RW article on "Minority" foot types

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  • My background in terms of sports is simply that of a keen amateur except for a brief stint as a cycle courier in London during student days. Otherwise used to row at University and for a few years afterwards where we did a fair bit of running for off-water training during winter months. Once having a life became more important I took up running and have since become slightly obsessive in terms of researching magazines/internet/books/etc. I take quite an academic approach to studying it all - the Lore of Running has stacks of references to chase up and I love trying to determine what it is that helps the elites get such ridiculously fast times! (hence keen participation on threads such as Base Training and any discussion of technique)

    As for wuk, I'm your man if your company needs its whole email system replacing/upgrading/etc...
  • Podiatrist

    10 years experience, practice only biomechanics/gait analysis/foot orthotics

    Searcher for the truth

    Runner (Heel striker ;-b)


  • In terms of sport, I have been running for 14 years, and run for a club (in fact the same club as Chaos unless I'm mistaken!)

    I don't really know much about this subject from an "academic" point of view. I started reading the thread and became very interested as the conversation unfurled.

    My contributions have focused on trying to understand better points other people have made, and also trying to see whether I can get any insight as to whether I can do a half marathon in a pair of light racing shoes... I haven't read Gordon Piries book, although I may do now.

    The idea that the shoe companies are interested purely in making money of course makes perfect sense...

    Job-wise I'm an accountant :-)
  • Club runner 3 years.
    Heel Striker
    Human Biology Undergrad
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    I can't add anything to this thread, but have found it fascinating to read. A quick question, I've been wearing 'performance' shoes Mizuno Maverick, Asics DS trainers and Saucony Spy for both training and racing, but I've added sorbothane insoles in replace of the originals in the shoes. What are your views on this?

    I have been told I've got good foot and knee biomechanics, although I slightly overpronate. I have a long term lower back problem, which is why I put the sorbothane insoles in my trainers and for me it's worked!

    I have thought of wearing racing flats, but again adding sorbothane insoles, but would I lose the benefit of racing shoes by adding shock absorbiing insoles?
  • I couldn't resist it - a short exerpt from Pirie's book (written in 1990)

    The most common misconception concerning style becomes immediately apparent by looking closely at a typical pair of modern running shoes. I find it impossible to find running shoes today which are not heavily padded at the heel, and which have a relatively small amount of protective material under the ball of the foot - especially under the toes. Any athlete who has grown up wearing these shoes unfortunately comes to the conclusion that it is proper to run by striking the ground with the heel first. This assumption follows from the way the shoes are designed, but is absolutely incorrect. You will not find athletes in the Olympic Games racing on their heels in heavily-padded running "boots".

    An entire generation of runners is being destroyed (and/or prevented from achieving their full potential) because of having to run in shoes which make correct technique impossible. This undoubtedly contributes to the millions of injuries which keep millions of runners from training fully every year.

    It is important that a runner uses correct technique from the very first to the very last step of every run. The coach must begin teaching proper technique before any hard training is attempted. It is never too late to begin running correctly, no matter how long you have been running improperly. You can change! Running technique must be viewed as a skill and must be practised like any other skill until it is mastered, and becomes second nature.
  • ....

    Let us start at the very beginning, with the person standing to attention in bare feet. Raise yourself up onto tiptoes, and overbalance forward. You must take a step forward to keep from falling over. From the position which results (it is impossible to step forward onto the heel), you should begin to run at a slow velocity - but with very light, quick steps - making sure to feel the stress on the toes. The runner's legs should remain flexed at the knees. A feeling of "sitting" with the seat down "like a duck" is employed with the body upright. An athlete who runs correctly will actually appear to be shorter than other runners of the same height who are not running properly. By keeping his knees flexed and by landing on the ball of the foot on each step, and with the foot beneath the body, the runner will spring along very quietly. As the weight of the runner's body rides over the foot, the entire sole will rest flat on the ground - do not remain like a ballet dancer on your toes throughout the weight-bearing phase.

