minimal pain and swelling, and getting stronger every day.

I'm still training exclusively in my Vibrams as well and it seems to making all the difference in the world for me.

Thanks for asking, hope your training is going well!


Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 10:19 am
by TexNav
That's great news! Thanks for the update.
How far off was your time from some of your better half's?
Regardless though, if you're anything like me, you probably just feel sane now that you're running in some form again!

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:21 pm
by Ron
I'm still more than 15 minutes off my Masters PR (1:14:34), but yes, I'm glad that I'm able to get out the door at this point. My stride is slowing coming back and my easy paces continue to drop and that's progress.

Re: The Mechanics of Running and the Role Shoes Play

Posted: Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:26 am
by TexNav
Great job. To consider the time off, and, total resurfacing of your knee you're doing great in my book.

My shoe needs seem to change on almost a daily basis over the past few weeks. For over a month I was doing tons of training in the Pegasus, as I just seemed to need a more cushioned trainer for awhile. Then one night a few weeks back I went out in some Brooks trainer/racers and was flying. I could just "feel" the run better. Heck, I had to take a few days off and then last night went back to Brooks T7s and ran on the local trails system. Today, I feel great! Weird, really weird. In truth I think that too much running in the Pegasus just seems to desensitize me to the feedback I'm needing. That seems to be when my already messy form...gets worst! When I started feeling like I needed to do some skipping and bounding drills before runs in the Pegasus, that was one indicator that I wasn't feeling the run and technique.

In regards to Vibrams, I don't think the gym exactly likes guys taking off their flats to do single-leg deadlifts for example, so I finally broke down and bought some to lift in. From the get go it felt great in this area too as proprioception and feedback from my feet and ankles is what I am really needing. I shouldn't have been surprised though as I've always liked lifting in Chuck Taylor converse, old Nike Free Trainers, even Saucony A4s if not barefoot.

Anyways, great job.