Shoes.. shoes..shoes!

Today, I’m talking.. you guessed it.. shoes!

Running shoes, specifically.   Often, I get asked which shoe is best.   That’s a tough question to answer because there are a myriad of criteria we use to evaluate a shoe and for each person, those criteria are going to be different.  It isn’t just color, though color is a fairly common criteria, but also widths, widths in different parts of the shoe, heel-slippage, toe-room, shoe volume, heel height, cushioning, weight, durability, function, the height of the shoe’s collar, abrogated tongues, general fit, and much much more.   For each one of those criteria, every person will have a slightly different preference.  My preference in shoes is to have something that fits like a slipper; loose and slipping on the heel is fine with me, secured on the mid-foot and plenty of room for my toes.  Someone else would find my preferences uncomfortable or even painful on their own foot.

That’s why I tell almost everyone, that the best shoe for you.. now remember this when you go shoe shopping because it’s really the most important thing.. the BEST shoe for you is the shoe that you can put on your foot and forget about.    There is nothing about the shoe that is drawing your attention to itself or distracting you in any way.  You should be able to put the shoe on, step out the door and get your workout in, easily slipping into that zen flow-state that we runners love, where we think about whatever it is we want to think about – so long as what we’re thinking about isn’t ‘hmm.. why is my ankle feeling sore’ or ‘is this shoe going to cause a blister where that hotspot is forming under the ball of my foot’, or.. whatever.

That isn’t to say, that you shouldn’t listen to your shoe guy and just start picking shoes willy-nilly.   A good shoe salesman is going to find out what kind of shoe will work for you based on your preferences but also based on your unique stability needs.   We kind of interview customers to know whether we’re looking for a road shoe or trail shoe, if there are any injuries we need to be aware of, what your goals are, and what has worked for you, or not worked for you, in the past.

 

Stability

What do I mean by ‘Stability’?   When we use that term, we’re talking about pronation or, the foots natural shock-absorption system where the arch flexes in order to absorb shock.   While almost everyone uses this biomechanical movement when they walk and run, some arches collapse to varying degrees (or collapse completely = flat-footed) and the ankle rolls inward.   Often, this inward roll or pronation causes the person to also point their toes out (“Duck Walk”) to reclaim some of the balance lost with that inward roll.Pronation_Supination_Neutral

Depending on a person’s specific needs, we would recommend differing categories of shoes.

  1. Pronated: Stability shoe, or even a Motion Control category for severe pronation.
  2. Neutral: Neutral shoe.
  3. Supination: Neutral shoe, most likely something with high-cushion (to allow the foot to sink into the supporting footbed) or possibly an insert with arch support and a deep heel cup to corral and secure the foot so that the ankle does not roll outward.

 

Shoe Size

Shoe size can be a tough pill to swallow for some customers.   Ideally, you want there to be about a thumbnails-width between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. Typically, this means that good running shoes will run a full size higher than what you’re used to wearing with boots, heels and casual or dress shoes.   The main reason for this is to allow enough space for your feet to swell when you are training.  It isn’t enough to be comfortable with your toes just off the end of the shoe because, when you do that long run, and your foot swells, you could run out of room quick and have problems: sore, black or missing toenails, pain or numbness between your metatarcels, blisters and calluses.

It’s important to remember too, that just because you’re an adult now, you likely won’t be in the same size shoes you wore in high-school or even college.   Most people can expect to go up a size or even two sizes during the course of their adult lives.   Women experience not just changing shoe sizes, but also changing foot shapes and types – especially with each pregnancy.    Injuries too, can change the size of one or both feet as well.

 

Heel-Drop: What’s that?

Heel-Drop is the difference between the stack-height at the front of the shoe as compared to the stack height at the back of the shoe.   On average, most shoes run between 8-10mm higher toward the heel versus the front of the shoe.   When we are barefoot or in flip-flops and converse shoes, we are what is called, “Zero Drop”, meaning, there is no difference between the front and back.

Depending on an individuals preference and unique bio-mechanics, certain heel-drops will work better than others.   It’s going to be a matter of experimentation.   A couple of things to think about would be;

  1. What kind of heel-drop have you been running in and how has that worked out for you?   If you are using something along the lines of 10mm or 12mm, and it’s been injury-free running, you might not want to change it up.
  2. Going from a high-heel drop (10-12mm) shoe to a zero drop shoe is actually lengthening the calf and the achilles as the heel is lower down and the foot/heel angle is a smaller angle.   Bear this in mind when you decide to go for a more minimal or lower drop shoe – if your calves or achilles are feeling aggravated, then either take a break and alternate into a more comfortable shoe for the rest of the day, or avoid them altogether.   Bottom line is to listen to your body.
  3. Just because a minimal shoe or zero-drop shoe worked wonders for you does NOT mean it will work for everyone.  Be glad you found something so awesome but try not to apply what worked for you as a once-size-fits-all solution to everyone else. Conversely, when someone swears by a specific brand, and ONLY that brand, or model or heel-drop or whatever, listen politely, maybe even try it out for yourself, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work out for your unique foot-shape, -strike, -stride.

