Continuing our series highlighting two people with inspiring stories during 60 Days of Better, we check in with Andrea to take a look at how she found Newton Running.
Shoes. I would argue from experience that this is one of the most vitally important factors for successful running. Yet strangely enough, it's a factor I never really put much thought into, until quite recently. This is an oversight that played a large part in derailing my season and had me convinced that I might have to give up the thing I love the most.
After a fairly lengthy winter hiatus, I returned to running in February, treated myself to a pair of new runners, and eased back into my routine. After a couple of weeks, I began experiencing shin splints, which is not something I've ever been afflicted by. The weeks were rolling by, and I was not seeing any improvement in my running. I couldn't seen to break through the 10 km barrier no matter how often I ran. My shin splints became progressively worse, accompanied by intense pain in my calves and over the tops of my feet. I would try to run through it, and end up limping home. I started a regime of stretching, massage and strength exercises, none of which made a dent in the pain. Foam rollers, compression sleeves and braces did nothing. I started going to physiotherapy, and did my assigned exercises religiously. My therapist tried fascia scraping, electro therapy, acupuncture, ultrasound, exercises and joint mobilization. Nothing worked, and he was unable to pinpoint the cause of my injury.
This was a period of extreme frustration and discouragement. Over and over I would head out, hoping that this might be the run that would turn things around. Over and over I would have to cut my run short and limp home with tears in my eyes. I felt bitter and angry, and betrayed by my own body. I was convinced that I had done some sort of irreparable damage to my legs, and that I would have to give up running, a thought that terrified me to the bone. Running had been my rock and anchor, and I was terrified that without it I would slide back into depression.
But then came that fateful day when I experienced what I like to refer to as my running "enlightenment". I was at the track, doing my best to make it through as speed workout. I was experiencing so much pain in my feet that, in a fit of frustration, I kicked off my shoes and ran a lap barefoot. And it didn't hurt! It didn't hurt, so I ran another lap, and another. That day I ran 16 laps without anything on my feet, and it was the first time in 6 months that I wasn't plagued by debilitating pain. It was also the first time in 6 months that i felt a ray of hope. Yes, my feet were red and blistered, and felt like they'd been whacked with a spatula, but it wasn't the pain of an injury that would send me home limping.
Since I started running, I was always told that I was a flat footed pronator, and stuck into built up, structured stability shoes. I now suspected that perhaps I didn't pronate that much after all, and didn't really need all that support and stability. I booked an in depth biomechanical assessment with a pedorthist, who confirmed all of my suspicions. I did NOT need stability shoes, and in fact, the shoes I had been running in had been the cause of all my difficulties. These shoes had impeded my natural gait, which caused my foot to attempt to adapt, putting extreme pressure on my calves and the tendons along the top of my foot.
The very next day, I was at Forerunners, my gear Mecca, looking for a more minimal neutral shoe without all the padding and structure. I probably tried on about 30 different models, looking for just the right pair- minimal but with enough cushion to run long distances, a low heel to toe drop, a nice roomy toe box, and unobtrusive arch support. I was pretty close to giving up when I picked up the shoes with the funny looking bottoms, called Newtons. I slipped them on, and it felt like a home coming for my feet! I bought them without a second thought, and never looked back! My runs improved drastically, and the pain began to subside. My runs are not always pain free, and not always easy, but the good runs far out number the bad, and the miles are starting to add up.
It's going to take months of physio to undo the damage I inflicted on my feet and legs with improper footwear, which is why I can't stress enough how important it is to find the right pair of shoes! Do your research. Read forums. Talk to successful runners. See a pedorthist or podiatrist if you experience foot pain. If you want to have a long and satisfying running career, then finding the right shoe is the most important thing you can spend time and money on. Only a month after finding my perfect shoe, I'm back on their road three times a week, my mileage is back up where it should be, and my training is right on track for my October half marathon!
Andrea's other posts: