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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Racing Flats

I was recently reviewing the latest racing flats coming out on the market. My favorite racing flat back in the day was the Asics Gel DS. It's now considered a tempo training shoe. At the time I was wearing them they were still lace up vs. the elastic laces and they certainly didn't have the snug sock liner in them. I've recently been trying out the Zoot Tri racing flats. I really like them. But here's the catch. You just can't land lazily on your heel! To be efficient in them, they require control of your heel/foot strike.  I say "foot strike" because with a minimalist shoe like the Zoots or any of the new racing flats, it's important to land almost mid-foot and on the lateral aspect of your foot.  Don't misunderstand me though.  Your heel will still make contact with the ground.  The difference is that your heel won't take the full brunt of the foot strike when running minimalist or barefoot style.  By using this method, it gives you the advantage of smoothly going through the gears of your foot which gives you a quicker toe off and leg turnover.

When running in racing flats its like running in track spikes. With track spikes you don't want to perform a heel strike.  If you're landing on your heel, you'll end up way in last position unless you're some kind of superhero.  Sure, the racing flats have cushioning but they're not meant to take on a repeated full on heel strike like a posted heel with a dual density sole. This has the strong potential of causing injuries in your feet and legs if you do not condition yourself by gradually getting accustomed to running in them.  I strongly recommend that a person of large stature to not run in a pure racing flat.  A larger person does need some protective cushioning to avoid acquiring injuries from a emphasized and forceful heel strike.  I would recommend going to something like the current Asics Gel training shoe. This will still let you have that feeling of running with your foot unrestricted and with good mechanics.

I remember the first time I ran in racing flats. I would have run in flats sooner but at the time I was a starving student at Arizona State University.  I ran in the New Times 10K in Phoenix, AZ.  I shaved two minutes time off of my best 10k time outside of a triathlon.  I ended up running a 34:34.  I also strongly remember how sore my calves were as were the muscles in my feet.  Fortunately I got away with just having to recover from just sore muscles vs. an injury.  It was these many moons ago that turned me on to the biomechanics of running delving into further improving my running.  Previously, I thought that running was just running, that it was all cardiovascular for the most part and brute strength.  I was consumed in the cycling aspect of triathlons and biathlons.  The technology that was coming out at that time with cycling was just so cool!  Cycling required attention to the weight of the bike, aerodynamics, frame stiffness, having the right fit, etc.

Silly me!

Happy Bipeding!

Brad Senska, PT, DPT, BS, ASTYM.

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