Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Yeah, that was Stupid ...

When it comes to running shoes and knowing the Heel-to-toe drop/offset I am pretty much like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. Name the shoe and I can tell you the drop. It is an odd skill. Knowing this little tidbit about yours truly makes the story you are about to read that much more moronic.

"I get my Brooks shoes at K-Mart in Cincinnati"
First ... What is Heel-to-toe drop? Basically it is the difference (in millimeters) from the heel to the forefoot of your running shoe.  The lower the drop (0mm) the more minimal the shoe is considered. the theory is that a lower drop encourages a more natural forefoot to midfoot strike. If you want a very, very detailed description check out this post on the subject by Runblogger.

Pic Pirated w/o Permission from  (Thanks Google Images)

Okay, now that we are all experts on Heel-Toe offset, let us move on to how I made a rookie mistake and am now paying the price.

I usually run in 3 different shoes:

1) Brooks Pure Connect 2's (4mm drop) - Short Races, Tempo Runs, and Track:

2) Brooks Pure Flows 2's (4mm drop) -  Medium Long Runs to Long Runs and any race 13.1 or longer:

3)Brooks Launch (9.5mm drop) - Daily Trainer and Recovery Runs:

All three of these shoes are perfect for what I use them for and I love alternating between the 4mm Drop of the Pure Project Shoes and the 9.5mm Drop of the Launch. I feel it gives me a different strike angle and since I usually run a lot of miles I think this helps prevent over-use injuries. I know of zero studies to support this theory but I am going on 6-years of running using this method and have never had a serious running injury (yes, I just knocked on wood, we are good).

Now a few months ago I picked up the Brooks ST Racer 5's (12mm drop).  I decided to try these out because the Launch were supposedly being discontinued (Brooks has since announced they are not discontinuing the Launch - whew!) and, well, they looked cool:

And for some reason I never looked to see what was the Heel-to-toe drop?

I had these shoes sitting in my closet and last week I decided to give them a try. I wore them around the house and they were very light (8.6oz) and were a little stiffer then the Launch but I liked the way they felt. Then the next morning rolled around and I had a 14mi run with 9mi at Lactate Threshold on the schedule and I walked out the door wearing my new, cool looking ST Racer 5's.

Bad Idea #1: Wearing a style I have never worn before for a 14mi run w/9mi @LT pace.
Bad Idea #2: Not noticing that these shoes have a 12mm Heel-to-Toe drop.
Bad Idea #3: Not stopping the run after my calf's began to feel a tingling sensation.

Why happened?

If you have ever transitioned into a minimalist-type of shoe, whether it be the Brooks Pure Series, Newtons, Vibrams, etc ... you were surely warned that the transition needs to be done slowly. Start with short runs and gradually increase them over a long period of time. This is not a theory, it is an outright fact. It actually took me about a year until I was able to do the marathon distance in the Brooks Flows.

AND ... Apparently this rule also applies for transitioning in the other direction too? On Sunday night I pulled up the Brooks website and looked up the drop (12mm) of the Racer 5's and realized immediately the error of my ways. I think people just never go from low drop to high drop so I learned this lesson the hard way.

And I didn't even have the excuse of being drunk!

So, this was on Sunday morning. My left and right calf were inflamed by Sunday night and walking was difficult. The pain is more in the lower calf, upper achilles area (soleus maybe?) and the left is much worse then the right. I've been forced to skip all my scheduled swims/bikes/runs over the last two days due to the strain but was able to go to the track early this morning and do some slow 800m repeats.

I am hopefully to be back at full steam by the weekend and actually relived that this bone-headed mistake just caused a little strain and not a major injury. I am still going to run in the ST Racer 5's as they are really fast and responsive shoe but I will need to keep the runs much shorter as my legs get used to them.

What did we learn today?

Lesson #1 -  I am an idiot.
Lesson #2 -  Know the Heel-to-toe drop on your shoes.
Lesson #3 -  I am an idiot.

Do you know the Heel-to-toe drop in your shoes? Will you now go look it up?

Thanks for Reading,



  1. i alternate between the flows and ST-5s pretty regularly. I keep short speed stuff to the ST-5s, and long runs to the flows. No problems here. My soleusi (plural?) must be tough as shit!

