via Running Form Clinic.
On April 7th, I participated in a running form clinic, held at the Pacers Arlington. ¬†Juda McGannon, who taught the clinic is a representative for Newton shoes. I first met her at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler expo. To my understanding, the Newton brand focuses on running form and the inventor himself, Danny Abshire, hosts clinics weekly, nation wide.
Correct proper running form has been a topic that has always interested me. I have never had any technical running training in the past, so I thought the clinic would really benefit me. Who wouldn’t want to learn how to run faster, further, safer? So bright and early, on Saturday morning I headed down to the clinic to learn about proper running form. I started the clinic inside the shop. Juda immediately took off her shoes, and began to demonstrate foot strengthen exercises, explaining that years of wearing protective/corrective running shoes actually make feet weaker. It is important to have strong feet, no matter what shoes you wear. She discussed many facts about the foot. A strong foot should ¬†be capable of spreading its toes apart from one another,and should easily be capable of grabbing and picking up items.
Then she had me balance on one foot. I closed our eyes. At points I wiggled around a little, loosing balance. When running we are technically always balancing on one foot. One foot is in the air while the other is on the ground. Everyone uses their sense of sight and hearing while balancing, but those senses should not be our dominate senses used while running. We should be using our sense of touch. Unfortunately, conventional running shoes, with all of its cushion, support, and protection makes it hard to use our sense of touch, impossible for us to feel the ground we run on.
Juda then explains what our feet do while we are barefoot. When we walk barefoot, we place our heel down first, then forefoot, then toes. When we run barefoot, we place our forefoot down first, then heel. When we sprint barefoot, we place our forefoot down first, but it is so far up the foot, it almost looks like we are on our toes. When we wear our traditional running shoes, there is so much protection, cushion, support, that we can barely move our foot with in the shoe, and it is impossible to use our sense of touch and actually feel the ground. Traditional running shoes, make 80% of runners heel strike. Heel striking causes injuries. Why would you run one way barefoot, and another way with shoes. ¬†That is where the Newton shoe comes in handy. This shoe is going to help correct form, by getting us to run on our forefoot, preventing heel striking.
Running too slowly will also cause heel striking. That is why it is important to run with a quick, short stride. Soon enough, ¬†I was getting fitted with the proper Newton shoe, and then heading out to the trail. ¬†Juda had the group participate in some running form drills, which included high knees, and skipping. When running you should be light on your feet. The lighter you are on your feet, the less impact you will endure, and the quicker and shorter your stride will become. Juda also taught us to lean forward and breath deep from your belly.
I had been debating on trying a minimalist running shoe ever since I had read the book, Born to Run, two years ago. Although, the Newton shoe is not a minimalist shoe, for me it is the perfect shoe to try, because it is light weight, and mimics ¬†Natural running, but also has the cushioning to help absorb impact. So after the running clinic I happily purchased my first pair of Newtons. The running form clinic, was awesome! I am very glad I participated in it, and highly recommend it for all runners, whether you have the desire to try Newtons or not.
It‚Äôs funny how once you hear about something, you start to hear about it everywhere. Well thats what happened to me with the Newton shoes. After seeing the Newton shoes at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler, I went home excited about participating the next week in the running form clinic, and started reading the April issue of Runner‚Äôs World, where there was a several page spread dedicated to an article about Newton shoes.
A couple years ago when I read the book, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, the Vibram FiveFingers first became popular. I wondered is this barefoot running concept just a trend? A trend similar to the Atkins diet, where everyone starts doing it, but then five years later, experts reveal that evidence shows it is not healthy, but actually unhealthy, and an injury risk. ¬†Or is barefoot running, ironically the future type of running. Will all running shoes evolve into something more weightless, a minimalist shoe? These are the questions that have crossed my mind, but after being introduced to the Newton shoe and then seeing so many other running brands, such as Brooks and Nike, come out with a shoe that mimics running barefoot, I am now starting to believe that this is not a trend, but rather the future to running.
