Thursday, October 10, 2013

Deja Shoe: I want a shoe JUST like...

On a run the other day, putting one foot in front of the other, just like the thousands of times I've done before, I found myself remembering the last time i was running the same trail. It had been a long time ago, back in '80's, since i'd been there, and I found myself trying to remember the way those long ago shoes felt as I wound my way up the narrow but smooth trail. I'm not trying to remember just any old shoe, but trying to remember the way the very best training shoes I'd ever owned felt, because that is what i was wearing the day that i last did that trail. Runners are like musicians, forever waxing rhapsodically over that one perfect, off the factory instrument that somehow, magically, was better than anything that came of the factory that day. how it was magic in their hands, and perfect to play. Runners will remember the shoe that disappeared onto their foot and made them feel one with the trail/road/track, a shoe that was perfectly attuned to the angle that they would land on. Its not surprising. We spend a lot of time in those shoes, and we put a lot of weight on our feet, on our legs and muscles and nerves have a lot of memory, sometimes good, sometimes bad. When i have weartested shoes that we identical except for mere millimeters of rubber, i've been able to tell the difference, especially when they change the flare on a heel, because that dictates so much of the landing strike on first contact. The designs are different now, and the materials that they use in the shoes are different; the compression rates of the foam materials have changed, in many shoes significantly, and that dictates a lot of the "squish" that we learn to love from our favorites. When you get a new shoe that reminds you of an old one, it can be striking, almost like rediscoving a feeling that you didn't know you remembered. I still consider Nike's Elite Classic to be one of the best trail racers I ever had on my foot, and the recent release of the Noosafast by Asics reminded me of the Elite. There was an Asics racer called the Tarther a couple of years ago that reminded me of a 1980's Jayhawk. But i've never put on a shoe that felt like an Asics Tiger Excalibur GT. Ever. And i don't think that I'll ever find a shoe that fit like the Karhu Flow from two years ago. I've never felt anything like a Nike American Eagle either. I'm as romantic about the past as anyone else is (more so than most, according to my wife), but even i know that looking for a shoe that fits like something from 1990 is a wasted time. Like the long departed college girlfriend, the old shoes glow in the nostalgia of the past. We forget that we're not the same athletes that we were back then either. And it can blind us to some of the new, interesting and amazing work being done in the shoe industry today. Keeping your eyes and mind open are great things to do when shopping these days. You never know what you'll find. The shoe, by the way, that i was missing from that long ago trail run, was a Tiger Epirus. And I do remember how it felt.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Over and Under on Orthotics in Running Shoes

Runners and walkers have been stuffing orthotics into running shoes for years and years, and i don't quite know if everyone has been paying attention to all the way that both of those things have changed. But they should, and it has started to make a big difference in how the combination of those two items are affecting the wearer.

I first noticed this during the introduction of Saucony's Hurricane 7, a shoe that, despite the same name as its predecessor, was a completely different shoe. Much more aggressive correction on the interior, the medial side, and much firmer. I had a woman who expected that the Hurricane 7 would be a continuation Hurricane 6 (a naive expectation that continues to plague the industry today), threw her orthotic into it and ran out the door. Yet 48 hours later she was back in tears for the pain in her feet, wondering what was wrong. Watching her walk, i could see that the orthotic was being held up so well on this new, firmer base, that she was being over corrected and walking bowlegged! Since she wasn't going to change the orthotic, i moved her to a less supportive shoe and told her to try it for a week. Seven days later she came in perfectly happy.

Saucony is up to the Hurricane 14, and seven years later this has only gotten worse.

The problems is that everyone is getting better at their jobs. The podiatrists are trying harder to correct all the associate leg problems from the feet up, the shoe manufacturers are trying to make their supportive shoes more supportive and lighter and more comfortable all at the same time. Even the socks are coming along with arch-wraps to add to mix. Your feet have never had so many damn people trying their hardest to hold them in position for the entire length of your weight bearing gait cycle.

But instead of saying, "Well, its not enough" I'm constantly saying, "Its too much." And judging by many of my customers, they know it in their feet, even if, and this is the tough part, it runs completely counter to everything that their brain has been told.

Unfortunately, every year you have a shoe company with a valuable trademark name, a structure triax, a wave rider, a guide, a hurricane, and they're going to put out a version of that shoe, with that name, and it will likely be something new out of the design department, with new fabrics and new welded construction and whatever else has come along within the manufacturing side in the last years since they came up with that one.

