Starting On the Right Foot
Roll, crawl, walk, jog, run, and sprint are all just a progression from lying on your back or sitting in a chair as most of us do all day, much like you are doing right now. We all agree that each of us is made to move and that the degree to how much we should move can erupt into arguments based on different abilities, beliefs, and dogma. Somehow genetic variation, lever lengths (bone structure), join structure, and personal preference are tossed into the wind as exercise methodology is discussed. The phrases “anyone can do it” or “everyone should do it” are thrown around like spears to prove the point that one is the best and all others should be laid rest. So let’s take a very basic look at some of the fundamental forms of foot focused functional forward locomotion.
Walking – AKA the heel-toe express, is and for the most part has always been the best form of exercise due to the way it de-stresses the body, enhances lymphatic drainage, and enhances posture. When done properly with a heel to toe stride and good shoulders back, head tall posture as mom always yelled at all of us about as emphasized by most walking shoes due to sole design walking is very much a life saver and keeps the body aligned. Just to be clear, window shopping at the mall is not walking and will drain you of health just as it will your bank account. Speed walking is a whole different animal and great care must be taken to reduce hip and lower spine injury due to the excessive swinging and very high amount of ground impact in the stride if you decide to engage in this sport.
Jogging – While jogging is technically running, the very mechanics are completely different due to the speed of pace and the stride used to reduce stress on the joints and increase the efficiency of motion over longer distances. This is where much of the “mid-foot” and “fore-foot” stride fanfare have come from as of late. Just to keep this simple, if you are over 180lbs go for a mid-foot stride and if you are under 180lbs try the forefoot stride. One other consideration is leg length and the shorter a person’s legs the more a mid-foot stride is needed. The main difference is dispersing the force over a larger area of the foot and reducing stride length for better efficiency and reduced wear on the joints which get more important the larger and heavier the person.
Running – This is where the hate mail is going to pile up for me if the walking and jogging haven’t done it already. Running is really just a fast way to go mid-distance with a walking stride; that’s right heel to toe. This means a very long stride length to cover more ground with each stride and heel to toe motion to aid in the efficiency of motion through the very long stride, much like walking and without the excessive hip swing of speed walking. Running, however, devolves into jogging after a few miles due to energy expenditure and the larger a person is or the shorter their legs the faster it running will turn into jogging. The motion is very dynamic and if the form is lacking many foot, knee, hip, sciatic nerve, muscular, spinal, and shoulder problems will appear.
Sprinting – This is the all out as fast as you can go on your toes to get up the closest tree before the bear gets you stuff that we all love to watch during the summer Olympics. This is drag racing on almost bare feet. This is high heart rate, pulse-pounding, perfection in motion, or else you WILL “pull a hammy”, tear a tendon, or just fall flat on your face due to total exhaustion. The technique is important in all the other methods of motion mentioned, however, due to the amount of force, stress, and energy expenditure involved with sprinting there can be no laxity in focus. Leave this one alone unless you are willing to put in the effort to learn, practice, and perfect your stride or you will be left face down on the ground and injured, rather than just tired a little sore.
So now that everyone in the running world is ticked off at me for not saying their stride is the best or that everyone should do it and everyone else not doing one of the above is afraid to get out of their chair for fear of taking a misstep and getting injured let’s get into the good news. The good news is that you are made to move and one or several of these options are right for you. I mentioned the Olympics earlier and keeping them in mind think about which body type is closest in relation to yours and what do they do, because that is the best place to start. The next thing to do is to get fitted for the proper shoes, yes fitted. Every shoe is modeled for a different foot shape, stride pattern, weight load, and performance application leading to almost as many different shoes as there are feet. Go cheap on everything but the shoes or else you, your feet, and your body will pay the price later on. Finally, go find a group that does what you want to start with so you can get help, support, and motivation from them as you begin. This way you can start on the right foot to both better health and new friendships that will last for many years and miles to come.
By Clint Fuqua