  2. #'s 1 and 3 were known already so we really only learned #2......

    It is funny that you mention going in the other direction because nobody ever thinks about that since ALL THE RAGE was going to a more minimal shoe, which the article that showcased that no barefoot runner has ever won a marathon.

  3. I got injured in 2011 (left knee meniscus strain). Post injury I was running in the New Balance 890 (8mm drop). Then when those shoes were almost worn out in Oct 2012, I bought the Brooks Pure Flows (4mm drop) and Newtons (2mm drop). I didn’t really notice much calf pain at all while running in them, I transitioned to them likely too quickly (over maybe 2 weeks or so) – I should have bought another pair of the New Balance 890s, since my old 890 pair were too worn out to wear again. Also, I likely ran in the 890 shoes too long, I probably should have bought another 890 pair in maybe August or so.

    And before even starting in with the Brooks and Newtons, my left knee was already giving me some problems, so what I believe happened is that by transitioning too quickly to Brooks and Newtons I compressed my left knee meniscus too much due to the higher impact forces from running in a minimal shoe. I likely should have continued to run in a more traditional cushioned shoe (maybe New Balance 890) and never gone minimal. Maybe I would have had problems even without going minimal, but I think the minimal shoes likely didn’t help. So while people seem to talk ad naseum about calf pain with going minimal, lurking in the background is meniscus compression due to higher impact forces (or this is what I think). So your plan of using different shoes for different things sounds good to me to avoid injuries.

    2 weeks ago I bought a pair of hokas, which I will likely run in for now. They feel like they have a lot of support and felt even better than the New Balance 890 when I tested them in the store.

    So it seems like I made 3 main mistakes that have contributed to my left knee pain coming back:
    -not replacing my New Balance 890 shoes early enough before they were worn out
    -transitioning to minimal shoes without having a brand new traditional running shoe to rotate in to transition with
    -trying minimal shoes at all with my recent injury history was likely a mistake

    1. the minimalist shoes are not for every one and we need to be careful (as we both found out) when making drastic changes to our footwear.

      Hope it works out for you.

  4. Thankfully you're now super skinny. Imagine how much more hurt you'd be if you were having lug around extra weight!

    You know I'm sort of kidding. You're not an idiot just missed a beat is all. Glad it isn't serious. Here's to speedy recovery!

  5. Welcome to my world and times it by 365 ;-)

    I have a pair of ST4 and I think I told you, they were used twice and I didnt like them. You already know my rotation is Cadence for short runs, Adrenaline for long runs. It works for me, as much as working for me can.

    Ok, so what is the Hoka drop? Like 510 MM? I seen go go dancers in shorter soles

    1. Depending on the Hoka model they are between 5-6mm. The Bondi's are a 5mm.

      Hoka really is a smart design. Whether intentional or by luck they designed a shoe with a ton of EVA that cushions the forefoot and midfoot. Most "maximist" shoes load up the cushioning in the heel which is designed to alleviate the pounding that heel strikers absorb. BUT the Hoka is actually a neutral shoe that works for midfoot and forefoot runners. I think a few other companies will start to follow this model of cushioning the front of the shoe.

  6. random, but to Jason's comment above - Abebe Bikila won the 1960 olympic marathon in Rome barefoot. If the talent is there, people can win wearing anything or nothing.

  7. Yeah that is a big jump from the 4'ish drop to a 12!! I am a BIG BIG fan of the 4mm drop shoe, PureFlows are my favs at the moment now that Saucony botched the Kinvara. I also have my "unproven" theory that switching off shoes gives your foot a variety of ways to land and puts different loads and stresses on the foot/leg reducing overuse injuries. I can't believe no one has looked into that burning research question!!!

  8. I did something similar. I was out of town and realized I had forgotten my shoes so I ran in an old pair of brooks I had in the car. I figured how much damage could I do and I felt like I would have been making an excuse if I didn't workout. I normally wear 3-4 mm drop shoes and these were 12. One run. My foot went numb (finished the workout anyhow) and when the feeling came back I had PF. That was December. I still have it. One stupid run. Oh, did I mention that I stopped wearing those because I got PF in them two years ago. I am clearly not the brightest duck in the pond either. Glad to know I keep good company!

    I hope it heals up quickly!!