Its a different shoe, and it will sit the orthotic differently. Pretty much every year now. And since most custom orthotic wearers don't want to have to re-do a $500 or $600 custom piece, it is worth checking exactly what shoe is going to be boosting it up to your foot, every time.

There is a host of new neutrally oriented shoes out now, some of which will sit the contoured plastic and cork of the orthotic into a position not entirely unlike the one that the podiatrist probably cast your foot in to begin with. Perhaps, orthotic wearers, its time to take a quick check of how effective they are right now for your feet!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Terror and The Boston Marathon

The terrorist attack upon Boston, using the institution of the Boston Marathon as the opportunity to hurt and kill and instill fear, is utterly reprehensible. The world community, the sane world community, will condemn this in words, and the individuals or group of individuals, whether they execute another plan like this or not, will have likely achieved some of their goals. Making people think twice about attending large open sporting events, events that aren’t constantly policed at every entrance and exit, instilling that kernel of fear into a million brains at once, that’s one of their goals.

And its worth repeating, since we’ve gotten so used to the word “terrorist” that we often forget to look at the root, terror, which is defined at “intense, sharp, overmastering fear.” Fear of what? Fear of boarding an airplane? Fear of getting on a subway platform? Fear of running a marathon? Fear of living your life? The answer is: all of the above. The terrorist is looking to take away that which you hold dear, for whatever perceived slight or abuse they have had to suffer.

And that revenge includes killing 8 year olds.

The running community has long been a hearty lot, and we react, irrationally, compulsively, to many things, but the overriding aspect is that we keep on going. We run in warzones, we run in inhospitable weather, we run through tragedies. And our community, if you pressed us, to a person, would most likely be to say that we love the freedom we have when we run. Any type of freedom of course, freedom from the job, from the kids, from the cell phone, freedom to run hard, to float, to pass as many others before the finish line. The freedom to enjoy whatever freedom we like. Running the marathon, a bucket list right of passage for so many, with the goal of qualifying for Boston, has been there for, literally, millions of runners the world over. But an event like this wants to cow us, and take that freedom away from us.

But we are stronger than that. We deplore the senseless killings of innocents for a goal, any goal, and we will show that we are stronger than you. That our love of that freedom, that our love of something as silly as putting one foot in front of the other is so important to us that it is likely buried in our DNA, that we will not be stopped. That the marathon will not end, that we will not change our lives in fear of terror.

These terrorists, whoever they are, will have gained nothing. Right now, there are dead to bury, and bodies to sew up and heal, and both mourning and a steeling of our spines to not give in to fear. The terrorists have showed us, like many other ways we are tested in this century, how strong we will have to be. The Boston has continued for over 100 years, from before the motor car into the atomic age and, now, into the age of domestic war. And we will continue to run, for as many reasons out there as steps taken, but mostly, likely, for those freedoms. We will run to be free.

Charles Yoakum, Marin Running Company

Friday, March 1, 2013

Guest Post: Yoga For Runners - Elle Griffen

Now that the Marin breeze has started turning toasty, I've started to ready my running shoes. I'm signed up for my favorite event of the year: Lululemon's SeaWheeze half-marathon (wooohoo!) and I'm determined to run with the 10-minute pacers this year! I know the pitfalls though, running IS a physical stressor and that means we need to be extra careful with our bodies, especially when we are in training. As a yoga teacher I've seen far too many runners turn up to class with shot knees and hurting hips, and those guys are hard to replace! If you haven't hit pain yet, prevention is key and that means taking a little time re-calibrate in between those epic jogs you've been logging! So let's do some yoga! I'm so excited to be pairing up with Marin Running Company  in San Anselmo so that you can take a much-needed off day in your running routine this season. March 13th at 6:30pm I will be teaching a special one-hour yoga class at the store specifically so all you runners can get a nice gooood stretchout!

If you can't make it to the sesh, I've also designed this pretty little podcast so you can show yourself some love wherever you are at. I recommend hitting your mat on an off day or right after a run, but avoid it right before, we don't want to send those loose hips out in the world quite yet!

Back and Side Bends for Abdominal Stretching

With your feet hip-width apart stand with your hands in prayer. Lifting your hands to the sky on an inhale, exhale to the right side stretching that side body. Your abs do quite a lot of work when you run so it's nice to start with some gentle stretching of the abdominal region. Lift back up on an inhale and then sink to the left side. Give yourself some time on both sides to really dip into the stretch, then inhale back to center lifting your chest and heart toward the sky and then lean back for a lower back stretch (yes, back's are important when it comes to running!)

