Treadmill Versus Outdoor Running

I was talking to a runner earlier today…and he mentioned a friend of his had recently claimed to run under 17 minute pace for the 5K only one month after starting running/training – primarily as conditioning for another sport. My friend (the real runner) seemed concerned that this “newbie” runner was able to achieve such a feat so quickly and without seemingly much work or experience. So how, you ask, is this newbie doing so well, so quickly? Well, I left out the most important clue…he was running on a treadmill.

Could a treadmill really make that much of a difference? Is treadmill running that much easier than traditional outdoor running? Are treadmill times not realistic? And is treadmill running adequate training for an outdoor road, cross country or track race?

According to the experts at Runners World and other resources I have researched, treadmill running and road running are definitely not the same. And therefore, the times achieved from one versus the other really should not be compared. All-in-all, it is agreed that running on a treadmill is easier than running outdoors, for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The treadmill belt assists leg turnover, making it easier to run faster. This is why most runners will find that their pace on the treadmill doesn’t correlate to their road pace. (Good point for my “real” running friend.)
  • Some of the soft tissue conditioning or “hardening” that occurs with road running does not occur with treadmill running because the plate or base on the treadmill “gives” more than road surfaces. (Meaning – it’s a better muscle workout outdoors.)
  • There are no weather conditions to deal with when running indoors (rain, snow, ice, cold, heat, etc.). (Meaning “real runners” run outside and face the elements – whatever they might be.)
  • The incline that just occurs with outdoor running (because in case you didn’t know – the world isn’t flat!) is also missing on the treadmill – unless you specifically increase the incline on the machine!

This is not to say that the treadmill can’t be a great training tool – for a variety of reasons. And I’ll be the first to say I like the treadmill – unlike many of my “real” runner friends who almost equate it to the elliptical machine! In fact, a number of years back (around 2006-2007) after returning from college, I started running primarily on the LA Fitness treadmills after work each day. It was easier for me because I could go right after work and see people I knew; it was also safer because the sun was going down pretty early at that time of year and running outside wasn’t a great option for a single female. After a few months of “treadmill training,” I ended up running some great 5K times in outdoor road races. I attribute it to the short but FAST workouts I would do on the treadmill – of course music blasting. For me, as an overly competitive person, running on a treadmill ensured that I would run fast because in my head I had to look like a “real” runner to the random people working out around me!

But I digress…Because treadmill running is easier, it’s a good ideas to use it for speed work (like I did). You can do this by speeding up the pace for short intervals and then slowing it down for recovery intervals (i.e. a Fart-Lek – I’ll define that in a later post). This is a very convenient way to get in some speed work or tempo runs in a controlled setting.

Here are a few more Treadmill Running Tips:

Use a slight incline.

  • Set the treadmill inclination to 1% to 2%. Since there’s no wind resistance indoors, a gentle uphill better simulates outdoor running. Of course, if you’re just getting started with running, it’s fine to leave the incline at 0% until you build up your fitness.
  • At the same time, don’t set the incline too steep (more than 7%) — this may lead to Achilles tendon or calf injuries. Also, don’t run at an incline of more than 2% for your entire run.

Don’t hold onto the handrail or console.

  • Some people assume that they need to hold onto the handrails when walking or running on a treadmill. The handrails are only there to help you safely get onto and off of the treadmill.
  • When running on the treadmill, practice proper upper body form by keeping your arms at a 90 degree angle, just as you would if you were running outside.

Don’t lean forward.

  • Make sure to keep your body upright. It’s not necessary to lean forward because the treadmill pulls your feet backward. You need to pull your feet from the belt before they are driven away by the belt.

Pay attention to your stride.

  • Keep your stride quick and short to help minimize the impact transferred to your legs. Try to maintain a mid-foot strike to make sure you’re not heel striking and sending shock to your knees. You may need to exaggerate the heel lift because the lack of forward momentum means your feet won’t be moving in a circular path.
  • The more steps you take per minute, the more efficiently you’ll run. Elite runners run about 180 steps per minute. Determine your stride count by counting how often one foot hits the belt in a minute and then doubling that number. Try to improve your stride count during your run by focusing on taking shorter, quicker strides and keeping your feet close to the belt. This exercise will help you deal with boredom on the treadmill and even improve your outdoor running.

Don’t look down.

  • It can be hard not to continually look to see how much time or distance you have left, but if you’re looking down, your running form will suffer.
  • Don’t stare at your feet either. You’re likely to run hunched over, which could lead to back and neck pain. Looking straight ahead is the safest way to run, whether you’re on the treadmill or running outside.

Looking to buy a treadmill? Check out these.

Wondering what the world records are for treadmill runners? Here they are!

Happy Memorial Day

In honor of Memorial Day, I am focusing on the army in this post and the requirements put before them in the areas of fitness and strength.

The United States Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) is designed to test the muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular respiratory fitness of soldiers in the Army. Soldiers are scored based on their performance in three events consisting of the push-up, sit-up, and a two-mile run, ranging from 0 to 100 points in each event.

They are required to pass the Basic Training APFT to graduate boot camp and continue on to Advance Infantry Training.

The three PFT events are two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a timed 2-mile run. Individual results from each event are assigned a score. A recruit’s age, gender and the amount of repetitions or time elapsed for each event determines their score. Unlike other military endurance tests the APFT is normally performed in normal workout gear. To graduate boot camp one must score 150 points or higher with at least 50 points in each event.


Events
The testing events are conducted in accordance with standards detailed in Army Training Circular 3-22.20, Army Physical Readiness Training. Prior to the start of each event, the standard is read aloud, followed by a demonstration in which an individual demonstrates both the correct exercise and any disqualifying behaviors which would make the exercise incorrect. (The following is quoted from Army Training Circular 3-22.20.)
  • The Push-Up: “The push-up event measures the endurance of the chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles. On the command ‘get set,’ assume the front-leaning rest position by placing your hands where they are comfortable for you. Your feet may be together or up to 12 inches apart. When viewed from the side, your body should form a generally straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. On the command ‘go,’ begin the push-up by bending your elbows and lowering your entire body as a single unit until your upper arms are at least parallel to the ground. Then, return to the starting position by raising your entire body until your arms are fully extended. Your body must remain rigid in a generally straight line and move as a unit while performing each repetition. At the end of each repetition, the scorer will state the number of repetitions you have completed correctly. If you fail to keep your body generally straight, to lower your whole body until your upper arms are at least parallel to the ground, or to extend your arms completely, that repetition will not count, and the scorer will repeat the number of the last correctly performed repetition. If you fail to perform the first ten push-ups correctly, the scorer will tell you to go to your knees and will explain to you what your mistakes are. You will then be sent to the end of the line to be retested. After the first 10 push-ups have been performed and counted, however, no restarts are allowed. The test will continue, and any incorrectly performed push-ups will not be counted. An altered, front-leaning rest position is the only authorized rest position. That is, you may sag in the middle or flex your back. When flexing your back, you may bend your knees, but not to such an extent that you are supporting most of your body weight with your legs. If this occurs, your performance will be terminated. You must return to, and pause in, the correct starting position before continuing. If you rest on the ground or raise either hand or foot from the ground, your performance will be terminated. You may reposition your hands and/or feet during the event as long as they remain in contact with the ground at all times. Correct performance is important. You will have two minutes in which to do as many push-ups as you can.”
  • The Sit-Up: “The sit-up event measures the endurance of the abdominal and hip-flexor muscles. On the command “get set,” assume the starting position by lying on your back with your knees bent at a 45- degree angle. Your feet may be together or up to 12 inches apart. Another person will hold your ankles with the hands only. No other method of bracing or holding the feet is authorized. The heel is the only part of your foot that must stay in contact with the ground. Your fingers must be interlocked behind your head and the backs of your hands must touch the ground. Your arms and elbows need not touch the ground. On the command “go,” begin raising your upper body forward to, or beyond, the vertical position. The vertical position means that the base of your neck is above the base of your spine. After you have reached or surpassed the vertical position, lower your body until the bottom of your shoulder blades touch the ground. Your head, hands, arms, or elbows do not have to touch the ground. At the end of each repetition, the scorer will state the number of sit-ups you have correctly completed. A repetition will not count if you fail to reach the vertical position, fail to keep your fingers interlocked behind your head, arch or bow your back and raise your buttocks off the ground to raise your upper body, or let your knees exceed a 90-degree angle. If a repetition does not count, the scorer will repeat the number of your last correctly performed sit-up. The up position is the only authorized rest position. If you stop and rest in the down (starting) position, the event will be terminated. As long as you make a continuous physical effort to sit up, the event will not be terminated. You may not use your hands or any other means to pull or push yourself up to the up (resting) position or to hold yourself in the rest position. If you do so, your performance in the event will be terminated. Correct performance is important. You will have two minutes to perform as many sit-ups as you can.”
  • Two-Mile Run: “The two-mile run is used to assess your aerobic fitness and your leg muscles’ endurance. You must complete the run without any physical help. At the start, all soldiers will line up behind the starting line. On the command ‘go,’ the clock will start. You will begin running at your own pace. You are being tested on your ability to complete the 2-mile course in the shortest time possible. Although walking is authorized, it is strongly discouraged. If you are physically helped in any way (for example, pulled, pushed, picked up, and/or carried) or leave the designated running course for any reason, you will be disqualified. (it is legal to pace a soldier during the 2-mile run. As long as there is no physical contact with the paced soldier and it does not physically hinder other soldiers taking the test, the practice of running ahead of, alongside of, or behind the tested soldier, while serving as a pacer, is permitted. Cheering or calling out the elapsed time is also permitted.) The number on your chest is for identification. You must make sure it is visible at all times. Turn in your number when you finish the run. Then, go to the area designated for the cool-down and stretch.”

Want to test yourself? Try out the APFT Calculator here.

Need to improve your 2-mile APFT time? Training schedule here.

Update on “Have A Beer” Post

Every once in a while I seem to post a blog that peaks people’s interest…the most recent one being: Have A Beer…Or Maybe Not. One of my friends from the SouthFloridaRuns group, Andy, mentioned that when has a beer before a race or run, it’s purely for relaxation. He doesn’t do it to run faster and hit a personal record (PR); he grabs a beer when he just wants to have a good time and not go for time. As he said, “Having the beer before the run ensures that it will be a fun, relaxing run; Obviously I won’t be going for PRs or be super competitive.” I then wondered, if on some of those runs he does actually go faster – because he’s relaxed without any stress. I asked him but he wasn’t sure that he ever hit any PRs post beer consumption.  Another guy in the group, Joey, says he will sometimes consume a few glasses of wine the night before a race. It’s his trademark. I’ll have to follow-up with him as to whether he feels it helps him…

While discussing all of this, Sam (leader of the SouthFloridaRuns crew) mentioned a study he had seen about how drinking alcohol/beer may help women more than men. I had not found the study in my research so once I came home, I immediately located it to share it here. So here it is – straight from Runners World: Beer Run! (Note that this scientific article is about the post run beer not the pre-run beer as I wrote about in my last post.)

Here are some important pull-outs from the article written by Christie Aschwanden.

  • Turns out the research on alcohol and exercise is as herky-jerky as our culture’s attitude toward the bottle. Most early studies investigated alcohol’s potential as a performance enhancer. It seems ridiculous now, but during the 1904 Olympic Marathon, U.S. gold medalist Thomas Hicks was given a mixture of brandy, strychnine, and egg whites in an effort to gain a competitive edge. Many coaches then believed alcohol boosted energy.
  • Being a former scientist, I had my own theories about how drinking and running mix, and I couldn’t resist putting them to the test. The nearby Colorado Mesa University had just opened the Monfort Family Human Performance Research Lab, a state-of-the-art exercise-science facility that seemed like the perfect venue to explore alcohol’s effects on running performance. My friend Gig Leadbetter, Ph.D., coaches the school’s cross-country team and is an exercise scientist at the Monfort Lab. He’s also a home brewer and winemaker and, without any arm-twisting, agreed to put together a study for Runner’s World.
  • We’d recruited five men and five women—myself included—ranging in age from 29 to 43, all moderate drinkers (defined as drinking less than the recommended daily limits of two drinks per day for men, one for women) and who ran at least 35 miles per week…Everyone reconvened the following Friday evening for the first Beer Run. We ran on treadmills for 45 minutes at a pace that felt steady, like tempo, but not overly strenuous. Then we gathered on the patio behind the lab and drank cold beer (or the placebo) and devoured plates of pasta and tomato sauce (carbs!). The next morning, volunteers returned to the lab for the first Exhaustion Run, a task as grueling as it sounds. After we ran at a fast clip for as long as possible, researchers measured our heart rates and metabolic factors, such as oxygen consumption and carbon-dioxide production. Every three minutes, they asked us to rate how hard we were working.
  • Right after the second Exhaustion Run, I sat down with Leadbetter to review a few results. The first shock was personal: I had assumed my second Exhaustion Run was so poor because I had drunk the real beer the night before. Wrong! I had actually been served the placebo the previous evening. Surely my results were a fluke. Leadbetter sent all the data to Bob Pettitt, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist and statistics expert at Minnesota State, Mankato. “The women did better after beer, but the men canceled it out by doing worse,” says Leadbetter. The five women ran an average of 22 percent longer the morning after drinking Fat Tire, while the men ran 21 percent shorter.
Full article here.

