Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More About My Barbie Feet

Its a sure sign you are getting old when you start passing up cute shoes because you can tell they will murder your feet. You are REALLY getting into old dork territory when you start putting Dr. Scholl's inserts into your zapatos. I do both of these things. I still love me some hot shoes, but my relationship with them is more abstract than it used to be, and I have become more intimately accquainted with running shoes and how (if I'm not careful) the wrong choice might eventually lead me back down Injury Lane.

According to the latest running theories, if you are running in shoes, you should be running in the lightest, simplest shoes possible. This (fantastic) book did the rounds of every running club in the US last year (thanks in large part to this author interview with John Stewart) and this NYT article and video prompted many running nerds to snap up so many pairs of Vibram Five Fingers, a shortage and hippie running nerd panic ensued.

Vibram 5 Fingers-Because you can't run in your Birkenstocks and Whole Foods won't let you buy your post-run goji berries barefoot

I've read a lot about the barefoot running theory. I think it sounds logical, and I'm interested in seeing how it pans out for people who log a lot of hours in longer road races. I've read the Chi Running book, and have seen a lot of improvement when working on applying the forefoot strike technique. When I was starting to think of my recovery options, I briefly thought about at least going for some minimal shoes, like Newtons. I may still go for the Newtons once I'm a little stronger and have no more recovery pains to work through, but I have to listen to my sports doc and my running coach, and both have told me to stick to my trusty, cushioned Adidas for now, and that my high arch induced funky stride needs the support of custom orthotics. I am not ready to be sidelined again for ignoring the advice of two seasoned marathoners, so I made the appointment to get fitted.

The orthotic guy made me stand on a platform, where he took several measurements of my feet, checked how my knees and hips aligned when sitting and standing, made me do several squats and single leg lifts and then stuck me in some wet plaster to get casts of my feet. While we waited for the molds to set a bit, he told me that I need to stretch my hamstrings and achilles muscles much more. Everything was tight, and just loosening it all up would help immensely. The high arches still needed support and the discovery of a leg length discrepancy (my left leg is a few milimeters shorter than the right!) made him feel that I needed a custom insole. I don't need stability shoes, and I may be able to drop to neutral shoes with less cushioning later, but I do need the orthotic. Sorry running hippies, I like the way you think, but I went for the orthotic, so now we'll just wait and see what happens.


My inserts smell like a mixture of rubber, Ben Gay and hospital corridor. Its been a week, and starting to fade, but every time I take my running shoes off, I get a whiff of old people. They feel like hand ball rubber, are very light and apart from the thick area that supports the arch and the heel cup, they are quite thin.

Check out the blue wedge on the left heel. That's for my gimpy midget leg.

I took them out for a 2 mile spin around the track last Sunday, and they felt great. I picked what felt like an easy pace and cruised along. When I looked down at my first mile split, I noticed that easy pace was my old 8 minute mile pace. I haven't hit that pace since last July and I was just gliding through it. I stopped after two miles and had none of the inflammation I was starting to get on my last few runs. I had the boss man look at my stride today and he says its much improved. After a few more weeks of strength training to get my muscles balanced out, I'll be out of recovery mode and ready to do some road races again. Just in time to make a comeback from my pitiful performance at last year's Mini 10k!