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Transitioning to Natural Running Form and Shoes

Posted by on Friday, March 25, 2011 @ 8:05 am | 6 Replies

Men's Gravity Neutral Performance Trainer

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

Whatever your body type, fitness level or experience, the two biggest changes you can make to improve your running performance and reduce the likelihood of overuse injury are:

1. Wear shoes with a nearly level profile
2. Learn how to run naturally

How an Elevated Heel Affects Running Form

For the past 30 years, running shoes have been designed with thickly cushioned, built-up heels. This type of shoe forces the body to balance itself in an unnatural, backward-leaning position. Your toes are pointing downward, your weight is shifted rearward, and your back is slightly arched. Basically, your body struggles to maintain balance while compensating for the lifted heel.

If you’ve been running this way for years — and most people have — it’s likely the muscles and other soft tissue in your feet, lower legs (the Achilles tendons in particular) and core need to adapt to the proper body position that comes with running in flat shoes.

The Achilles tendon acts like a large rubber band that stretches and recoils with every stride. If you’ve been wearing shoes with an elevated heel — including your everyday work and casual shoes — your Achilles tendon has a shorter range of motion. When you begin running in a level shoe like a Newton Running shoe, the Achilles tendon needs to stretch to accommodate for the 10-15 mm distance that used to be taken up by an elevated heel.

How to Make the Switch

If you abruptly transition from an elevated heel to doing all your mileage in a level shoe, you’re likely to feel some Achilles and calf muscle soreness. Instead, make the transition gradually: run less than a mile at a time a 2 or 3 days per week. Work on your form and build strength in your feet, ankles and lower legs with the following tips:

Work on strength and balance:

  • Go flat as often as possible! Ease the transition on your Achilles and calf muscles by walking barefoot. Wear flatter shoes even when you’re not running.
  • Do balancing drills. Stand on one foot with a mostly straight leg, lift the other foot off the ground at a 90 degree angle and close your eyes. If you can maintain balance for 30 seconds with your eyes closed on both sides, you may have enough strength be begin transitioning to level shoes. If you lose balance on either side, make this drill part of your daily regime. (Be sure to work on each foot.)
  • Do barefoot heel dips on a staircase. While holding on to a wall or railing, balance yourself with your metatarsal heads on the edge of the stair even with the ball of your foot. Slowly dip your heel below the plane of the stair, feeling the stretch in your Achilles and calf muscles and then slowly raise back up.

Increase the flexibility and range of motion in your feet and lower legs:

  • Do common wall stretches. Lean into a wall with your hands while flexing the lower calf with a flat foot. Do this with both a straight and bent knee and repeat a couple times per day after the muscles are sufficiently warm.
  • Increase the flexibility of your plantar fascia. While sitting in a chair, cross your leg over your knee and firmly push your fingers or a thumb into the center of the sole of your foot. Maintain that pressure and point your toes up and down to stretch the plantar fascia.

Focus on form:

  • After a run, use form drills to further develop specific aspects of proper running form. Skipping, bounding, high knees and butt kicks are easy and don’t take a lot of time.
  • Watch yourself run. Have a friend video your stride in traditional shoes, level shoes and while running barefoot on grass. Notice how your body moves differently in each scenario.
    Do your feet land under your center of mass? Are you running with a quick cadence and relatively short strides? Are you running with upright but slightly forward-leaning posture? Are you carrying your arms close to your body at about a 90-degree angle? Adopt this form in your new shoes.

Take it easy!

  • Your inner marathoner might be craving the challenge and rejuvenation that a long run always brings, but refrain from going on long runs until you’ve gone through a gradual progression. Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent per week and make sure you’re diligent about self-analyzing your form and your progression.

Danny Abshire is the author of “Natural Running” (VeloPress, 2010) and the co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colo.-based company that makes shoes that promote an efficient midfoot/forefoot running gait. He has been making advanced footwear solutions for runners and triathletes for more than 20 years. For more, go to newtonrunning.com.

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The Man in Black Wears Bright Shoes

Posted by on Friday, March 11, 2011 @ 1:07 pm | Leave a reply

Actor Titus Welliver, perhaps known best for his role as “The Man in Black” in the television series, Lost, is apparently a big Newton Running fan. He’s pictured here sporting the Gravity Performance Trainers.

“Since I began using Newton shoes, all of my injury issues have disappeared and am able to run better. I wear my Newton shoes as everyday footwear as well, to the point that my wife will remind me, as great as Newtons are, they don’t go with a suit.”

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Newton Running Donates 1000 Shoes to Kenyan Orphans

Posted by on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 @ 12:06 pm | Leave a reply

Support this massive “shoe-raising” effort with a $15 donation

Soles for Kenya, a student-organized “shoe-raiser,” is collecting 1000 used shoes for Kenyan orphans and Newton Running is matching their efforts by donating 1000 pairs of Newton Running Performance Trainers.

Students from Kent Denver High School, J. K. Mullen High School, Regis Jesuit Boys and Girls’ Schools, St. Anne’s Episcopal School and Colorado Academy oversaw the collection process.