So as I said earlier, I found a lot of my information about Newton’s in the April issue of Runner’s World. This is what¬†Runner’s World¬† had to say. First thing that I was confused about was does Newton consider itself a minimalist shoe? The answer to that is a big fat NO, which was a huge relief.
Minimalist shoes such as the Vibrams, scare me. And the reason why, is because of injury. When runners first started to transition into barefoot running, they purchased the Vibrams, and many got injured. Because of the traditional running shoe, having so much protection, feet became weak. Many runners didn’t have the muscles developed in their feet in order to run in the Vibrams. So it was suggested to adjust your feet and strengthen them by simply walking around in the Vibrams or going on short runs no longer than a mile. But too many runners got to excited about running barefoot and went to far to fast, causing injuries to themselves.¬†¬†So it wasn’t necessarily the shoe that caused injury, but rather the runner, herself.
The inventor of Newton shoes, Danny Abshire first started developing the shoe 20 years ago. He claims in the Runner’s World article that this shoe is nothing like what runners have¬†worn in the past. And although, it weighs about a third less than the traditional running shoe it is not‚ÄĒa”minimal” shoe.
Well if it is not a minimalist shoe, then what is so special about the Newton? For one it is weightless, which makes it feel like a minimalist shoe. Seriously, when I put Newtons on, I felt like there was no shoe on at all. ¬†In the Runner’s World article, Abshire warns that, heel-striking is inefficient, and potentially dangerous. And runners heel-strike, he says, only because traditional shoes have an unnecessarily¬†high heel-to-toe drop.¬† But Newton shoes have a ¬†heel that is more level, only measuring 6 mm, which in ways is similar to the minimalist shoe. By having less heel, it makes it easier to run on the forefoot.¬†¬†But what makes this shoe so unique is the lugs found on the forefoot, preventing injury. The lugs are plump and springy cushioning similar to a trampoline. It is elevated maybe a half inch or so away from the shoe. These lugs provides a shock absorber, while bringing energy back to the runner. Reducing impact, and returning energy back to the runner, allowing the runner to run faster and farther, is what Newton calls Action/Reaction technology.¬† This design is very odd, but helps mimimc the same stride you would have if you were barefoot, which Abshire calls, “natural running.”
According to Runner’s World, Abshire, who has completed one of the toughest ultras in the country, the Leadville Trail 100, felt like the sport became overcomplicated‚ÄĒand dangerous‚ÄĒas shoes got more and more built up. If you run barefoot, on the sand in on the beach, you will automatically land on your forefoot, so why use a traditional running shoe that changes your running stride and may cause you to heel strike.¬†Experts are now saying landing on the heel is not proper running form, and it puts stress on ankles, knees, hips, and back.
Learning this, made me very attracted to the Newton company. People talk about minimalist shoes, and lightweight trainers, being for shorter distances. Many say you can not put serious milage on these weightless shoes. But I am a distance runner, who trains for marathons, so it is important for me to hear that the inventor of the Newton shoe, has completed ultras, and is too, a distance runner. I also like the idea that this company, is promoting natural running form. Spreading the word about proper running form, and getting runners running correctly, is the key to injury prevention, regardless what shoes you run in.
In conclusion, similar to a minimalist shoe, the ideas behind the Newton shoe are just like¬†McDougall’s idea’s in his book, Born to Run.¬†The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, were known to run long distances daily in thin-soled sandals, in order to survive. If they could run like that, we are capable of it as well. But we need to learn proper running form, which is landing on our forefoot, avoiding heel striking. ¬†Runner’s World reveals, ¬†that Abshire claims, “Cavemen were smart enough to build a moccasin‚ÄĒa protective coating for the foot. But they also lived in a natural environment. It wasn’t concrete and asphalt. This is where people get mixed up. Our shoes promote natural running in an unnatural world.”
