Monday, February 18, 2013

Of Running Crampons, Heel Strike, and Short Shorts.

As I've recently written, my commitment to run the Pocatello 50 this spring - knowing full well what that entails after running the beastly inaugural in 2009 - has had me actively seeking out winter vert here in Sun Valley.  Those runs have dominated my recent posts, and I was going to give RJ readers a rest from these sessions, until something from the above pic from Sunday's outing caught my eye.

If you look past the Pioneer Mountains in the background, the wondrously lonely corduroy, and my favorite winter running tools - the Kahtoola KTS crampons - you'll see what can only be described as a full-fledged heel strike (as well as stark over-pronation).  Now, I've read Born to Run, and even gave it my own tepid review here in Run Junkie - with one of my favorite titles to date: Mexican Food, "Mexican" Food, and Brief Thoughts on Christopher McDougall's Book "Born to Run." 

Suffice it to say that I was skeptical of many of McDougall's suppositions but have tried to keep an open mind, and in the name of efficiency and injury prevention have even tried over the last three years with coaching, drills, and shoe choice to move to more of a mid-foot strike.  For me, a true maximalist in shoe choice, the move to a minimalist-inspired approach was jaw-dropping even to myself.  But chronic injury can make Shinola seem like penicillin. (What else would explain kinesio tape?)  And I must admit to yearning for a return to form seen in this video from 1985 (from the post I hate Hank Dart...).  Yes. That's me bursting out of the navy blue short shorts, winning the Condor League Championships 800 meters.  Oh, the form (at least comparatively).

Drills and nostalgia, though, had a tough road to plane.  The end result after all the effort to improve my form?  An unchanged-momentum-stopping-knee-thrashing-earth-shaking-heel-strike-gait.  That's exactly what I saw in Sunday's photo, and it was a bit of an epiphany. I finally decided that that is the runner I am and that that is the runner I am going to be, so I will embrace it.  

This prompted me to fire off a tweet to that effect, which then prompted some funny and sage tweets in response - posted below in chronological order for those very many who most likely missed them.  


trudginalong said...

Best advice I was ever given (just prior to LT100): "Don't go out too slow either, just run a natural pace, because the more you fight yourself, the more damage you'll do." I've taken it to many other aspects of running (and life) as well, I'm a bit of a heel striker as well, but if I focus too much on trying to do something "unnatural" I end up more beat up than anything else.

Scott said...

having a versatile foot strike is important. i think too many folks are convinced they need to work hard to NOT heel strike without taking into consideration your balance with regards to the terrain and the feedback coming underfoot. it's why trail running is not road running. if we all ran on the track at a consistent cadence and velocity, i'd be much more of a consistent midfoot striker. trails, sometimes the heel is in play, sometimes the midfoot, etc.

keep your drills in play for overall foot healthy, so if your on your forefoot for a 30 minutes climb, your not over-fatigued and breaking down when you resume your normal gait cycle. Same thing for long downhills and strengthening the posterior tibs, etc.

like patrick said, just run naturally, whichever that is for you in the moment.

Stay Vertical said...

I work with the full compliment of striking in training. In an ultra, no matter how strong and fast you are, you will touch down with all parts of the foot due to muscle fatigue, cramping, terrain and angle changes, etc. By consciously switching it up in training, I can build up the muscles associated with all striking patterns, so that in races I am covered when the form breaks down.
Nothing wrong with a little heel striking. It matters much more where your knee is when the foot comes down. As long as one is not "braking" with the knee behind the foot, then all is well.
Scott writes in his reply: "Same thing for long downhills and strengthening the posterior tibs, etc." I would like to know more about that.