The Sole Is Hard To Find


I really should have bought the photo. But I was a little embarrassed. Which is all the more reason why I should have bought the photo. Somehow we want to preserve our image only if it matches the innerinaccurate image we have of ourselves. Otherwise it's get rid of that photo! or, as in this case, I'm not going to spend money on that photo!

It showed me running along Cannery Row in last year's Big Sur Half Marathon. If there is a pic of a more perfect heel strike, I have not seen it. Heel on ground, toe angled up, aarrghh.

Of course, the photo, which I didn't order online, is the epitome of frozen ugliness only if you accept the argument contained in the popular Nature of Things documentary, The Perfect Runner. In that doc, narratorrrunneranthropologist Niobe Thompson introduces us to Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman, whose thesis is that we have been coaxed and persuaded and marketed out of our nature of being barefoot runners.

Thompson shoes the difference
The big, heel-padded running shoes, the argument goes, allow us or force us to run with unnatural biomechanics, the most pernicious aspect being the heel strike. Run on the spot and you land naturally on your forefeet. Run in bare feet, and you land on your forefeet. But run in shoes, and, too often, it's heel first. This is a painful finding for those who accept that that kind of stride puts too much stress on the IT band and, in turn, the knee.

Time will tell if this is slipshod science employed only to sell more of the new barefoot shoes.

But I am open to some way to understand and leave behind the kind of pain I felt at that Big Sur half. Care to relive the funny,  painful truth?

Anyways, last week, after more than a full month of not running since the half, I rededicated myself to the quest to find my stride. It now strikes me as complex a task as sculpting a golf swing. True, technology might have put me a few steps behind, but technology might help me catch up. Here is some slo-motion video taken today at the downtown Y in my new shoes and in my old, "natural" stride. I think the camera (Shelagh) nicely captures the heel strike.




And this is what a concerted effort to land on the forefeet looks like:



After 23 minutes of running with the new landing plan, my calves were bawling, but no knee or IT discomfort. Twenty-three minutes isn't enough pain-free time to deliver a verdict, but I'll keep exploring this technique, adding just a little more time every week to see where I might land.

(As a visual bonus, check out how the hammer arms of the elliptical machines make like the inners of an enormous piano!)


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