iRun slowly!Jason Hoffman, Manitoba

iRun because I am not as clumsy I thought I was Hanna Baer, Quebec

iRun for health, i Run for life Pat Cheung, British Columbia

iRun to kickstart my day Sharon Strueby, Saskatchewan

iRun away from the abyss Charlene Thomas, Ontario

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie, Ontario

iRun because it has saved my life John Marshall, Alberta

iRun to get to know myself, my strength and my spirit Lisa Groulx, Ontario

iRun for meKiza Francis, Ottawa,ON

iRun because walking is too slow Barry Knapp, Ontario

iRun for the challenge and to remember to fully live Pascale Synnott, Quťbec

iRun because itís a great way to see the world Sherry Mahoney, British Columbia

iRun because somebody once told me I couldn't Heidi Abbey-Der, Saskatchewan

iRun because there is no finish line Claire Kilgour, Ontario

iRun because somebody once told me I couldnít Heidi Abbey-Der, Saskatchewan

iRun because not everyone can Olivia Harvey, New Brunswick

iRun for the challenge to go faster and farther Steven Matejka, Alberta

iRun because it makes me feel good, allows me to spend time with my friends and gives me a feeling of accomplishmentHelen Kolodziejzyk, Calgary, AB

iRun because I need it to soothe the soul, keep me in shape and for overall wellbeingBeth Neil, Lombardy, ON

iRun to prove to myself I canLesley McGougan, Brampton, ON

iRun because I want to qualify for Boston and raise money for charities near and dear to my heartChristine Gracel, Calgary, AB

iRun to satisfy the irresistible urge Tim Nixon, British Columbia

iRun for the cool t-shirts! Pina Bevilacqua, Ontario

iRun because my heart tells me to William Martin, Manitoba

iRun to be free and enjoy our beautiful countryCheryl Carter, Clearwater , BC

iRun because food tastes better afterwards Patrick Houston, Alberta

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every kmSteph Mansell, Quebec

iRun so my daughters know that they can, too Shelley Kirkpatrick, New Brunswick

iRun because I can and I’m gratefulTerry SanCartier, Gatineau, QC

iRun therefore I amDuncan Walsh, Nottingham, UK

iRun but not enoughMichael Shaw, New Westminister, BC

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sons Keith Bradbury, Newfoundland

iRun because I love the solitude Janene Tailleur, British Columbia

iRun because I learn more about who I am with every km Steph Mansell, Quebec

iRun because it's better than almost everything else Nathan Carey, Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldn't Peter Cicalo, Ontario

iRun because it cleans up my life, because I drink more water, sleep better and eat healthier foodsRobin McIntyre, Ottawa, ON

iRun because I like to be healthy Melanie Oickle, New Brunswick

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew, Ontario

iRun because it's cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter, Alberta

iRun because it makes me feel powerful Sarah Kallaghan, Alberta

iRun to inspire my kids to tryGlen Johnston, Nunavut

iRun because it makes me a better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better friendNathalie Joncas-Caissie, St-Antoine, NB

iRun because couch potatoes die young Cathy Andrew, Ontario

iRun because otherwise Iím grumpy Alexandre Charest, Quebec

iRun for the fresh air and adrenalin Charlyn McGregor, Saskatchewan

iRun because endorphins are free Cassandra Chouinard, Ontario

iRun because it reminds me that I am capable of so much more than I have doneJames Sauve, Ottawa, ON

iRun to inspire my children! Wendy Bowen, Manitoba

iRun because I get foot rubs afterward Kate Howerton, British Columbia

iRun to challenge myself, physically and mentallyKathleen Keenan, Brampton, ON

iRun because I cannot say no to a second slice of chocolate cakeEmily Shandruk, Vancouver, BC

iRun because I canít dance Mario Javier, Ontario

iRun so that I can live longer and stronger Derek MacPhail, Ontario

iRun because itís like flying, only lower Glenn Johnson, Ontario

iRun because Iíve lost 80 lbs and running has become fun Cheryl Kelly, Ontario

iRun to eat Maureen Tritscher, Alberta

iRun because itís cheaper than therapy Leah Boulter, Alberta

iRun because I love the sense of accomplishment Amber Moase, Nova Scotia

iRun so I donít say never ever again Linda Klaric, Manitoba

iRun because itís better than almost everything else Nathan Carey, Ontario

iRun because it sure beats the bus Robin Robbins, Alberta

iRun for the individual pursuit Robert Pelletier, New Brunswick

iRun to correct years of sedentary living! Mike Scott, Ontario

iRun to eat more, especially sweet potatoe fries Joanna Skomra, Ontario

iRun because it's a great stress release Brooke McKenzie, Yukon

iRun because people around me inspire mePina Bevilacqua, Caledon, ON

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe, British Columbia

iRun because it gives my day a boost of energy Sara Campbell, Nova Scotia

iRun to my happy place and some days itís very Doreen May, Alberta

iRun because when I run I feel most aliveMeghan Lynch, Ottawa, ON

iRun because all the ladies are chasing my sexy runner’s bodyChris Baker, Etobicoke, ON

