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.

Realistic Goal Setting

Alright, you’ve picked your goal race for 2018 now the training begins. There are a million training programs on the internet for every distance you want to run. There are also many different books you can buy that will help you construct your very own training plan.

One thing you have to keep in mind when you’re developing your training schedule is what is your goal finish time? Deciding what a reasonable goal is for you to finish a particular distance in can be challenging. Your goal finish time needs to be realistic based upon your prior finish times, your experience running the distance, and your training (consistency and workouts).

If you want to improve your finish time for a specific distance, you need to first ask yourself are you willing and able to put in the training to achieve it. You may have to train for longer and you will have to train harder. Training harder means getting the extra rest you’ll need and extra attention to your nutrition (before, during, and after race day). Your training will have to jump up a priority for you to remain consistent in completing each session but also completing them at the effort you need to be putting in.

Pull up your prior race times and think about the amount and type of training you put in to hit those times. If you’ve kept good documentation of your race times, you should be able to see where you struggled in a race. Think about the struggles you faced during the races that set you back and ways you can improve in those situations. Did you struggle climbing hills or descending them? Did the heat or the cold suck up all your energy? Is nighttime slowing you down?

All of these things can be addressed in your training along with many others like hydration and nutrition. Once you’ve identified areas where you know you can improve, pick one or two. If you have more than two or three, trying to address them all isn’t reasonable and could lead to over training or just plain burn out.

Here’s the hard part. How much time can you realistically cut off your prior finish times? Figure out what your average finish time has been. So, my last few 100s have been 32:44, 21:33, 28:42, 23:54, and 35:12. That’s quiet the range! But they are very different races and my training was different too. The two sub- 24’s are at flat races. A goal of 20 hours is realistic for a flat 100 for me. It would me taking 55 seconds off per mile. The 32:44 and 28:54 are at the same race a year between them. I trained much harder for that 28:54 and I got lost during the race. The race was very mountainous. A goal time of 26-27 hours at a mountain race would be realistic, but I would have to train hard and stay focused throughout training.

As you come up with a realistic goal, break it down into minutes per mile and then think about the terrain you’ll be traversing, is it still realistic? If you’ve made significant gains in your performance dropping 1-2 minutes per mile may be doable in a 100-mile event. It’s not in a shorter event. The shorter the event the less time you’ll be able to cut off each mile.

Don’t forget about the rest, the harder you train the more important rest becomes. Rest is when you build.  Schedule your rest days and your rest weeks. No rest means no improvements and high risk of injury.

Running Preggers: Trail, road, or treadmill?

Sometimes we don’t have much of a choice about where to run, but some of us are lucky and have many options. Over the last few years, close to 100% of my running has been on trails. It has been amazing, but now I have to adjust back to being more flexible about where I run. I hate having to run anywhere other than in the mountains. I really do. But in reality, I know that there are actually few runners who are able to run exclusively on the trails.

Running while pregnant makes you take a lot more into consideration when you are choosing your running routes. Safety and listening to your body become even more important when you’re pregnant. I’m not saying we runners throw caution to the wind when we’re not pregnant, but when it’s just you, you’re more willing to deal with uncomfortable conditions and slightly higher risks.

During the first trimester, and longer for some women, you must contend with being tired and not feeling well (morning sickness). Both of these can put a huge damper on running, especially, if you have the option of sleeping in later and just running on the treadmill or road instead of driving to the mountains.

Throwing up while running is not something unusual in the ultrarunning world, but it’s also not something we want to deal with during every run either. Choosing a short loop route closer to home or a treadmill when morning sickness is lurking around every corner is more appealing. Then if something goes wrong, you have the option of stopping right away and getting home or at least somewhere more comfortable quickly.

The trails are ideal for the increased urination problem, at least for those who have no qualms about peeing in the woods. Roads make it difficult because you have to plan routes with bathrooms at regular intervals. However, that may not solve the problem. In my experience, there is no predictability to when you will need to go. Sometimes it’s every thirty minutes; sometimes it’s every ten. I can’t seem to make it longer than 45 minutes when running. What’s worse is you may not realize you need to go until you bounce just right and then you have to go RIGHT NOW.

Falling is something you want to think about too. When I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t like falling, but the chance of falling never stopped me from bombing down the side of a mountain. Now, I think a lot more about the risk of falling a route poses. Early in pregnancy falling is really unlikely to harm the baby. Even into the second trimester, baby has a lot of room to move and is protected by muscles and amniotic fluid. As baby gets bigger, they don’t have anywhere to go to get out of the way of an impact making the risk of falling increase throughout pregnancy. The shift in your center of gravity adds to the likelihood of falling too. As does the instability of your joints because of the hormone relaxin (more on this in another post).

Weather is another thing that plays a bigger roll in deciding on a running route when you’re pregnant. I’ve always said there’s no bad weather, only bad gear, but when you’re pregnant, that’s different. Extreme high and low temperatures have a bigger impact on you when you’re pregnant and ice. Rain shouldn’t be too problematic as long as you stay warm. Ice and snow are another problem entirely (see previous paragraph).

As far as calories go, they get used up quicker the further along you are in your pregnancy. In the first trimester you shouldn’t need to adjust calorie intake. Starting with the second and then throughout the third (and if breastfeeding) you’re going to need more calories, 300-500 extra per day. This could mean taking something small on shorter runs. A two-hour run was no problem without calories for me, now that I’m just past twenty weeks pregnant I’m starting to feel the drag in the last 30 minutes.

Air quality is the one thing runners, along with everyone else, pregnant or not, should take into consideration when deciding where to run. You need your lungs and heart. Running when pollution is thick in the air will increase your risks for health problems in the present and in the future. One thing that the ULTRA research study has uncovered is a higher rate of allergies and exercise induced asthma in endurance runners and one of the hypothesizes is because we’re out in the pollution more than the average person, we develop these types of problems more than others.  When you’re breathing for two, it’s even more important for you bite the bullet and run indoors on a track or treadmill.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy New Years!

My running update: I’ve developed a bit of pain in my left knee, which I think is begin caused by all the treadmill running and lack of foam rolling. I’ve backed off my miles this week, but plan to bump them back to the 36 miles as soon as my knee is feeling better.

Winter Running Tricks

Here are some ideas/tips/tricks of the winter running trade to help you get through the cold months to come.

  1. Don’t want to buy Yak Trax? That’s okay. You can take an oldish pair of running shoes that still have some decent life left in them and modify them. Go to your local hardware store and buy some hex head screws or sheet metal screws (you don’t want flat headed screws). They need to be about ¼-3/8ths in length. You need a bunch of them. Screw them into the bottom of your shoe so the head is out to grip the ice.
  2. Wear ski goggles to protect your eyes from the cold and snow. A neck gaiter to protect your neck from exposure and a mask if the cold dry air bothers your lungs or makes you cough. Use a thin layer of Vaseline to protect any exposed skin, including your lips.
  3. Colleges and University campuses are great places to run because they have lots of cleared sidewalks without motorized traffic. They clear their sidewalks regularly and are usually the first to do so. They have their own maintenance crews and don’t have to wait on the city or county to clear things.
  4. Run with the wind in your face on your way out and the wind at your back on your return trip. During your run, you’re going to get hot and sweaty and having the wind at your back is much better than having it in your face.
  5. If your shoes are soaking wet when you finish your run, stuff newspaper into them to absorb the water and to help maintain their structure. Don’t put them in the dryer or the oven. It will ruin them.

Here is a guide on how to dress depending on the temperature outside. I found this at RunnersConnect.com. Runnersworld.com has something very similar. Runners World also has this nifty “What to Wear Tool” that takes into consideration your gender, temperature, wind, conditions, time of day and intensity before it pops out a clothing recommendation. Find it here. 

30 degrees:

  • 2 tops, 1 bottom. Long-sleeve base layer and a vest to keep your core warm. Half tights if you’re a polar bear.

10 to 20 degrees:

  • 2 tops, 2 bottoms. A jacket over your base layer.

0 to 10 degrees:

  • 3 tops, 2 bottoms. Two tops (fleece for the cold-prone) and a jacket. Windbrief for the fellas.

Minus 10 to 0 degrees:

  • 3 tops, 2 bottoms, extra pair of mittens, 1 scarf wrapped around mouth or a balaclava.

Minus 20 degrees

  • 3 tops, 3 bottoms, 2 extra pairs of mittens, 1 balaclava, sunglasses.

Notes

  • Wear tight clothes because they trap heat better and if they get wet, you can capitalize on your own body heat, much like a wetsuit

 

Running Preggers: Lots of Snot

This is my first post about running while pregnant. I don’t plan on making all my posts about running while pregnant, even as I get further a long in my pregnancy. But, I do plan on throwing them in here every so often.

I know from searching online there’s a lot of personal stories about running while pregnant and what women were running and not running while pregnant. And while all of this is very encouraging and useful, I find that it’s also a little lacking because it doesn’t go into the changes that occur in your body when you’re pregnant and how those change running. So, that’s what I’m hoping to do with my pregnancy posts.

One of the things that began to plague me from early in my pregnancy is the congestion. At first it was only at night. Now at 19 weeks, it’s all the time. The increased congestion is caused by a couple of things. The increased blood volume and hormones. The increased blood volume and estrogen cause swelling in the lining of the nasal passages and that causes more snot. The extra blood also causes the tiny blood vessels in your nose to swell. All of this leads to what has been coined pregnancy rhinitis.

Being congested while you run can be interesting. As your body temperature increases, the snot clogging your noes gets runny, which means you can breathe again, but there’s a cost. It can make your throat sore and irritated because its running down that way or it can make it, so you want to snot rocket all over what ever happens to be to your right or left. For me, that’s another person since I’m running on the treadmill (too much pollution outside). Another pleasant result of the snot beginning to run is then it makes you cough or sneeze.

Pregnancy Rhinitis can begin around eight weeks of pregnancy (yep) and then continue until you deliver the baby. After the baby, it should stop within a few weeks. Having allergies makes things worse of course and the constant stuffy nose can lead to sinus infections.

So what can you do about it? If you start your run all stuffed up, it’s going to make things more interesting when you get going. Using a humidifier at night will keep the drainage action going and help you start your run with clear nasal passages (you have to buy one for the baby anyway, might as well make sure you chose a good one and see how it works). Use saline drops or spray to clear your noes before your run or inhale steam.

If it gets to be too much, contact your doctor or the mother to baby hotline 1 (800) 822-2229 or email them expertinfo@mothertobaby.org They are the experts of what goes through mom’s system and into baby’s. They have tons of research on hand on what medication, vitamins and all sorts of other stuff can be harmful to a baby growing in utero.

I know knowing how much you can run while you’re pregnant is a challenge and it’s all subjective. Let your body tell you how much is okay and be prepared to listen. I’ll post how much I’m running each week at the end of my pregnancy posts, but again how much you should run while pregnant depends on many factors. Make choices best for YOU and YOUR BABY.

Weekly miles: 36, running three days a week.

What’s on Your Feet?

running shoes

A big concern when running in the winter is slipping and falling, but if you’re constantly thinking about it, you’re going to fall. At least, that’s what I’ve found out out running trails. The more I think about not falling the more I fall. You have to let your feet, ankles, and brain talk and get out of their way.

Communication between your brain and your feet/ankles is critical, and what you put on your feet can hinder or help. What you put on your feet matters (as if you don’t know that). Take a gander at the bottom of any road shoe. smooth as a baby’s bottom right? Okay they’re not dance shoes but there’s not much to them.

Trail shoes on the other hand, are studded with nubs of all shapes and sizes. They grab and hang on to the surface beneath your feet because of this, trail shoes are much better in the snow than road shoes. Even if you’ve never run in trail shoes before, if you plan to run through snow on the roads, you should pick some up. Another benefit of trail shoes in the winter is many of them are water resistant or have Gortex uppers, which will help keep your feet warmer and drier. My favorite trail running shoes are Solomons because they have the most aggressive tread and the rubber grips well.

After shoes, theirs socks. If you’re a thin sock lover, try double layering your socks. As always, you want to have socks (and other clothing) that pulls the sweat away from your skin and moves it to the outside of the fabric or the next layer of clothing where it can dry without freezing against your skin. Personally, I love Drymax socks. They have a cold weather running sock that is multi-layered with extra protection at the toe. Here’s a list of great winter running socks.

Okay, we’ve got your socks and shoes covered, and now w’ere going to actually cover your shoes for those icy days. Let’s talk ice traction cleats, or just ice spikes. There are tons of brands to choose from now and how aggressive of spikes you want depends on the surface you are going to be running on.

If you know you’re going to be running across sheets of ice and through snow, you’ll want something pretty aggressive like Hillsound trail crampons or Yaktrax summit cleats. This is definitely what I would use on the trails in the winter.

If the ice is just spotty here and there, you’d do well with Yaktrax pro ice grips or something similar. There are lots of ones that have little spikes which are great for walking and some running, but they wear out quickly so buy extra spikes you can replace worn ones with right from the start.

When you’re choosing your spikes make sure they are easy to put on and off with gloved hands and that they are light weight. Spikes are not fun on the bare road, so you may have to pull them off if you hit a long section of road that’s clear of ice and snow.

 

 

 

 

Wind down or wind up

Oh the weather outside is frightful. It’s getting “chilly” here in the mountains of the northern hemisphere. Well that’s how the meteorologist described the 23 degrees Fahrenheit today. Personally, I’d say that’s freezing.

Many runners turn indoors in the winter months and reduce their miles for a welcome and well deserved rest season. I can’t say I blame them. It’s very challenging to get in long runs when the thermostat drops below zero.

Challenging does not mean impossible, however, and if you’re considering an early spring or runcation to somewhere warm, you’ll be doing decent miles all winter long. What’s it take to run outside on very cold days? Creativity and layers, lots and lots of layers.

Let’s start with layers. You want a good thermal base layer that will pull the seat away from your skin. After that, use a lighter middle layer. Whether it’s long sleeves and another pair of pants or a short sleeve and shorts will depend on the length of your run and the temperature. If you need more than a second set of long sleeves and pants, make your third layer wind proof, even if it’s not windy, it will hold the heat in.

Don’t forget your head, face and hands. Keep your lips coated with lip balm and you may need something similar for any other exposed skin. Use hand warmers and mittens over gloves. I do gloves, hand warmers and double layered mittens, which hasn’t failed me yet.

For your head use a balaclava and either a fleece headband or beanie. Make sure your ears are tight to your head. You want as little exposed skin as possible.

Now comes the creativity. Try splitting your long run into two shorter ones on the same day. You can also run part of your run inside either on a treadmill or indoor track. I recommend starting out doors and finishing indoors due to sweat and it being easier to unlayer than layer. Stay where the wind can’t get you, so on narrow roads or trails with lots of trees.

Winter brings a new set of challenges, beautiful glistening runs, discovering new routes or a new perspective on the old ones. We’ll talk about other aspects of winter running including footwear, other gear, and safety training in the posts to come.

Happy Running!