Monday, January 30, 2012


Something has finally clicked and I feel ready to start building up the mileage once again!

It's easy to forget how much it sucks building mileage after a few months off... The last few weeks have been a struggle to get into a routine and to build mileage without feeling fatigued. But after the third week of build-up, I have finally hit a rhythm and am now able to plan my 13 week training cycle for Worlds (which is in Italy, awesome).

The plan for Worlds is to basically do what I did last year: several weeks at or around 110 miles, with some progressive run workouts designed to be at or just under goal pace for the 100k, then ramp up the mileage to around 150 with a few 4+ hour efforts in the mountains. All of this should lead to being in excellent shape for the race, and hopefully another team gold for USA! More details to come once the workouts start.

As for other life developments, I have recently accepted a job at Brooks Sports and will be starting early February. I will now be living in Seattle, so if you read this and have any suggestions on running groups to link up with or favorite runs in the area please comment with the details.

I have also changed around my race schedule for the year, and will be adding more local races. Rainier to Ruston is one I'm considering, and White River may be an annual event now.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ideas on Minimalist Shoes

After working for over a year in a running shoe store, I think I've gained a solid stance on how I feel about minimalism and the shoes that have been created for this purpose.

First and foremost, I am a firm believer that whatever works for you, works for you... It's that simple. If you have had success with your shoe of choice, whether it's the Brooks Beast or the Mizuno Wave Universe, then that's great and I hope it continues to do so. That being said, I have had quite a bit of experience with answering questions about minimalist shoes (and maximalist shoes for that matter) and think I can offer a bit of insight to people looking to find the right shoe.

I think the minimalism fad popped up so quickly because people were fed up with buying shoes that were heavy and really didn't seem to offer any help in the way of injury prevention or even to reduce muscle fatigue. The only difference a lot of people noticed was that they were wearing a brick on their foot. The idea of wearing something light on their foot was exciting because it offered a faster, more free feeling. Combined with a well-known book adding "legitimacy" to the movement, the idea kind of blew out of proportion. People swung from one extreme to the other without even considering the middle ground as a possibility.

Another element that led to a large upswing in marketing of minimalist shoes was the mainstream specialty running brands and running shoe stores starting to make and sell these shoes. A lot of people thought this was due to the running shoe brands finally admitting that they were selling people expensive, injury causing running shoes, and conforming to the simple and "right" way to make shoes. On the contrary, I would like to think it is because corporations and running store owners alike are smart and wanted to make money off of a current fad like any other fashion brand would do (and its exactly the reason you see all minimalist shoes come in like 40 different color waves for one shoe).

But its not really the hype or the misinformation that bothers me most about the minimalist movement. It's the most important feature in the shoe's construction that throws me off...

STABILITY- I agree with Geoff Roes' blog post about needing more cushioning for longer distances, but I also think the body can adapt over time to get used to higher impact... if that's what you want to do for some reason. On the other hand, if a shoe is inherently unstable for a person's mechanical movement, it can be quite dangerous (kinda like running in a pair of Shape-Ups).

For some reason, stability has become a 4-letter word. Stability can be achieved in more ways than just adding a dense posting to the medial side of a shoe. More often than not just increasing the width of a shoe increases the stability. Think of it in terms of a snow shoe vs. an ice skate. A snow shoe is much more stable since it has such a wide base. But the fact that most minimalist shoes are designed in the shape of a foot....

....really bothers me. They are so heavily drafted under the arch of the foot that they offer absolutely no support to the foot or ankle (i.e. ice skate effect). This not only allows the collapse of the arch and ankle, but in most cases it actually exaggerates it, almost like the shoe is purposefully designed to throw you off balance. I have seen a large number of people with neutral mechanics running in these shoes and they almost always overpronate. Don't get me wrong, I have this problem with a lot of regular running shoes too, but I have only seen two or three "minimalist" shoes that has a decently wide base for the foot to land.

The marketing concept of a more "natural" foot strike has bothers me as well. The idea that changing your preferred foot strike is the "natural" thing to do is completely absurd. A lot of research on the topic of gait analysis has shown that any change in your gait will cause you to be less efficient. People who forefoot strike and try to change their gait to a heel strike will become less efficient and vice versa. And the concept that any one prescribed method of running will work for everyone in the world is complete BS. A natural foot strike should be one that feels natural to you. Whether its heel, forefoot or midfoot, it should feel comfortable and unforced.

With regards to all the reports of people being injured from overbuilt shoes..... Chances are, there are a few things at work here. The most common thing I've seen in the running store is a person in a shoe that is completely wrong for them (they bought it because it was $25 at BIG5 or at Nordstrom because it looked cool, something like that). They are also increasing their mileage for a race like a marathon. The combination of wearing the wrong shoe and increasing their mileage by 300% leads to their body responding in a negative way. Simple as that.

