Saturday, June 30, 2012

Running, Orthotics and Minimalist Shoes

Last season I started sprinting using minimalist track spikes and playing ball hockey in quasi-minimalist indoor soccer shoes. Both worked well with the addition of my old orthotics. Running in a traditional stability shoe, even with the orthotic, was a completely different story. It was not comfortable and caused me a fair amount of discomfort.

Recently I purchased a new orthotic that was built from a computerized gait scan(as opposed to the foam box impression) that, supposedly, will result in a much improved product that better represents my overpronation in my left foot. Sounds like an experiment to me!

Today under sunny and humid conditions I tested the orthotic in my traditional stability running shoe. I chose a 3 kilometre course that included sidewalk concrete, pavement and both hard and soft pack dirt trail. I mixed in at the midway point five 50 yard sprints,one 100 yard sprint and two sets(6 reps) of rock jumps. Talk about sweating bullets but it felt pretty darn good.

During the test I experienced some discomfort in my right heel and noticed some tightness across my shoulders and the right side of my neck. I am feeling a "knot" in my usual trouble spot between my shoulder blades but otherwise feel OK considering this was my first mixed bag run since last September. Tomorrow will be the real test though to see how the body responded to the effort.At the time of this posting it seems the orthotic is an improvement over my previous version and made running(albeit a short distance) tolerable in a traditional shoe.

Next attempt I will use my new orthotic in my indoor soccer shoes and recreate the same course and distance with the aim of determining if the orthotic also improves running in a more minimalist designed shoe. If I can actually begin running in a traditional running shoe again that will be handy but if it also improves my comfort in minimalist footware I will consider picking up a set of Nike Frees or Saucony Kinervas.

The final test will be placing the new orthotic in my track spikes and running a variety of sprint intervals. Work in progress......stay tuned.

July 1 2012 - Round Two

Felt really good this morning other than a stiff left hamstring so decided to put the orthotic in my indoor soccer shoe and recreate yesterday's run/sprint/jump. Once upon the run it was soon aparent that the orthotic/soccer shoe was a definite improvement. The orthotic did make yesterday's run in a stablity runner better but there was no comparison to today. Not only did the minimalist soccer shoe give me an immediate mid/fore foot strike but just a better connection to the ground. My foot falls just felt more secure over the overly cushioned running shoe.

The sprints were far better as well. That same solid connection to the dirt track and a far better ability to cut corners.In all fairness the running shoe is not designed for sprinting nor cornering(at speed) like a soccer shoe. That said I ran a 100 yard sprint yesterday at 14:07 and today shaved that back substantially to 13.40.

Today's run also did not "lock" me up with little tension across my shoulders and neck. In traditional runners I feel like I need to constantly keep my posture back, as if the shoe is forcing my upper body forward. As a result I suffer from the tension and stiffness across my upper back, shoulders and neck. The low profile design of the soccer shoe lets me naturally maintain a better upright posture on the run. The new orthotic in combination with the soccer shoe also felt better so I am thinking maybe the sales pitch is true and it is an improvement in design and functionality? I can confirm that the robustness of the new orthotic prevents bunching, especially around the toe box. That in itself is a vast improvement over the old one that tended to shift under pressure.

The new orthotic was not cheap but if it improves my capability and comfort to run and sprint it was money well spent.

July 11 2012 - Round Three

After a short trail run and several sprint(warmup) drills I placed the new orthotic in my track spikes and ran eight-50 metre and three -100 metre sprints. The orthotics worked well in the shoe and did not add much additional weight. I also ran them sockless with no issues.

I know the barefoot purists would shudder at the thought of both orthotics and/or orthotics added to a minimalist type of shoe. I would counter by saying the orthotic was not used for cushioning but rather to address my overpronation.It all comes down to what works for you. In my case I like the ground feel of a minimalist shoe and how it helps my running gait and posture. I also like how the orthotic does alleviate my discomfort and helps mitigate impact stresses on my wonky back. Strange bedfellows but it seems to work for me.

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