My thoughts on Running Shoes and Building Up Base Mileage

I’ve been back on the treadmill for almost 2 months now, and have reestablished a 20 mile per week base. I’m taking a cautious and uber-conservative approach to recovery. At times I wonder if I’m being TOO conservative, with the three stress fractures in my right foot being the first major injury I’ve ever (*knock on wood*) had to deal with as a runner.  Finding that balance is definitely tough, but I’m getting there! I’m determined to make it through 2015 injury free, and in order to achieve that goal I’ve been doing some serious analysis of how I landed myself in an air cast in the first place.  I don’t think it’s possible to point out one single thing and say “This is why I ended up injured”.  It could be a combination of poor training decesions or it could have been a totally unlucky, freak accident.  One of the things that I’ve taken a long hard look at is the shoes I was running in….

Shoes

I mentioned in a previous post that I think that the “minimalists” shoes that I was running in contributed to my injury.  This is not something that I REALLY wanted to admit because…#1 I was 100% on the barefoot running bandwagon, #2 I felt like I was “flying” in my feather light Kinvaras, and #3 Because I was logging some of my fastest training runs and race times ever in my snazzy “minimal” running shoes!  Now I know this is a hot topic in the running community, and there are plenty of advocates out there that swear “barefoot running” or “minimalists running” will improve your running form/mechanics and ultimately lead to fewer injuries.  I don’t disagree with this…however, I think that “minimalists” running shoes work best for light weight runners with impeccable running form.  I am neither light-weight nor do I have impeccable running form.  I have super high arches and over-pronate when I run.

I also did not heed warnings to “ease” into minimal running shoes. That overdoing it could lead to increased risk of metatarsal stress fractures.  While I started out wearing my Kinvaras only for speed work, training runs under 5 miles, and races….I loved them so much I decided to run all my runs in my Kinvaras (About 40 miles a week).  I ignored my incredibly sore calves, then the dull ache on the outside of my right foot that gradually got worse after each run….for several weeks….until it got to the point that running even one mile was pure misery and I “begrudgingly” made an appointment to go see a poditrists.  An MRI confirmed that I had stress fractures in my 2nd metatarsal, 5th metatarsal, and my cuboid (All in the right foot, which definitely points to some lopsided running mechanics!). Treatment=8 weeks in an air cast, 2 more weeks restricted activity, now about 2 months rebuilding my base mileage. I’m wearing more supportive Asic Gel DS Trainers, doing plenty of cross training, and other than being slapped in the face with a harsh reminder of how much it sucks to be out of shape, I’m almost done “recovering” and ready to start “training” again. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that “minamalists” running shoes aren’t great for some people or that the Kinvaras are a bad shoe. I still am in love with my Kinvaras, but have realized that I have a long way to go with my running form before they become an every day shoe for me. I’ll be reserving them for the occasional track workout or 5K for a very long while, and spend a lot more time in running shoes with a little extra support.

lightupshoes


 

At some point, either as a new runner or when returning to running after an injury, everyone has gone through the base building phase.  Anyone else totally overwhelmed by the bazillion contradicting approaches and tips out there? I’ve spent hours reading articles on “Mileage Base Building” and have figured out that there is no “one size fits” all approach so I am listening to my body and doing what seems to work best for me. Here are the general guidelines I’m going by while increasing mileage:

  • Gradual mileage increases each week. Some articles recommend not increasing your mileage by more than 10% per week. I don’t think that’s a hard and fast rule, but I think some common sense should apply. Don’t go from running 10 miles a week one week to running 40 miles a week the next week! And if you feel like your pushing yourself too hard, you probabally are. Don’t ignore real pain, especially when recovering from an injury.
  • Build up using Equilibrium approach and include “back off” weeks in training plan.  There are articles that will recommend using either a equilibrium approach to building base mileage or implementing a “back off week”. An example of a 6 week schedule using equilibrium approach: WK1: 10 Miles, WK2: 10 Miles, WK3: 10 Miles, WK4:12 Miles, WK5: 12 Miles, WK6: 12 Miles. While 6 week schedule utilizing a “back off” week would look like this; WK1: 10 miles, WK2: 12 miles, WK3: 14 Miles, WK4: 8 miles, WK5:14 Miles, WK6: 16 miles.  I’m using a combination of both, maintaining “equilibrium” for 2-3 weeks, then doing a “back off” week every 6 weeks with extra cross training to maintain my endurance.
  • Focus on one goal per week; increase total mileage, number of running days, OR speed. Don’t crank up everything all at once. I’ve been using my “equilibrium” weeks to focus on getting faster and one week I added a running day.  This week I am plan on doing my first official “speed” work-out.
  • Don’t neglect cross-training, stretching, and foam rolling. This one is tough for me, because once I got back up to running 5 miles at a time, it was soooo tempting to throw the cross training out the window. But I’ve been diligent about doing some cardio cross training (Mostly the stairmill and jump rope), strength training (Mostly Kettlebells and TRX), and have been stretching/foam rolling for about 10 minutes after each workout.
  • Be patient. The most basic and most difficult thing to do. Getting back “in shape” has been a frustrating process for me. There are some workouts where my calves are sore, I feel winded 1.5 miles into an easy run, and I can’t maintain my pre-injury “easy” pace of 8:30 min miles to save my own life. (Not to mention the sensitive topic of “chub rub” where my thighs have somehow migrated closer together over the last few months!)
  • Set Goals and Give myself something to look forward to. I signed up for my first line-up of races in 2015….I’m doing two 5Ks in March, Ragnar Trail in West Virginia in June, and the “Maryland King Crab Challenge” (Frederick Half, Baltimore 10 Miler, and Baltimore Half). Plus, I have the Wineglass Marathon defered from 2014 in October, which seems FOREVER away but it’s definitely not. I want to stay focused and make sure it doesn’t sneak up on me! I plan on returning to full “training” mode the first week of March, and I think being registered for races will help keep me honest.
Now there is some motivation! ;-)

Now there is some motivation! 😉


I’ve had a very modest start to running in 2015, but I’ve managed to run 76 miles so far. My sister-in-law and mom joined my team for the Run the Edge 2015 miles in 2015 Challenge. We’re keeping each other motivated and consistent, and having a good time! Hopefully it will warm up soon so I can get outside for some of my runs (7 degrees and windy as hell yesterday, no thank you!!)!

I work out! (Attempting to work it at least!)

I work out! (Attempting to work it at least!)

What is your opinion on “minimalists” running shoes? Do you have any tips for rebuilding running base mileage? Do you brave the cold weather for your runs? Or are you more of a “fair weather” runner who’d rather jump on a treadmill than freeze your buns off like me?  

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5 thoughts on “My thoughts on Running Shoes and Building Up Base Mileage

    • Great point about diet too! Ive been trying to focus on eating better and taking basic multi-vitamins but definitely have a long way to go on the nutrition front! Thank you for the great advice and encouragement! 🙂

  1. EXACT same boat over here. I jumped on the “minimalist”-ish train last year and ran my marathon in Kinvara. I really think it contributed a lot to injury for me. I do have light shoes now that I reserve for shorter distances, but most of my longer runs have been done in bulkier shoes. I hated to admit all of it to myself too because I love that light shoe feel!

    • Shoes are so important and everyone’s feet are different! I hope you’re on the mend too and staying healthy in 2015! Lightweight shoes do feel amazing! Hopefully I’ll be able to find something in between that works for me!

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