My advice for people who are having problems with their current pair of shoes or training:

-Bring your current pair of running shoes into a running specialty store. More often than not, any one of the employees here will be able to help you find the right shoe. Whether its having you run on a treadmill or down a hallway and back, they will be able to see which shoe looks best as you're running in it. Keep in mind that you want something to match your foot shape without having to wrench down the laces. If you have a narrow foot, see if they have any narrow versions in stock. For men this will be a B width, women will have a 2A width. Wide widths are usually available too, 2E or 4E for men, D or 2E for women. Make sure the shoe feels comfortable as your running in it. No amount of support will benefit you if you can't wear the shoe. Lastly, make sure the store has a good return policy so you can try the shoes out for a bit. It's often a prerequisite to be a runner if you work in a running shoe store so chances are they'd be able to offer advice on training.

-If you're training for something or just getting started, a lot of people have aches and pains associated with entry into a sport. It's really easy to blame the shoe, but more often than not its just the body saying you're loading too much too soon. Keep a mileage log and make sure you're not bumping up your mileage too quickly. If you do 10 miles the first week, then bump to 15 and feel horrible, keep in mind you've just increased your mileage by 50%. It's nice to keep things in perspective.

In the end, I think anything that gets you out the door and running is awesome. If thats a new pair of shoes that you've never tried before, GREAT! Just keep in mind that if you're going to try something drastically different, do so cautiously. If you find something that works for you, stick with it. If not, figure out what isn't working. Trial and error will help you find your way into the right shoes.

I always feel like I haven't explained my stance well enough, so if you have any questions please don't hesitate to comment.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I had a friend email me recently to ask a few questions about marathon training and I thought it'd be a good opportunity to put a few of my opinions on running out there. most of these are general guidelines on how to stay healthy and avoid injury when bumping up the mileage. Anyway, here ya go!

There are too many factors in a person's day to really single anything out, but there are basic elements I tell people to focus on when they are training for a long distance race like a marathon.

EAT WELL - i see too many people going for the "beach body" and skimping on calories because they think training for the marathon is gonna help them lose weight. this is a large cause of injury. on the other hand, don't cram in crappy, calorie dense foods just because you're hungry. Try to eat calorie dense foods with nutritional benefits like almonds, cashews, peanut butter, hummus, etc. vegetables and vitamins are very important too. protein should probably be the last thing on a person's mind when training for the marathon. the average american eats probably 2-3 times daily what they actually need even if they are training for something like this.

STAY HYDRATED - very important. i'd keep a bottle with you at all times and refill at fountains.

MULTIVITAMIN - if there are any inconsistencies in your diet, or you want to take something during the winter months with lots of vitamin c and d, i'd recommend SportMulti. its what i use now and its awesome. then again, if you already have one that you like just stick with that.

SLEEP - invaluable

STRESS - while its a natural occurrence in any persons day, make sure you remember to take it easy on the runs during stressful days. you're likely to be a lot more exhausted and depleted.

PROGRESSIVE RUNS - so here is an interesting topic. the idea of a progressive run is very simple... you start out slow, let your body warm up, and then you can lower the pace to basically anything you want. I started using this idea for every single run this year and it works really well. most people (like myself before trying this) start out trying to maintain a pace the entire way. If you don't give your body time to warm up, you'll feel fatigued later in the run. next time you're out, try starting out running easy to the point of being annoying. do that for ten minutes and then work your way down to a comfortable pace. these runs are also valuable for "speed work". i hate using that term because it implies interval training most of the time. with progressive run training, you get much more long-distance benefit. you're teaching your body to handle faster paces without the starting and stopping. it takes much less time to recover from progressive runs than interval training.

another problem is that people are running all of their miles too fast. if youre trying to hit a target pace for a marathon, that doesn't mean you need to spend 90% of your time running at that pace. its a quick path to injury.

RUN ON SOFTER SURFACES - if your body is a constant muscle ache, you might want to try getting onto a dirt road or trail of some sort. the roads are between 30-50 times harder than even the hardest packed dirt road. also some single-track trail with strengthen your stabilizer muscles while giving you a change of scenery. strengthening stabilizer muscles makes a huge difference late in races.

AVOID MINIMAL SHOES - this is way too big a topic to explain in a few short sentences, but i feel minimal shoes are absolutely the worst things you can put on your foot whether you're running 100 yards or 100 miles.... but especially if you're running 100 miles. if you're going to race in a racing flat, maybe get in a few runs with the flat to make sure its comfortable. it shouldn't be a "full-time mileage" shoe though.

I'll write more on minimal shoes in my next post............