I made it

I was just about to give up my weekly goal of 20km, but I had a surprisingly comfortable 8 km run today. Turns out warming up is great! First I ran 3 km, then I did some warm ups, and then I ran 5 more.

Runkeeper doesn’t recognize the pause function of my Garmin watch, so I had to make a new “activity” of the second round.

Anyway, after new years, I’m down to 16, and I’ll increase from there.

http://runkeeper.com/user/etyrmi/activity/63745192

Fitness reports


Runkeeper makes a nifty little graph of my weekly distance. It seems a bit uneven to me…

It has inspired me to start having a fixed mileage. I’m trying to reach 20 this week, which means I have to run 3 km christmas eve and 3 km christmas day. I’ll see how it works, and adjust it down to 16 if I feel like it. I feel I am at a point where it will very soon be comfortable to run a bit more and further. I hope that’s true.

http://runkeeper.com/user/etyrmi/activity/63589811

My metatarsals just want to be free.

Fifth metatarsus on the middle left.

OK, this is getting nerdy.

I used to be a bit ashamed of my wide feet. Most shoes squeeze the outside of my foot. The little toe sticks out, sometimes making a whole in the fabric, like the first (and last) time I bought All Stars. Lately I’ve been thinking a bit about feet and running gait, and I’ve started looking at people’s feet. Turns out almost everyone’s got the same problem. Simply put we buy shoes that cripple our feet. Not a lot, but a little.

Now, minimal running shoes often sport a wide toe box. That means there is space for the toes to move freely. Problem solved. So why does it still feel like some shoes are squeezing my little toe?

It seems the little toe that we see is just the tip of the iceberg. The fifth metatarsal is a bone running along the outside of your foot, protruding just in front of the ankle. (See the anatomical drawing above for visual reference.) Which brings me to my pet peeve in running shoes; the dreaded “outside arch”. Right at the point where the fifth metatarsal protrudes, a lot of shoe makers have chosen to make the sole narrower and higher. Not wider, like you should think. My impression is that this pushes the bone in and up, creating too much pronation, messing up my gait.

Notice the difference in shape here. A quick Google search tells me this is a pretty common foot shape.

The foot in the illustration is not mine, but basically it’s the same shape. Many people have narrower feet, but according to my totally unscientific research (a quick google search) most feet have the fifth metatarsal sticking out at the same place. The image of a foot below is one of the first that show up in an image search for “sole foot”.

I feel a bit guilty for using the Merrell Trail Glove as an example. After all people have run ultra-marathons in them without experiencing any pain. I have never even run a marathon. It’s not the worst example in any way. It’s a soft shoe, so it gives a bit. Traditional running shoes have the same feature, often to a much worse degree, since they are stiff and “supportive”.

Again, with the Nike Free, this is not the worst example of a weird arch. Quite the opposite. It just shows that this shoe shape is industry standard.

But the trail glove gives a very clear visual reference for the “outside arch”. If you have narrow feet, this may not be a problem. But if you fifth metatarsal hurts when running in shoes, you could give this a thought. A wide toe box doesn’t automatically mean your foot is free.

PS: Although the Merrell shoe did not fit me, it might be the right one for you. Click the Image for a review of the shoe from birthdayshoes.com.

Three a day

Increase mileage by 10% they say… I’m trying to increase my mileage by a tiny bit every week. Last week i ran 20 km. If I run three km every day I’ll be at 21. A 5% increase.

My plan is then to increase by 5% until I hit the highest level that is comfortable. Beyond that lies the possimpible. If you don’t know what possimpible is, watch this clip (or read the quote below):

All my life, I have dared to go past what is possible. Actually, past [the impossible]. To the place where the possible and the impossible meet to become… the possimpible. If I can leave you with one thought, it’s this: Nothing… and everything… is possimpible.

Barney Stinson

http://runkeeper.com/user/etyrmi/activity/63363923

Review: Vivobarefoot Neo Trail shoe

"Outdoorsy" styling.

So, Iv’e finally gotten myself a pair of Vivobarefoot Neo Trails. I went for a test run today, trying to run on as many different surfaces as possible.

They are actually good on pavement, surprisingly. The lugs are so thick that they don’t bend much, making a pretty stable sole. It’s a sole with lugs but feel more like a thicker sole with some holes in it. About that: The lugs also give some cushioning. I’m used to the slightly thinner Evo/Neo sole, so this sole feels a bit softer, which I don’t mind. There’s still very little chance of heelstriking in these, thus it deserves the “minimal” label. Zero drop of course.

I tried the shoes in some muddy hills and some grass, and the grip is excellent. I’m glad I photographed the shoes before I ran, because the soles are full of mud now, and some dog turds as well.

I’ve read some reviews saying the shoe is much too warm, and that the watertightness is of no use, as many reviewers prefer a shoe that drained faster. My answer is, that it depends who you are and where you live. I live far north.

When running in temperatures well below zero degrees (30 F) I want dry feet if possible. If I get wet, I don’t want the shoe to let the heat out. I’d rather have a bit of lukewarm water in my shoe than solid ice. Overheating is not really a problem. The fact that they are waterproof and the overly aggressive sole make them excellent for conditions with slippery snow and freezing temperatures. I imagine I will be dry and comfortable all the way to april, when I will stow these away with the rest of my winter boots.

The midfoot is a bit stiffer than the other Vivobarefoot models, due to a protecting plastic piece under the arch. (I had to take two weeks off a while back after stepping on a rock, so I appreciate its usefulness.) This would be a problem if the midfoot wasn’t so roomy. My foot is allowed to move freely inside and doesn’t feel trapped in any way. The Neo Trail has a stiff midfoot, but that it does not inhibit my foot because it is wider than most shoes.