Aside from supplying much-needed footwear to Kenyan orphans, their goal is to raise awareness for the 2.5 million orphans living with the legacy of the AIDS pandemic: poverty, drought, starvation and tribal warfare. The Denver teenagers were touched by Tumaini’s cause and wanted to expand the circle of care for African orphans.

You can help by making a $15 cash donation to Tumaini Ministries, which they will use to purchase more Newton Running shoes. The shoes will be distributed in Kenya by Eunice Kariuki, founder and executive director of Tumaini, a Kenyan home for orphans, to local orphanages and street kids in Nairobi, Kenya.

Visit the Soles for Kenya Facebook page here.

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Morton’s Neuroma Sufferer Finds Relief

Posted by on Monday, February 28, 2011 @ 4:37 pm | 2 Replies

mcdc7_mortons_neuromaWe at Newton Running try to not to toot our own horn too often, but we do like to share success stories from Newton customers. In this case, M.D. of Vancouver, British Columbia, found relief from Morton’s Neuroma with Newton Running shoes. Here’s her story:

“Yesterday while shopping for a new pair of running shoes for my husband, a very cute shoe caught my eye, the Newton Terra Momentus. I asked to try them on and fell in love at first wearing. I have been struggling with Morton’s Neuroma in my right foot for over a year and had reached the point of accepting that I would just have to get used to the pain.

As soon as I tried in the shoe, I realized that the point of contact was at the mid foot, thereby avoiding the metatarsal and the neuroma. I got excited. I took a quick jog outside and got more excited and bought the shoes

I couldn’t wait to get to the gym this morning to give them a real test drive. Sure enough, I could do all the high impact moves that I wasn’t able to do before. The only thing that held me back was my own fitness level rather than the neuroma!”

–M.D.

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New Spring 2010 Trainers are almost here!

Posted by on Monday, March 8, 2010 @ 9:39 am | 10 Replies

NR_eblst-MarPreOrder

They’re almost here!

Our updated 2010 Performance Trainers are on the way to us and we’re now taking pre-orders. Both the Gravitas Neutral Performance Trainer and the Motus Stability Performance Trainer feature an updated heel design with a new, highly durable outsole rubber, a new high-rebound midsole, an improved fit in the upper and of course, bright new colors! Order yours today and we’ll get them to you by the end of the month!

Men's Gravity

Men's Gravitas=Gravity

Women's Gravity

Women's Gravitas=Gravity

Men's Motion

Men's Motus=Motion

Women's Motion

Women's Motus=Motion

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Ditched the G/F, my Newton’s were my Valentine!

Posted by on Friday, February 19, 2010 @ 4:51 pm | 1 Reply

i_love_newton_heart_custom_personalized_tshirt-p235423821808214971t50h_210Ripped from the Runner’s World forums here.

“Can someone please help confirm or deny that I have serious issues with running shoes? I went on my first long(er) run in my Newton’s. Previously I had not taken them more than about 4 miles. Well, early V-Day morning I went out for about 6 miles in them and just fell in love all over again. I was swooning with every perfect footstrike… Later that night, while at dinner with my g/f, all I could think about was my Newton’s… sitting at home… alone. They had been so good to me that morning, and I abandoned them for my g/f, then I started to feel guilty. Not about day-dreaming about running shoes while on a date with the g/f, but guilty about leaving my shoes home alone on V-Day. The worst part is I didn’t even bring them any leftovers from dinner. Am I a criminal?”


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Newton Rep Explains Newton Shoe Technology

Posted by on Thursday, February 4, 2010 @ 9:58 pm | 1 Reply

Here’s a cool video shot by Steve Mackel of SoCalRunning.com at the Tuscon Marathon expo.

That “Newton rep” also happens to be Steve Gartside, Newton Running’s president. Steve is always busy managing our rapidly growing company, but he still loves working the expo floor and sharing his passion for natural running with others.

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Newton Running’s Take on Barefoot Running

Posted by on Friday, January 29, 2010 @ 2:13 pm | 3 Replies

In the past few days we’ve been inundated with calls and messages from friends, customers and fans asking, “Did you see NPR.org barefoot running story or
BBC barefoot running story story about barefoot running?”

The answer is yes, we’ve seen Dr. Lieberman’s studies at Harvard and it clearly validates what Newton Running is all about.

Please read the open letter below from Newton Running co-founder Danny Abshire and our Director of Education, Ian Adamson.

Our Take on Barefoot Running

Many of you have seen or heard the numerous national news stories about barefoot running in the past few days. This news comes on the heels of the recently published study, Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners by Harvard University anthropologist Dan Lieberman.

Dr. Lieberman and colleagues concluded that modern, cushioned running shoes change the way humans run and hypothesize based on their biomechanical findings that forefoot and some midfoot strikes may make runners less prone to some kinds of injury. (He explains his hypothesis in this video).

That comes as no surprise to us at Newton Running. Our company was founded on the belief that the lifted heel in modern running shoes promotes improper form and can contribute to various injuries. Our shoes are designed specifically to accommodate and enhance natural running foot-strike and gait and are based on decades of research and observation on shoe technology and running mechanics.

