The Search for Shoes

I have been rocking the same running shoes since September: my beloved Merrell Pace Gloves.  I love them.  I love what they have taught me about my contact with the ground.  I love how light they are and how much they breathe.  Love. Love. Love.  But then this pesky peroneal tendinitis poked it’s ugly head and won’t go away.

When I saw the doctor, he did not tell me that I should skip the minimalist shoes, only asked how long I’d used them.  My physical therapist has also never told me that I shouldn’t use then, just that I need to be smart about them.  Despite both of them not having problems with minimalist shoes, I decided the other day that maybe it was time to try a little more cushion.  I want to increase my mileage (someday) and I want my feet, ankles, etc to stay in good shape.  I still want to do that half marathon in October, after all.  Maybe my peroneal tendinitis has nothing to do with my shoes, but I’d like to give new ones a try and see how it goes.

So I started looking at shoes.  I read a few things.  I went to Frontrunner today to finally test drive a few pairs.  Going in, I  thought maybe something from Brooks Pure Project would work out.  I tried a couple of them, but all of them seemed like too much.  I like my Merrells for their light weight and zero drop.  The Brooks were nice, but they just weren’t quite right. I almost settled on the Pure Grit because it seemed the flattest of them all and the least all up in my arch (which is a new technical term, by the way).  I tried the new Nike Frees, which were significantly better than the old Nike Frees.  I would consider a pair of those in the future, but not right for my needs today.

So what did I end up with?  These beauties…

Wait. You said you wanted more cushion and ended up with another minimal shoe?  What the hell?  So as I was going back and forth between the Pure Grit and these, the lovely gentleman helping me was struck with the idea of putting the Grit’s insert into the Minimus Zero. I kept going back to the New Balance shoes because of how light they were, but couldn’t say yes to them because the whole point was for more cushion. VOILA! Stick an insert in there and you get the best of both worlds.

I took them for a mini-run a little while ago just to test them out.  They are actually a smidge lighter than my Pace Gloves, though the added insert probably kills that.  They’re super flexible and breathe well. They are a little narrow in the toe box, but that could be more because of the insert since my feet are reasonably narrow themselves.  I am slightly concerned that the insert makes them a bit too tight, but I am hoping that it sort of wears in.  I’m planning to do some extensive walking around with them tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes.  The other thing is that I don’t anticipate always using them with an insert.  After tomorrow, I may try on a bigger size if they don’t start to give a little more, but other than that, I am super pleased with the purchase.  The best combination of minimal plus added cushion.

Kitten Approved

Kitten Approved.

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Anklemania, or How Do You Always Get Hurt?

If you’ve looked at my Twitter in the last couple weeks, you will have heard me bitching about my ankle.  It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that there is somehow something wrong.  I usually end up in the ER for an annual visit of some sort: 2011 was for the my gallbladder, 2010 was for pleurisy, and years prior were mostly for asthma.  I didn’t end up in the ER for my herniated disc, though the owner of my gym offered to call an ambulance.  That time, I probably should have gone if for no other reason than to get better pain medication or to get diagnosed faster.

At any rate, I have actually been dealing with left foot problems since I was in Boston in January.  While taking a run with my sister around Cambridge where there are some very uneven sidewalks that are often made of brick, I think I did something to my toe or foot.  I’m not sure which came first because eventually, it was both.  My theory was that I hurt one and then walked so strangely to compensate, that I aggravated the other.  I guess it really doesn’t matter where it started. As for my ankle, it has been giving me trouble since around the 5k almost two weeks ago.  When we went to the expo for packet pick-up, I was half-searching for two things: a hat and something to help my just-starting-to-ache ankle.  I never did find a hat, but I did find something helpful.

First, I stumbled upon a booth selling compression socks, but that wasn’t really what I wanted.  I then found CEP products.  I wanted this ankle support, but my (somewhat swollen) ankle measured in a size they didn’t have, so I went back to the compression sock booth.  I settled on some Sigvaris athletic recovery socks.  The sales woman explained a few things about the socks, that they could be worn during activity or for just recovery, the type of compression, etc.  I signed for them and we were off.  Of course, after the expo, we went and walked around Disney parks, so the only time I had with the socks before the race was a small amount of time the night before.  I didn’t want to wear them for the race because I didn’t know how it would be to run in them.  I did wear them after, and that seemed to calm my feet/ankle/calves down a little.  After the race, though, we went park hopping again and that was also probably not helpful.

After two weeks,  I am  still dealing with ankle pain.  I’m sure it’s partially because I haven’t taken real time off from activity.  The stiffness and pain usually subside with use, flare a little bit during activity, but then go away until I am suddenly stationary for awhile and then it doesn’t feel so good again.  My trainer suggested icing after all activity, which I’ve been doing.  I’ve been wearing the compression socks and elevating for recovery as well.  I took today off of running because going out in the wind and rain with my ankle feeling stiff and painful just seemed like too many negatives.  I am hoping that by the time I go out for a run tomorrow, I will be a little better off.

