Friday, March 24, 2006

Foot strength + Flexibility = Improved Running

Speed is the calculation of stride frequency and stride length. There are critical factors in this calculation: (1) your flexibility, the ability to move easily in this running motion, (2) the amount of time actually in contact and the push off from the ground. At the USATF Level 1 Class recently one of the key takeaways was the question: "What brand of shoe do the Kenyans use from age 1 through 10?" Bare feet!

Foot strength is key to strength all the way up the leg.

Russ Ebbets provided a set of five foot drills that help to strengthen the foot. 4 of the 5 drills are done barefoot. The distance covered for each drill is about 25 meters. Each drill is done once a day. Each drill is recommended to be done on grass but any flat clean surface will work. The 5th drill is done with your shoes on. Total time shoes off/on, etc. about 5 minutes. Quick and easy with a big payoff.
  1. walk on the outside of your feet
  2. walk on the inside of your feet
  3. walk with a toe in or pigeon toe gait
  4. walk with the toes out (a la Charlie Chaplin)
  5. and with your shoes on, walk on your heels.
Doing this regularly will improve the strength of the feet and enable optimization of the stride.
For flexibility, a few key static stretches can be found in this Active.Com article by Reece Haettich. These stretches should be done after running. It is good to note that the standing quad stretch is usually done improperly. I'll confess that as I reviewed this text, I have committed the error.
You'll often see athletes make the mistake of trying to accentuate the stretch by leaning forward at the waist and pulling the stretched leg behind the opposite knee, at this point you've crossed into a different stretch in a poor postural position to do so. Stay straight and maintain a normal lumbar curve for best results.
Combining the foot drills and the stretches (post run) you should be able to improve your running stride and your overall performance.

May the roads/trails be kind to you!

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This posting was also part of the Passionate Runner podcast series and can be found here.

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Mark I. said...

you could also try RUNNING barefoot. ;-)

(slowly and short distances at first of course)

Steve Sherlock said...

Yes, that is true but how practical is that for someone in a winter climate like New England? While I like my three day FIRST program, restricting my runs to either inside or only good weather is not a consideration.

If I had the option to more to a sunny and warmer climate, then that would also be more enabling for barefoot running.

In the meantime, running barefoot when at the beach is what I'll do. I should try to get there more often.

Mark I. said...

My only point is you've focused solely on walking and, I assumed you were talking about walking outdoors?

And I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I'm well versed in winter conditions! I was not suggesting one barefoot run in those freezing conditions.

just trying to bring another aspect of training to your advice. :)

Steve Sherlock said...

Fair enough... while it seemed to be focused on walking, this is only a piece to the puzzle and for that I apologize.

The five minutes walking is a small add to the overall FIRST running plan I see as beneficial to improving your running. That was not explicit in this posting and I can see how you and I got off on the wrong track... oops... :-)

Mark I. said...

thanks Steve. :)