iRun because it gets my husband out there Tricia LaLonde, Alberta

iRun because running is like breathing to Stephanie McEvoy, Ontario

iRun to someday win the race Lindy Dunlop, Yukon

iRun for overall wellbeingTrish McCourt, Halifax, NS

iRun slowly! Jason Hoffman, Manitoba

iRun because of the peace and strength it brings meMichelle Jordan, Ottawa, ON

iRun because it’s in meMichael Foley, Stittsville, ON

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou, British Columbia

iRun see where my feet will take me todayMegan Dolinskas, New York

iRun because i love to Mirella Petriello, Ontario

iRun to prove to them that iCan Catherine Smith, Manitoba

iRun to challenge my mind, body and soul Sonia Mendes, Ontario

iRun for the moment when both feet are off the ground Catherine Anderson, British Columbia

iRun to feel great Kathryn Rachar, Saskatchewan

iRun because the wall is meant to be broken Jonathan Bird, Ontario

iRun because I like buying running clothes Pamela Blaikie, Ontario

iRun at 50 years old because at 43 I couldnít Peter Cicalo, Ontario

iRun because it reminds me of how strong I can be Monique Lavoie, Ontario

iRun because endorphins are freeCassandra Chouinard, Ontario

iRun to maintain a strong physical and mental state Tammy Rainville, Ontario

iRun so I can eat ice cream Sandy Bolan, Ontario

iRun all the livelong day Pierre Saint-Laurent, Quťbec

iRun because I liveGeorges Schneller, Laval, QC

iRun because itís fun when itís done Sue Matte, Ontario

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brain Marie-Claude Gregoire, Nova Scotia

iRun to stay ahead of the weight gainMyra Abstreiter, Alberta

iRun to challenge my perceived limitations Cassandra Williams, Ontario

iRun because I never thought I would be able toGary Morris, Winnipeg, MB

iRun and run, and run, and run, and nobody can stop me Andrei Lucaciu, Ontario

iRun for my heart, so it runs for me! Cathy Brzoza, British Columbia

iRun because it gives me freedom to relax my brainMarie-Claude Gregoire, Nova Scotia

iRun away from the negative and towards the positive Teri Lepard, Alberta

iRun because it is my tonic and my salvation Georgia Ioannou, British Columbia

iRun because iLoves my man Beverly Huang, Alberta

iRun for relaxation and to motivate my two sonsKeith Bradbury, Newfoundland

iRun to stay fit and release those running endorphinsLiliana Plava, Calgary, AB

iRun because I want to live to be 100! Colette DeJean, Ontario

iRun because it helps me see things more clearly Jennifer Pitts, Ontario

iRun for me! Judi Wearing, Saskatchewan

iRun whenever I feel the need to escape Iona Hillis, Ontario

iRun because pecan pie, french fries and beer are chasing meTeresa Sterling, Ottawa , ON

iRun because iEat Sherry Maligaspe, British Columbia

iRun because it makes me whole Denis Ladouceur, Quebec

iRun because I want to be a role model for our six kids Catherine Empey, British Columbia

iRun to unleash my inner athleteAdelle Densham, Avonmore, ON

iRun because it makes me feel powerfulCarlene Paquette, Carp, ON

Cover photo from the current issue of iRun Magazine

Workout Wednesday

My Best Running Race

February 2013

Back to Table of Contents

The 'Oops' Factor

Go minimal or go home

Barefoot running? Craziness, that’s what it’s all about! How are you supposed to buy your chocolate milk after the run if you don’t have shoes on? No shirts, no shoes, no service! No Service means no chocolate milk!

Seriously, there has been a ton of stuff written and talked about in recent years about barefoot running. So much so, that the shoe companies are changing their theories on what a running shoe should do for you, and this is likely a good thing.

