Category Archives: Natural Running

Natural Running : Initial thoughts on the ASICS Gel Excel 33

ASICS Gel Excel 33 counterHooray, just in time for the weekend! A post that is about leaving plantar fasciitis behind!

Well, enough to allow a return to running a few times a week and to clock up about 50km in my new ASICS Gel Excel 33 trainers. I figure now I’ve had the chance to go for a few runs it would be a good time to do a quick review of my experience of them so far.

First off, I rate this shoe highly. Great fit, good cushioning (but not too much), flexible and light, and well suited to my mid-foot to forefoot strike.

When walking the low heel drop feels strange at first, probably because I’ve always had ‘regular’ trainers, however when you are running you don’t notice the heel drop – just the ease with which you can land on your mid-foot and transition forwards onto your toes for the toe-off. I’m not sure these would be suited to pronounced heel strikers, the low drop seems to make it take longer for your heel to hit the ground, which could lead to over-striding. Certainly I noticed this on downward slopes at least.

I will put up a more detailed review once I have done some more miles, but in the meantime these shoes are shaping up to be a good solid pair of high mileage trainers.

Which means (checks to see if girlfriend is reading over shoulder) I’m on the lookout for a new pair of shoes for my fast runs and speed work…

Happy running for the weekend everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running!

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Natural running continues : A shiny new pair of ASICS Gel Excel 33 for me!

Who doesn’t love a new pair of running shoes? The shine, that new-shoe smell, bright white foam…

Ok, ok, I’m getting carried away…

ASICS Gel Excel 33 side view

ASICS Gel Excel 33

As I said in my previous post I have been looking into natural running. Not barefoot running – that is definitely a step too far for me – but natural running. Natural running shoes have a low heel drop, only about 5mm from heel to toe, which encourages mid-foot and forefoot running. This is a lot less than regular trainers which have around 10mm or more drop. They are also ‘stripped’ back and feature less motion control features, thereby not impeding the body’s natural biomechanics.

Given my ASICS Gel Kinsei were well beyond their use-by date I took the opportunity to get myself some new running shoes. Well, that and I just wanted a new shiny pair of trainers! So why after years of running in ‘normal’ trainers have I opted for a completely different type of shoe? 4 reasons:

  1. I have a neutral gait – Meaning I don’t over-pronate or supinate, so shoes with masses of cushioning in the heel don’t provide me with extra protection, just extra weight.
  2. Natural running shoes have a low heel drop – A flatter shoe encourages mid-foot and forefoot running, which is my natural gait. Warning – If you over-pronate then you should approach natural or minimal shoes with extreme caution. They are not designed with motion control or other systems to control over-pronation, so your risk of lower limb injury would be much higher in this sort of shoe.
  3. I am in the recovery phase of plantar fasciitis – This sounds counter-intuitive, however my theory is that my current mileage is very low, making this a perfect time to get into a new ‘genre’ of trainers because of the need to always transition slowly when moving from ‘regular’ trainers to ‘natural’ trainers. Please note that if you are like me and have tight calf muscles then natural shoes will put more strain on them due to the flatness of the shoe. Pay special attention to this and to your static stretching routine so you don’t strain your calves or encourage a spell of plantar fasciitis
  4. Additional foot strength – Plantar fasciitis is often caused or exacerbated by weak musculature of the foot and lower limbs. Shoes designed for natural running encourage your feet and lower limbs to get stronger because of the minimal approach to motion control. My theory is that in the long run if I have stronger feet and lower limbs I will be better able to keep myself free from plantar fasciitis. But it is a long road…

Anyone reading this and thinking along similar lines, I stress again the importance of transitioning slowly. Natural or minimal running shoes are very different from regular running shoes and you will take time to adjust. From my research I have found that all manufacturers of natural or minimal running shoes have noted to add these shoes into a rotation, and keep your regular runners for long distances. This will assist with the transition without needing to drastically cut your mileage and let you get used to the new shoe. I suggest you read this great article from Competitor.com – Safely Transitioning To A Minimalist Running Shoe – Competitor.com.

So why did I go for the ASICS Gel Excel 33?

ASICS Gel Excel 33 counter

ASICS Gel Excel 33

Simple really, I tried on quite a number of shoes in the ‘natural running’ style – Newton, Mizuno, Adidas, Nike – but I guess I found the ASICS fit and feel to be what I am most used to and the most comfortable for me. I got my shoes from Sweatshop because they tend to have staff who are runners themselves, as well as the massive benefit of being able to try the shoes out by running on a treadmill in store while the assistant watches you for gait or pronation issues. In the UK another good store Runners Need also have treadmills so you can try-before-you-buy.

