Why I wear Newtons, Part II
If I recall correctly, the first time I heard anything about forefoot/midfoot running was in an article in Men\’s Health in 2006 in an article entitled, \”The Men Who Live Forever\”, by Christopher McDougall. Thus, it was quite something, when three years later Christopher McDougall became the first interview on my podcast for his book, Born to Run. The paragraphs in the article that caught my eye were:
One of Hartmann\’s star clients, marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe, has been training in the Nike Free, a new, minimalist slipper designed to mimic the range of motion of a naked foot. Alan Webb, America\’s best miler, also works out in the Free. Webb had been hobbled by foot injuries early in his career, but after he started barefoot exercises, his injuries disappeared, and his shoe size shrank, from a 12 to a 9. \”My foot muscles became so strong, they pulled my arches up,\” says Webb. \”Wearing too much shoe prevents you from tapping into the natural gait you have when landing on the ground.\”
Perhaps this was what I had witnessed while trying to keep up with Alejandro. Watching him run, I was surprised to find that instead of the long, galloping stride I\’d expected, he never stretched out his legs at all. He kept his knees bent and his forefeet padding down directly under his body, as if he were riding an invisible unicycle.
\”Exactly!\” says Ken Mierke, an exercise physiologist and the creator of the barefoot-modeled Evolution Running technique. \”That\’s why they don\’t get hurt.\” Mierke believes there is a perfect, Tarahumara-like footstrike that can guarantee you will run longer and faster, and drastically reduce your chances of injury. The key is to stay off your heel and to use your leg as a pistonlike shock absorber.
\”You wouldn\’t jump off a ladder and land on your heels, right?\” Mierke asks. \”Same with running. If you land on your heel, your leg is straight, and the impact is smashing into one joint after the other. If you land on your forefoot, however, with the leg bent, it absorbs shock using elastic tissues instead of bone.\”
A while later, I stumbled across an article in the New York Times from 2005 entitled, \”Kick Off Your Shoes and Run Awhile\”, funnily enough, also by Christopher McDougall. By that time, I was a few month into Brandon\’s Marathon (both the site and podcast) and was sharing my trials and tribulations with an online audience. With both of McDougall\’s articles fueling my curiosity, I took to the treadmill.
At first, I was landing much too far forward, literally on my toes. I was also attempting this new form of running in shoes that had all but taken away my ability to strike the ground with my forefoot due to the heel-toe drop (again, the difference in height between the heel and the toe). Even my first ungainly attempts at forefoot running, with my toes taking a beating and my feet WAY too far out in front of me, I could already feel what I was looking for, or rather didn\’t feel. This was in September of 2008. You can hear me talk about all these discoveries in Brandon\’s Marathon Podcast, Episode 16.
I was hooked.
I discovered, the hard way, that to change to a forefoot/midfoot technique takes time. Newton says this very clearly on their website. I had very sore calves and even a touch of achilles tendinitis. So, I slowed down and began to take my time, doing a little bit of forefoot running mixed in with my runs…which kept getting longer.
As soon as I heard about forefoot running for the second time, I began to Google it (as is the custom it seems). and THAT is when I found Newton Running.