Running barefoot is not a viable option for most people, except for short training sessions on forgiving surfaces. Plus, the transition to barefoot running or ultra-minimalist shoes can be difficult and/or painful for runners who have spent their whole lives running in heavily cushioned and overly structured shoes.

Newton Running shoes feature a geometry and design that facilitates your natural gait and protects you from harsh running surfaces. We offer the only viable alternative to both modern running shoes and barefoot/ultra-minimalist shoe running.

Newton Running Shoe Design

1. Typical running shoes feature a thick, padded heel and a steep heel-to-forefoot ramp angle (gradient), which encourages heavy heel striking, increases shock loads and dampens afferent feedback (the ability to sense the surface under your shoes). Newton Running shoes have a negligible gradient (between 1% and 3%), which allows your foot to land with a reduced impact and take advantage of your body’s natural suspension system. (click images to enlarge)

heelprofile_illo

2. Newton Running shoes provide industry-leading impact force reduction and energy return with our proprietary Action/Reaction Technology™ strategically placed on the sweet spot under your forefoot.

sweetspot

3. Newton Running shoes are built with a biomechanical plate positioned directly under your metatarsals to enhance afferent feedback and allow your feet to spread naturally under load. The soft foam in regular running shoes dampens and blocks valuable protective feedback at foot strike. Without feeling the ground, runners will impact and push harder, creating the possibility for injury.

4. The anatomically designed upper and midsole allows your foot to move naturally throughout the gait cycle. In contrast, most modern running shoes are highly structured, rigidly encasing your foot and preventing natural movement. Over time, this weakens the foot and creates overuse of propulsive muscles/tendons, increasing the likelihood of running injuries.

Coaches around the world routinely use barefoot drills to improve running form. Newton Running has created the first natural running shoes for everyday training and racing that encourage barefoot running form. Join us in the Natural Running revolution.

Sincerely,

Danny Abshire Co-founder and CTO
Ian Adamson Director of Research and Education

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Barefoot Running Goes Ballistic

Posted by on Thursday, January 28, 2010 @ 12:54 pm | 9 Replies

Barefoot running was one of the most talked about trends in the running industry last year. From the bestselling book Born To Run, to the explosive growth of the Vibram Five Fingers, runners everywhere seem to be talking about barefoot running.

Well, the buzz about barefoot running is about to hit a fever pitch. As we’ve talked about in previous posts, Harvard anthropologist Dan Lieberman has been studying the evolution of human running for several years. Dr. Lieberman has just published the results of his study in the journal Nature and the mainstream media is running (cough) with the story.

For those of you who listen to NPR on the drive home, you might have heard this story on “All Things Considered” today.  The story is also available on NPR.org and features a pretty interesting video:

Not surprisingly, Vibram Five Fingers are also getting a lot of attention from the media (Vibram sponsored Lieberman’s study). The Five Fingers clearly help people to try barefoot running, while providing some protection from rocks, glass, etc.

How do Newton Running shoes compare to Vibram Five Fingers?

As we talked about in the previous post, Newton’s are built for Natural Running but some of you may be wondering how Newtons compare to Vibrams. Amanda Brooks asked just that on her blog, Run to the Finish, and Newton Running’s Director of Education and Research, Ian Adamson, had this response:

“Running Newton Shoes and Vibram Five Fingers have many similarities, at least from a form perspective. The primary difference is the cushioning and energy return provided by Newtons, which is largely absent in Vibrams.

Newton Gravity Trainer: 3mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 2.0% gradient

Newton Gravity Trainer: 3mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 2.0% gradient

Both Newton Performance Racers and Vibrams have a 2 mm heel lift, or toe drop depending on how you look at it. This translates into a 1.3% gradient in the shoe, also referred to as ramp angle or drop. Newton Performance Trainers have a 2% gradient, which although very small, can be felt by aware runners. Regular running shoes have a much steeper angle, up to 15% depending on the shoe.

 

Asics Gel Kayano 15: 22mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 14.7% gradient

Asics Gel Kayano 15: 22mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 14.7% gradient


Barefoot running forces you to run efficiently and preventatively with respect to injury. Vibram’s allow people to experience barefoot running with an added layer of protection from harsh surfaces, while Newton’s go one step further, adding forefoot cushioning and  a significant energy return component.

Newton shoes are much kinder to the body’s structure and musculature when transitioning from a traditional running shoe to barefoot, and allow you to perfect a natural (barefoot) form while providing protection and cushioning.

Newton’s Action/Reaction Technology has been carefully designed to facilitate afferent feedback, which means the nerves in your forefoot feel the ground very quickly through the shoe. This is achieved through the outer lugs and internal semi-rigid chamber that is connected to the biomechanical top plate adjacent to your foot inside the shoe.

Traditional shoe cushioning mechanisms dampens afferent feedback, hampering proprioception and thus hindering your ability to self-regulate the impact of your foot strike. Studies show that runners strike much harder in cushioned shoes, one of the causes of injury. Running barefoot or in shoes that allow you to sense the ground encourage you to run protectively.”

Bottom line is that both Vibrams and Newtons encourage a barefoot or natural running style, but Newtons make it easier for most runners to transition their form after years of wearing ‘traditional’ running shoes.

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