So, if you have ideas about how to ensure better ankle strength and support or just how to get this healed up a little faster, I’d love to hear any suggestions.  I fear RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) is my only option and that doesn’t sound like a quick fix.

That last statement actually answers the question in this post’s title: I always get hurt because I want things too fast.  I hurt my back because I did too much lifting too quickly.  I was too tired and didn’t check my form while using heavy weight, taking for granted what my body could do.  My ankle has bothered me because I haven’t taken the appropriate amount of time to heal.  Hell, it’s probably just from overuse in the first place. Not resting to the point of pain and then not resting when there is pain just means more pain.

The moral of this story: take it slow. Whatever physical activity you are jumping into, don’t follow my lead and jump a little slower.  I try to listen to my body and then I promptly tell it to shut up.  Don’t do that.  Avoid anklemania for yourself.

Achievements + Gear Talk

Leaf Play

Since I last wrote, I have made some decidedly nice progress.

Fastest recorded pace: 5:16 (11/10)
Fastest overall pace: 14:20 (11/10)
Longest stretch of time running: 10min at approx 13:57 (10/27)
Farthest distance: 2.35 (10/29)

I can’t say I have taken up running for speed. I have an awful time pacing myself outdoors and end up running far faster than I expected and then having to walk at a slower pace to recover.  This actually ends up evening out with what happens on a treadmill.  I tend to keep the pace more even and never run as fast as I get up to according to the RunKeeper GPS tracking.   That said, I think going outside has really helped me in the most unbelievable way.  I can run longer at steadier paces when I actually pace myself on a treadmill.  The 10 minute stretch felt like a victory every minute.  It was awesome.  I haven’t done that again, but I have been trying to spend a lot of time outdoors before winter comes.

I am also trying to prep for winter running.  I have no idea what to do.  I went out and got a nice pair of Brooks pants, which aren’t for winter, but have been great ever since I got them.  They’re so light and comfortable.  I love them.  I also ended up getting a jacket from Brooks as well which is made for slightly colder temperatures and will be good for layering as it gets colder.  My main concern is getting more pants, a warmer jacket, and some gloves.  I also have to figure out a shoe situation. My Merrells are not going to be so awesome when snow starts trickling into them.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much I’ll run outside in the winter.  I should probably see how I feel about that before getting all kinds of crazy gear.  I have just been having such a good time being outside. I think it’s taught me a lot about form as well as how hard I can push myself.  It’s easy to get cushy with a treadmill, but harder to learn pacing, etc out in the open.  Plus, it’s good to learn how to run on pavement considering the 5k in February will be on that.  Even if I spend the majority of the winter on a treadmill, I will have to find some time to go outside as the race gets closer.

Anyone with winter gear suggestions or winter running tips, please feel free to share!!

Favorite Tree

My favorite tree on one of my routes.

One Step at a Time

I haven’t run in 11 days.

My last week at the gym, I did 8.3 miles on Couch-to-5k over four days. The Columbus Marathon was on Sunday and seeing those runners made me so jealous. I don’t have much interest in a marathon right now (let’s complete that 5k first, shall we?), but it was something to see other people doing what I am just not allowed to do yet.

After feeling kind of poorly the last two days, I was anxious to wake up this morning and see about going for a walk. I took my time gearing up. I ate some breakfast, rested a bit, and then put those shoes on.

Post-Surgery Shoes

I was so excited just to walk! I had big dreams of breaking into a jog without any problem, but as soon as I started out, I knew that was unlikely. The movement of walking did cause some discomfort in my stomach at the surgery invasion points. I kept my hands near my stomach for most of the time out. I didn’t need my pillow for stability, but I needed a little something.

I started out walking on a route that I had mapped a couple weeks ago. I have wanted to transition to doing some road running since I have only been doing the treadmill. There are a lot of pluses to the treadmill: always knowing your pace and forcing yourself to adjust one way or another, climate controlled, etc. But there are a lot of nice things about the road. The boredom of a treadmill, whether you’re listening to your iPod or not, is still there. You’re running in place. The benefits have outweighed that downside for me for the most part, but being outside today really made me see how nice that was. I had interesting things to look at, fresh air, no one on the next treadmill screwing up my heart rate monitor (ha!), etc. It was really nice.

I also used the walk to test out two different apps on my phone for the purpose of outdoor running: MapMyRUN and RunKeeper. I did a total of 1.22 miles today, or about half of a mile out and back. The first half, I did with MapMyRUN. Maybe I didn’t understand what I was looking at, but the pacing part of the app was confusing to me. I appreciated the map and GPS capability, but I felt like the pace was off. On the walk back, I used RunKeeper, which seemed a little bit less complicated and more accurate with what made sense for my pacing (which wasn’t fast, believe me). After getting back and looking at what the two apps came up with, it seemed pretty comparable. I liked that RunKeeper automatically gave me 5min interval audio cues on pace and distance (something I imagine you could turn off, if desired). I also appreciated the ease of the RunKeeper website. Both the mapping ability and the work-out input function were simple and did all the math for you. Of course both apps automatically load your recorded work-outs onto their respective sites so you can look over your stats. Overall, I think that RunKeeper wins. I have been tracking my total mileage over at dailymile, but may start to switch things to RunKeeper.

