Running Technique–Avoiding Calf/Achilles Pain

I’m not sure now how long ago I started to change running technique – perhaps three years. Despite having made an enormous range and depth of changes it was frustrating to be continually forced back to square one with “delayed onset muscle soreness” even after a short break. It appeared that this was the price to pay for a lifetime of poor mechanics and that full adaptation was a long term job. It was however always in the back of my mind that there was still something wrong mechanically. There is a lot of information out there but nothing truly definitive or scientifically verified. When I initially started reading ChiRunning it was with a great deal of scepticism. That scepticism melted the more closely the material was scrutinised. Bit by bit it became clear that the author Danny Dryer was very accurate and correct on just about everything. One aspect that appeared to be unlikely to be correct however was his assertion that the foot strike on the ground should be just in front of the heel. That seemed perhaps fine for walking but perhaps not for running; after all there is so much new information extoling the virtues of a forefoot strike and pointing out the inappropriateness of a heel strike when effectively barefoot. It dawned on me that due to this new indoctrination I’d never even attempted to run in the way that Dryer describes – the hypnotising effect of all that information making me protect the heels like they were going to shatter if they ever contacted the ground first. This attitude was strengthened due to Dryer’s use of raised heel running shoes – such as standard Nikes – which makes it easy to imagine this is the real reason for his “heel strike”. Now I’ve managed two runs this way with minimalist shoes and guess what – no d.o.m.s. and no heel pain when running. It’s ironic that the whole idea of “barefoot” is to avoid heel striking but the the solution to better mechanics appears to actually be both barefoot and heel strike! The immediate sensation was “this is how I ran as a child”. When a teenager all the kids of my generation had flat plimsoles (named after the plimsole line of a boat – as your feet got wet if the water went over the rubber sole) : Wikipedia…  In the UK plimsolls were compulsory in schools’ physical education lessons. Regional terms are common: in Northern Ireland and central Scotland they are sometimes known as gutties; “sannies” (from ‘sand shoe’) is also used in Scotland.[1] In parts of the West Country and Wales they are known as “daps” or “dappers”. In London, the home counties, much of the West Midlands, and north west of England they are known as “pumps”.[2] The was certainly never an issue of hurting the heels as a child and yet those shoes had no real protection. I remember my first ever pair of real “running shoes”. They were “Brooks” and they felt amazing – I must have been about 22 or 23 years old at the time and was in Cork in Ireland. Little did I know that I was buying into the Nike marketing concept and learning to over-stride. The way back from this fundamental error has not been quite so easy. It appears that the real issue is not really “heel strike” or “forefoot strike” but over-reaching ahead in the stride. When you avoid over-reaching then it feels impossible to land hard on the heel even with minimalist shoes. Once again Dryer seems to be correct – the point of impact to aim for appears to be just in front of the heel. The test will come soon when I try to increase either speed or distance – but it looks like the 3 year period of sore calf muscles is finally over – thank goodness!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *