An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Attention all you calf-dominant runners: Frieberg’s Infraction

Sounds like some one broke a law or something, doesn’t it? Well, it’s almost like that, but also much like a foot rebelling against itself. Insidious, slowly painful, destructive… AKA: avascular necrosis of the metatarsal head.

Essentially, what happens is that the metatarsal head is destroyed from the top down, either by trauma from some outside source, or repetitively through the joint itself, and it’s slow to heal. Vascular supply in this area is sparse, so healing takes longer. MUCH longer. Longer than any typical runner takes between workouts.

Here’s the interesting part – this condition usually occurs in young women. Most medical literature says that the causes aren’t clear, but from what I’ve seen of my own issues (after I started paying attention due to having it surgically corrected in my left foot and starting to see the same symptoms in my right), I think some of the causes could be linked to high-heel shoes. Not that I’ve been walking around in pumps or anything…

Here’s a picture of me from my last tri in 2007 (the last one I did
before the surgery in 2008, photo by Image Arts Photography, September 2007), and you can see that I’m VERY calf-dominant. Pushing off the ball of my foot hard. I did this no matter what shoes I was in. Racing flats, training shoes, whatever. The pain started just at he base of my 2nd toe, but it wasn’t bad, wasn’t constant, and went away by my next run. It took about 4 months, but eventually it wasn’t going away, and then became constant. Funny thing is, it didn’t hurt WHILE I was running. Well, not for quite a while anyway. Once it started to hurt while I ran, I knew it was time to seek medical help.

So I went to see a local podiatrist. He poked, prodded, took x-rays, sent me for MRIs, and put me in a boot to immobilize my foot. After 6 weeks, he took more x-rays, poked and prodded more, with the pain still there… He admitted he had no clue, suggested another podiatrist, and said I should consult with him and come back (yeah, like I was interested in coming back).

Trip to the guy who knows something, and in 5 minutes I have my options, and the only one that has a good long-term outlook is surgery. At least this guy said that it really doesn’t matter if I wear the boot or not – I can’t do any more damage, basically. Here’s what it looked like, and was the “clincher”:

See that notch on the upper side of the metatarsal? That’s the bone getting eaten away by my toe bones. That huge white thing above my foot is an almond taped to the top of my foot so they knew they were in the right area.

Surgery consisted of taking a wedge out of the top of the joint and then rotating the articular surface backwards, and screwing it in place (I have hardware now!). Rehab felt like it took forever. Finally trying to start running again, my ankles were blowing up on me. My 2nd toe now doesn’t sit all the way on the floor…

So anyway, back to the symptoms happening on my right foot – I’d finally gotten to running at a slow pace early this year, built up some distance, did a sprint tri on Memorial Day… I was balancing my training, building up the strength in my ankles, but I also had to moderate my pace so that my right foot didn’t start feeling the same symptoms as my left did before surgery. I went for a couple months thinking that my running days would be numbered, even with just the limited run training I was doing.

I did another tri, an Olympic distance this time, in September, and then went towards a more minimal shoe after that race. But the thing that was different about them was that the heel height was much lower, and the upper was flexible enough to allow my forefoot to spread out. What was the difference to my foot? Less toe flex, meaning my joint was staying straighter. My foot was landing flatter. And I was re-making my stride into something more hip- and hamstring-dominant, instead of calf-dominant. This went even further when I switched to Sacony Kinvaras. Since those changes, I haven’t had any symptoms in my right foot at all (where’s the wood to knock on?).

It comes down to not having the toes flex so much, landing the foot as close to flat as possible, and keeping it that way.

Will I get back down below 6 minute pace again? I don’t know. And really I don’t care. I’m glad to be running again at all. I’ve dropped from 10’s in January to between 7:45-8:15’s in training now. No idea what I’d do in a race now, but my Oly tri I averaged 7:45’s.

That warning at the top? Yeah, I’d just say to the calf-dominant runners out there, maybe you’d want to rethink that stride, especially if you start feeling any pain at the base of your 2nd toe.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Might as well be a 5 lb booger...

Okay, I pilfered that line from an old (about 1990) ad for bike lights, maybe "Nightsun"... It talked about how light systems are heavy and ineffective.