The upper on these shoes is a bit over-engineered; a bit bulky, but protecting you from roots and rocks. Vivobarefoot have another model of the regular Neo with watertight mesh on top, which should be an excellent trail shoe if you want something lighter for a race. These are made for comfort or extra gritty terrain.

This shoe is not a good all-round shoe, but rather a shoe that is perfect for certain conditions: if you usually have cold winters, or snow, or if you like to run on rough trails or where there’s no trail, this shoe is perfect. There are lots of shoes for light trail (e.g. Vivobarefoot Neo, Merrell trail glove,  New Balance Minimus Trail, Altra Lone Peak), this shoe is for all the other trails. Also, if you live further south, there’s a more breathable version, called Breatho Trail, coming out next year, also for the tough trails.

Second opinions:

  1. Maple grove barefoot guy
  2. Running and Rambling
  3. Birthday shoes

Scroll down for some more photos.

Update

And I must add the Neo Trails are simply amazing when it comes to grip on icy surfaces. Running on a wet icy wooden pier is generally considered dangerous, and I wouldn’t attempt it in any other shoe. I was a bit skeptic to this shoe after reading some mixed reviews, but I know for certain than none of the reviewers had tried the shoe in winter, as it only came out in summer 2011. Also it seems that people who live in warmer countries tend to conclude “too warm, doesn’t drain: Dealbreaker” or “No rockplate, overly aggressive grip”, while I’ve read reviews from Denmark and Britain stating “This is THE shoe for winter conditions”. I guess the same  things that makes it good also makes it not suitable for hot weather. Anyway, amazing shoe.

Very grippy sole, rock protection piece to the right.

Stiffness in the midfoot area.

Comfy lining, removable insole

Rounded heel. No heelstrike.

Discrete branding

Of Mania and Achilles Tendinitis.

My right Achilles tendon is fine today, after running 10km yesterday. I mean fine as in no pain, no stiffness in the morning. Based on experience, I wouldn’t go for a run today though… I’ve looked at my training blog (finally some use for it) to try to determine if there’s a pattern before any crisis or pain in my feet and legs, but there’s really no system to it. I had some pain and swelling under the right foot after stepping on a sharp stone a few weeks back, which lasted ten days or so. Seems easy enough to self-diagnose.  Six months ago I  started running much too suddely, and developed a case of Achilles tendinosis, also self diagnosed, I should add. But this round of Achilles pain is a bit of a mystery.

When I started running last spring, I hadn’t run regularly in fifteen years. I had previously had some knee issues, probably aggravated by being slightly overweight at the time, and possibly by those stability Asics I’ve later grown to hate. Can’t remember the model number, unfortunately, or I would warn against them. They must have had at least a 4cm heel, because I kept sliding into the front of the shoe. Enough said, I had some bad experience with running, so I googled running technique and found some entertaining Youtube videos by some dr Silberman, New Jersey, analysing the gait of a runner heel striking vs. forefoot striking. I think I watched it a few times before watching many more videos advocating the same footstrike, so I decided to try it. And the effect was immediate. Already on my fifth run I ran 11 km wich is longer than I had ever run before. So it definitely worked for me.

Then I did something stupid: I got completely manic about running. After only two weeks of running I ran every day, between 4 and 10 km. A few weeks in I would occasionally run twice in a day. I remember reasoning like this: “Kids run all the time, so why should’nt I?” Inevitably something went wrong, and that something was my left Achilles tendon. After that I started taking two days rest between each run, which was painful, mentally, because I would like to run every day. Then I took about two weeks without running, and when I started carefully, the pain was insignificant unless I ran the day after a long run. I managed to finish a half-marathon, partially heel striking, with no discomfort. My left tendon is fine now, but I still try to be careful.

And then it happened again: A week back my right achilles tendon acted up, and it’s now the limiting factor of my running. It seems I still have a hard time in keeping my distances short enough. Simply put I must try not to run more than 4km at the time, which has proved to be my “safe” distance. Because of those first weeks of invincibility it’s hard to accept that I am still a beginner, and that I probably need to ease into it more than most. I weight 82 kilos, which is heavy for a runner, and I’m simply not used to this amount of exercise. It’s important for me to accept that I am still a far way from being a marathoner. Part of the problem is, I seem to enjoy long distance running the most.

I have started thinking about reverting to heel striking in padded shoes, but I don’t want the pain in my knees to return, and, more importantly, it feels weird now that I’m used to forefoot striking. The fact that my left foot is now seemingly healed and strong enough to carry me for long runs, I am optimistic that my right foot will follow, and that if I just keep at it, slowly my legs will get the necessary strength and robustness. It is a trial for my patience though.

About healing of Achilles tendon injury, it can be good to know that while a broken bone usually heals back stronger than before, a tendon is often weakened my old injuries, and can become a lifelong annoyance. With regular exercise it gets stronger, but with overuse it gets weaker. If you are contemplating barefoot/forefoot/minimal/natural running, please don’t go from 0 to 10km immediately like I did, even if it feels good at the time.

I still have the urge to run every day, and I hope that someday I will be able to.

Here’s my game plan:

  • Better warm up.
  • Shorter runs, but maybe more frequent.
  • Never continue after feeling any discomfort.
  • Lose weight.

Sounds easy enough. But there are some Vivobarefoot trail shoes on their way to my door via mail…