Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Run Like a Ninja

Alternate titles for this post:
"Silent but Deadly," "Light in the Loafers"

There was one piece of advice I kept reading when I dabbled in barefoot running: Don't let your feet slap on the ground. Slapping equals too much impact, equals pain. In other words, Run Quietly.

November weather in Ohio is not conducive to running barefoot, so I have shelved that personal experiment until spring. However, just because I'm back to being a full time shod runner doesn't mean I have to abandon the lessons I've learned.

When I couldn't bear to go barefoot, I tried to make my running form and footfalls in shoes match that of when I ran without shoes. However, I soon learned that was difficult. Most modern running shoes are designed with a high heel, which forces your foot to land differently.

I became consumed with trying to land a certain way, forcing my form so that I felt tense and uncomfortable during my runs. After 10 months of injury-free running, I started to notice pain in my knees and other leg joints. Something was wrong, but I couldn't figure out what. But then I opened my ears.

My feet were clopping louder than a donkey's hooves, I noticed. Have you ever been told to listen to your body? Sometimes that means literally, listen with your ears. I could hear the bad impact of running.

An epiphany: Shut up, feet.

I don't need to land with a particular part of my foot when I run; I just need to land quieter, lighter. That is the true key to injury-free running. Diminished impact equals diminished damage.

Now when I run, I try to be as silent as possible. I try to sneak up on people. I imagine I'm a stealthy ninja gliding into a room to eliminate my opponent with an equally stealthy judo chop. Because you never hear the best ninjas coming. It isn't their strength or martial arts mastery or even the array of weaponry that makes ninjas so lethal. It's their silence that makes them deadly.

But sometimes, it just takes some wicked awesome choreography.


Ms. V. said...

November weather in Ohio isn't conducive to anything, Ninja Man.

Jen Feeny said...

1) I can't friggin wait to see this movie!

2) I run incredibly lightly and still ended up with ITB issues. FAIL.

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Mike Antonucci said...

I have the boxed DVD set of Kage no Gundan and I can tell you those guys all run bow-legged.

Funnyrunner said...

yeah... although one of Matt Fitzgerald's form techniques is to push hard off of the ground... really drive your feet into the ground when you run. Teaches you to really use those footfalls for power.

maybe you're just thinking about it too much. Just run, man. Think about something else...

Spike said...

first off, ninjas firggen rock! next, I always try to run as quietly as possible. if all I can really notice is my breathing, I'm doing it right.

C said...

Now all I can think of is Austin Powers.

Judo chop!

joyRuN said...

I manage to run quietly in my Nike Frees. In my Asics, people on the boardwalk can hear me coming a mile away.

Wouldn't the bonus of running barefoot in the winter be numb feet that can't feel the pain of slapping around out there?

Sounds like a win-win to me.

Junk Miler said...

Numbness is a detriment. You need to feel the ground to know if you're doing it right. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong. If it feels good, and there's no soreness, no blisters, no calluses, no rough skin, and you knock off 3 minutes from your previous 5k PR with no speedwork in your first race without shoes, you're doing it right.

If you run lightly, then you should have no problem running barefoot.