Chair Pose for Knee Strength

Inhale back to standing and (with your arms still raised) sink your hips into chair pose. Your feet should still be flat to the ground and your lower back should be slightly arching as your arms run alongside your head with hands outstretched to the sky. Reach your chest forward and then sink a little lower. Stay in this pose as long as possible and let those thighs burn! Chair pose helps reinforce all those lovely little muscles surrounding your precious knees and we need that strength to support those joints as we run! Shape em up!

Downward Dog to Warm Up those Calves and Stretch out your Back

So now let's get ourselves into a nice downward facing dog. Amazing how this pose somehow does everything doesn't it? Just a great standard. Once you are in the pose, bicicle your knees a little bit so your joints get some movement. Come up onto your tippy toes and lift your hips to the sky as if pulled up via a string attached to your lower back. Then sink your heels as low to the earth as you can. Push forward with your hands so your head falls between your shoulders. This pose lenthens your spine, stretches your calves and shoulders, and finds some stretch in your achilles, just an all around beautiful pose to counter balance those runs you've been doing!

Frog Pose for a Hip Stretching Intensive

Most importantly of ALL running specific poses is a really amazingly powerful hip stretch. Not only do we store emotions in our hips, but we store tension and physical stress there. After a run, your hips do this little tightening number, that unless stretched out, will accumulate and cause major issues down the line. Hip replacement anyone?? Ok, so we don't want that so I'm going to let you in on my favorite hip stretcher- Frog pose! This beaute is killer! To start, make sure you have some padding to support your knees and calves. If you are already experiencing knee trouble on this one, you probably want to opt out and go for your hip stretch of choice. With your legs parallel each other wider than hip width, point your toes outward (like a frog). Extend your torso and fold forward coming to rest on your forearms. Then you need to find the magic spot! Try sinking your hips lower or walking your head forward or backward until you find that perfect balance! See if you can find some relaxation in this pose. Relish it!

Reclining Bound Angle Pose for Back and Hip Support

Finally, make your way out of the pose and lay on your back with the palms of your feet touching and your knees relaxing to the mat. Put one hand to your heart and the other to your belly and let your body fall open. This gets a tiny little arch back into your lower back and is also a gently hip opener all in a nice relaxing package. Enjoy your rest, you've been doing so much and running on top of that has been adding extra stress to your body. Thank yourself for spending time with your body and with your breathe!


Hi! I'm Elle! I am a wellness coach and yoga instructor in gorgeous Marin County, California. My life's work is to inspire happier, healthier lives through my three-month wellness revolution, yoga where you want it, and my blog There's more to good health than what you eat and how you sweat. Find out what YOU need to lose weight, ditch depression, fight fatigue, and balance your hormones!
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Monday, November 26, 2012

Should We Change The Olympic Trials? A Response

Track and Field's Superfan has a new post up about whether changing the Olympic Trials is in the best interests of the sport, and, if you do change them, how to change them. That's actually a whole lotta thinking going on there. And one thing presupposes the other. To change is not enough is it? Can you improve the Trials?

First off, I'll agree, the Oly Trials is the best track meet on the planet for the sheer drama that happens. Top 3 go, if they have the qualifier, the rest go home. The best races i've ever seen, and I've been to the Olympics and watched Seb Coe win his second 1500 gold, have all been at the Trials. So I don't want to see any changes unless we're sure that they're not going to muck things up.

Before i get to his proposed changes, lets pick on the one things that he brings up that I can't let go:
The USA is about the only nation in the world in which no human element is involved in selecting its Olympic track and field team. But the USA is also alone in its tremendous depth across nearly every event. Even if we could make sure that politics and influence had no part in selections, I don’t think the human approach is the right one for us.
And i have two words to say about this: John Chaplin. We DO have a human element corrupting the process, and it has had a bad hand in any number of events since the well publicized incident with Shannon Butler in 1996. Chaplin has been there, behind the scenes, making our trails system less than fair to any number of athletes who have the potential to run the race of their lives and make the team. Yes, the human approach has screwed up plenty of lives, just not as up-front as the visible selection committees of other nations.