    The runner will generate more power and cover more ground with each stride by taking advantage of the springiness and power of the muscles in the feet and forelegs as well as the thighs. The runner's tempo should be at least three steps per second. A person running correctly will make virtually no noise as he moves along. A conscious effort must be made to run as lightly as possible. The runner must be aware of what his or her feet and knees are doing at this early stage (I think about my feet and knees, but avoid visual checks. Do not glance down constantly like many runners do, seeing if their legs are "looking good"). Try to maintain a quicker tempo than is natural. Don't lean forward.

    A runner whose style causes him or her to overstride, striking the ground heel-first with straightened knee joints, is running on a very short road to the doctor's office.

    During this initial teaching phase, the runner should hold his arms close to the body without any movement at all, and concentrate exclusively on what his feet and legs are doing. The ankles, calves and quadriceps are going to be working much harder than before. The runner needs to run only about 50 metres in this manner (stressing the balls of the feet, with quick, short steps which utilise all of the muscles in the feet, calves and thighs). Don't lean forward.
  • I've downloaded the book and will be reading it over the next few days
  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭
    I thought the good thing about running was that it was straightforward - you put one foot in front of the other and do what comes naturally.

    I naturally heel-strike. It's the way I run. I don't want to faff around with my technique (such as it is!). I don't suffer from particular injury problems, although I run in Nike shoes that definitely have a built-up heel. That's why I like them - they suit my running style.

    To say that "an entire generation of runners is being destroyed" by such shoes is just plain ole bollox. I've read Pirie's book, and he comes across as arrogant and opinionated to the point of conceited.

    Can we just assume that we all have our own way of running and try to get away from this "you're doing it wrong, my technique is better" stuff?

    Most running shoes have built-up heels because that is what most people want. If there was a market for shoes specifically designed for forefoot strikers, the shoe companies would cater to it. They possibly do already, I don't know. Nike, Adidas et al are not known for missing market opportunities. It's not as if we live in an information drought.

    Rant over. Stand easy, men.
  • Fair points Muttley.

    It can be hard to strike a balance between getting all enthusiastic about something new that one has tried and therefore wanting to let everyone else know about in case it might help them; and on the other hand not implying a certain element of "you're doing it wrong, my way is better". Of course writing about it all in a text-based forum doesn't help either - No amount of :-), ;-), :-0 's can replace non-verbal communication when it comes to discussing differing views.

    I hope you'd agree however that it's ok to debate, discuss and indeed raise the issue - after all this is a running forum and we all come here for advice and guidance. I personally think it is as valid to suggest gait alteration as it is for others to suggest someone has to buy Motion Control shoes at £80 every few months to correct their problems. They are both recommendations borne out of personal experiences. Full on Jehovah Witness-style Evangelism is not on of course but we're not THAT bad!!!!!!

    Re: shoes for FF strikers - most Distance track/XC spikes are FF only, however there does seem to be an opportunity missed for road equivalents except in the rare case of shoes like the RC150 or the Adidas Mangostin which is no longer produced.

    [and most would agree about Pirie btw)
  • I agree that Pirie's book is hard to swallow because he is so opiniated and misses no oportunity to impress you with his unrecognised greatness. Having said that when I read it 18 months ago I was staggered by its content as it completely contradicted everything that I'd read (mostly in RW) previously.

    I would have left it as the rantings of a sad old git except that it rang true with my own experience of being constantly injured on my Asics Nimbus and previous cushioned shoes as recommended by my local shoe shop and completely free of all niggles when I concentrated on fell running and using Walshes (even on road aswell).

    I thought I'd give Pirie the benefit of the doubt and tried to adopt a forefoot strike but after a couple of weeks I found that I simply couldn't do it. I went out and bought some racing shoes and tried again ... 18 months later and I haven't had any more injuries and I'm still running in the same battered shoes after nearly 1,000 miles - so much for changing your shoes after 400 miles because the cushioning has gone. I also once ran 3 miles barefoot which felt absolutely fine at the time but went red raw afterwards.

