Tag Archives: gait

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

Why does your achilles hurt, and how to fix it

I was contacted by Jason Fitzgerald at StrengthRunning.com to help clear up a lot of the mystery behind achilles issues. Even though this injury can be a major complicator for your training, the mechanics of it are actually quite simple.  If you’d like to check it out, check out this link.

Learn how to run (better) from your couch!

Yes, I’m suggesting you actually spend about an hour on your bottom if you want to learn to run better. Join me on Tuesday, Feb 26th, I’ll be hosting a webinar for USA Triathlon. A quick summary and a registration link is right here.

Topic: Building the Perfect Runner: How Strength and Form Can Improve Your Performance (with Jay Dicharry)

What’s the best way to run? While often polarizing headlines read “everyone must land on their forefoot”, there is a lot more to efficient running form than a foot strike. In this webinar presentation, Jay Dicharry will use both scientific data and simple analogies to discuss what good running form is. Then, it’s on to the naked truth: There are things you can do outside of running that will improve your running economy. By the end of this presentation, you will understand:

•What defines proper running form, and how it plays a role in injury and performance.

•How to ensure that you are putting the best ingredients (your body!) into your running form.

•The mobility requirements for proper running

•How to optimize your strength training to ensure it directly transfers into better running.

•How to optimize posture and effectively integrate it into your daily activities and training.

Join Jay as he looks past the hype and shares the information you need to perform at your peak.

From General to Specific: thinking through your yearly training plan

OK. Gut check time. a few weeks ago, I asked you to take a look at your past, and identify your performance limiters.  While both “Type A” and “Type B” training plans can be incredibly successful, even the most open minded Type B person takes a step back to look at their needs. After all, you’ll never reach your goal without a road map to guide you along the way.

To help you organize your road map, I’d like you to keep in mind a general plan: “from general to specific.” What does this mean? Well, if you are a cyclist, the best, most specific way to train leading up to your competition season is to pedal your bike…..often! But if you are 4 months out from your season, there are about a million other things you could be doing besides biking, that will still help you pedal well come competition season.

There’s no substitute for working hard, but there’s also no reason to work hard at the same thing. I know some of you say, “sure – I do this. I lift weights in the offseason.” Well, if you know anything about modern training theory, weights, plyometrics, and drills aren’t just for the off season (another topic for another time). When I say general, I’m not talking about all this kind of stuff. I’m talking about other kinds of stuff.

When you are 4 months out from race day, your body doesn’t really care if you did 2 hours on the trainer, or 2 hours XC skiing out in the woods. But your brain just might be a whole lot happier shushing though the snow covered trees instead of watching another 15 yr old Spinervals video. If you feel like going to a rock gym – go for it. The balance, coordination, and muscle stabilization you gain from rock climbing will improve areas of your body you never existed. And so what if you aren’t good at it? You aren’t a professional rock climber, its just something fun to do while you’ve got time, and all-cycling-all-the-time isn’t the sole focus of your day.

Me? I’m tackling my nemesis…..trying to ride my unicycle. Previously, its been successful at tacking me instead. But this is all supposed to be fun right? We do this stuff for a challenge. Repeat after me: “It’s January.” You know your friend who is putting in 20 hr training weeks right about now? He’s in for a massive blow-up come about June, and will be spending the peak of race season burt out and destroyed. So expand your skills and expand your mind. This winter, what are you doing to work on your “general?”

Think backwards to go forwards

So its the second week of the new year. Did your 19 New Year’s resolutions you had planned make it through week #1? This time of year, we all get caught in a trap: “Im going to do more base training, more speed work, more intervals, more weights, sleep more, eat healthier….the list goes on and on. While it would be great to have the luxury of time to make us all into training animals, we have this thing called life that gets in the way sometimes. And then a lot of us become discouraged when things don’t work out the way we planned, and we don’t achieve “more” of everything we set out to. Instead of doing “more” in 2013, let’s ask a simple question to help you do “better” in 2013.

Hard questions = best answers

When I work with a patient or athlete, I always discuss THEIR goals for the upcoming season. There really isn’t any right answer here – it may be to make the Olympic Trials, simply to PR at your half marathon, or just be able to get to the point where you can train consistently – your goals are your goals. My job is just to help you achieve them. After you tell me your goals, I ask one simple, but humbling question:  “what’s the biggest thing that stood in the way of your goals the past season?”

Ouch. This is typically the point where eyes roll back in your head. Every day you hit snooze and didn’t get up to train is flashing before your eyes. Why you didn’t dig deep for a finishing kick in your last race becomes more painful now than it did when you got passed with 50 feet to go. However, this question is not meant to punish you, its to get the the root of the problem. You don’t drive to grandma’s house aimlessly, you have directions and a plan to get to your destination. Training is the same thing.

Think backwards form your previous season. What went well? What were the defining workouts for you? Were you rested properly going into big races? How was your pacing? Did you do a good job of timing your weight sessions in relation to the rest of your workweek? Was your total volume of training time realistic with everything else you have going on in life? Did you pick the right races? Did you start oyur intinse training at the right time of the season? Wish you would have done more basework in the off season? Wish you would have taken more time off in the off-season to avoid burnout? What things stand out that didn’t go well? Were your goals too ambitious given your current life situation? If so, can other things be altered to allow you to train appropriately? Did you have fun?

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Note: this image is for figurative purposes only. If you see a lion in the mirror, you should probably run away.

This simple question can help you identify important things that often get lost in the shuffle. If you want to improve as an athlete, you need to train. Period. But your training should be focused for you, and “more” training is rarely the answer. Everyone wants to have some voice come along and say “just do this and you’ll achieve what you desire” Well, if you are honest with yourself, you’ll find that voice is you. With your limiters in front of you, you can now focus on specific ways to attack it. Looking backwards helps define where we need to move forward in 2013.

Christmas gifts for the athlete you love (or yourself!)

So we are officially past one of the coolest days ever (12-12-12) and now 11 days away from when the man in the red suit flops down your chimney to bring joy to all the good little boys and girls. Those of you much better than I are likely done your Christmas shopping. But if you are like me, and still haven’t picked out any presents for your wife (or other person you care about), I’d like to offer a few suggestions. If someone you love is looking for an edge, wants to improve their skills, and is looking to blow their inner athlete wide open – then look no further……

#1 – Rocker Board.
20121214-101308.jpgYou’ll notice a common theme here. All of the tools (toys) listed here are designed to help you improve balance and proprioception. These skills carry over in spades to all your athletic persuits: running, cycling, skiing, surfing, climbing, kiteboarding, football, basketball, tennis,  and possibly even bowling. Rocker boards are a great tool to teach you how to stabilize your foot and ankle. Hard unstable surfaces provide an optimal training environment to improve you. You should look for a board that only rocks in one direction (thus the name rocker board). Many folks also make boards that wobble and spin in all directions (called wobble boards). Both have their place, but when it comes to training the foot and lower leg, I’m a big fan of the former. These are sold in many places. If you are looking for suggestions, I typically direct people over to sportssmith.net because they have the cheapest one I’ve found: $29.99.

#2: Surfing in your living room – meet the Si-Board.

20121214-101324.jpgSo you’ve mastered basic balance skills, and are looking to quite possibly have as much fun as possible while under your roof? Look no further than the Si-Board. Sure the Indo Board is cool, but this thing is in a class by itself. I have one and absolutely love it. Its so much fun! Its not one of those things you’ll say “oh I have to make time to work on my balance……” Its so engaging that you may find yourself taking time away from other things! Your feet and hip stabilizers will get a workout like nothing else. They are pretty $$$$. I bought the DIY creator kit for cheap, and in 45 min was “surfing” in my living room.  In my mind, if you are an athlete, you should have one of these. Period.

#3: Surfing down the pavement –> Longboard.

