Through my time running, I’ve had some injuries. I’ve never had any really serious injuries, usually just a knee, hip or ankle pain. And thankfully, usually with a little extra stretching the pain goes away. In early 2013, I got some new running shoes without trying them on, never a good idea! These running shoes ended up hurting my achilles tendon and a very expensive month later, I had new (very cushiony) shoes and a new physiotherapist. My physiotherapist told me that I when I run, I strike with my heel first and that is just too much pressure on my knees and hips so I should consider barefoot running (changing my running gait). I was too close to a race and decided that I should wait until after my first marathon in the fall and it would be my winter project.
After the marathon, I decided it was much easier to just keep running the way I was running. Then I started to get constant knee pain after 3 or 4 km of running. I went back to physiotherapist and was told that if I would like to still be running marathons in 5 years then I need to seriously consider a change to my running stride. After thinking about it for a few days, I decided that I couldn’t imagine my life without running so I really didn’t have any other choice.
The plus side of switching gait (where on your foot you strike with) was getting fancy new “barefoot” running shoes. After a frustrating experience where a sales person tried to tell me that going from a fully supportive shoe to a barefoot shoe, essentially cold turkey, was a stupid idea, I ended up with these shoes.
The process of actually using these fancy new shoes has been frustratingly slow. For the first week I could only run 2 km every other day. You also have to adjust your stride to be very short so that your feet stay under you. For the first couple weeks I listened to a metronome at 180 beats a minute while running and took a step for every beat. I don’t listen to the metronome anymore, but I still have to move my feet that quickly! Every week I’ve been able to increase by distance by 10-20% as long as I was pain free at the last distance. Then jumping exercises were introduced to agility and ankle strength, hopping on one leg and then the other.
Two and a half months later, I am back in full training mode for my first long run in the new shoes and with the new running style. Within the last couple week, running on the balls of my feet is starting the feel natural finally. My knee pain has almost completely disappeared. Overall, the switch has been very successful but it’s almost been very slow and a mental challenge (imagine re-learning to walk, it’s very similar!). I don’t think that changing stride is for everyone. If you are running pain-free, why fix something that isn’t broken. But if you are starting to have chronic pain from running then switching gait might be the next step for you!
Here are some articles about changing your running stride:
** Note: Intro photo taken from http://sydneyrunning.com.au/
This blog is not associated or endorsed by New Balance, I just like the shoes I have.