    I'm not a naturally efficient fast runner, I'm mid pack with a top speed of around 7:00 miles (over very short races). I generally do less than 30 miles a week (half of that being a long run).

    Personally I would like a shoe exactly like XC spikes but without the hard plastic. Since you can;t get RC150's anymore my next pair of road shoes will be my current Walsh racers with the studs cut off.
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    The first time I wore Walshes in a race I couldn't walk for 3 days after! They've been ok since, but wouldn't dare to wear them in a road race.

    I did run a couple of miles in bare feet though (had to take shoes off because of severe blisters)and had no problems from that.

    I'm going to add that the impact forces are what cause many injuries and for those of us with a weakness through wear and tear (age) or a birth defect might be more at risk from wearing shoes without some protection. Which is why I add sorbothane insoles (nobody commented yet!)to my shoes to prevent injury or upsetting my lower back problem.

  • Muttley - I have no doubt Pirie was an arrogant and conceited man, but that doesn't mean he is wrong.

    However, I'm not so dogmatic. If you (or anyone else) enjoy your running, if you are happy with the way you run, satisified with the pace at which you run and are relatively injury-free then that is the main thing.

    It's interesting though that you say you "naturally heel strike". How do you know? Have you ever run in anything other running shoes with a built up heel? Have you ever tried to run in bare feet. Try it one day; if you land on your heel you'll do yourself serious damage. You will 'naturally' land on your forefoot, I'm certain.
  • TomB, what I find interesting is that both yourself and I have stuck with forefoot striking. In fact I know very few people that revert to heel striking once they have tried forefoot. My partner now forefoot strikes and she is by no means a fast runner - 2 hour half marathon sort of pace.


    I've no problem with people that want to run differently to me. What does make me laugh is when club mates tell me I'm running all wrong or when I read stuff like the quote Pantman opens this thread with.
  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭
    Bazza, I have tried it. I walk on the balls of my feet when barefoot, but when I run I go to heel-striking.

    I was merely trying to say the argument has been getting a little dogmatic and prescriptive.

    There's room for all of us in this r*nning lark.
  • A word in defence of Pirie - that book was never professionally edited and stands as a very rapidly written draft. In writing it, he has (I believe) made a huge contribution to the sport. It's free availability is a wonderful rarity too. If he comes across as a little arrogant, who cares? He was a great runner and a very clear thinker. The class system was perhaps a little more pronounced in his day and I wouldn't blame him for any chips on his shoulder.

    There is certainly room for all running styles (still hoping to get the hang of quadrupedal running one day, but that is another story!), and humble apologies if I ever sound evangelical - it's really not my style.

    I would urge young runners (who have been thwarted by injury) to give forefoot runnng a try - very little to lose and a lot to gain. I can't help feeling I've missed out on something having had so many years of crappy results and frustrating injuries only now to discover I can run at the front with minimal training.

    I won't bang on about shoe company conspiracies - we can all believe what we want.

    Perhaps someone could post Pirie's anti-sorbothane paragraph for Hilly - my computer is playing up at the moment - I'll post it at lunchtime if not before.
  • I was just going to say, Hilly, that the purist would contend that extra shock-absorbing could actually make things worse by reducing the proprioception (?) of your foot. It's related to the business whereby if you run barefoot your body is far more aware of the hardness of the ground and thus naturally uses it's own shock-absorbers more effectively (i.e. quads/calves) - some of the academic studies quoted earlier in this thread explain it better than I can. They are quite heavy as well aren't they?
  • P.S. Rob - Yes, you've got me sussed!
    (not that I try to hide it)

    Couldn't make it to the club session last night but hope to be down in the week and possibly spectate at Watford (as no places left).
  • "The second point concerns the material that makes up the sole of your shoe, because if the sole
    is too soft, you will lose stability. Any soft, mushy material between your foot and the ground
    will decrease the amount of stability the shoe provides, and will also absorb much of the power
    you should be using to run with (try running on a trampoline or a high jump pad; it is simply not
    possible). Buy shoes that are not too soft, therefore, and do not under any circumstances put
    anything soft inside your shoes. You will defeat the purpose of buying a firm, lightweight shoe in
    the first place. Instead of looking for padding, learn to run properly, so that you stop punching
    holes in the ground with your feet."
    G.Pirie
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    I don't think the sorbothane insoles (flat bed ones)are heavy. The doublestrike are, but I don't use those anymore.