20121214-101339.jpgPresents are all about fun right? Buying a long board was one of the best decisions I made. Its not like hucking off the loading docks like we all did when we were 12. This is all about the flow. It’s great to carve slalom turns down the hill – almost as much fun as skiing or snowboarding. And once you learn to “pump it” you can fly. I can roll miles down the road without pushing at all. I guess some people might say its a great workout, but its so much fun I’d do it even if balance skills didn’t translate into other sports. What board to get? wow – there are hundreds of options out there. Personally, I’ve got a Original Pintail 40. I bought it because it has springs instead of bushings. This makes it easy to rail turns at low speed and a bit tougher to control at high speeds, but lets’ face it: Most of us aren’t looking to hit 50 mph down a mountain while slamming a RedBull.  Only warning I’d offer is this: you may find yourself longboarding more and doing your typical sport a bit less!

#4: a book? Maybe a book called Anatomy for Runners! Its by far the cheapest thing on this list, and quite possibly the most valuable. I’ve spent many years of my life teaching. I’ve taught at UVA and continue to teach around the US. You’ll be surprised what people are capable of when you give them the knowledge to succeed. That was the goal behind my book. Its a way to give you information to help you hit your goals this season and beyond. Sure its slanted towards runners, but about 80% of the information in there applies to other endurance and strength and power sports as well.

If you are looking at the equipment above and thinking “that’s a bit high level for me-  no way”……let’s put something out there. Blowing past your comfort zone is the only way you’ll ever make jumps to the next level in your performance. And yes, I’ve put “old folks” on these with tons of success. Sure you should be careful when you are learning, but I will caution you that liberal use of #2 and 3 above just might result in fun!

Disclaimer for the people who think I’m funding my retirement with these recommendations. I personally bought the Si-board starter kit and my Original Longboard (in fact I bought a second one too!), and my clinic purchased the rocker board form Sports Smith. These folks have no idea that I am writing this, and I’m getting absolutely nothing in return.

Well, with the legal mumbo jumbo out of the way, Happy Shopping, and Happy Holidaze!!!

And if you’d like to re-live a little Christmas story from last year, check out how Climate change is impacting reindeer training. 

How should your foot land when you run?

Foot strike: your cross country coach from 1972 told you to always roll through from heel to toe. the barefoot zealots tell us we should always land on the forefoot. And several other schools of though tell us something else: to land on our midfoot.

Measuring all this stuff in the biomechanics lab has taught me a lot. Foot strike is but one of many variables that are worth looking at, but not the only one worth looking at. Additionally, people often strike different than they think they do. Lastly, Pete Larson found that there isn’t much of a difference in foot strike patterns and running times.

Foot strike is more of an effect of many things related to your form, rather than the overiding factor that governs your form. And if you’d like to see more, check out what Pete Larson and I said to Competitor Magazine.

Want a free copy of my book? School’s in session at a local running retailer.

There is a store called “Daddy Ultra Runs” down in Cocoa Beach, FL, and the owner, Hernan Garcia, is giving away my book with every shoe purchase from October through December…..at his own expense. Is this crazy? I don’t even know this guy. Why would a shop owner do something like this?

Let’s look at the reality here. 82% of runners sustain a running injury during their lifetime. Stats show that 42-62% of runners get hurt each and every year. Those numbers aren’t good! In fact some people would look at those numbers and say “running is dangerous – stay away!”

However, my experience treating runners daily for over a decade, and collecting objective information on their running stride in my lab has shown me that running isn’t really the problem. The problem has more to do with a) your body, or b) the way in which you run. While I spend my “day job” doing individual running assessments in my lab, I realize that I can’t see everyone, which is why I wrote the book, Anatomy for Runners. While its no substitute for a full one-on-one evaluation, its the best I can do until I’m able to successfully clone myself.

Let’s be honest, Your local running retailer is the first point of contact for runners. They see way more runners in a day than any local clinician does, and can take advantage of their exposure as educators. They can spread better information to both new and experienced runners, and together, we can work collectively to change those injury stats, and keep you running healthy into the future.

Thanks Hernan, and thanks to all of you who are spreading the word on the book!

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.