There has been much debate over the merits, or otherwise, of current running shoes versus barefoot running. The majority of current “south African Running styles” are formulated around rigid (inflexible) shoes. However the pendulum is swinging with change and more shoes are arriving on the shelves with differing degrees of flexibility and less control.
Currently over 50% of runners remain in shoes that in some way restrict the longitudinal flex – i.e. the bend from heel to toe – and as such force the runner to put their foot either totally flat on the ground or the majority of the foot on the ground particularly when running longer distances in training or racing. This applies to so called “neutral” shoes. The terms ‘neutral’ in this case tends to refer to the ability for torsional flexibility which is the range of motion caused by twisting the shoe i.e holding the heel and toe and trying to rotate these in opposing directions.
This is not truly neutral – a Neutral shoe would be one that allows unrestricted movement identical to that of the foot and so only truly exists with shoes such as the Vibram 5 fingers, the New Balance minimus and similar.
It is an unfortunate fact that most debates deal only with the extremes – Either rigid or barefoot running. It is no wonder that moves from one to another causes injury because the change required is so dramatic. The truth is that the change should – like the pendulum – move slowly down from the rigid side and then slow up towards the removal of restriction and reduction in cushioning to something that allows that great bio-mechanical structure – The Foot – to operate as intended but to also provide the necessary protection and cushion to cater for the move from our original environment of the veldt to paved road and concrete pavements.
Given that this is the ideal time to review and make the transition to a more “Natural” running style one of the key first moves is to buy shoes that will take you one (or a further ) step on the journey.
There are many shoes out there and I have reviewed a number of the latest models on this web site with variations including the Puma Faas range, five fingers (should that be toes), the Minimus, Minimus Zero and transition shoes such as the latest Adidas Adios. (You will find these detailed reviews under the equipment or news categories and in each case the shoe has been run in for over 100km – its not an inspection review but a ‘foot in’ shoe experience)
The point is that while we tend to hibernate or reduce our training over the winter months this is an ideal time to be focusing on making the change and transition to improve the efficiency of our running. To do that the vast majority of runners need to change their shoe style – then get advice on correcting their running mechanics and then practice this in short, focused sessions of running drills in order to GRADUALLY change (and train the muscles necessary) to a more powerful efficient and … Enjoyable running experience.
If you are in Gauteng Bedfordview running club will be hosting the OM Virtual Coach in a two session seminar on exactly this subject on 22 July and 16 August at their club in van Buuren Road (next to Virgin Active) (see bedfordview web www.bedfordviewathletics.co.za/) Running Inn Kensington are partners to Bedfordview Runners and are giving R100 and R250 vouchers to those who attend the seminars. This effectively pays you to attend. Note there is no link with any particular brand and so this practical session is about YOUR running style and desires in a shoe from any manufacturer. Be sure to bring your current and old training shoes to the seminar.