Earlier this month, I ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. While I was browsing at the expo I came across a very bright colored tent that had the words Newton across it. I had been attending the expo for the last five years, and had never seen this tent before. Mesmerized by the bright colored tent I headed over to check out what it was all about. Turns out there is a new type of running shoe on the market called the Newton shoe, they too are brightly colored. When it comes to a running shoe, colors shouldn’t matter, but this shoe is much more than bright.
The Newton Shoe expert, Juda McGannon, explained briefly about the purpose and technology behind the shoe. Honestly, at that time, I can’t say I totally grasped the “Newton” concept, I was more engrosed with the feel of the shoe and the price.
THE FEEL: When first putting on the Newtons, they felt extremely weightless, I believe they are a third lighter then the conventional running shoe. ¬†I noticed the breathable mesh like material that makes up the shoe. I also noticed the elevation on the bottom of the shoe, in the forefoot. This shoe felt totally different than the traditional running shoe I had been running in for the last five years. Although, it felt different the minute I put the shoe on I liked the feeling.
THE PRICE: Unfortunately, the price scared me off from purchasing a pair that day at the expo. They run around $155. I always thought my Asics that run around $125 were expensive, exspecially since I normally replace my shoes every 400-500 miles. I just didn’t want to make a random purchase when I wasn’t sure if the shoe was right for me.
Anyway, I decided on leaving the expo with Juda’s business card, rather than with a pair of shoes. And although, I felt the need to research the shoes more, I did not forget about them. Actually, Juda mentioned a running form clinic, that she was hosting the following Saturday at Pacers Arlington. I knew it was there, that I would get better understanding of the shoes and whether they would work for me.
Last Friday, I hadn’t had the chance to fit in my morning run. When I realized I was going to end up running in the evening, I decided to randomly sign up for a 5K. So let me explain… the local running shoe store in the DC area is called Pacers. They not only fit and supply runners in the area with the most updated shoes, but they get the community together by having weekly group runs, running workshops, and by putting on running events. Among these events is the Crystal Run 5K Fridays.
Since I didn’t get my run in and I live walking distance to the start of the Crystal Run 5K, I decided to go ahead and register and run. My sister was coming home from work around the same time, so she put on her running clothes, took the metro to Crystal City, and ran the race with me.
When we arrived to the start line, I was very impressed on the turn out, I never imagine it would be that crowded, but it was. They also had an area where you could get fitted for shoes and try them for the race.
Now, I have always been an endurance athlete, running longer distances for the last 5 years, and marathons, for the last three. This was my fourth certified 5K, and I felt like I was going to die the whole way. When running distance, you have plenty of miles to warm up your body, but when running a 5K you only have 3.10 miles to run (period) so there is really no time to warm up. I ended up sprinting the whole time. In the end, I feel good about my run. I am still unsure of my exact results, but according to my garmin I think I finished around 26 minutes, which isn’t my best 5K time, but not my worst. It just shows that training for longer distances has made me a runner that is comfortable on taking a couple miles to warm up, and although, while training for marathons, I have focused on endurance and consistency, I have not had the opportunity to work on speed.
In celebration of the gift of the trees, the Nation’s Capital puts on its biggest festival. Two of my favorite parts of the festival are the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and Yoga on the National Mall.
Every year, The Cherry Blossom 10 miler is packed with about 15,000 runners, including some elite runners. It use to be first come first serve, but because of it’s popularity, it is now a lottery sign up.¬†The race starts at the Washington Monument, goes over the Memorial Bridge, loops around the Tidal Basin and finishes back on the National Mall. My favorite part of the race, is heading toward the memorial bridge. It is there, opposite¬†of us average runners, ¬†who have just started to run our race, that you can spot the elite runners sprinting towards the finish line. Seeing them, creates an amazing energy, so amazing it is indescribable. ¬†I also love running by the Tidal Basin, but it can be a hit or miss. ¬†It is a hit, because a canopy of white and pink blossoms normally hang over your head, and when they do, it is breath taking. In that moment, I want to turn off my ipod, and grab my camera. But it becomes a miss when the weather gets too warm too fast, or too cold, or windy, the delicate flowers might be destroyed, making the Tidal Basin, bare and boring.