Well, today was that day. Rain, from heavy to drizzle, through the whole run. I wore some pants that are really some old weight lifting "baggies", though not a baggy as was the rage in the early 90's. Anyway, they're a non-stretchy jersey knit. Okay, with the rain, I had water splashing up the back of my legs through the whole run as well. Didn't take long for the pants to be clinging to the backs of my legs, holding a whole lot of water. "Might as well be a 5 lb booger" came to mind. Not the most fun of runs.

So anyway, this is the 3rd run this week. Missed yesterday due to having a group lunch (instead of going out for my run), and the after-work time not permitting. I went out this morning kind of thinking I'd be getting close to 5 miles, but it toruned out to be 5.5 instead. Hit a good pace, but I felt like I was laboring -- not fast, just like I didn't have it today. It didn't feel like I was pushing a faster pace at all. Tomorrow will be another run, Saturday off, then run on Sunday and Monday.

Next time, discussion of Frieberg's Infraction.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fewer miles, more often -- more mileage overall

I think I'm going to take my training in another direction for a little while. Run more often, but shorter. After last week, with a 7.3 miler that turned out to be 40% of my weekly total... Well, that's not good, and it's no wonder that I felt pretty beat up afterwards. Not that it side-lined me or anything, but I didn't feel really ready to run again on Saturday, that's for sure, and even though yesterday's schedule turned out to not allow a run, I really didn't miss it.

So what I'll be doing this week is 3-4 days in a row of less mileage. 4.5 today, probable the same or a little less tomorrow and Wednesday, and Thursday is up in the air. Friday will be no problem, so that might even be 5 days in a row. Then Christmas day off, and back at it on Sunday.

I'm also going to start a series of posts on "What would a shoe look like if I were designing it?" Addressing everything from the sole up, with examples of existing shoes, what I like and don't like... Who knows, maybe I'll end up with some composite shoe by the end of it all.

And maybe some shoe company out there will think they've got exactly what I'm looking for.

Willing shoe tester here, with an honest opinion to share!!! :^)

Friday, December 17, 2010

A good week...

I took today off work to get some other things done with Lisa. Ran with her last night -- she made 1.5 miles non-stop!

This morning, I decided to run "long". Not a huge jump in miles, only about a mile longer than my recent long-ish runs. Which is good. I'll keep the long runs about this length (7.3 this morning) or so until into January, then start extending.

We're going to get Christmas shopping done. And we're going to see Tron tonight in Imax 3D. Should be fun.

Right now, though, my legs are kinda tired. Duh! I felt my form dipping a bit in the last mile or so, which is reasonable. I think the road surface took a little more out of me than I thought it would. My pace was spot-on, even though I was getting tired, so that's a good sign. I'll need to start incorporating some speed work when spring rolls around.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another 6 miler...

I hadn't planned initially on doing another 6, it just turned out to be the right thing... Almost the same pace as Friday, the same route. Temp was 54 when I started, and I ran in a short-sleeved T-shirt. In December. Yesterday's constant rain had left the ground sopping went, so I had a nearly constant spray on the backs of my legs, but I felt great. I really miss warm runs...

Lisa (my girlfriend) said one more time that she wants to do a half-marathon next year. She'd mentioned it a few weeks ago, then put it out of her mind when she saw how much entry fees were (she was looking at the Seattle Rock 'n Roll half). She wants it around that time of year (June). Anyway, she mentioned it again last night, and even has one in mind in Chicago (flat). Looks like we'll be doing that one together!!! :^)

I was looking at other halfs to do, to see what I could do on my own... There's the Tacoma City half on May 1st, but that's also the same day as the Mt Rainier Duathlon (a BuDu Racing event), and I imagine we'll be helping out with that one. But... there's the Tacoma Narrows half on August 6th... Tougher course (winning time last year was 1:09 and change), but I'm not really gunning for the win (my worst time ever in a half was 1:06 or so, and that was when I was in college, but my best isn't much faster). I'd like to make it under 8:00 pace though. It's a smaller event, so it may be one of those things where I'd be alone through a lot of the run. And it has the potential to be... warm. But I like the heat. We'll see. Registration for that one doesn't open 'til April 29th.

Happy things happening...

Saturday, December 11, 2010


So I was looking through the Born to Run forum site, and there was a link to a "new" blog "Zero Drop". And near the bottom of the page is an entry on Nike history ( ). In that post is a picture of the Nike line from 1977... And front-center in that picture is the Nike Daybreak, the first real running shoe I ever wore. Actually, I went through two pair of those shoes, and put THOUSANDS of miles on them (far more than I should have, I'm sure). Wore them out completely.

