Running in the Wrong Shoes

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No, this is not another post about traditional running shoes, minimal shoes or barefoot running. It is about what we put on our feet when. Why do many runners choose between running in road shoes and running in trail shoes. Does it matter? Can you just as easily run trails wearing shoes designed for road running?

Some running shoes have a good enough tread that they can be worn on both road and trails, but many runners have a selection of road and trail running shoes and base their choice upon their intended running route. The other day I started running a flat road run but switched gears and found myself running up a gnarly, hilly trail. Oops. Wrong shoes.

There was one section of the trail that was covered in eucalyptus leaves and I found that my feet started to slide out from under me. I started to regret my decision to change course in the middle of my run, but then I remembered an old article that Danny had written, Make the Most Out of a Bad Run. I realized that my choice of running shoes that day had inadvertently given me the opportunity to focus on a couple of aspects of the ChiRunning technique that would help me navigate the terrain. Since the soles of my shoes were completely smooth and had no grip, I quickly realized the only way I could get up the hill was to focus on lifting my ankles and eliminate any push off. Just to see what would happen, I tried pushing off for a few steps. Sure enough, my feet slid backwards and I lost stability. Then, I focused on relaxing my lower legs and lifting my ankles. What a difference! Then, I included the focus of my arm swing to bring my elbows forward to give me that “lift” up the hill (see page 176 of the ChiRunning book) for a description of how to swing your arms when running uphill. Aha! Now, I was really moving.

I picked a dirt road — which also happened to be covered in eucalyptus leaves, for the downhill portion of the run. Again, I decided that the only way I could run downhill efficiently was to focus on running technique. My running shoes were of no help. I found that thinking about the C shape created the balance and stability I needed. I paid extra attention to letting my pelvis rotate and just focused on letting my stride open up behind me. My feet seemed to barely touch the ground. In fact, the whole experience was so positive and I was having so much fun I decided to do the loop again! I was excited to discover that what had initially seemed like bad planning gave me the opportunity to practice my running technique. It reminded me that there’s a reason for the choices we make and that we have a choice to make the best we can of them.


Posted in Gear

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