Running Preggers: Shoes

Since the past few posts have been about shoes, I thought I should just continue the theme and just complicate the whole issue with being pregnant. There are obvious changes to a woman’s body that occur when she is pregnant that will impact what she wants and should put on her feet.

There are many articles out which stress how important it is for women who are pregnant to wear clothes and shoes that are comfortable. This is even more important if you are a runner. The recommended weight gain for a woman, with a healthy weight to start with, is 25 to 30 lbs during pregnancy. I’m not going to get into the details of where all that weight comes from, but it’s certainly not all fat (only about 7-8 lbs actually).

The weight alone is reason for you to consider your shoes. If you’re running in a shoe with minimal cushion you may want to consider running in something in the mid range. Going high cushion, if you’re not use to them, is not recommended because it can cause some instability in the ankles, knees and hips.

Pregnant runners do not want to do anything to add to the instability of their body since pregnancy hormones and an ever increasing belly does that enough. The hormone Relaxin causes our tendons and ligaments to relax in preparation for child birth. This begins to happen fairly early in pregnancy and continues until the very end.

No tendon or ligament is left behind. From head to toe your ligaments and tendons relax. This can cause instability in your hips, knees, and ankles. You’re larger belly also throws off your balance and stability. If you start to have some aches in your joints consider switching to a more supportive shoe or adding insoles, if you don’t have them already.

The hormone Relaxin also makes your feet flatten out more. The repeated flattening of your feet causes the tendons and ligaments to stretch out, possibly permanently. The translation, bigger shoes. You’re likely to go up a half size during pregnancy and may stay that way. You could also need wider shoes. Many women experience swelling in their feet and ankles too. When you do end up at the running store, and you will if you’re planning to run throughout your pregnancy, make sure you try on shoes with more support, more length and more width. Don’t just go for your tried and true shoes.

It can be hard to let go of your sleek running shoes and move into a clunky stability shoe that weights nearly double your racing flats, but preventing injury and running safe through your pregnancy is what’s important. You’ll have your favorites (just in a larger size) cradling your feet soon.

Weekly miles: With baby girl growing more now (25 weeks along), running longer has become more uncomfortable, so over the past two weeks I’ve switched from 3 two hour runs to running one hour a day.

What’s in a Shoe? Cushion.

Cushioning is another place where you’re going to see or hear the word minimalist. I’m going to stick with high cushion and low cushioned shoes as terms to avoid confusion.  Cushioning is usually talked about in millimeters (mm). As we have seen in recent years, there are shoes out there with barely anything under your feet, aka barefoot running shoes, and those with cushioning over an inch thick (an inch is 25.4 mm).

The theories on why one shoe is better for runners abound and often contradict one another. The idea behind high cushion is that it reduces impact forces and thus reduces injury. What does the research say? Research does not support a lower injury risk or less muscle fatigue with a higher cushioned shoe. It is the alignment of our lower leg that changes impact forces, and the alignment of our leg is changed due to sensory input our brain receives as we run.

Don’t fret all is not lost my high cushion loving runners. Here are some things we know about running with and without cushion.

Heel striking runners should not run in low cushioned shoes. It can be hard to tell if you are a heel, midfoot, or forefoot striker. The most reliable way is to look at the bottom of your shoe or have someone watch you run (when you’re not paying attention to your foot strike, because you’ll alter it). If you have more wear on the heel of your shoe, you’re a heel striker. About 80% of runners are, it’s not a bad thing, so long as you wear the right shoes. If the wear on the sole of your shoe is on the forefoot, you’re a forefoot striker. This is pretty rare and is usually sprinters and shorter distance runners.

Higher cushioned shoes can cause instability in the ankles and hips, especially, for beginning runners who have not developed the ankle and core strength to tolerate the instability. This instability can also be a problem on trails, which are already uneven. Some high cushioned shoes compensate by having a wider sole, although, this solves SOME of the instability it adds the problem of a wide ass shoe. A wider sole can get stuck between rocks easier. Also keep in mind that a wide ass shoe sole does not always translate into a wider toe box.

High cushioned shoes can protect the bottom of your feet from rocks, roots, and other nasties. As we age we lose some of the natural cushioning on the bottom of our feet making a higher cushioned shoe possibly a better option for runners as they age.

Heavier runners (over 170 for men and over 160 for women) are going to want a shoe with stiffer cushioning rather than the pillow soft stuff because of the compression that occurs when you land. If you have super soft cushion, it’s not providing you with much protection.

What I want you to take away from this whole series on shoes is everyone is an individual and research results are an average. Sometimes if researchers look at individual runners there is a difference. It could just be the runner’s belief (placebo effect) or other biomechanical differences between runners, but if it makes a difference for you, stick with the shoes or dump them as appropriate.

Wear what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to dry new stuff.

Happy running.

What’s in a Shoe? Heel to Toe Drop.

Why do we care about heel to toe drop? Well, because it’s one of the aspects of a shoe that have people thinking it could help or contribute to injuries.

The heel to toe drop of a shoe is the difference of the sole’s thickness at the heel compared to at the toe of the shoe. Most shoes have a heel to toe drop of 10-12 mm, while minimalist shoes have a heel to toe drop of less than 4 mm. To give you an idea, an inch is 25.4 mm

For clarity’s sake, I want to be clear on what I mean by minimalist in this post. There are two major tenets of minimalist: first, the amount of heel to toe drop and second, the amount of cushioning. This post is talking about heel to toe drop, which I’ll use instead of the term minimalist. If amount of cushioning comes into play in this post, it will be clearly indicated.  If anyone is interested the other tenets are weight, added motion control technology and flexibility. Here is a scientific article on how a minimalist shoe is defined.

The most recent research says there’s no difference in injury rate in runners who run in a lower drop shoe as compared to those who have a higher drop shoe so long as the runners who have switched to lower or zero drop have done so with an adequate transition, which we’ll talk about in a second.

A lower heel to toe drop could be good for people with a neuroma or arthritic changes in the big toe joint because it places less pressure on the forefoot. However, they may not be good for people with plantar fasciitis or Achilles/posterior tibial tendonitis because a lower heel to toe drop requires more extension in your Achilles, knees and hips.

Transition to a lower or zero drop shoe is critical, and it can take weeks, so before you buy your zero drop shoes, make sure you’re committed to the transition. You should start by wearing your zero drop shoes for a 1-2 miles of your runs and then increase a little each week. If you start to feel soreness in your lower leg or knee, don’t increase the distance at all and think about backing off a little. This is true whether your new to running or a more experienced runner because most people walk around in shoes with a 10-15 mm heel to toe drop.

Research on body weight compared injury rate in runners in the Asics Piranha, 9mm to 4.5 heel to toe drop, and Asics Gel Cumulus, 23 mm to 13 mm heel to toe drop.  The runners who were selected to run in the Pirahna’s did a 26-week transition to the shoes. The results showed runners over 165 lbs (the average for the study group) had an injury rate four times higher than those under 165 lbs. The researchers also looked at the type of weight, so was the higher body weight due to muscle mass or height as compared to someone who is overweight due to the amount of fat they are carrying on their body. The results showed no difference, which lead to the conclusion that it is the weight regardless of where it comes from that is correlated with the higher injury rate.

What does lower injury risk when it comes to heel to toe drop? Running in shoes with different heel to toe drops. This makes your musculoskeletal system adapt and become stronger under different circumstances.

Happy running. Next up is amount of cushion.

 

What’s in a Shoe? Stability.

Everyone’s Feet pronate. Pronation is when your foot rolls inward to distribute the forces of impact as your foot makes contact with the ground. Normally, this is about 15%. The arch of your foot is the biggest factor in your pronation.

There are three basic types of shoes as far as stability goes. A neutral shoe, which allows your foot to move in its natural way; a stability shoe, which gives your foot some assistance to not over pronate; and a motion control shoe, which gives your foot maximal support to not over pronate.

If you go into a running store to purchase your shoes, they are likely to watch you run and walk in bare feet and then with various shoes on. They are trying to determine if you pronate, supinate beyond what’s normal. Their recommendations for shoes typically follow this pattern:

People with normal arches will typically run in either a neutral or stability shoe.

Those with low arches or flat feet typically use a stability or motion control shoe. Flat footed runners typically overpronate meaning their foot rolls in farther than it should toward the big toe. Because of this, a stability shoe is usually a good option. However, if you see that the outside of your shoe’s sole is being worn faster than the rest, you’ve got too much control going on in the shoe and need to switch to something neutral.

Heavier runners (men between 160-180 and women 140-160) who over pronate will likely need more than just the average stability shoe. Look into the motion control shoes to help with the overpronation.

Those with high arches under-pronate (supinate) and so typically do best in a neutral shoe. A little note here: Women have a greater quadricep angle and wear down the outside of their shoes more quickly than men, but it doesn’t mean you supinate.

Over or under pronation can place you at high risk for particular types of injuries. Overpronation causes extra stress and tightness in the muscles. Too much motion in your foot can cause calluses, bunions, runner’s knee, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis.