A little advice/rant here – apologies in advance – while you will pay more for shoes from the store instead of the internet, go to a dedicated running store where the staff are knowledgeable and you can try the shoes out on a treadmill. Walking around a shop floor for a few minutes is not going to give you an idea of what the shoes feel like when running! And be a nice person, if your assistance has given you good service, useful advice and the benefit of running on a treadmill, buy the shoes from them. Don’t go home and buy the same shoes on the internet. If everyone does that, the additional service which is so important to us all will just disappear. I only ever buy shoes from the internet when replacing shoes I already have and trust, because nothing compares being able to try them on and crucially, try them out, while in the shop.

ASICS Gel Excel 33 sole

ASICS Gel Excel 33

For me, it’s time to start running again as my plantar fasciitis recedes. I will update you here after I have put some miles in my new ASICS Gel Excel 33 and provide a review. In the meantime, safe running everyone!

Bernie

Get Going, Get Running

Natural or Minimalist Running : Is less really more?

As part of rectifying issues which contributed to my plantar fasciitis I have been researching new running shoes. Well, that’s my excuse I’m sticking to it!

Luckily for me I am a ‘neutral’ runner – I don’t over-pronate (roll in) or supinate (roll out) – and after running coaching several years back to rehabilitate from a nasty case of ITB Syndrome I now have a ‘natural’ mid-foot to fore-foot strike. As I said in my previous post, I have been running the last few years in ASICS Gel Kinsei, and have been through 3 pairs. They were a great pair of trainers for me; however they are a ‘premium’ shoe with lots of everything for everyone. Great cushioning, huge shock absorption in the heel, a design good for neutral runners, and all sorts of fancy technological improvements meant to make them better shoes.

In 2011 I stepped up my running and did a couple of marathons, both run wearing ASICS Gel Kinsei 3, without any real problems. However, looking at my last pair (over 1100km) I’ve noticed that there is virtually no wear on the heel. Why? Because of my mid-foot to fore-foot strike.

Which got me thinking: “Why do I have all this cushioning on my shoes which I don’t use, and is it slowing me down?”

Since then I have talked to a few assistants at specialist running shops as well as some internet research and have been looking into ‘natural’ or ‘minimalist’ running. I don’t mean barefoot running, I just mean running in shoes which are designed to promote or allow a ‘natural’, and more efficient, running style.

In my travels I found this great article at Competitor.com and thought I would share some of it here for those of you who are investigating natural running as well.

I’ll keep looking into this and let you know how I go, but I’ve already got a pair of natural shoes in my sights so will report back soon!

Here is the article, if it takes your fancy; the rest of the article is available through the link.

Bernie,

Get Going, Get Running

via Competitor.com

Minimalist running has been all the rage for a while now as research continues to emerge about its potential benefits. Furthermore, proponents of the “less is more” footwear philosophy have become more vocal about their success stories.

So what exactly constitutes minimalist running? In short, it involves wearing a running shoe that doesn’t impede upon the body’s natural biomechanics. Traditional running shoes, on the other hand, are well-cushioned, may have denser midsole materials and built-in support devices to prevent excess motion at the ankle, and usually have a high heel to toe ratio — meaning the heel is elevated (10-12 mm is common) above the toe. Recent literature indicates that these safeguards and inherent support can actually weaken the foot over time — nor have they been shown to reduce instances of injury.

Minimalist running on the other hand, promotes the natural motion of the foot. Over time, the foot gets stronger so that it can essentially support itself and act as a natural shock absorber by striking on the midfoot or forefoot. Theoretically, stronger foot muscles and lower impact rates will reduce the chance of injury.

It is not the goal of this article to persuade you one way or the other to try minimalist running. After 10 years of coaching and more than 15 years of running at an elite level, I’ve encountered scores of runners who’ve have been helped tremendously by traditional running shoes. I’ve also met numerous runners whose injury problems were seemingly cured by moving into minimalist running shoes. The decision on which shoes to wear is a personal one based on your own injury history as well as your goals.

This article will explain how to safely transition to running in minimalist shoes. In order to stay healthy, which is the number one goal, it is imperative that you properly prepare the muscles in your feet, improve your proprioception, and develop a solid foundation of strength and flexibility before transitioning to a minimalist shoe.

Read the rest of the article here: Competitor.com – Safely Transitioning To A Minimalist Running Shoe

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