  9. Ahhhhh but you are the rainman, right? Rainman can name the drop not necessarily the repercussion of not wearing the right drops... Given that...
    KSwiss Tubes.... drop?

    1. The Kswiss blades are zero drop. Not 100% sure about the Tubes. I tried on a pair before and found them to be pretty step. And they were like 12oz. I just did an online search and could not find a number but my best guess is in the 12-14mm range.

  10. hope this little issue doesn't hold you down too long!

  11. I know the drop on a variety of shoes. Well, mostly just the minimal ones. Since they're almost all 4.

  12. I prefer 0 drop, although 4mm works for me too. I use Saucony Type A5 racing flats and rotate in altra adams. What I really require is no arch. My flat feet hates arches.

  13. Very interesting! Since going to 4 mm and zero drop shoes, I haven't looked back. They really are right for me. That said, my goal of getting to 100% zero drop may never happen...just seems that I am limited in how far I can go in them. So I wear the Connects on long runs and throw in various zero drops (including the Drift sans insole) on shorter runs. I probably do about 50/50 mileage between the two drop sizes.

  14. I could have told you #1 and #3 without you having to go through this. I used to run in Brooks DYADs (12mm I think). After switching to Hokas and Kinvara (4mm), I can't run in anything steeper. Granted, I haven't tried something in between 4 and 12, but I tried the DYADs again and ended up having to do a 2mile walk of shame home after my ankles and skins were on fire.

    Check these babies out... I need them...

  15. I've gone through this test and fail scenario a few times myself. It has taken me about 2 years now to finally get to wear I can run in 4mm and not feel an residual effects after the run. Only problem is that I can't do anything over 9 miles yet without getting tiny sore spots on my shin or on my heel. Odd. I can still go back to my 35 mm drop asics with 10 lbs of gel though and still run ok.

  16. great news it was not a worse injury!

    I think by accident I change my running style and strike over the past 3 years or so by training in Sauc Mirage and lately the Brooks PureFlow....I think it took awhile for my calfs to adapt to the new style with big injury a little over a year ago....but still love the Sauc Cortana for long distance...I think that one is 8mm? Those tank Asics Kayano with the huge chunks of plastic and 12mm drop did great for me when I was 240lbs!!!

  17. Hey I hope you are all healed up by now!! I have no idea of my drop? I know I made the mistake of reducing my drop and putting on a lot of mileage one time and ended up with a screwed up calf...

  18. Jeff,

    Good to see someone advocating a gradual approach to the change to more minimal shoes (I see too many people try to jump straight into that 4mm or 0mm shoe and end up regretting it big time).

    As for your regression you've got an interesting habit there between the 4 mil and your 9.5 mil shoes for training. Although I personally train in the excel-33 (10 mil) and race in something 4 mil (currently the piranha sp3, but they're shot and discontinued so who knows what now).

    Hope the healing goes well.

  19. Jeff,

    Good to see someone advocating a gradual approach to the change to more minimal shoes (I see too many people try to jump straight into that 4mm or 0mm shoe and end up regretting it big time).

    As for your regression you've got an interesting habit there between the 4 mil and your 9.5 mil shoes for training. Although I personally train in the excel-33 (10 mil) and race in something 4 mil (currently the piranha sp3, but they're shot and discontinued so who knows what now).

    Hope the healing goes well.

  20. I'm not sure about minimal shoes, I've had so many injuries over the years that I'm now over-cautious about changing my shoes from Asics Gel Kayano, which are excellent, to anything else.

  21. I've been dealing with foot pain for some time and yeah a change in position and repetitive striking more than you can handle and your body will let you know I'm still paying for it lol. I've heard runners buying up two to three pairs of shoes of the same so they can keep the change of foot strike to a minimum which is something all runners need to do in my opinion, the more change the more it will leverage your bones and muscles. Also a good set of posture exercises to help keep the body in alignment can really help in the long run, meaning years down the road. Good Luck!! Ever try barefoot running? Look into posture alignment like that pain free book, really great read and is a mind opener for sure. Happy running :)


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  23. Great information! I have to admit, I know nothing about my shoe's heel-to-toe drop...but, I am limited in which shoes I can wear. I am flat-footed and tend to wear a motion control or stability shoe. They're not pretty and never come in cool colors, but they work for me!


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