the shoe quandary

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A few hours ago I finished Week 3 of the half-marathon course I am working through. I am already pretty amazed by the results. I mean, sure, it's early days running and I'm supposed to be getting better at a reasonably quick pace, but a month ago I had this feeling that I wasn't really getting much better anymore and I didn't know how to fix it. Since then I've knocked about a minute per KM off of each of my slow/medium/fast-ish paces, and next week's program is nonchalantly asking me to run about a minute faster than I ever have for 5K (based of course on times I have managed to run for shorter distances.) That will be "interesting".

So that's all going very well so far, but the thing on my mind this week has been running shoes. Specifically, the competing and conflicting advice for shoes, foot mechanics, what works and what doesn't. It feels strangely akin to the dieting and nutrition scene, divided between mainstream lowfat/calorie-counting dogma on the one hand and the lowcarb/paleo hipster crusade minority on the other hand, except that with dieting I know where I stand and with running shoes I absolutely don't.

In this case the mainstream is more or less the entire running shoe industry with its motion-control and stability and support etc. etc. specialist shoes, and the evangelical hipsters are the barefoot/minimalist runners who claim we don't need any of that. My biggest problem is that I don't seem to be starting from any sort of mainstream demographic.

While I am obviously not Skinny Racing Chick and I have been heavier than I am now, I never made it into the 'obese' category and I have walked with some regularity for my entire adulthood. So while my body composition is more or less mid-range for women who start running as adults, I have been told multiple times that I overpronate. Like, ridiculously, freakishly. Okay, they don't actually use the words 'ridiculous' or 'freakish', but when I went for a gait evaluation a couple of weeks ago it was a case of running (haha) through a series of shoes for increasingly heavy and unstable overpronators until we hit the one shoe in the shop that was the best they had to offer, and reduced the pronation but still didn't get rid of it. So I was sent on my way with a pair of Saucony Stabil CS2s and the absolute self-belief of the Running Shop Guy that these were what I needed.

But wait, does that make me a running freak? I don't feel like a freak! Are we sure about this?

On the other hand I know I'm not entirely innocent of foot and leg issues. I spent a month and a half at the beginning of this year going to physiotherapy sessions to try to get rid of some lingering plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and the PT immediately zeroed in on how much I pronate my foot when I walk. She gave me various exercises, and I did my best with them, but there was this constant feeling that she wanted the heel and ball of my foot to align like THIS with my knee pointing straight like THAT in a way that left me feeling like my bones simply don't bend enough to accommodate it all. The Running Shop Guy also observed that my left foot pronates more than my right, which tallies with the PT observations, so I'm pretty sure he was not just selling me snake oil.

Now I've been out a few times in the new Sauconys, and I'm still not entirely convinced. What really troubles me is that my right leg seems markedly less happy in them than in the previous pair of shoes (New Balance 940WR, which I bought as the successor to the first running shoes I was 'prescribed' many years ago.) On the other hand, my left leg seems reasonably okay in them, possibly even better than in the New Balances.

Hold on, am I so freakish that I need two different sorts of shoe for each of my feet? This is getting absurd.

And that's where my thoughts start turning toward minimalist running, which to be honest has so far struck me as a little cult-like. I am also a little put off by the sentiment I have picked up on that naturalist feet are meant to run on naturalist surfaces, not paved ones--most of my running is on paved surfaces and I don't think that is going to change anytime soon. On the other hand, the predominant sentiment that, by and large, variant feet are not necessarily freakish feet is something that really speaks to me at the moment.

So I'm in something of a quandary now. Do I stick with the Sauconys and see if my right knee adapts? Go back to the more normal New Balances and see if my left foot gets stronger? Throw caution to the wind, move to Portland, and get a pair of Vibrams? Who can tell me and how will I know to trust them?

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Tara published on March 24, 2013 11:50 PM.

Joining the club was the previous entry in this blog.

A race that didn't suck is the next entry in this blog.

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