Under pronation (supination) places extra stress on the foot, which could lead to you developing ITband syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and plantar faciitis.

The problem with all of this information is the research doesn’t really support it. It’s all theory. Now, I’m not saying you should throw out your tried and true running shoes and go with something different as far as stability. What the research supports is choosing the amount of stability that you are most comfortable in. This may take some trial and error. You can pull on a pair of shoes and they feel great in the store, but when you take them for a run, they just don’t work. This is why you should always check the return policy of a store before you buy the shoes.

Pronation can change as you become a more experienced runner because the muscles and tendons of your feet and ankles become stronger. When I first began running, I overpronated, then I supinated for a while. When you go to get new shoes, try some different things on. You may find your feet have changed and you’re more comfortable in a different shoe.

The stability of a shoe won’t necessarily impact your ability to run faster either. The issue will be the weight of the shoe. Heavier shoes are going to slow you down. For every 100 g  of shoe weight you can anticipate a 0.8% decrease in speed. The more stability you have in a shoe, the heavier it’s going to be.

The big take away from all this is, the stability of a shoe isn’t going to reduce your injury risk. Go with what is comfortable, but check in every once in a while to make sure your favorite shoe, is still your favorite.

Happy running. Next up is heel to toe drop.

What’s in a Shoe?

Overwhelmed by the shoe choices at your local running store? Well, you’re not alone and if you shop online there are even more options. A common occurrence in the running community is that whenever we have a new ache or pain we blame our shoes. And yes, shoes can contribute to aches and pains, but we like to blame shoes because it’s an easy fix and it means it’s not us.

We don’t like to think it’s our training load, lack of strength, a muscle imbalance or some other thing that will take months to change. We want it to be something easy, so we can get back to running as much as we want as soon as we want.

This desire for shoes to fix our problems and make us the best runner possible has lead me to my next series of posts.  There will be a post on the following shoe features stability, heel to toe drop, and cushion. In each post I’ll cover things like will it reduce the risk of injury? Is it best for a certain type of foot arch, pronation, wide feet, foot strike? Is it best for a specific surface? Is it best for a beginning runner/experienced runner? And will they make me faster?

First, I want to cover some general shoe information. You should replace your shoes every 300-500 miles. The range can change depending on the durability of the shoe itself and on you as a runner, such has how hard you land with each stride. Running on the road will wear your shoes out faster than running on a trail, but the way you run has more of an impact than where you run. As you become a more experienced runner, you’ll know when your shoes are worn out. If you’re new to running, write down when you bought your shoes on the tongue of the shoe or on your training calendar and then after 200 miles go to the running store and run on their treadmill in a new pair of the same shoe you’re running in.

Owning more than one pair of running shoes and alternating between them is a good idea, but the upfront costs sucks. You can buy two pairs of the same shoe and get benefits because it takes about 24 hours for a shoe to fully recover from a run. So, if you run two a days, or you run with less than 24 hours between workouts you’ll have fresh shoes. It’s even better if they are different brands with different features.

If you are a runner you also have to think about what you have on your feet when you’re not running. You may be increasing your risk of injury by wearing unsupportive casual or dress shoes all day long. Replacing your everyday shoes regularly is important too. You can’t be walking/standing around all day in crappy shoes and then expect to stress your feet during a long run and be just fine.

Lacing your shoe up properly also ensures that the shoe is able to function like the manufacture intends. If they are too loose or too tight, they are not doing what you need them to do and they’re not going to work for your feet. If you can slip your foot in and out easily, it’s too loose. If you can pry your shoe off easily with the other foot, it’s too loose. If you feel tingling in your foot, it’s too tight. If the top of your foot gets sore, it could also be too tight.

Buying the right size of running shoe is obviously important for comfort and for functionality. Running shoes should be ½ to one size too big because your feet tend to swell during long runs. Many people have one foot that is longer than the other or a toe on one foot that stretches out further than on the other foot. Make sure you’re getting shoes that fit your longest foot, including its toes. They also need to be wide enough for your toes to splay (spread out) when you land and push off the ground.

If you wear orthotics in your shoes, make sure and take them with you to the running store because it will change they type of shoe you will likely buy. Orthotics or over-the-counter insoles provide support to your arch, a running store may recommend a shoe with more support if they don’t know you put in an orthotic or how much support the orthotic provides.

Happy running. Next up is Stability.

Shoe Swap

running shoes

Do you ever see the new shoe reviews? Of course you do. I’m here to say, “Beware.” The reviews can suck you into thinking your shoes are not right for you or that you can get better ones which will prevent or be the fix all for any nagging injuries you have.