In 2008, the Cherry Blossom 10 miler was my very first long distance race, and I have been running it every year since. In 2008, it was rainy and cold, but in the spirit of the the Cherry Blossoms, my sister and I wore bright pink shirts.¬†¬†We ran it in a consistent 9:48 pace, finishing in 1:38:09. That day, after accomplishing that race, I felt different. In ways, that race defined me as a runner, because it was then that I felt I could truly call myself that.
This year was a very special year because it was the 100th year of celebration of the gift of the trees, and it was my 5th time running the Cherry Blossom 10 miler. My sister didn’t run this year, but my new running buddy, Lina, a coworker of mine, ran it for her very first 10 mile run. The friday before the race we headed to the expo, which was held at the National Building Museum, to pick up our bibs, and do a little shopping. On the Saturday, before the race, I headed to lululemon to find a fun running outfit. I know that it is usually a big no no to wear something unfamiliar the day of the race, but I actually like racing in something new. I prepared my running things the night before and headed to bed early.
I woke up at 5:30 am and then Lina and I walked to the Metro. We arrived to the start line around 6:30. It was dark and cold.
When the race began we ignored the fact that we were in different corrals, and we both squeezed in with the 9 minute pace group. ¬†It is important to get in the proper wave because if you get stuck in the back, it will cause so much frustration trying to squeeze pass other slower runners. I usually start off a little slower to warm up and then I ease into my pace. I kept a good pace most of the race stopping a couple of the water stations to refuel. I ended up running it in, ‚Äé1:29:26,¬†making a new PR. Lina was not far behind me. ¬†When we got to the finish line we got to chow down on bananas.
Although, this race was fabulous, so were the previous ones. The Cherry Blossom 10 miler is as you can see, very dear to my heart. It was my first race, one that defined me as a runner. It is not only the race that I do every year, but it also symbolizes the ¬†starts my running season.
Below memories from previous Cherry Blossom 10 miler races.
Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2008
Cherry Blossom 10 miler 2009
Cherry Blossom expo 2010
Cherry Blossom 10 miler 2011
Cherry Blossom 10 miler 2012
This winter disappointed me, badly. It flew by with it’s boring mild temperature days. No being snowed in, no exciting, beautiful, white outs to speak of, not even a light white blanket of dust. How ironic considering my boyfriend and I both gave each other snowboards. I did try once to race down the slopes hardly covered with so called “man-made” snow, but ice is a better word to use to describe it. It was then, that I finally accepted the fact that mother nature was not going to surprise me, by covering the mountains, with her fresh white powder. So I decided to embrace the mild temps and although, it was a bad snowboarding weather, it was actually perfect for running.
Honestly, I prefer running in cooler tempts. Maybe, it is because of where I live, but the summers here, are unpredictable and can be quite brutal, last summer, there were days that hit 105, but because of the humidity it felt like 115. Impossible to run in. Not being able to run, made me depressed and anxiety took over my body. So as you can see, I prefer to run all year, rain or shine. However, crisp sunny days, with a mild breeze, around 55 degrees, maybe 60, is ideal running weather.
Having a warmer winter made me wonder about the summer. The last two years we had extreme winters, with extreme summers. Will it be a brutally hot summer because we had a warm winter, or will it be a mild summer because it
was a mild winter? Whatever it may be, lets live in the moment, Spring is here and it has been quite lovely.
I recently heard the quote,”The Earth laughs in flowers,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and fell in love with these words. What a beautiful way to describe Spring. Now every time I see a tree blossom or a flower bloom I think of the Earth laughing with delight.