 

Where to get your shoes?

So listen up, take some notes and decide for yourself.   I’m pretty biased toward local businesses – not to be confused with ‘locally-owned national franchises’.  A lot of places like to borrow that phrase – “Locally Owned”, when they really aren’t, because they want to capitalize on “Local” branding while maintaining the national franchise connections, with all the brain-trust advantages that come with it (Advertising, inventory management, uniform branding, POS and CIS systems, etc, etc.).   Next time you see someone claiming to be “Local” when you know they’re actually a national franchise, think about McDonalds and ask yourself if there’s really anything local about that?

These kinds of places can always retreat to the clarification that they are locally-owned and that’s what they meant all along, but when you have people coming up to you telling you how they ‘..like shopping at such and such a place because it allows them to shop local’, when you know they aren’t technically ‘local’.. it strikes me as purposefully dishonest and misleading.   That said, you shop wherever you want, whether that be online, at a national-franchise, or a truly local outfit – the bottom line is that you need someone experienced helping you and most of these locations can at least offer you this.

Now, a good shoe-fit specialist can tell a lot about your shoe and stability needs just from watching you walk.   The treadmill and video are great for showing the customer what’s going on and why the fit-specialist is leaning one way or the other, but any good shoe salesman is able to evaulate all of this without the use of a treadmill.  As a matter of fact, I find myself checking out people walking and what they’re feet and ankles are doing – ALL the time.   Tumumoc is famously the home of Nike Free’s and pronation as far as the eye can see!

The advantages of going and seeing someone is that a customer can usually rely on that person to know what category of shoe would be good for them, what specific shoes across brands address their specific needs, and the customer actually gets to try the shoe on – AT the location.  That’s the power of brick and mortar stores.   Sometimes the prices won’t be what someone might find online, but getting to try the shoe on and getting great service is almost always worth the difference they might save in savings.

 

Conclusion:

I hope this little guide has helped you in finding the right shoe.   Along with everything else here, remember that finding “the Perfect Shoe” is like searching for the Holy Grail.  It’s an ongoing experiment where, with each shoe purchase, you learn a little more about the shoes out there and a little more about your own preferences.   Remember too, that shoe sizing differs from model to model at times, but our feet don’t stay exactly the same shape or size either – don’t insist on staying in a size 8 because you’ve always been in a size 8 and your horrified at the thought of being in a 9 and a half.   Don’t do that.

Good luck, have fun, and if you have any questions – please ask them in the comment section here or on Facebook.

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Cross-Training

QUESTION: “Are we supposed to be Cross-Training?”
This is such a great question and I’ll try and be brief.   The bottom line is to avoid injury, and the best way to do that is by erring on the side of caution, taking it slow, starting below your comfort-curve and incrementally building up your workouts to your own comfort-level before going beyond what you already know you can do.   There are a few factors to consider when you are trying to decide whether you want to do cross-fit and what kind of cross-fit you should be doing:
1. You need to know where you are at, currently, in your fitness.   We sometimes get caught up in where we WANT to be instead of taking inventory of where we actually ARE – try and know the difference, think about it constantly, and adjust your cross-training goals accordingly.
2. You need to align your training and fitness with your specific goals.
a: If you are just working toward crossing the finish line, you might not want or need to do much cross-training, although it would certainly be helpful if you could add in a little bit.
b: When you have a specific time goal or even a general time goal, you might need to bring varying forms of strength and flexibility training into your routine – very important to have both strength and flexibility when you tackle speed workouts since muscle strain and ligament/tendon stress is at its highest when we exert ourselves in these intense bursts.   Building these tissues up slowly and consistently can at least get you to the starting line, injury free!
c: If your goal includes weight loss, cross-training could be very effective in giving you alternative workouts that are better geared at fat-burning and toning.   I would also highly recommend your team-mate Nicki Mazzioti for nutritional coaching: https://www.risen-nutrition.com/
 