Superfan does make the supposition that shortening the trails would deprive USATF of valuable time on TV and in the papers to support the sport, and while that may be true, I would love to see the elimination of one of the rest days so make the meet go quicker. I understand as a distance fan why the 10K and 5K have a weeks separation, but i'm annoyed as an adult human with a job and wife and kids because i can't afford to take 8 days off to take in the whole meet. I have to choose one or the other when it comes to buying tickets.

What i don't like is the potential for certain high profile sprinters to be able to skip early rounds to get to the finals. Its fairly simple, the young upstart who just might have the race of his life and get into the Trial's final will have run 5 100m, where a Tyson Gay or Justin Gatlin will only have had to run 4? You've just taken the fastest guys and given them extra rest.

What if you compressed the meet to make it not allow doubles other than the sprints? 100/200 or rarely, 200/400? Ok, you can come back quickly for that, but make it impossible for a 5K/10K double? Or an 800/1500 double? That might force some runners to really make a choice. Put the meet into 5 days and see how it plays out. Now that would be some intense track action, wouldn't it?

Friday, November 2, 2012

New York City Marathon 2012: The Case Against

I never thought that i would argue against one of my favorite races, and, indeed, made a good case (I hope) the other day in favor of Mary Wittenberg and her guardianship of the race. It has truly gotten back to being a great, world class race that many thousands of runners have been able to enjoy being obsessed over.

But here is the issue: while I, as a former New Yorker, appreciate the "never say die" spirit of the city, and the esprit de corps that exists within the running community, Hurricane Sandy was simply too devastating to the infrastructure. The logistics of moving that many people around the city, feeding them, getting them warm and dry and out of the medical tents, getting the port-a-potties out, is a logistical nightmare, and the fact that the city has done it for decades is a flat out miracle. That they've improved upon it over the years shows how finely tuned everything is.

So now you have only half of your subways running, tons of areas in the five boroughs without power, does it make any sense at all the divert resources away from clean up to try and handle what is, under the best conditions, something that can take miracles to do well? No, it doesn't. I understand Mayor Bloomberg's desire to create revenue to the businesses in the areas, god knows that they could use the money, but you're not going to get those tourists out the Ditmas or Coney if they don't have a working Q, or power for their shops.

In the best scenario, it would make the most sense to delay the race a week, get the power back on and the subways unflooded, and then bring everyone in. One week in the world of marathon prep makes little difference. Just start the hotels moving things over. Now you've got "never-say-die" spirit, and revenue and lots of folks ready to come back to the biggest city that just wouldn't stay down. I doubt that they'll do it, but it would be the best way to go.

Good luck New York, either way, this former Brooklynite will be watching and rooting for you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Sole Infatuation: A Shoe Manifesto

It certainly never fails, new interesting shoe appears in the Running Times shoe survey, and the next week we get two or three people asking about "that shoe that makes you run on your middle toe, you know, the one with the blue stripes and the snap closure?". It certainly makes you appreciate art direction, when you can design a shoe so tantilizing that people will actually go out and search your product out without ever having heard of your name before, much less knowing whether the shoe fits, runs well or even makes sense for your running gait.

But the current running shoe purchaser has more choices than ever before, no question, and typically a greater knowledge of the differing shoe designs than ever before. Which is good. And they know, I think, deep down, that there is no magic shoe that will suddenly take 5 minutes off of their 10k time, but there is always that hope that the new shoe can magically make the years and the pounds fall away and make you feel like you were 20 years old again and gravity didn't pull down on you so much.

We're in the middle of a huge influx of shoe innovation right now. There are a fascinating number of new models from new companies promising all sorts of bio-mechanical miracles, and it can't help but whet the appetite of the shoe enthusiast to see all the new possibilities. Besides, we don't have a ton of gear in this sport, so we have to have something to talk about.

At Marin Running Company, I've been looking at every new shoe that i can find, and i enjoy finding great new shoes wherever and whenever i can. I'm looking forward to new shoes from Altra, Skora, Newton and La Sportiva down the road. I will simply find every great new shoe that i can, shoes you'll never find at the mall sporting goods stores. When i get them i'll be not just posting a short paragraph review, but posting You Tube videos so that you can get your new shoe kick via 2012 technology.

The shoes business is not easy. We were one of the first to bring in Somnio two years, because they had one great shoe. And it was great, no exaggeration. But your business, and Somnio's business, needs more than that, and after two or three shipments of great shoes they went out of business. We will champion small, new innovative companies in every way that we can, just as you keep us here by patronizing small, local business here in Marin.