I Found My New Sole-Mate(s)

Brooks PureCadence

Dear Mizuno,

We had a nice “run” the last nine years, but I’m breaking up with you.

Love, Amanda

I can’t lift weights right now, but I’ve discovered I can run with little to no back pain. YAY! I’ve been neglecting a lot of things in order to research running shoes. Let me share my injury history and some of what I learned…

For a long time I have been suffering massive setbacks due to poor alignment. I find this issue affects many runners in myriad ways; the most common ones being runner’s knee, iliotibial band syndrome and shin splints. The funny thing is that I was one of those “lucky ones with no running issues” for 20 years, but then my arches dropped due to years of wearing combat boots with extremely poor (i.e. non-existant) support. Once my arches dropped my knees turned in and started hurting and my hips became perpetually sore. My anterior rotation (always having my back arched with my butt sticking out rather than tucked) became a huge problem, tightening my hip flexors and eventually leading to a massive decline in my core strength and stability. Being inherently inflexible has never been helpful in any of my athletic endeavors.

Having left foot surgery, in all honesty, was more painful to come back from than right hip surgery but I think that was because I had no physical therapy, as opposed to excellent care post hip-surgery. My foot is still very stiff (uphills KILL!) and my right hip tends to painfully snap – iliopsoas tendon snap, known more plainly as the major hip flexor muscle/tendon snapping over the front of the pelvis, but I will live. The bottom line now is that I am relatively healthy (minus a back sprain/separated rib but that is 100% my fault). I spent the last couple weeks heavily researching running shoes, orthodics, gate-alaysis, etc to make sure I don’t do anything to “mess this up” when I start a marathon training regimen on July 16th. I also spoke extensively with my orthopedic surgeon, PM&R doc, podiatrist, physical therapist, coach (who happens to be an MD – and seriously awesome), chiropractor, acupuncturist (who just happens to be an Ironman as well) AND sports massage therapist to make sure I covered every angle. In my perfect world all of these people sit down at a table together with me and compare notes. Not gonna happen.

If you are a serious distance runner I think the major factor to consider when getting new shoes is that they will not only effect your feet, but your knees and hips as well. And shoes are only part of the equation; alignment plays a huge part. The following are topics I’d like to briefly mention but will eventually dedicate whole blog posts to individually.

Arches – Consider your arch height. You will fall into one of three categories, high, normal, and low and/or flat. On top of this you may have a rigid arch that doesn’t collapse very much upon impact.

Arch “wet test”

Pronation – Pronation is normal; it’s “over” or “under” pronation that creates problems. High arches and bowled legs tend to indicate under-pronators and flatter feet usually correlate to over-pronaters. By all means make sure you have a professional opinion on where you fall! Doctors are great but anyone worth their salt at a running shop (I love “Road Runner Sports” and “A Runner’s Circle”) can take a look at you, watch you walk and run, and point you in the right direction.

Everyone falls into a category

Foot Strike – In my case this is the most important aspect of figuring out what new shoes to buy. If you check the bottom of a well-used pair (250 miles +) of running shoes you will find a “wear pattern”. My heels are all but worn down to nothing after less than 300 miles because I am a big time “heel-striker”. Most people are heel strikers. If you are a heel striker and don’t have many injuries I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t fall into that category! I have been working on a “fore-foot strike”; landing on the ball of my foot. This puts more strain on the calf muscles and achilles, but greatly reduces the impact on the heel, knees and hips. I suspect my thousands of miles as a heel striker amplified the alignment issues that occurred as a result of collapsed arches. If you want ditch the heel strike I suggest you make the change slowly, giving the feet, ankles and legs plenty of time to adjust to the new dynamics. Start my shortening your stride; your foot should land underneath you, not reaching out ahead like a deer bounding through the meadow (says the girl that takes the longest reaching strides ever). Next, get a pair of running shoes with a deeper heel cup. This almost forces you to shift all your impact points forward, brining you into better alignment.

Orthodics – If you have prescription orthodics that are thick and offer a lot of support you may want to consider a neutral shoe. For a while I was wearing “support” sneakers along with the additional support of my orthodics which lead to “over supporting” my feet. By all means discuss this with your podiatrist and size up if necessary. I wear a size 9.5 women’s shoe, 10 sneaker and 10.5 sneaker when I have my heavy duty orthodics inserted.

So, after my hours and hours of research I decided a few days ago that the Brooks PureCadence was my new everyday running shoe (3-7 mile runs) and the Saucony Ride 5 was my new distance shoe (8 mile + runs). I went to my run shop today and kept my preferences to myself but discussed all my issues and got my gait evaluated by Robin. He selected several shoes for me and low and behold; my already-planned-for shoes were in the “running”. I test drove them and they felt great. I’ll be alternating two pairs of the Brooks during the week (in pink and purple of course) and using the Saucony’s on my weekend long runs. All will be used with my prescription sport orthodics.

I guess I can go back to my book editing, French lessons, piano playing and actual WORK now. Right after I take these babies on their maiden-voyage.

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