It’s not just the shoe reviews which can prompt a change in shoe. Sometimes you just walk into the running store and there they all are beautifully displayed along the wall.

Our running friends get new shoes and talk about how great they are. You look down at their feet and see the clean and vibrant colors and think, “It’s about time for new shoes, right?”

Every year there are runners who are forced into changing shoes as new models are released and no longer work for us or  have bothersome aspects,  which,  stir up the desire to find something else.

There are a million reasons we decide to change shoe brands or models.  Despite the reason for us changing shoes, there are some precautions runners should take or possible issues they should think about as they make the change.

Make sure you find out about the construction of the shoe and how it is different or similar to what you are currently running in. Running store employees have quite a bit of information in this area. They talk to a lot of runners who give them personal reviews. You can also search for reviews online. Even if you don’t order shoes from online sources, many have review or comments. Also look at the website for the manufacturer. They usually detail the updates and changes from one model to another.

Toe box width, heel to toe drop, arch support, and stability are all important aspects of a shoe you should be asking about. Once you know this info, turn the shoe over in your hand and check out the tread. Is it aggressive enough for where you run? How stiff is the sole of the shoe?

Take the shoe for a test drive. Many running stores will let you run on a treadmill to feel the shoe. This is never enough time for you to really assess the comfort level of the shoe.  And it’s not the ideal conditions unless you run on treadmills for the majority of your running.

Pay attention to how the foot feels in the shoe, is there anything rubbing, does the heel fit well in the heel cup, do your toes have enough space to wiggle, and is the shoe supportive/tight enough in your arch. Make sure there is not a place on your foot where there is more pressure than other places.

There are two good times to go try on shoes: first, after a long run, and second, after you have worked all day. The reason is, your feet swell throughout the day making them bigger at the end of the day. Your feet also swell during running. The point is make sure you have enough room in the toe box.

Many stores also have a 30 day return policy. However, this may be a bit tricky if you’ve run a bunch of miles and the shoes are dirty in any way. Check into the return policy when you are switching brands or models.

My final advice is, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Is There Ever Too Much Cushion?

shoe love

Last post I wrote about the three major types of shoes, so now let’s talk about another aspect of shoes: cushion and zero drop. Shoe companies like to tell you running in their shoes is like running on a cloud. But a cloud may not be ideal running terrain because you can’t see what your foot is going to land on if its sunk into that white fluffy goodness.

High cushion shoes are gaining a pretty good following. Each season more brands come out with their own version of high cushion shoes. Hoka One One were the first ones which hit runners by storm. High cushion shoes are great for runners who have had stress fractures and those who are heavier. They are very soft to run in compared to other shoes. There are a few things to be aware of though. First, they reduce the amount of feedback you get from the ground. This can result in a turned ankle because you don’t know what is under your foot fast enough to shift your weight. Second, for some runners they feel less table because of the extra cushion and give in the sole.

Minimalist shoes have also received a lot of hype. When people refer to minimalist shoes they can mean one of two things either zero drop (which we’ll cover next) or the amount of thickness of the foot bed and sole of the shoe. A minimalist shoe gives you the most feedback from the ground. Feedback is very helpful especially for trail runners. You need to know the angle of the trail, where the rocks and roots are, and whether the rock you chose to jump on is stable. These sensations are reduced in a shoe with a thicker sole.

Zero drop shoes are shoes that have zero to a very low (3mm or less) drop from your heel to your toe. Most shoes have a 9-12 mm drop from heel to toe. Most minimal shoes are also zero drop or 3mm or less. This makes sense since they don’t have a lot of added cushion. Zero drop shoes put your foot in it’s normal position on the ground. It allows the Achilles tendon to fully extend and it makes sure your foot, ankle, knee, and hip are lined up like they should be.

With zero drop shoes you can’t just jump into them and go out and run. You have to transition to them. The tendons and ligaments in your feet are used to the 9-12 mm drop. Running in zero drop will extend that Achilles tendon and can cause an injury if you transition too quickly. I recommend alternating between the two pairs of shoes until your feet get used to the zero drop. If you do experience sore ness in your feet or lower legs, transition more slowly.

Here is the most important thing to take away from these last two posts: FIND SHOES YOU ARE COMFORTABLE IN. You’ll be spending a lot of time in them and you want it to be enjoyable. If your shoes feel uncomfortable, try a different pair. Many running stores have a 30 day guarantee so long as you don’t trash the shoes. Clean them up with some glass cleaner and brush out anything in the tread before you take them back in.