Saturday, June 30, 2012

What It's Like to Run in an Olympian's Shoes

 by Jenny Beckman & Wendi Morin

(Source: Johnny Hanson / Houston Chronicle)

In my experience as a salesperson, there are two major misconceptions surrounding racing flats. One is that they are used strictly for racing, and the other is that only the super-elites run in them. With the rise of the “minimalism” movement, we are seeing more and more people don light weight shoes. I sat down with Gear West gait analysis expert Wendi Morin and hashed out some answers to the most common questions we hear surrounding these shoes.

“What is a racing flat?”

Racing flats are shoes with very little cushion if any, they typically have a low heel and are lightweight.  When you look at these shoes you can’t help but think “where’s the beef?”  Or if you’re a vegetarian, “where’s the veggie burger?” There is also a category of shoes called racer-trainers that some people might consider racing flats because they are still very light-weight, but this type of shoe has a little more cushion and a little less flexibility. A racer-trainer is a good choice for someone who wants to run longer distances and have more protection from the road.

Asics DS Trainer 17: Same last, more sole

Asics DS Racer 9: Less sole=lighter weight

“Why bother using them? I have a comfy pair of trainers that fits me just fine”

Why should you use them? It's simple. Running in a lighter shoe will result in less fatigue and allow you to go faster over a long distance – with proper training of course. Putting on a pair of light weight flats will not make up for lack of training.

That being said, racing flats should be worn by people that have an efficient running gait and are less prone to injury. If you are unsure about how efficient you are, or want help in becoming more efficient you should consider having a gait analysis.

Wendi Says: “If a runner doesn’t have a real efficient gait, they may find that they actually can run a race faster in a regular running shoe instead of a racing flat because they use less energy being better aligned.”

“If I purchased a pair would I use them strictly for racing?”

No. We recommend that you use the flats when doing any sort of speed work. Log your regular miles in your trainers, and use the flats for speed work such as strides, intervals, or tempo runs. Give your body time to adjust to the shoes, that way when race day rolls around – you'll be ready to rock!

“How long will it take me to get used to them?”

It all depends on the runner. Racing flats are minimal shoes, so we recommend working into them the same way you would with a minimal trainer. Most running experts recommend runners who are new to using flats log 10% of their normal distance in the light weight shoes. For example – “your normal tempo run is 10 miles, wear the flats for 1 mile, and then switch back to your trainers.” says Gear West & The Fix Studio's “Gait Analyzer” Lev Kalemkiarian.

Wendi Says: “Racing flats use more of the small muscles that may not have to work in a less flexible shoe and therefore if they are worn on occasion they can teach your body to recruit more muscle. This will slowly help you to become more efficient as a runner.”

How to choose the right flat for your foot:

Wendi Says: “To choose the right racing flat for you, make sure to consider what has worked for you in a training shoe when choosing a racing flat. A lot of times there are toned-down versions of training shoes that are lighter weight for racing. You want to try on several different brands and see what feels comfortable on your feet. Get an idea of what you like and what you don’t like in terms of weight, amount of cushion, amount of stability, room in the toe box, and color (for some people). Keep in mind what race distance the shoe is best for, and if you have questions ask a Gear West sales person! We are all trained in providing proper fit and can send you on your way with a great fitting pair of shoes.”

 Olympian's Shoes:

Nike Luna Racer+ - Worn by Kara Goucher in the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon. This shoe is also Jan's weapon of choice. She looks for a shoe with a “close snug fit, like a second skin.”
Asics Hyper Speed - Olympian Ryan Hall in the 2012 Olympic Trails Marathon
Brooks T7 Racer - Desiree Davila 
Source: Brooks Running

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Ski to Sea Experience by Matthew Liebsch

This past weekend I was able to race in the Ski to Sea multi-sport relay race. 500 teams with 8 racers per team compete in the following order: cross-country ski, ski mountaineering, running, road bike, canoe, mountain bike, and sea kayak. The event is huge! 50,000+ people come out to either race, support, or spectate. 

Ski to Sea race Start
 I was privileged to race for Team AeroMech.  AeroMech Incorporated provide industry leading aircraft engineering and certification services to aircraft manufacturers, airlines, operators, modification shops, and military customers worldwide.  After all 93 miles, we finished in 2nd place, only 7 seconds behind, in the closest finish in the history of the race! 

2nd Place Champions
The cross-country ski leg was a lot of fun with competitors of all backgrounds. I saw everything from first time skiers on 40-year-old touring skis to elite racers. 

Lead Pack - Matt Liebsch and Brian Gregg
 The same is true for every leg of the race. On the elite side you have pros with $10,000 carbon bikes, surf skis, and carbon canoes – then on the recreation and family teams you have heavy wooden boats and bikes with banana seats! The diversity of competitors is vast, but everyone is keen on having fun! The race atmosphere is great and I am already looking for to coming back next year.

Matthew Edward Liebsch

Gait Analysis By Lev

Two Thumbs Up!
As an avid cross country skier I spend a lot of time obsessing over technique and making myself as efficient as possible. It's staggering to compare the amount of time I spend cross training versus the amount of time actually spent on snow in the winter. I don't know about you, but besides rollerskiing the two cross-training activities I engage in the most are cycling and running. I decided that having a gait analysis with Lev would be beneficial, because becoming more efficient in the activities I enjoy 75% of the year will all in all make me a stronger, faster skier.

The Gait Analysis process takes about 30 or 40 minutes, and is based on your own personal goals. Many people use the information they receive for injury prevention, rehabilitation, and to determine a good shoe fit for their feet. That being said, if you are just starting to run or a seasoned competitor - everyone can benefit from this service. Lev starts off by taking some initial video footage of your running form, and administers some basic strength tests. He then demonstrates and helps you practice drills and exercises that help improve your running style. This is followed by a second video which you will view side by side with the initial footage. It is absolutely incredible to see the changes you are able to make in such a short span of time!

Lev goes over the finer points of Jenny's run form
Advanced Motion Capture!

The main component I realized during my gait analysis is that everything my parents and teachers have told me is true – I am unique. Everyone is! We all have different running styles, and issues. Some natural tendencies we have can lead to injuries later down the line. Having your gait analyzed using video is extremely helpful in the sense that it makes these tendencies visibly apparent. I am one of those people who imagines herself running as flawlessly as Carrie Tollefson, however seeing myself on video helped me discover that is not exactly the case. But! Making changes is incredibly simple with the help of a knowledgeable professional. Lev has given me some daily exercises and short drills to add to my routine before running.

Run Strength Drills
For the cost of $40.00 this is a very affordable option and an incredibly good investment. Personally, I would much rather pay a one time fee versus paying the medical bills for an injury later. The bottom line is - whether you run competitively, for cross-training, or just as something to get you out of the house gait analysis is something that runners of all levels can benefit from – it makes the activity significantly more enjoyable!

Lev is awesome because:

He has a Masters in Exercise Physiology from the College of Saint Scholastica and is a member of The Fix Studio team. The Fix Studio staff has 45 combined years of experience working with athletes training for events from local 5k's to the Olympics.