Earth Day 5k: Gastroc Nemesis

This week, a shoe saved my life

With just about five weeks to go on my Earth Day 5k training, I’m racking up the miles. Just kidding, I’m kind of behind on my Couch to 5k schedule, but anyone who knows me well, knows that I rally like a boss.

So, this week’s breakthrough has been in my calf (or gastrocnemius) area. Where before I was plagued by pain, now I am pain-free.  And it’s all thanks to my new Brooks shoes.  And Barefoot Ted.  Let me explain:

For a few weeks at the beginning of this adventure I was running in a pair of shoes that I picked up for $16 at a thrift store—just to get me through until I could meet with Cal Gloe, another one of REI’s stellar salesmen, whose job it was to walk me through the basics of running shoes.  Once I met with Gloe, who is just about the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, learned about the importance of posting in a running shoe, and got outfitted with a shoe with the right amount of posting for my feet, my gastrocnemius woes were on the wane.

Apparently, for those of us who tend to over-pronate (when the foot and ankle roll inward, leading to problems of destabilization and inefficient shock absorption), the best shoes to help correct that problem come with posting, or a denser foam core (EVA) through the midsole to reinforce the arch and urge the foot back to a more neutral strike. Cal and I chose the Ravenna from Brooks, totally because it has great stability and fantastic posting and not at all because I think they’re cute, even though they are. I took a look at my thrift store shoes and didn’t see one lick of posting. Figures.

So the Ravenna’s totally rock my world and then I met Barefoot Ted McDonald, of whom I had heard already, but never encountered in person.  (I’ll do a more in depth post on Barefoot Ted, and his barefoot (or minimalist) running style and the sandals that his company, Luna, makes on Capitol Hill, and his obsession with laptop vehicles, in another post—there’s just too much there to explore here.) After 45 minutes of talking to him, and seeing him run around his office demonstrating how I should be running—light, quick strides on the balls of my feet rather than landing on my heels—my whole running self-concept has been affected. Now I visualize myself as nimble as Barefoot Ted, landing lightly on the balls of my feet and giving my poor calves a break.  Now maybe I can start running for more than 10 minutes.

Next week: the importance of compression socks.