QUESTION: “What kinds of Cross-training should I be doing?”
To answer this question, ask yourself the following:
1. “What do I enjoy or would I enjoy?”   Just because someone else really loves Yoga doesn’t mean that you will love it too – by all means, give it a go if you’ve never tried it, but maybe you would prefer a nice bike ride instead.  (Swimming, Walking, Hiking, Dance, Zumba, Weight-Lifting, Boxing, etc.)
2. “What weaknesses or challenges do I face and what can cross-training do to help me address those weaknesses?”   I’ve already said that my core is really weak; my abdomen, my hips, my lower back (Core workouts 1-2 times a week).   I would also like to do things that help me maintain or maybe even lose about ten pounds (Full-Body strength training to add more muscle.  More muscle equals more muscle to feed and that equals higher metabolism, followed by weight loss), and I need tons more flexiblity in my calves, my hamstrings, my hips and my lower back (Yoga everyday!).
3. “What if I’m injured?”    Tread lightly here.   I’ve dislocated both of my shoulders (a long time ago) and I continue to have left-chain leg issues (calf, knee, hammies, hips and glutes).   Whether it’s my regular workouts or cross-training, I’m very careful and aware of these areas in my body and I approach them with respect and caution – I urge you to do the same.  It just isn’t worth it to drive yourself hard through injuries.   For me, I avoid swimming not just because I’m no good at it, but something about the motion of the arms causes my already weak shoulder sockets to pop out – my goal then is to do upper-body and specifically shoulder workouts (and surrounding areas) to strengthen that part of my body and rehabilitate those joints.   Someday, I hope to get in a pool and get proper coaching to improve my efficiency and form – just as soon as my shoulders can handle it.  Cross-training allows me to approach these injuries in new ways and target the areas that have had problems in the past – bringing me to a more well-rounded full-body fitness someday.
I would add that foam-rolling, deep sports massage, and targetted stretching are part of my cross-training routine specifically in response to my left-chain issues.
Bottom line: Be Careful and always consult a professional for any medical issues or question you may have.
I would love to hear from you!
Q: What forms of cross-training do you love?
Q: What did I miss in this article or what did I get wrong/did you disagree with?
Q: What did you like about this article?
Thanks so much – may you remain injury-free and happy running 🙂
This blog was inspired by the Destination U “DU-OV HalfM – Fall 17” group – training for the Tucson Half Marathon and the Veterans Day Half Marathon.  Thank you “Team Tomato” for your dedication, consistency, and can-do attitude.  You rock!

I’ll be your mommy and your daddy!

Being a ‘shoe expert’ and being a coach puts a person – me – in a unique position because, people are looking to me for answers to questions that don’t always have easy answers. “What’s the best shoe?” for example, or, “How should I be running?”.

Don’t get me wrong, there are good answers, but people sometimes need to be told and often, they are happy to put you in that position of authority for a lot of good reasons.   People need to be told why, what, how often, when and to what degree?   Answering all of these will reinforce their estimation of you as a resource for learning and incorporating ideas, products and strategies in their own lives.

It’s like being a parent, I imagine.

Traditionally, there’s a nurturing and comforting style.  Pulling a person along a certain path or way of thinking, coaxing, rewarding; gently and unfailingly.   This tends to be my style and the most comfortable for me because I don’t like confrontation, I take it on faith that the people I’m dealing with are adults and will act accordingly.  They will state their intention and they will follow through on their intention with consistent action toward their stated goal.   In short, they will parent themselves.

The “Drill-Seargent” style is meant to intimidate, threaten, cajole, push, and punish you. This style is great for those who cannot muster the discipline on their own and don’t mind being yelled at.   Some people thrill at being shouted at – thriving where gentle persuasion can find no traction.

Both are needed.   It is the wise coach who can identify the best blend of both for a given situation, marshalling more of one style for a specific athlete than might be brought into play for another.   Much like a pacer who tends to his athlete with the right mix of push and pull in order to bring her safely across the line and final goal.

People need to be told.

I need to work on bringing more balance into my style.  They need to be confronted sometimes when they are sand-bagging, giving up, not following through, and not being committed when they said they were committed.   Sometimes, we ALL need someone yelling in our ear to PUSH! when we’re at our most exhausted – the sweet soft tones of comfort and kindness are not appropriate to every situation.

I’ll let you know how that works out.

The Real Danger of Motivation (Pt 3.)

What are the thoughts you are having that are holding you back?

We thought it was motivation that was holding us back.  It isn’t.   The thing that is holding us back are the thoughts we practice about ourselves and our own low-estimations about our ability to have the life we want.

When we say we don’t have the motivation to do something, I invite you to consider that maybe we are actually saying that we do not find our own cause compelling enough.  In short, we have decided at a fundamental level that we are not good enough, that we are not worth it, that everyone knows we’re a fake and nothing is ever going to change that!

Bullshit.   But I’ll get into that later..

