Everyone knows the story of Cinderella. Poor, downtrodden Cinders gets to go to the ball after her fairy godmother waves her magic wand and transforms rags into a beautiful ball gown, rodents into footmen and a pumpkin into a coach. In her haste to leave the ball before everything changes back at midnight, careless Cindy loses her glass slipper, leaving the handsome prince who, of course, has already fallen in love with the beautiful maid, to scour the length and breadth of the kingdom to find the one girl whose foot fits the shoe, make her his princess and live happily ever after.
Running’s Cinderella story is all about finding the right shoe for you and can take just as much searching as the prince undertook to find his lost love. The good news is, no running in rigid glass footwear is required, and once the right shoe is found, the story concludes with you bounding off into the sunset to run happily ever after!
You may be wondering why I’m writing about Cinderella today, and the answer is not just because I like to call myself The Running Princess (although I do like the thematic link!). No, my purpose is to post an update on my rebuild to Running Princess 2.0 after declaring at the end of December that my goal for 2013 is to address the constant cycle of running injuries and start again from the beginning without the pressure of impending races looming over me. At the time of my last post I was getting back to regular cardio and conditioning workouts, adjusting my eating habits and making arrangements to see a physio to sort out the recurring problem with my glute medius. This problem now seems to be resolved thanks to the eventual unlocking of my ankle joint which was resulting in poor dorsiflexion and having an impact further up the kinetic chain. The next step, then, was to get new running shoes as I was becoming increasingly convinced that my current shoes were no longer right for me.
And so today I headed out on a mission to complete my Cinderella story and find my perfect running shoe. I have always been told that I overpronate and have needed increasingly supportive shoes to correct this, yet the fact that I was still picking up the same injuries suggested that maybe this wasn’t the right course of action. I had gone from a stability shoe to a motion control shoe with heavy cushioning and a generally heavy feel which forced my foot into a heavy, stompy heel strike. In the gym, however, I have been wearing a minimal shoe for the last few months to allow my foot and ankle joints to move naturally and gain strength. Having tried a few brief treadmill runs in these, I enjoyed the feeling of landing lightly and further forward on my foot, the way my body naturally wants to move, the way I’m sure I used to run before my shoes became too heavy to run this way. I don’t want to run great distances in minimal shoes as for me they feel a bit too flimsy, but I no longer want to run with bricks attached to my feet! I therefore approached today’s search mission with an open mind, with no desire to be tied down to a particular brand or shoe type. Instead, I was looking for the shoe that simply felt the most comfortable on my feet, the shoe that felt like running on an air bubble, the shoe that made me want to head out and start running straightaway. This would be the perfect shoe for this particular Cinderella, but could I find it?
With these criteria in mind, I headed off to a specialist running store with staff well trained in gait analysis and biomechanics. I explained my history, discussed my average weekly mileage and talked about what I was looking for in a shoe. Since I haven’t had a proper gait analysis and shoe fitting done since the summer of 2011, it made sense to do this today. Some shops use fancy computer programmes and treadmills for gait analysis, however the shop I chose today uses a more traditional method of observing particular movements such as one-legged squats and (whisper it) running outside!
The result of this analysis shocked me: no overpronation! The targeted exercises Steve has been putting me through in the gym have strengthened my muscles and changed my gait. While it is perfectly normal for your gait to change, particularly when a lot of gym work has been involved, this is the first time this has happened to me and it really took me by surprise. At best I had thought that perhaps I would be recommended a stability shoe, something with a bit less cushioning and support than my present beasts, but this new analysis meant that I could look at a neutral shoe and suddenly a whole world of possibilities opened up in front of me… I would have choice, lots of choice. I might even be able to look at some of the glorious technicolor shoes on the market these days which had previously been denied me thanks to my need for something more, shall we say, “special”!
I was then brought a number of different shoes across different brands to try on, and try them on I did! With each new shoe I was encouraged to walk around and the same analytical movements were repeated to see if the shoe was right for my gait. Once it was established that they were, it came down to deciding which ones felt best and this was something I knew right away as only one pair immediately felt part of me as soon as they touched my feet. It was like a light came on and heavenly music played. As I walked around it was like walking on a cloud with laces. I wanted to run! Fortunately, the final part of the assessment involved being observed running outside to check how well the shoes suited my running style and that I still found them comfortable. I couldn’t get over how light they felt compared to my most recent running shoes and I felt like I was running on air. With these final boxes ticked and the assistant happy that the shoes were a good match, I was more than ready to part with my cash and move one step closer to rebuilding my running.
While there may be no ball for me to go to, finding the shoe that fits means I’m ready to start running again, albeit with a short distance and gradual build up. Tomorrow I will run one whole mile! Thanks to the current forecast for heavy snow this will likely be on the treadmill, but all being well this will be the first of many happy runs with my new shoes and I’m already looking forward to bounding gazelle-like round the countyside in the months to come. This princess is more than ready to live (and run) happily ever after!