Long before Chris MacDougal wrote the "Born to Run" book, I was a minimalistic runner. I have always felt more comfortable in a lightweight pair of racing shoes than any trainer that I have tried. That has been true for my 35+ years of running. For quite a few years, I have been living out the philosophy of the "less shoe, the better." It seems to work for me. I always said that I like the lightweight shoes without all the doodads because they let my feet do what my feet want to do (which in reality is very strange things). So I have been running with lightweight racers (Asics HyperSpeeds) as my training shoes and Puma H Streets and K Streets as my racing and track shoes.
Despite the minimalistic shoes, my hips have remained imbalanced and unstable. However when I have tried training shoes, I have felt even worse. I have also forsaken traditional shoes and for over a year now, I have worn the Vivo Barefoot shoes at all other non-running times. They are extremely comfortable and also let my feet do "what they want to do." The problem that I have been thinking about is that even after all this minimalism, my hips are no better when running and my stability problems seem to be getting worse. A few weeks ago, I bought a more built up racing shoe, but it didn't seem to help my running and at times made it worse. It was more like running on a big sponge. I have improved my hips throught the Postural Restoration work this winter, but despite working on my hips and doing exercises all the time, once I start running things fall apart again. The previous three weeks have not been good. I get things balanced, go for a run and they fall apart for a couple of days, and if I try to run through it, things turn worse. I was back to having the problem where my whole left side was "stuck". Something was not right in my feet (I'd keep trying to mobilize the bones) and my hip. I was also back to the pressure under my kneecap that I get when things are out of alilgnment. My running was horrible as was my racing attempts. On Monday, I somehow got rid of the knee pressure and felt better alignment wise. I went up to race in Lowell Tuesday night for the 5K. I felt great despite for the 90 degree heat. When I started running though, I had no control of my legs and hips. Everything was going at wrong angles and it wasn't a fun run (results and I did win in my age-graded weight category). I went to the Gate City Striders workout the next evening in more 90 degree heat and did the 10 X 400m workout (81-86 secs). Again, my hips and alignment were throwing me all over the track and I was fighting my body to try to keep straight. Despite all the work I have been doing, I still can't run correctly! and there is nothing much left to find out there that I can try to improve things- or so I thought.
Then I saw Lori Thomson's newest video for running. I follow all her videos for runners, as she is a Postural Restoration therapist and Postural Restoration work has improved my hips (no longer am I tight at the front of the hip) and if I don't run at all my hips feel better than in years, but I am a runner and I have to find the solution that keeps me running. The new video is called "Instability of the Feet in Runners" and it took me awhile to let the video sink in because of the "shoe" issue. First off, she talks about "calcaneal instability" or heel bone instability. Now this was interesting to me, because when I got sent to a physical therapist this winter (who fortunately practiced "postural restoration") it was only because I asked my primary care doctor for a visit. I had pretty much given up on physical therapy due to previous attempts, but I wanted to ask a therapist about ankle mobility and issues with my heel not seeming to be lined up correctly. I was hoping I could just get a couple of questions answered and maybe learn a "trick" or two to fix things. I ended up getting 2 months of twice weekly Postural Restoration work with some traditional physical therapy techniques that helped my hips greatly, but with more running I seemed to be at an impasse. I was back to thinking the same question that plagued me for years, "Are my hips causing my problems or are my feet causing the problems?"
Instability of the Feet in Runners from Hruska Clinic on Vimeo.
In this video, Lori says that if your heel bone is unstable and not in the correct position for running, then your pelvis may not be in the correct position for running (she does say it can be the other way around too). She also then explains a major part of the postural restoration philosophy: most people have a forwardly rotated pelvis on the left side. That is me. My left shoulder and pelvis are way in front of my right pelvis and shoulder. She also shows how this affects the way the foot apporaches and lands on the ground.This also desribes how my feet land and got me thinking that maybe this is why my stride is all over the place lately. My feet are landing at weird angles (and quite differently on both sides) and maybe as they hit the ground and try to roll, it send my legs in different directions and through different rotations.
Lori shows another exercise to learn how to shift into the left hip (my difficult move) and how to feel the bottom of the feet. This is all good stuff, but I wasn't willing to listen to the last part of the video, because this tells about how to choose a good running shoe. I thought I knew everything about shoes and minimalism was the way to go. Well, I thought it through and decided to give Lori's ideas a try. I printed out a list of PRI approved shoe options and headed over to Runner's Alley to see if they had any in stock and then to see how they might feel on my feet, but that was all. It was funny when I got there because there were a couple of other runners trying out Vibram 5 Fingers and Nike Free shoes as they were contemplating minimalism and there was I, a true minimalist believer, trying on what seemed to me to be boats!
I tried on about 5 pair of shoes. What I noticed in the brief moments in the shoes was how tight the heel counter was, how flat and solid the footboards were, and how I could get my big toe down in all of the shoes (something I have been working on pre- postural restorartion and even during with my PT). They felt good for such beastly things. I think whenever I have tried training shoes in the past, I always gravitated towards more lightweight trainers that ended up being a bit soft and spongy with little foot control. This type of shoe often made my hips worse! I wasn't sure which one to try, so I ran just a bit on the treadmill with each pair. One pair left my left hip feeling unstable, one pair was a bit too tight in the heel, and one pair had my hip feeling real good on the treadmill. This was all so unscientific, but I decided to but the pair that left my hip feeling best. I bought real training shoes for the first time in years! I ended up with a pair of Brooks Defyance 3 shoes. I wasn't planning on running that day, as my left glute medius had been sore since the track workout the night before, but I felt good in the shoes and took them out for a run. It was interesting. Yes, they were big shoes, but they felt better than other trainers I had tried in the past. My feet felt very comfortable and I was getting a smooth transition from heel to toe (and I wasn't landing heel first as I thought would automatically happen). I ran Friday with not major problems again. The only thing is I am running slower than I normally would, but this could be because I am using different muscles. This morning I woke up and the first thing I thought was that I wanted to go for a morning run (I don't do morning runs- I hate morning runs- it usually takes all day to get my body to a place where I can even think about running) so off I went for a successfull morning run. I am still running slower, but my stride and the way my hips are hinging is feeling better. This is only three days in to my experiment, and it could be that I am feeling good for other reasons or the shoes may eventually throw my body off in other directions and create additional problems, but I am very intrigued with the results so far. I love my Vivo Barefoot shoes, but something else funny has happened. I wore the Brooks to school yesterday, because I liked the way my feet walked in them. I am also wearing them today. I feel much more stable wearing these things. If this keeps up I will have to buy another pair: one for daily use and one for walking.
Does anyone know of a lost tribe of long distance running people that uses supportive running shoes to achieve thier mystical running abilities? If you do, let me know, because we may be able to turn the idea into a best-selling book. And I know that all my running friends who have laughed at my lightweiight running shoes through the years are probably getting a good chuckle from this post.
Here is a previous video where Lori explains PRI approved running shoe options.
Shoe Recommendations from Postural Restoration Institute on Vimeo.