Tag Archives: shoes

My new book: bedtime story for the new royal baby?

It seems the Brits have been busy. A few weeks ago, a new Royal baby greeted the world, and it seems my collection of bedtime stories to Prince George was released just in time!

photo-14Anatomy for Runners has made quite an impact. Since its release almost one year ago, its been one of the top selling running books, and achieved significant accolades with runners, coaches, clinicians, and the industry. In fact the book has done so well, that it was picked up by a UK-based Lotus Publishing Group. The overseas edition, re-titled “Run Like an Athlete” is available now to anyone on the other side of the pond. I’m quite happy with this title – its actually hat I wanted to call the US book in the first place. It features all the same excellent content, although its been translated from English to well, English……

Yes…..The Queen’s prose is quite different from our countrymen’s linguistics. Going through the editing process with the publisher, I’m shocked at how much it was altered for the european audience: “Soccer mom = football mum” are among thousands of edits.

Note: this version of the book is best utilized with hot tea, crumpets, ascots, and a Hugh Grant movie playing in the background. 

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my copy arrives by none other than the Royal Mail

The running shoe industry has been taken by storm: TP Striders

Revolution, not evolution.  The latest innovation for your feet is not from the behemoth with swoosh. Its not from the company who brought you “those funny toe shoes.” Instead, this latest venture was announced last night on prime time television.

Its innovative “dual-purpose outsole” has a unique feature to help you out of a certain situation that always seems to come on about 1 mile into your run. Run prepared! If you’d like learn more, check out the video below.

Running Footwear: A critical look at what we know about footwear and how to select the best fit for your athlete

The media likes to spin things to make headlines. I’m not too big on spinning, I’d rather just help educate. If you’d like to clear the air and see what we know, what we don’t know, and what’s been spun, you can check out this webinar I’m doing for USA Track and Field next week on Mar 26th. Coaches will get CEU’s from their couch.

The make of running shoes have historically gone from one side (thin and flexible) to the other (stiff and bulky) and are now moving toward the middle of the road. Which is best? And how do you match running shoes to an individual runner? In this webinar presentation, Jay Dicharry will comb through relevant research and clinical experience to help you approach your running retailer with the knowledge of selecting the right tool for the job. Learn how to ensure that you are running in your shoes rather than your shoes running you! By the end of this webinar you’ll be able to understand:

  •                 the evolution of footwear
  •                 how footwear has been classically prescribed
  •                 proof that this fit model is ineffective
  •                 how shoes impact your running form
  •                 how barefoot running impacts your form
  •                 how shoe wear impacts your form
  •                 how to select shoes for you
  •                 what minimal shoes are, and if you are ready to make the transition

Chevy Tahoe or a Mini Cooper? A tip on running shoe selection.

You are about to leave your house and have the keys to both your cars in your hand. Which do you take?

Today, you have to drive through town town to get some groceries, and then to the mall. Its a slow drive on neighborhood streets to the freeway. Your SUV is comfortable, affords a good view of the road, and has lots of room for the stuff you are going to buy. Given the fact that SUV’s account for huge number of sales in the US, the public agrees this is a logical choice.

OK – its the weekend. You are going to flee the city and head up to the cabin. Its a really twisty backcountry mountain road. Turn after turn, its hard to even maintain the posted speed limit. Do you select the SUV that ensures you need to slow down due to body roll, or do you take the sports car? The sports car is lighter, lower, and has a firmer suspension. It was designed for these very conditions. While a stiffer suspension may be less comfortable driving through the burbs, the improved “road feel” you get with the sports car helps you drive better at speed through more challenging roads.

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Time to go shoe shopping! You ask the salesman to pull two pairs of shoes for you. The first feels like a cloud at first step. It feels like you could stand around in them for hours. Your quick run test on the sidewalk in front the shop confirms that same cushy marshmallow feel during your run. Going back inside, you slip on shoe #2. It feels comfortable, but is much firmer. It didn’t grab you at first step as you walked around the store, but when you repeated your short demo run outside, it felt pretty much like the shoe wasn’t even there. The firmer feel felt a bit more responsive.

