My injury led me to the best running shoes I’ve ever had and a much better running form.
One day I noticed an odd feeling under the pad of my foot when I ran. I ignored it. It got worse. I ran anyway.
Then I couldn’t run at all anymore, nor walk barefoot indoors, or even take a short walk with my dogs without pain.
The diagnosis was a Neuroma. An inflamed nerve between the metatarsal bones in my right foot. I rested for months, iced it and used a toe spreader at night. It helped a lot, but as soon as I started running again the pain came back. Eventually I got a cortisone shot which only helped temporarily.
I tried numerous brands of shoes, too many to count. Hoka Bondi were ok, they are wide enough that my foot didn’t hurt if I wore insoles with metatarsal pads in them.
I probably would have continued with those if I didn’t happen to see a running shoe ad from Altra that announced, “Embrace the Space!”
That alone got my attention right away. Since the inflamed nerve sits between two movable bones, you can imagine what happens when those bones are squeezed from two sides in regular running shoes that pushes the toes into a triangular shape.
I only needed to take one look at their website to understand that I had found the holy grail.
Altra’s philosophy is very simple. Your shoe should be shaped like a foot.
Like a foot. Your shoe should be shaped like foot.
You wouldn’t think this would be so revolutionary but it is.
In Altra’s your toes spread and you have a better toe off with each step.
But wait there’s more!
And this wasn’t something I’d thought of before.
Most running shoes are high heel shoes. Yes. High heel. Not a lot, and they’re still sneakers, but why the raised heel?
Altra’s don´t have that. They are zero drop as they call it. Your toes and heel are at the same level in the shoe. This means that you run as you would if you ran barefoot, but within the safety of a comfortable shoe.
Then there is the form.
I hadn’t realized how much energy I wasted on bad running form. I swung my arms from side to side and I was over striding quite a bit. I had a running coach for a while who told me this, but it didn’t really click until I participated in a free workshop with Golden Harper, the founder of Altra.
Golden has a degree in Exercise Science, his family owns a running store and he still holds the world’s best marathon record for a twelve year old, even though it’s been a while since he was twelve.
In other words, this guy knows his stuff. So needless to say, I was shocked when he demonstrated running across the floor at Jack Rabbit, looking kind of like he was cheating. Yes cheating. It looked too easy.
Then he had the workshop participants try it. It felt like cheating too. Running shouldn’t be this easy I thought to myself.
Yes it should. That’s the point. You want to preserve your energy so that you can last longer. Not waste it on movements that aren’t necessary for running.
To look at this more closely, what I learned was this.
Keep your arms high, much higher than you are used to most likely, keep them compact, move them slightly back and forth, but not side to side, and not a lot. Keep your arms and shoulders relaxed. Then increase your cadence and take shorter steps.
It took me a little while to get used to this, I got tired quicker because I automatically ran faster without trying at first. But now it’s amazing.
Hills are easier for example and I’m not so sore after a lot of hill running as I used to be.
Golden’s technique. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWeS6ZuVW-E