For now, you need to understand the Real Danger of Motivation – this is so important. When we hold these negative thoughts about ourselves, and we are full of self-weilding and self-inflicting negativity, we are ripe for finding that one thing that will carry us through, that motivational lattice and structure that will bring us to the dream!   When we are so obviously floundering, we are easily led to believe that we are failures, and when we beleive we that, it becomes much easier to believe someone who agrees with us and offers us another way.

Relying on motivation can sometimes turn our brains off when we need them most. Instead of seeing bullshit for what it is, we buy into this idea that we are ‘supposed to be uncomfortable’ and that we are to have a kind of ‘reckless abandon’ when we jump into a thing or practice – whole-hog!   It is a virtue to say “YES” without waiting for the question, to agree when our own internal warning systems are telling us to get the hell out, and to give total trust that is simply asked for but not earned.

When we believe that we are missing something or failing somehow to ‘pull the trigger’, focused soley on our short-comings and failures, and we buy into this motivational philosphy that says we are ‘meant to be uncomfortable in order to grow’.. really uncomforatble.. we might fail to discern the difference between being uncomfortable and being manipulated.

And that’s a pretty dangerous place to be.

 

The Real Danger of Motivation (Pt 2.)

What we lack is not motivation, it is honesty.

What we really want more than anything is to say we are willing to do the hard work, make the hard choices, buckle down, sweat, hurt and yes, even bleed for what we want.. without actually doing ANY of those things in any way, shape or form.

We don’t get to define our desires with words, we define our desires with action and action alone.

When we don’t take the action that aligns with our stated desires, we make facile excuses like; ‘I just don’t have enough motivation’.   We seem to think that our actions are the result of external forces and circumstances, but really our actions are the result of our own desires at any given moment as they relate to the weight of our judgements and our thoughts to external forces and our circumstances.    

This subtle distinction makes all the difference.

Because what we are thinking about a given circumstance or situation will drive our feelings, and our feelings will then drive our action – regardless of motivation.   In other words, if you have strong thoughts about something, you will not require ‘motivation’ as you will naturally generate the feelings needed to perform the task and, while that itself may seem like motivation, that word is kind of shoddy – “Of course you were going to do the thing!”, you might think, “No motivation necessary!”.

So what are the thoughts that are failing you?

The Real Danger of Motivation (Pt 1.)

One can hear it all the time in my line of work – “I just can’t find the motivation to _____”.

It’s as though we are saying, if I don’t have the motivation, then what I say needs to be done cannot be done.   The minute changes, or grand changes, in my life cannot be executed if I cannot convince myself of their importance or relevance.   What sounded good to me yesterday, is no longer sufficient for today.

Motivation stops being that catalyst to the next best level of ourselves and instead becomes the ubiquitous and incoherent placeholder for any excuse we wish to make for ourselves.   We think that if we aren’t ‘motivated’ to do something, we can give ourselves a pass for not doing something.

That is a lie, and we should quit lying.   What we lack is not motivation, it is honesty.

 

The fruits of daily yoga.

Maybe when you read that title, you think, automatically, that I’m going to go on about how much more flexible I am or toned?  Both?   But it’s not true.   Maybe.  Maybe.. maybe I’m a little more flexible.. maybe.

But what’s really standing out to me is this.

About three weeks ago, I decided to start doing yoga every single day. Recently, I even began posting it online so others could see, but I already had a few-weeks head-start. My goal was to loosen my hips and lower back….aaaand hamstrings.   That’s what I focused on exclusively for the first week, but then I began to just look for any thirty-minute videos of yoga, exploring what was available online.

There were some videos where I wasn’t into the instructor or the video and, a few times, I even stopped the video to find another that I liked better.   I quickly came back to the original video and decided I needed to finish that one.  That I needed to accept what it was offering and just stick with it.   Funny thing was, I usually ended up having a good time with those videos I didn’t even like, initially.

That was interesting to me, so I began to practice leaving my judgements aside and staying with the practice.

So the fruits.. the unexpected fruits of my daily yoga?

Acceptance.

Accepting that not all videos are going to scream ‘awesome’ at me.   Accepting that when I go into a pose, and when the instructor tells me I should feel it in my glutes or hamstrings, that maybe I’m not there yet.   Maybe I have to feel it in my hips for now because that’s a pre-level and that’s the best I can hope for.

Sometimes we have to accept things where we are and not where we want to be.   Sometimes we’re just not ready for what we’re being asked to do, and we have to accept the place where we are ready.   The key is to accept it and keep a positive mental attitude – stay positive because you are doing what you can, you accept that you are where you are, but you continue to do the work so that someday, you will be where you want to be.

That makes me feel grateful and yes, even accomplished – stiff hips and all.