    I found that when I don't put them in my trainers my back goes (inflammation causing pain and spasms.)

    When I ran with no shoes due to blisters on one of my runs I found that I could only do so at a very easy pace. This was one to do with the amount of shock I felt on landing and two the little stones that made me curse! :o)



  • Dear all,

    I have read with great interest this particular thread and especially your thoughts on the running footwear manufacturers and would therefore like to add the thoughts of somebody from within one of these money grabbing corporations!

    All your points are very interesting and I'm sure very valid and the benefits of forefoot running/POSE method of running I'm sure has absolute credibility, in fact you can not argue with millions of years of evolution during which the human skeletal system has evolved into an ultra efficient unit.

    However as a manufacturer of running footwear (I speak purely on behalf of Mizuno) our running footwear product range is developed in order to ensure that every runner who walks into a running specialist store can walk out with a pair of shoes that meets their biomechanical, psychological and hopefully financial requirements. With that in mind you will find shoes that have plenty of heel cushioning for heavy heel strikers and plenty of medial support for over pronators. We also ensure we have products in the range that cater for the needs of forefoot strikers, with adequate forefoot cushioning and flexibility, as well as racing shoes that are built far closer to the ground and allow a much greater 'road feel'.

    In my opinion a runners shoe choice has a lot to do with their individual biomechanics, level of fitness and personal preferences and in my experience no two runners needs are quite the same.

    I am sure the debate will continue and it reinforces my opinion that runners are probably some of the most informed sports people out there.

    Happy Running
    Simon@Mizuno

    My background by the way is past 800m runner (and 1 time London Marathon runner!), 2 years technical representative at a major sports brand and 8 years (and counting !)as a running shoe product manager
  • You might be interested to know that at the Pose Clinic I attended in Kingston earlier this year, the Russian chap who developed the method of teaching it was actually wearing a pair of very ancient-looking Mizuno racing flats! I suspect they were well past the recommended age/mileage guidelines since obviously the principle is that it wouldn't matter if the EVA was no longer shock-absorbing anyway.
  • So why have you taken the wave spacer off the market - the phantoms are way too big in the heel.

    And forefoot cushioning is not the issue - we already have enough cushioning. The shoe cushioning prevents us from using it.
  • Simon - I appreciate your comments. I have a pair of Mizuno Ekiden racers and they are superb. But I don't just race in them, and I would recommend them for foresoot strikers - even if that's not what they were intended for. I think they are aimed at up to 10k, but I've done plenty of long runs in them no problem.
  • Are they still available though...?

    I wanted to try some Mizunos in the "Mizuno Challenge" they did recently where you get to try the shoes for 10 days or so. I ordered Wave Spacers but was told they were discontinued and that the Phantoms were the lightest Mizunos now available in the UK. WAAAAAY too much support, cushioning, heel lift and midsole.

    Are the Ekidens still around?
  • I'm not sure. I got them last year from Bourne Sports, and was recently thinking about getting another pair but I haven't specifically looked around. I hope I can find some!

  • This is a great thread, but a bit confusing too.

    What currently available shoes would you recommend?
  • daps.

























    I just like the word.
  • Mizuno Simon
    Only one marathon?

    I hope some of your other chappies have run multiple ones and ultras
  • Don't worry we've got plenty of people who have run plenty of marathons and ultra's as well poncy track runners like me !!
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