What running shoe should you buy?

Well, the marketing research is clear. People buy shoes b/c of 1) color, and 2) “first feel”. First feel is that first step you take. You know that sense of walking on a cloud…..the same feeling that made you think you could stand around in them for hours? Well, that doesn’t have anything to do with running shoe selection. Running is not standing. When you stand, you have half your body weight split between each foot. The total load on each each leg is about half your body weight. When you walk, sometimes you have two feet on the ground, and sometimes you have one foot down on the ground. So at the most, you’d have your full body weight on one leg, and at the least, it would be split between both legs. And when you are walking, your feet are on the ground for a long time. If you need to “micro-correct” your muscles to stabilize your body, you’ve got time to do so.

Running isn’t standing. And its not walking. During running, your foot is only on the ground for a very short time: The average runner moving at 7.2 mph is on the ground for only .17 seconds. Decisions on stability need to happen very very quickly, faster than you can actually think about them. And when running, there is no double leg contact. You are either sailing through the air, or in contact with a single leg. That single leg must not only support your full body weight, but about 2.5x’s your body weight.

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So what “car” do you pick? Well, lets look at hundreds of research articles on foot and ankle balance. Almost every single article says that you have a harder time balancing and stabilizing when on a cushioned surface. On marshmallow-cushy surfaces, the muscles that control your foot and ankle kick on too late and not enough to keep things under control. So if you are going to rally around a twisty mountain mountain road, the stiffer suspension on the Mini Cooper gives you better traction and feel. When running, a firmer feeling shoe provides a stiffer surface for the muscles in your foot and ankle to support your body. Said very simply: the foot works better when on a firmer surface.

So do yourself a favor. Go to the store. Try on your shoes. Obviously you’ll stand, and then walk outside or over to the treadmill. But resist the urge to make an impression on the shoe until you are actually running. Of course you should buy a pair that feels comfortable! But most of us are in shoes too soft and squishy to be running fast. Pick the right car for your drive, and the right shoe for your run. Running comfort, not walking comfort, should be key.

South by SouthWest Festival: When Biomechanics Attack

Check out the report WIRED magazine did of my talk with ESPN writer Henry Abbott at SXSW music festival. Likely the only time I’ll get to say I presented at the same conference as Al Gore, Bruce Springsteen, Seth MacFarlane, Jay-Z, and Jeffery Tambor (unfortunately not on the same stage at the same time!)

Nice summary, except they didn’t really get one critical point across. You CAN improve your hip flexibility and your hip strength!

Check out the WIRED article here and check out this link I did for Runner’s World a while ago on improving hip mobility

 

When the Big Man in Red calls, you have to be ready

Thought I’d share this with you guys, because it’s a bit different than most of the cases I see here in the lab on a daily basis. So the phone rang on today. The caller ID just said “North Pole” – not knowing what to expect, I picked up and surprisingly spoke to Ms Claus! She spoke very frantically. Santa was overheard in the background, and did not sound jolly. One of their athletes was down for the count less than one week before the big day, and they were in serious need of our services. ASAP. Rudolph is suffering from Achilles pain, and can’t fly at race pace. At his current speeds, they’ll be about 8.5 hrs behind Christmas-Eve night delivery schedule. Kids on all sides of the world should all be able to wake up to their loot. Running late is not an option.

Seems like all this global warming has taken its toll on a number of fronts. Yes, its hotter, and more of you are driving Prius’s (or is that Priui???), and sea level is rising – but folks, reality is now staring you in the face…. and its taking your Christmas presents with it. Typically, the reindeer wind up their training volume when the snow starts to fall in the end of October. This year, October saw record high temperatures. Instead of training, the reindeer were sunning themselves at the lake. A typical week in October looks like this:

  • Sunday: light 6 hr hike through the woods
  • Monday: 8-mile Hill repeats (about 4,000 ft per climb) x 12 reps
  • Tuesday: AM Speed work: 10 x 1.5 miles, all negative split. PM workout: easy 5-mile flight
  • Wednesday: Flight training: Circumnavigation of Arctic circle x 3. 1st and 3rd easy, middle rep at tempo pace.
  • Thursday: Weighted sled training: 3.5 metric tons for 6 miles, 2.5 tons for 4 miles, 1.5 miles for 2 miles at 90% VO2
  • Friday: easy run to Canada and back, with 1 hr of fartlek
  • Saturday: Tempo intensity, all flight – equator and back. Goal time is around 2 hrs.