So now, for those of you keeping score, my current running apps:
C25k app – for Couch-to-5k training
Electric Miles – logging miles in dailymile
RunKeeper – outdoor running with GPS, routes/maps, stats, etc.

I hope to get back out and walk a little farther and/or faster tomorrow. I think as long as I don’t overdo, this can only help my recovery.

Barefoot/Minimalist Running Resources: Videos

So I listed some resource links back in the entry about my Merrell Pace Gloves, but I wanted to include some of the videos I’ve been watching to help get my form down. I’ve been trying to pay extra attention to my footstrike and my posture the last couple times on the treadmill.

Here’s what I’ve been watching:

(You may want to turn down sound on this one. The treadmill noise is rather loud and grating.)

(Terra Plana also makes barefoot shoes, though I can’t offer a review on them.)

C25k/Minimalist Running Status

A quick little update for anyone interested in how the Couch-to-5k is going.

I have stuck with restarting the program with the new shoes. I made it through the first week again and have started on the second. The biggest issue I’ve faced so far is my calves have been burning. Still no problems with my feet hurting (though I did rub my heel raw one day) or anything else, really. Today I even noticed decreased pain in some of the places that normally hurt (e.g. my knees).  I have continued to use the Merrells at work on and off. It doesn’t seem to be a great idea to use them all 8 hours, but they feel good for a much longer time than expected.

Oh! And one of the best parts: I’ve increased my run pace, which has also helped increase my distance. I got all the way down to 13:20.  Part of what inspired me to try harder and go faster was an article with the following:

Learn how to define what’s truly hard for yourself. “Many athletes look to coaches or formulas to tell them what hard is by heart rate, pace, or percentage of VO2max. Hard is hard. You run hard. Until you connect to that, you will not run as fast as you want to; you’ll run as fast as someone tells you to go.”

Run hard. Simple, right?

Going minimal.

Here they are. My new Merrell Pace Gloves. After first trying these on, I was set on getting them. I even had dreams about them! They were so light (a whole 2oz lighter than my Kinvara 2s) and I felt like I could really feel the ground I was walking on.  When I finally went to get them this past Sunday, they were definitely just as I remembered.  I also picked up a pair of the Barefoot Pure Gloves since I was so jazzed about the Pace Gloves. I sort of figured that going barefoot/minimal across the board was going to be a good idea, especially in transitioning to running.

I got the shoes on Sunday, walked casually in them a few days, and even worked in them a little bit yesterday.  Today, I did my first run with them. 2oz doesn’t seem like a whole lot of difference necessarily, but it really is.  They are so, so light that it’s unbelievable. I am constantly amazed at what it feels like to actually feel the ground you’re walking on, not just the cushion of a shoe. I know it sounds like that might not be better, but it gives an entirely different tactile experience to moving.  It makes you more aware of where and how you’re walking/running.  The shoes themselves are so flexible (there is a picture in this review of them rolled up here) that I can really feel what my toes are doing. Whenever I was crouching down at work, the shoe moved with my foot instead of vice versa.

As far as the running today went… I redid the first day of Couch-to-5k. I figured that was a pretty easy back and forth between jogging and walking. I could work on my form and see how it felt overall.  I had been warned from when I first tried the Pace Gloves on that my calves would hurt. A friend of mine had talked to me about how his Vibrams made his calf muscles more defined in a different way since it was using different muscles, etc. I was prepared for calf pain.  And, let me tell you, my calves burned. It wasn’t unbearable, just uncomfortable. They’re a little sore as I sit to type this, but not in a bad way. My feet didn’t hurt at all during the run, which was pretty cool.  They also didn’t go numb at all and that was something I feared might happen.  I think I have a ways to go yet with the form of barefoot/minimalist running, but I’m getting there.  It’s hard to re-learn how to do things when you’re used to hitting on your heel.  Walking in them is actually the hardest.  Jogging was easy. Maybe I already land in a more forward strike when I run, I’m not sure. If so, I think that will help the transition.

My plan is to alternate between where I am already at in C25k and sort of play catch up on alternating days with the Merrells. I feel as if I’m going to be stuck on Week 3 for a minute, so it will work out. My first day of Week 3 was yesterday and that was pretty rough. I think I have a harder time running at night than I do in the morning. Going to the gym after work is often necessary, but doesn’t leave me feeling the best.

I’m sure I’ll talk more about the minimalist running transition as it happens. I also want to hit on some of the other stuff I’ve started doing, but in the meantime here are some of the places I’ve been reading up on barefoot/minimalist running:

Barefoot Running University :: has lots of articles, links to videos, etc.

Barefoot Running @ Runner’s World :: the barefoot forums there are also interesting… Is barefoot running bad for you? and a guide for new barefoot/minimalist runners are both good reads.

Merrell BareForm :: videos and other info

Barefoot Angie Bee :: some shoe reviews, etc.