Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shoe Re-calibration

Much overthinking follows in this post...be warned!!

As a practitioner of kaizen, both personally and professionally, I usually make small changes and evaluate.  Lots of small changes, regularly.  The big move??  Not so much.

Yet, sometimes kaikaku is more appropriate than kaizen.  Kaikaku means making a major change, well considered, a step which fundamentally alters a process.  And knowing the difference between the two is the key.

All this applies to running shoes, our most fundamental piece of equipment.  I've had two kaikaku moments surrounding shoes in the last 8 years. I may have had my third last Saturday.

When I started this era of running in May 2004, I had no clue about current running shoe technology, having not run regularly since 1990 or so.  After some false starts, I first visited a real shoe store in Indy in November, 2004, discovered Brooks and got into a pair of Adrenalines.  See the story here.

Those shoes worked wonderfully for me until the late fall of 2006.  After running the Portland Marathon that October, I locked up with regular ITB pain in both legs.  In February, 2007, I made another visit to a different running store and discovered the big, honkin' Brooks Beast.  See this story here.  The behemoth of running shoes, it gave me the super control I needed and cured the ITB issue.  I've gone through 14 pairs of Beasts since, with no injuries.  It worked.

Recently, however, I wondered, are the assumptions I made six years ago still valid?  The biggest change in that time is the weight I lost in 2010.  I was at 205+ lbs when I got the Beasts.  I've been at 175-178 since August 2010 and I can tell the difference.  Amazing how well running can go when you leave two bowling balls at home.  The Beast is designed for big guys.  Am I still "big"??  

With this on my mind, I made another trip to a specialty running store last Saturday, a local shop which opened this spring just a few blocks from my house.  I lugged in three old pairs of shoes, two pairs of Beasts and my one remaining pair of Adrenalines.  Once more, the owner of the store spent a lot of time with me, not in a hurry, looking at my shoes, looking at me running barefoot on a treadmill, talking first and trying on shoes later.  I deeply appreciated the attention and care.

We observed two important things.  First, my pronation (inward foot roll) is now hardly observable.  Running barefoot showed a nearly neutral landing on my left foot and only a touch of roll on my right foot, despite my high arches.  Secondly, my foot measures to a size 10 shoe.

The first fact indicated that the Beast may indeed be too much shoe for me now.  The second fact indicated I probably had the wrong combination of shoe size and sock. I've been wearing size 12 Beasts and two pairs of socks--a thin liner sock and a very heavy outer sock.  As the owner pointed out, the "cushy" sock contributed to  more foot movement, somewhat like running on a sandy surface.

So, we dismantled these things and, after a lot of iterations, I returned to Brooks Adrenalines once again, this time version 12.  And, importantly, size 10 1/2.  A full size and a half smaller.  Wow...what difference will the mere size change make??

Inside the shoe, I am trying a very thin sock, the Balega UltraLight, size L.  I found the thin sock inside the smaller shoe worked.  It's also kind of a funky sock, in that it has a left and a right sock in each pair.  Further, the sock is made in South Africa, the place where I began running in 1978 and did my first two marathons in 1979 and 1980.  Gijima, bonkosi, gijima!  (Zulu for "run, people, run!")

This experiment will extend through this summer.  I have two marathons in the next three weeks...following the maxim "nothing new on race day", I'll wear the Beasts in both.  From that, we'll see how the new system rolls out on longer runs.

I warned you this post had some extreme overthinking.  Thanks for riding along!!

Persevere.  Shoot, you already did if you are still reading!!!



Karen said...

Good luck with the experiment, bro. I'm chuckling at the left and right socks as well as all the analysis.

Darrell said...

Whoa, new (old) shoes and new socks at once. That is a big step change (no pun intended). I expect you little experiment will be a success.

Sarah said...

Nice change! I love my Adrenalines but recently have been rotating in for shorter runs the Brooks Pure Cadence.