August 26, 2010

Running FAQ


These are my opinions on running shoes, current trends in them as well as the correct process from various A’s to B’s on the questions I get on a weekly basis about running shoes and a few other running things. It’s no surprise. 80% of runners will suffer an injury every year. It’s no secret that there is a shift towards running more like a kid, barefoot or in low profile shoes.

I can start with my story, which is a success, but has taken years to achieve, not months or weeks like most people want. I was a knock kneed kid who wore corrective shoes which over corrected my stance and I am now slightly bandy legged. C’est la vie.

I was a swimmer who ran. For swimming, my feet had to be as flexible as possible. Not grand for running I tell you. I pronated like a 150kg rugby prop with collapsed arches and wore the biggest, heaviest shoes there were for training. I had to wear these because I pronated that badly. I was a heel striker with underdeveloped glutes and ligaments and dropped arches. I ran badly, full stop. I had a big engine from swimming so I hung tough but running hurt me more than anything.

Forward several years to current day. Last night I ran 30km in a neutral racer/trainer which is quite worn out, as it’s the only shoe I now train in. My arches have lifted, I strike midfoot, I am 8kg lighter and I had no pain other than a blister, which has its origin in a wet foot for 9 hours the week before at Transbaviaans in a mtb shoe rubbing the skin soft.

What you don’t see in the fast forward is this:

– 5 years of work to strengthen my feet enough.
– The pain of becoming a midfoot striker as my calves and glutes had to endure weeks of adaptation at a time.

It wasn’t simply a case of switching shoes. I went through the process of getting less and less stable shoes for 4 years, this year switching in January to neutral trainers for the first time, and only in July moving to running in lighter shoes full time.

Here is the FAQ:

1. What shoes should I buy?

The ones that suit your current running style, biomechanics and foot strike. Go see an expert when buying running shoes; don’t rely on other people’s opinion. Make sure the expert makes you run in a few sets and watches your knee flexion, hip movement and foot strike.

Find out if you pronate, are neutral or in rare cases, supernate. Those are the 3 foot strike patterns. If you pronate, dependant on how strong your leg muscles and ligaments are, you will either go for a stability or a motion control shoe.

Motion control is generally reserved for the big guys with bad knees. Stability is what about 70% of runners will need. I started in motion control, moved to stability, then lightweight stability, then neutral, now neutral racer/trainer.

2. Should I try barefoot running?

Sure, if you have run in lightweight trainers for a year. If you don’t run regularly and if you run regularly but in heavy motion control shoes rather go to the gym and work on core, glutes and hip strength.

Then start running barefoot on grass, for short periods of time. Grow this over time as your feet and ligaments and core and glutes get stronger. Move to a racing flat first on the road before even thinking of going barefoot.

Then move into a shoe like those weird toe finger shoes and start on dirt roads, before trail. I am not there yet.

Adaptation period will be months, not weeks. Deciding to run in a racing flat or barefoot out the blue and smashing out runs like that is like deciding you want to give tequila a go for the first time and promptly smashing a bottle on your first go. Just not going to be condusive to “performance” and you will most likely get hurt.

3. How far should I run to start?

Start slow and go long. Simply, take 180 and subtract your age. If you are super fit, add 5 beats. That is the maximum heart rate you should see on any run. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, it’s also around the point where you can’t run with your mouth CLOSED anymore. Run for as long as you can around that intensity to start.

That is your Aerobic Endurance Threshold and will give you maximum fitness and maximum enjoyment out of your running. Less sore muscles, fatigue and injuries.

If you can only run 3 days a week, go long. If you can run 6 days a week, run less time and more frequency. 6 x 30mins a week are so much better than 3 x 1hr runs even if total time is the same.

Most importantly, run for as long as it’s FUN.

4. Should I eat before I run?

My experience says no. If you have to eat, get into the energy gels. Easy on the stomach and a reliable 150 calories will get you through the run no problem. Eat afterwards, in what a friend refers to as “The Golden Zone” which is the first 30min after exercise, where you can eat basically whatever you want; your body will just burn it.

5. How long will my running shoes last?

Roughly 800-1000km if you run light on them and it’s what’s traditionally termed a “training shoe”. If you pound the pavement, 600km for a heavier training shoe. The lighter the shoe, the less mileage. My racers are good for about 250km and then they are KAPUT!

Those are the most common questions I seem to be getting; I hope they answered one of your questions, at least. Now go out there and have some fun…

One Comment on “Running FAQ

Jacques Redelinghuys
August 26, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Great read. Still the question about seeing a running expert remains. Those people are hard to find and everyone in a shoe shop is not an expert. I mean, I still have to find a shop that sells the Puma range of running shoes. How about posting a few running experts and contact details in the major provinces?



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.