I have to say I am not in favour of barefoot running: we do not live in a society that works well with no foot protection from cold, snow, glass, needles, metal grates, cleanliness and, as mentioned above, being allowed in stores to access the chocolate milk.

I am in favour of the running technique where you run in almost no shoes, so I will use the term Minimalist Running and minimalist shoes instead.

At the same time, the technique for minimalist running should not be mistaken for a running style like Chi Running or the POSE Method. Minimalist running really should refer to the footwear choice— that being a very light and fast shoe that just has the basics: an outsole for traction, very little cushioning and small heel rise with about a 4mm differential between the back and front of the shoe (so called traditional running shoes have about a 12mm difference), and very little stability. The uppers of these shoes also tend to be very light and airy. All this combined makes for a light shoe with little to no cushioning, which is why they are considered minimalist.

With minimalist shoes, there is less material to absorb shock and correct mechanics, so the muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons of the lower leg and feet have to work harder to keep things aligned. For some people, they have to work just a little harder, while others have to work much harder. Others still have to work really, really hard, or their bodies just may not be able to adapt. Unfortunately, this is a hard lesson to learn, and is usually learned by recurring or persistent injuries. 

Traditional running shoes have been designed to encourage a heel strike first, then a smooth roll through the weight bearing phase to the toe off. As a result, traditional shoes have been built up more and more to absorb the impact and correct for biomechanical weaknesses. Since the minimalist shoe has none of this, it will absorb much less of the impact and not correct alignment, forcing the body to do the work. Simply running in minimalist shoes with a strong heel strike will shock the body enough to encourage a softer landing with the fore- or mid-foot touching first, then using the calf and Achilles to decelerate the heel, before touching, putting increased strain on the calf and feet then recoiling on toe off.

With that understanding, it  stands to reason that in order for such a change in form to happen, strength, flexibility, foot plant, cadence, posture and arm swing all have to change, likely in that order of priority. 

I absolutely believe this is the right direction to head, if for no other reason than it will reinforce better running technique and possibly lead to fewer injuries. However, the problem with adoptng the minimalist footwear is that most people do not have the patience to make the physical changes needed gradually enough. Switching requires a very long and tedious adaptation process. The muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments in the feet, legs, and hips in most people have become rather adept at not pulling their weight, so they all have to be strengthened. None of them adapt at the same rate, so strengthening one may overwork another leading to injury. This obviously adds to the slowness of the process and really emphasizes the individuality of our bodys ability to change.

Once things are stronger, some of the form changes can be introduced. Generally, I suggest foot plant first, and if that is right, then proper cadence will follow. If both of these are correct, then posture and arm swing will also improve. For the record, proper cadence is between 88 and 92 steps per foot per minute, or 176-184 if you want to count them all.

Many of the running and strength drills I have suggested in previous articles work on the strength, flexibility, foot placement, posture and arm swing components of good running form—the ABC drills, hopping, squats, lunges, and cross-overs are all the right things to do in order to strengthen the necessary body parts as well as get them to follow the right path. Doing them regularly on your own is an important part of avoiding injuries that can sideline you. They also prepare the body for any changes in running form you may attempt. 

Years ago, I wrote a long, long article on running form. Rather than include it here, please follow this link to read it.

Two running techniques I mentioned above are Chi Running and the POSE Method. It is important to realize that no matter the glitzy packaging, which is what these two methods of running are, when you strip away the esoteric claims, the actual mechanics emphasize good and basic running form the way track clubs have been teaching it for decades. 

In terms of shoe choices, which is kind of where this article started off, I encourage you to start the new year off with a view to tweaking your running form accordingly. However, don’t go out and buy the most minimal shoes you can find right away—walk around the house without shoes on for a while, do the strength and drills (always) and gradually change your shoes to ones that have less and less support/cushioning. Switch very gradually from the shoes you are currently in to something with a bit less support/cushion.

Once you are good with them, switch to a different pair of shoes with even less support, etc. 

Eventually, you may get to the most minimal shoes with nothing but a sole and a way to keep them on your feet. My suggestion, if you buy a new and lighter shoe, is to integrate them gradually by wearing them just 10% of the time for a week or two, then 20% for a week or two, then 30%, etc. The moment you start to feel some aches, go back to your regular older shoes until all is good again.

Once you are wearing the new shoes 90-100% of the time for a month or so with no issues, then you can start to look for, and integrate, the next lighter shoe, following the same protocol.

I hope this helps.
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