Thursday, December 26, 2013

What to wear?

On your feet that is!

Some of you out there will be implementing and/or continuing in a fitness routine after New Year's hits.  Some of you probably have a goal to start running - or committing to walk a certain number of steps per day.  Maybe you're doing some exercise DVD's.  If any of these are true, you need what is probably the most important piece of fitness equipment you'll ever buy - SNEAKERS!!

Ok, so let's talk about footwear!  There are an OVERWHELMING amount of choices out there.  The very best thing that you can do is to first off commit to spending a good chunk of money on what you put on your feet.  You NEED good, quality sneakers from a good manufacturer - not something that you pick up for $10 on the clearance rack.

What you should do is go to a quality shoe store like Fleet Feet - not some place you find in the mall, but a place that will measure your feet, analyze your gait, and make recommendations for what YOU need for YOUR specific issues.  Do you over or under pronate?  Do you have high arches or flat feet?   Walking, jumping, running - they all take a toll on your feet but that can be mitigated with the right shoe!

When I decided to start running, I went into it blindly.  I had always had feet and ankle problems and have turned my ankles dozens of times.  I was always happiest when I was barefoot.  So I decided to get a sneaker that was as close to barefoot as I could get.  I ended up with Fila Skeletoes.  I LOVED them.  They felt like I was barefoot, but had a protective rubber layer on the bottom.

However, they aren't made for heavy duty running and soon were wearing out too quickly.  So I switched to Vibram Bikilas.  

That's when I read up and found that running in minimalist sneakers is incredibly controversial.   I'm not going to get into that argument here.  There are hundreds of websites debating the pros and cons of running completely barefoot versus extremely minimalist versus "normal" sneakers versus extremely supportive sneakers.  You can read and decide for yourself.  I will only share with you what my experience has been.

So I ran in my Bikilas for a long, long time.  Then this fall, a couple of things happened.  I started putting in longer miles per run.  I developed Achilles Tendonitis.  I did some reading and found that those of us who naturally land on their forefoot when running are most prone to this injury.  As you can see from my Bikilas, I am a total forefoot runner!!

See how the forefoot area is WAY run down, but the heels look almost brand new?

The next thing that happened was that I decided I wanted to run outside as much as possible - which meant running in colder weather and the Bikilas don't provide much protection from the cold.  And on my longer runs, my feet were starting to really hurt from the repeated impact.  

So I headed to Fleet Feet.  I told them that I had never run in "real" sneakers.  My gait was analyzed and I tried on a variety of sneakers and ran a little in them.  When I put on New Balance WR1400, I just KNEW - they felt so right for my feet.  They are still considered minimalist sneaks, but they are not as minimalist as the Vibrams.

They offer much more cushioning, I can wear socks with them which keep my feet warmer, and while I am still a forefoot striker, they pull my heel down some and - knock on wood - it seems to be clearing up my Achilles Tendonitis.

Now, I still wear my Vibrams for hiking and walking where the impact is not an issue.  I find them incredibly comfortable.  I also wear them for doing workout videos.  Today I did P90X Plyometrics and wore the Bikilas and I felt great.  

It is MY OPINION that most people would benefit from minimalist sneakers.  They conform most naturally to your body.  This became even more evident to me when I went sneaker shopping with Marc.  He has extremely high arches and has a lot of foot issues.  Traditionally he would have been told that he needed kicks with a LOT of support.  But he then tried on the Brooks Pure Connect 2 - a minimalist sneaker - and, like me with the New Balance, fell in love with how they felt on his feet.  I would have never thought that Marc would run in minimalist sneakers, but they have solved almost all of his foot problems that he was having when running!

You can read his in depth review of these sneaks on his blog

Your feet - especially if you are overweight or obese - take a lot of beating every day.  The best thing that you can do for them is to house them in the most comfortable way you can.  You will be shocked at what a difference it makes, not only for your feet themselves, but it can also solve other issues, like knee problems.  So, no matter if your goal is to run, walk, hike, or do anything that involves your feet - and what doesn't? - you need to get out and get a quality pair of kicks!! 

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