Skills & Knowledge
Welcome to our 'Skills & Knowledge' section.
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- Why feet are the most important pieces of running gear
- Pronation in running, explained
- Supination in running, explained
- A guide to setting your next running challenge
- Winter tips
Why feet are the most important pieces of running gear
Feet play a vital role in developing your running style as the shape and size of your feet go a long way in dictating your running motion. It's important to care for your feet by using the right running shoes and technical socks, to make your running more comfortable.
Beginners tend to be more at risk of injuries, muscle and joint aches than experienced runners. Therefore it is important that their running shoes give them excellent protection.
Your feet are totally unique in their shape, with length, width and height of your instep or arch, being particular to you and no-one else.
When other unique factors, such as the way you run, your body size and biomechanics, not to mention your event specialty are thrown in to the mix, then it is clear that finding the right shoe for you is no easy matter! In short, your feet are precious, so take the time to select the right shoes for them!
Pronation in running, explained
Whilst running is a simple sport, when you run, your body goes through a complex series of movements that we tend to take for granted. The way you move is unique to you, but the vast majority of us are ‘heel-toe’ runners, meaning that, on landing, the outside of the heel hits the ground first.
As your bodyweight moves forward over the supporting foot, the foot that has landed is subjected to massive forces and will roll forwards and inwards at the same time to absorb the strain. Your instep or arch, acts as a spring, absorbing much of the weight of your body and it is designed to partially collapse.
Even though most of the transference of weight in your foot is from front to back, this collapsing of the arch, called pronation, is hard to control, and the vast majority of us have arches that collapse a bit too much, making us ‘overpronators’ to some extent.
When your weight is transferred more to the front of the foot, your arch springs back into shape projecting you up and onto your toes. However, excessive collapsing of the arch during this process can cause injuries, so shoe-designers have come up with what are called ‘anti-pronatory’ shoes, or shoes with anti-pronatory devices built into them. They really do work, but some are pretty extreme and can cause discomfort or even injury if worn by runners who don't really need them, particularly if worn by runners who under-pronate for example.
Supination in running, explained
Under-pronation (supination) is when the arch does not roll in sufficiently and in fact the foot may roll outwards. The shock absorbing qualities of the foot structure are reduced and this can lead to injury.
Less than 5% of the population have a tendency to under-pronate when they run. A foot that under-pronates can be predisposed to ankle sprains, ligament sprains and tears, tendonitis and poor shock absorption.
The outside of the heel strikes the ground first but the foot does not roll inward sufficiently during the gait cycle. Instead it stays on the outside causing the impact to be concentrated on a smaller portion on the lateral side of the foot. This decreases shock absorption and causes the smaller toes to do most of the work during push-off. The best shoes for under-pronators are neutral cushioning shoes, usually with single-density midsoles.
A guide to setting your next running challenge
If you've just finished a big race then you'll soon be gearing up for your next running challenge. Picking the right race to go for next time is an important task and will depend on your preferred running style and self-belief. Here's our quick introduction to choosing that all-important next running task...
After every big challenge it’s important to rest, recover and take stock of your performance. The first few days are important and can set the tone for the rest of your running year. Be sure to recover completely before you race again, but start thinking about the next challenge.
It is important to set a goal, as it helps to focus your mind and give you a fresh perspective to your life. Give it a few days after your last race before you decide on the next targets.
Start with a long term goal that may be up to a year away. This should be something you really want to run well at and make a big effort for. It may well be next year’s Flora London Marathon or the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. This should be the main focus of the whole year and something that requires a big effort on your part in training and preparation.
After the main goal has been established it’s time to set medium term goals. These should be within the next few months and will probably be shorter distances than your main goal. There’s no point setting a medium term goal that is totally unrealistic, as this is not attainable and can be demoralising. All goals should be realistic, but they should challenge you as well. Medium term goals give you a nice focus over the next few months and you can plan quite a few races in this programme depending on how you feel.
Finally, set some short term goals that are based on weekly performances. These may not be races but training goals; for example: run 60 minutes twice this week, or aim to run an interval session faster than last time. These short term goals are based around very realistic and very attainable targets as they are reviewable every day. Goals should be simple tasks that challenge you a little but help guide you towards the main objective of the long term goal.
- Begin by running into the wind, not against it. This will minimise sweat which can rob heat from your body up to 25 times faster than trapped air.
- Cold air can cause the airways to narrow and breathing more difficult. Combat it with a neck gaiter pulled over your mouth, allowing you to recycle the warm air you exhale.
- Dress in thin synthetic layers, followed by a breathable outer layer. This will prevent you from becoming cold and wet.
- Start off slow. On cold days it can take longer to warm up, increasing the risk of muscle strains.
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