These shoes were built on a straight last, so straight, in fact, that you had to look at the insole to tell which shoe went on which foot until it was well worn-in.
I moved on from the Daybreaks to wear Columbias, Terra TCs (in both incarnations), some motion control shoe (the only time I ever had ITB issues), Vortex (three pair of these), Pegasus (forst generation), Air Maxs (in 1989 and a couple years ago), American Eagles, Waffle Trainers and Waffle Racers, and... several other models I've long forgotten about. Along the way I tred several other
manufacturers with varied success: Reebok (London TC racers and one pair of training shoes), Saucony (Jazz, which lasted just two days, a model that was designed by Scott Tinley, and the current Kinvaras), and... Surprisingly I think that's about it. Never anything by Adidias. Just the wrong fit.

So anyway, it was funny and interesting to see this post with the picture. Took me back to my young and indestructible days. I don't think I'd survive in those shoes today. But in some ways I'm more returning to my early running roots by running mostly off-road. Cross Country at my high school, starting in fall 1980.

I ran a 6 miler yesterday. The weather gods were smiling on me (they have all week). Afterwards, my lower legs (shins) were feeling it a bit. Not painful, more like a tightness. Still here this morning a little bit, but I'll be taking it easier today, and be back at it tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My thoughts on the Merrell Barefoot line (without having so much as tried any on)

There's a whole slough of new shoes coming out in the spring for the minimalist set. Altra in April, NB Minimus in March, and the earliest, the Merrell Barefoot line in February.

Some early press releases have come out on these lines, and so far I'm liking the NB Minimus Road and the Altras the most.

The Merrell's... Well, there's a thin midsole (not bad), a rugged looking outsole, a wide toe box, light... But why, oh WHY, did they make that huge cutout under the 5 metatarsal? I mean, for the place where we're supposed to be landing our foot, why take sole material away from there?
Of course, the other part of it is the price. $110. Seems the entire market is shooting for the $100 plus range. Altra's are at that point, NB Minimus are at $100. At least they're not shooting for the Evo II price of $160 (for what amounts to a rubber-soled slipper).
So yeah, I'm not a true minimalist. I don't want "the next thing to barefoot" (or even to run barefoot, for that matter). I like that these companies are doing SOMETHING with low- to zero-drop shoes that are minimalIST without being minimal. We'll see what's most comfortable when the time comes.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Felt good to take it easy today

After three days in a row of running it felt good to take an easier day MTB riding. Did a normal route, just cruising along.

Yesterday I was looking at the BuDu site, and checking out the early spring (can it even be called spring?) MTB races. They have a single-speed category, too! With one at Stielacoom, and one at Lake Sawyer, I may jump into one of those. Sounds like fun. Though who knows -- we may still be in money-saving mode, and I'd rather have the new running shoes than to do a bike race. Other things to save for as well...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I need more long-ish routes...

Typing this again... ended up deleting it before posting.

So I did a long-ish route this morning at 7:30... 27 degrees out. I took Jake with me, as he needed the energy drain. So I ran 5.73 up through Pierce College and around Bradley Lake Park (but not around the lake). And it was one of the worse runs. Not because of how I did physically, or the cold, or anything like that. It was Jake. Shying away from EVERYTHING! Cars, traffic cones, sign posts, fences, balloons... Add in about a dozen people walking their dogs on the campus, Jake dragging me through mud and soaking one foot (with over 2 miles to go), and I was just NOT a happy runner.

So I'm contemplating whether I want to take Jake with me on my runs any more. Or at least maybe not on these routes. I don't know...

Also, I guess I'm realizing that, a week after the Seattle Marathon, I'm kind of leaning towards doing a half marathin myself. So if that's true, then I'll need some more routes in the 5-10 mile and beyond range. If I'm going to do a 13.1 mile event, I'm going to want to run longer than that before the day...

Friday, December 3, 2010

3 days, 2 days, 3 days...

Okay, so I made it three days in a row running, with no ill effects. Now I've finished two days off, and will do another three in a row running, and see what happens.

I mapped out another "long run" route that is simpler -- around Sunset. Just over 8 miles, with almost no hills. I think that'll be a better route for a first long run. Where is this going? Not sure.