Want to be a better athlete? Start swimming!

I was talking to a running friend the other day who is a father of a young girl. She is around 10 years old and has chosen swimming as her primary sports activity. Her dad, Mike, was telling me about how the minute his daughter gets in the pool, she loves it, excels and is incredibly competitive. He said he hopes that his daughter will continue her swimming journey but isn’t sure she will – because of a range of reasons – scheduling being the primary reason and second being her common dread for getting in the pool before a practice. While I was talking to him, I immediately thought of a recent realization or proclamation I made.

I’ve decided that if I had to do it all over again I would swim as a young kid. And when I have a child, especially a girl, I will push her to swim at a young age. Of course later on (in high school, college, etc.) she can be a runner, but starting off as a swimmer would be ideal. Why you ask? Because from my observations (especially as of late), I have noticed that the really successful and competitive high school track and cross country athletes were swimmers as a young age. Why?

  • In general, they are typically stronger (abs, shoulders and back especially), fitter and healthier than the non-swimmers. And as a result they aren’t focused on being super skinny but rather lean and strong.
  • Just as important – these swimmers are avoiding the pounding and resulting injuries caused by running at a young age.

But don’t just listen to me…look at the evidence. Case in point, here are a few examples of successful runners who started off as swimmers…

  • Lily Williams, recent Florida High School graduate, who won three State Championship Titles at the Florida 4A Track & Field meet. She won the 1600 meters, 800 meters and 3200 meters. An feat that is so rare – I believe she is the first to accomplish it. She is heading to Vanderbilt University. She was a swimmer.
  • Jordan Hasay, a track athlete at the University of Oregon, has already won numerous national championships. She is a tiny girl with an extremely muscular build. She was and continues to be a swimmer. (Her mother was a very successful swimmer as well.) More on Jordan’s story here.

Need swim lessons? Techniques to make you faster? Check out this program.

An interesting article on “Building Better Athletes with Swimming’ here.

More benefits of swimming courtesy of HumanKinetics.com.

Swimming is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package, working most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently. Swimming builds these core muscles better than any abs video or gadget advertised on television. Finally, a properly structured swim workout provides incredible improvements to the cardiovascular system. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.

Training for a Half vs. Full Marathon

A Half Marathon Training Plan where you run on average 3-4 miles a day - with one extra long weekend run! Doesn't seem so daunting, does it?

I was talking to my friend Cheryl the other day, who now lives in San Francisco. Cheryl is a runner. She and her husband Barry run marathons, half marathons, 10ks, 5ks, etc. around the country – depending on where they are living and/or traveling. Cheryl had posted on Facebook about how she was starting her marathon training for the upcoming Twin Cities marathon in October. And I asked what training plan she was using. (Interested in getting your own personalized plan, click here.) Cheryl told me she was utilizing an individually designed plan for the marathon. She also mentioned that unfortunately she didn’t have one for half marathons – because she instead keeps a base of about 6 miles – and when a half marathon race is coming up, she’ll add a couple of longer runs in. And in all honesty, the last half marathon I ran (Latin Rock & Roll Half Marathon in Miami Beach), I did exactly that…I was in fact following the same training plan (running the same mileage) as the kids on my high school cross country team – who were running 3.1 mile races…and then adding a longer Sunday run (between 7 and 9 miles).

Now – in all honesty – I needed to up my mileage and it hurt me after mile 10 of my half marathon…but I did okay. So the question is – does this work for others? And how often do runners keep their base mileage at a consistent rate and then add a few longer runs to bump them up to “half marathon ready.”

Here is one such product for improving your running. Click Here for details!

As a side note, here is a good article on the importance of base training and how you can be getting ready for that upcoming half marathon that you don’t even know about — from Runners World:

“Rob Wiley never worried much about how he began a new training cycle. He figured it was enough just to stay fit, running the same few miles just about every day at about the same easy pace. Then the 32-year-old project manager of Gurnee, Illinois, started working with a coach, Jenny Spangler. She had Wiley run hills and tempo runs in his base weeks, that six- to nine-week period of time before a formal training plan begins. “I thought, Why am I running hard stuff right out of the gate?” he says. The reason became apparent two months later, when he began stepping up his workouts. “I was strong,” says Wiley–stronger than he had ever been entering a training season.

The experience was a revelation for Wiley. Proper base building isn’t simply a matter of logging a decent number of miles, he realized. Instead, it serves as a bridge between the off-season’s maintenance runs and a race-specific training program. “The purpose of base training is to prepare you for your next phase of harder, faster running,” says Spangler, the 1996 U.S. Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials champion. If you transition too quickly into the rigors of a training program, your ability to perform and, therefore, benefit from the work decreases while your risk of injury increases.

Because base training comes before you actually begin a training plan, it’s often overlooked, says Spangler. In fact, quality work during this early phase is no less important than during your peak weeks. Faster-paced miles and the inclusion of a weekly long run increase endurance and strengthen your muscles, bones, and connective tissues. The improved fitness not only readies your body for the more intense running to come, it also allows you to safely handle tougher workouts, which increases the overall effectiveness of your entire training cycle.”

Read the full article here.

Have A Beer…Or Maybe Not

This post is not for my underage readers…so please be warned!

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the South Florida Runs group at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach. There was a no-pressure and “no chip” 5K race/run (which I slept too late and missed) followed by a fun, BYO drinks/food/etc to share barbeque. While I missed the start of the run, I learned later that many of the competitors/participants chugged a beer before the start. As I said, this was a “no chip” 5K. Obviously they would be doing nothing of the sort before a real or “chipped” 5K…or maybe not?!?

It made me start thinking about whether drinking a beer before a run is a good or bad thing. Now I will admit, I am not a big drinker – and especially not a big beer drinker – so this is not really something I’ve really ever considered or contemplated…but I’m sure there are many of you that have.

In college at Brown University, the track and cross country teams held an annual relay race (at the end of the year) dubbed the Beer Mile that involved running a lap, drinking a beer, running a lap, drinking a beer…and so on. (There are many track teams, schools, groups that do this – or so I’ve heard.) Now this was of course a game and definitely didn’t lead to any personal records (PRs)…and wasn’t intended to. But for the runners in today’s South Florida Runs 5K and the rest of us (21 and older runners)…should we actually consider adding a beer to our pre-race regimen? Well, I went out there to investigate…

Having a drink/beer the night before:

  • Carbo-loading right? Well, according to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., “A 12-ounce bottle contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, which is equivalent to about half a slice of bread. What’s more, because of the way alcohol is metabolized, most of these excess carbs are stored as fat. So you’re actually fat-loading
  • Remember, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning drinking too much the night before a run or race could leave you dehydrated in the morning. (Drinking water before and after that beer may help…)
  • Calming the nerves. For some, yes this can be a good idea (especially if you’ve become used to the practice). But for those like me, that don’t usually drink, the night before a race is definitely not the time to start. In fact, some studies suggest that as little as 12 ounces can disrupt the most beneficial kind of sleep.

 Having a drink/beer right before your run:

  • Again, it will potentially dehydrate you – especially if you are running in the hot sun, like many of the South Florida Runs guys and gals were today. Make sure you drink a lot of water before and after.
  • One runner and writer Christopher Prawdzik, in fact, goes on to say drinking before running can be dangerous. He says:  “As alcohol intake increases, blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow to muscles and therefore reducing endurance during workouts and extending recovery time afterward.”
  • Christopher adds: “For long-distance runners, the effects are even more serious. Restricted blood flow negatively affects the body’s heat regulators — and the door swings both ways. That means both the inability to stay cool in high heat and an abundance of heat loss on a cold day. The brain isn’t immune, either. If the heart can’t pump efficiently, the brain won’t get enough blood, so your balance and ability to focus suffer. But this also means the body can’t detect problems down the road. If you can’t balance or focus, you might not know when you’re thirsty. Unfortunately, alcohol’s most noticeable effect helps mask everything mentioned above. Euphoria, a sense of power, reduced inhibitions and an overall calming effect can tell the brain everything is OK.” Read Christopher’s entire article here.

So all in all, most of the “research” I found focused on enjoying running and how those runners that use the beer to relax seem to do better. However, using alcohol to train (like one would use protein drinks or Gatorade) is probably not such a good idea…And moderation is key (as always).

Here is an interesting article with more information on this that you may enjoy: A Beer Before A Run? Some Serious Runners Say Yes

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.