The Elves in the training room had to be pulled out to help with some last minute Xbox orders, and they are understaffed. So Donner and Blitzen volunteered to get Rudolph down here within 2.5 hours The made it in 2:10. For starters, Rudolph is super nice – a bit too much on the Type-A sometimes, but I guess its that kind of work mentality that gets you to lead the sleigh year after year. He said this is the first time he has been injured. He even did weekly jogs sans horseshoes in the early summer after reading “Born to Run”, but he thought it was the sudden ramp up in volume that really got him.

Head Elf stretches Rudolph after last week

So, we did what we normally do. Got some markers on Rudolph and threw him on the treadmill. Results? Well, Rudolph has some serious imbalances going on. Pretty weak stabilization of his right rear ankle, and some inflammation of his bursae seem to be the culprit here. But the real issue was his weak right hip. Failure to drive off with his hip was actually increasing the stress on the achilles. Using data on our force-measuring treadmill, we cued him to use more of his glutes to stabilize his hip. We fit him for some minimal horseshoes to reduce the lever arm on his ankle. Lastly, we gave him some self-mobilizations he could do on the rooftops to keep him supple throughout the night. So how’d it go? Well, here’s hoping that all of you have something special under the tree on Christmas morning…..on time. Happy Holidaze!!!!

Proprio-what? a deeper look at balance and stability

Yesterday’s post got lots of comments; I’d like to post a bit more here to help folks understand this concept a bit deeper. Why does this idea about balance matter at all to runners? Midstance is basically single leg standing balance. However there is a difference between “reactive balance” and “proprioceptive control.”

Let’s define a few terms here:

Strength – relates to the cross-sectional area of a given tissue. This is related to the muscle’s ability to generate force. Bigger muscle, bigger force. Simple.

Proprioception: there are 3 primary things we use for balance.

  1. Vestibular  (inner ear) – If you are standing still, inner fluid is still. If you turn your head suddenly, the inner ear fluid swirls and this information goes to your brain to help determine acceleration and change in position.
  2. Somatosensory – You “feel” the ground. You have sensory receptors in your skin which allow you to feel something – light and deep pressure, vibration, heat, cold, etc. This sensation goes a long way to improve your tactile feedback to help you remain stable.
  3. Vision – We use our eyes to orient our head and trunk and let us know which way is “up”.

Note- you do have other reflexes that play a role here, but these are the primary ones that have the greatest effect.

If these 3 systems “agree” then you are using your body as best you can to achieve control in stance. So let’s look at examples of how these can change. If you are on a merry go round, your eyes see you are spinning, your somatosensory feels the body turning, and your vestibular system says you are spinning. Everything is fine. If you stop, your eyes and somatosensory system say you have stopped, but your inner ear fluid is still swirling – signals don’t agree….. and you become dizzy.

So why is it harder to close your eyes in single leg balance? Most folks are visual dominant. They rely highly on their eyes to find their position in space. The problem with this is that it’s “slow.” You need to see information, process it in the visual part of your brain, then send a signal to the part of your brain that control motion (motor cortex) to make a correction. Somatosensory information is very very fast. There is a direct relay between the sensory and motor reflexes both inside and outside the brain – resulting in fast rapid “micro-corrections” of position. Let’s use an example.

If you look at skiers, surfers, skateboarders, white water paddlers – they all have something in common – they need to make positional corrections VERY quickly – faster than they can see visually and adjust. They get good feedback about the position of their body from their hard ski edge (transferred up through a very stiff plastic boot), or the rail of the surf board (transferred through their bare feet). Each and every time they practice their sport they are refining their position sense by “feeling” where the body is. They consistently train and improve their somatosensory system.

