/ Baffled by heel-toe drops
Hi, I've recently signed up to run the Brecon marathon in May and I need to replace a pair of More Mile Pace shoes with something a bit better.
I have suffered from an achilles injury in the past and have read that I should avoid a zero or minimal heel-toe drop shoe. I have also read that this isn't a major consideration in trail running as foot placement is erratic. With my wide feet, the most comfortable shoes I've tried on in the shop have been Altra mt Kings. Am I risking injury by switching to them?
Have actually lost sleep worrying about this. Can anyone advise?
There's a very informative podcast by Ross Tucker - Real Science of Sport - which delves into shoes, marketing and the science. The conclusion is buy shoes that you find comfortable.
Heel-toe drop isn't and exact measure but changing drop rapidly can risk Achilles or other injury especially if heel striking - worse on tarmac but still applies on trail/fell terrain unless really soft bog.
More mile pace (4mm) already pretty low drop so not huge shift to 0 Altra's, but still worth doing gradually (start short distance, alternate shoes, rest if feels aggravates Achilles).
Insoles (superset, curex, others) can be used to increase drop a bit - needs bit of trial and error.
Lots of cushioning (altras very squishy) not necessarily best for Achilles - firmer cushioned support can be better.
If Altra shape fits well possibly look at Topo shoes as well similar splayed toe box with 4mm drop well cushioned models (e.g. Mtn racer).
I highly recommend doing exercises to strengthen your achilles. I spend 10-20 minutes each day doing help drops with weighted backpack, and it seems to be helping. If you have achilles problems it'll only get worse as you increase training load, no matter the shoes. I use Altra shoes including the mt king which I like a lot.
Just listened to the podcast. Very enlightening and amusing. Cheers.
Are you doing that as part of a recovery from an Achilles injury? Or to prevent one? Only asking as I'm 6 months into an Achilles tendinitis and not getting a huge amount of improvement from heel raises.
Don't do heel raises, do eccentric heel drops, starting off just body weight, then build up to a wearing a weighted rucksack as stated above.
A long, but detailed, review of achilles problems and what to do and what not to do
The zero drop idea comes from the barefoot running fad (for want of a better word as I don't mean that negatively) of 10 years ago or so.
An important book at the time was by Chris mcdougall (cant remember the title) all about barefoot running preventing injuries.
As a runner who kept getting injured whenever I got to about 30mpw or so, I had a go at the whole barefoot running thing and totally changed from a heel striker to mid / forefoot striker
It took a while of building up from 1/4 of a mile ( barefoot) to relearn how to run. Not really had any chronic injuries since, and do a reasonable bit of running on and off road.
Two other good books / ideas to look at are chi running and pose running.
Zero drop / minimal are great but you must change from a heel strike to a mid / forefoot strike first. Barefoot running, very slowly and for short distances (at first) can help you to learn the correct way to land that then works for zero drop shoes.
Born to run - the chris mcdougall book.
Recovery and prevention. But I do heel drops. I also do heel raises, but that's mainly for calf strength.
Went through a similar journey. Started with just wearing zero drops walking around for a few months (as per physios recommendation) before I could run in them (hamstrings took a while to get used to them).
I definitely run better than I used to though still have work to do, the effects of having a sitting job for 20+ years take some shaking off.
Im a bare foot convert here to. My knees have never been better no aches or pains in them like before. But yes does take a while for the calfs to get used to it
re: Achilles tendinitis
For tendon injuries, the principal of recovery is controlled loading, so the heel drop (to a flat surface if insertional [pain at the back of the heel] or lower for mid-tendon pain) is essential to get nicely rearranged collagen fibres in the renewed tendon. You can often run, but only if your pain level is below the level set by your physio. Lots of foam rolling and some stretching depending on the timing of the injury are also important.
I do think a physio is essential here, controlling both excessive inactivity and excessive activity.
I tried a transition to flat shoes in 2017 when fit and uninjured and my calves were sore and I had marked achilles pain despite being careful and wearing zero drop shoes for the rest of life (Vivobarefoot). I have never gone back to running in flat shoes, but have a medium drop 6-8 mm without problems.
> Im a bare foot convert here to. My knees have never been better no aches or pains in them like before. But yes does take a while for the calfs to get used to it
Be a bit careful, though. I've found it better for my knees etc, but I got a bit podgy recently and the extra weight combined with barefoot style running resulted in shin splints/stress fractures knocking me out of running for about 3 months (which only served to make me heavier). When I restarted I've gone back to "bouncy" shoes for now, though Inov8 do a zero drop padded shoe (Terra Ultra 260) which allows me to at least keep the technique while adding a bit of protection.
FWIW I walk round the house barefoot most of the time and work from home so that's all day.
In reply to Neil Williams:
Marathoner, Triathlete and long distance walker here. No boots even in the winter unless 30mm deep. If you are concerned I would get your gait assessed and talk the issue through in a good running shop. Changing heel-toe drop is problematical especially as you have had achilles injury. I keep to the same heel-drop.
As long as I can I keep to the same shoes whichever sport- currently Scott Kinabalu Supetrac which I replace after 700 miles. I get miffed when after a year or two manufacturers discontinue models and I do keep a pair in stock as I do not like changing shoes.
On a visit to the States with trepidation during a long walk I had to get new shoes and later when I got back I had to source some from Spain as wanted to keep with the brand; none in the UK.
I did read Chi running re bare foot running, some good general information but I never picked up the courage to have go; certainly having plenty of room in the shoe encourages your foot to act more naturally.
I walked for ten weeks solid one time and the feet got more muscle, toes straightened and shoe size went up
Lake District-based runner Kim Collison has set a new speed record on the Bob Graham Round in winter. Kim completed the round in just 15 hours 47 minutes, knocking a big chunk from the previous fastest winter time of 18:18 set by Jim Mann in 2013.