Research shows that the somatosensory system is highly trainable. Its best done frequently in small doses. Instead of trying to balance on one leg for 10 min each night, its better to do it 20x’s a day for 30 seconds. Yes, you CAN improve your balance….by practicing.  Not your “I’m-rocking-back-and-forth-like-a-weeble-wobble” re-active balance, but your “proactive balance.” Proactive balance means “I know what to do to keep my body stable – I can micro-correct to improve my stability.” Think about spreading your toes out wide to maximize the width of your foot. Try to push your big toe down – not curling, just down as you keep it straight. This will improve your muscles firing inside your foot. I’ll make a deal with you – if you work on your single leg balance every day, you’ll find not only will you be able to stand with eyes closed, but also be able to begin to rotate left and right with your eyes closed. The goal is to reduce your dominance on vision and improve your use and perception of “feel.” It works!

OK – so let’s now look at this with respect to running. I’m going somewhere with this I promise – I’m building a case for you. There is a ton of research that supports the idea that firm surfaces offer better “feel” to the individual and thus better balance control. Soft surfaces mute the feedback to the person and result in poor stability in stance. The goal is to maximize your level of active stability control that your body can produce.

If I am in the clinic working with a patient, I always work them in barefoot, and will use all kinds of rocker/wobble/rolling boards to do this. All of these are FIRM and HARD surfaces. Even though the foot is moving, the contact between the ground and the foot is solid. The person gets good feel for what is happening. I am not a proponent of foam pads to work on balance. Why? Foam pads let you cheat and roll off to the outside of the foot. They don’t mandate that you activate the big toe. They don’t train “pro-active control.”

Let’s take this idea and now apply is to footwear and the entire rationale for you reading this post. What is traditional footwear? – It’s got an elevated heel, a wider lever arm than your foot, and a big marshmellow stuck underneath. This marshmallow allows your weight to shift to the outside of the foot. The heel-higher-than-the-forefoot provides a “rocker” in front of the shoe that you can simply roll off of. It lets you “cheat” by conforming to your foot. A lot of runners have gotten used to this.  Their feet have become weaker as the shoe does more of the work.

When we look at minimal footwear or barefoot running, this foam pad is gone completely or reduced significantly.  Suddenly, you can’t cheat. You have to actively use the muscles inside the foot to stabilize. The absence or reduced cushioning in the shoe allows you to get better “feel”  - why do so many proponents of barefoot and minimalist running claim that they feel “free” or like they’ve “been released”…….? It’s simple – your foot gets more information from the surface you are on when you don’t have a big piece of compressible foam in the between. More information  = better muscle activation.

I see a hand up in the audience.

Q: So I’ve been running for years and I still can’t stabilize with my eyes closed. What gives?

A: closing eyes might be slightly overkill, but you know what? – Almost every standardized assessment for balance testing has an eyes-closed component to assess just what we mentioned above (the 3 things that impact proprioception). So if you have good balance with eyes closed, I know that you are good in this regard and not going to ask you to add this into your training program. It allows the examiner to differentiate how well you use different skills that affect balance. If the eyes closed part is the issue, and this is connected to faulty foot and ankle mechanics during running, it give me more information as to what your limiters are as a runner.

Q:  So I’ve been running for years, and I still can’t stand on one leg – even with my eyes open. What gives?

A:  There is no research to show that your poor balance will result in injury, but there is research to show that those with a number of lower extremity injuries do have poor balance. Further, I’ll be happy to say that those with poor single leg balance almost always have some very interesting finding in our lab – they usually have altered forces around the ankles which results in abnormal stresses to the lower leg and foot. Improving your single leg balance is a way work on prevention. I’d much rather you not get hurt and keep enjoying your runs, than not. Maybe you are one of the lucky ones who has run for years without injury – awesome! However, research shows that 82% of you runners will be hurt at some point. Both personally and professionally, I’d rather see you in the 18% of those who are not.