Recently, there has been focused research about gait analysis and how people step as they run. You can go to almost any running store or see a running coach and have them observe you running outside, or on a treadmill to determine if your running, or foot strike is inward, outward, unstable (are you pronating, supinating, or lacking motion control?). Most running stores are incredibly helpful now in assisting you in finding the best shoe based on their analysis of your foot strike.
This is an excellent way to start your year off, and finding your best shoe. First and foremost, listen to what your coach or running store worker is observing. Find the right fit based on their information, and trying on a variety of options. While trying on the different shoe styles and brands, look for a few key points:
1) The fit. The shoe/or five fingers, should fit perfectly and feel comfortable. Comfort is essential.
2) The Tripod. The Tripod is a Feldenkrais idea based on the three most critical points of contact to pay attention to on the sole of your foot. The tripod includes the ball of the big toe, ball of the pinky toe, and the center of the heel. When standing in the shoe/five fingers, you should feel a fairly even distribution between these three points of contact. Later we will discuss how the tripod will assist you in finding your step.
3) Experience. Spend a significant about of time walking first then briefly running in the shoe/five fingers to see how they feel. Draw your awareness to the sole of your feet searching for the tripod. Can you notice do you roll out? Roll in? Do you feel unstable? Look for stability, fairly even distribution between the three points of the tripod, and comfort while walking and or running.
4) Compare. Always take in your past shoes and put one on one foot and the new option on the other. This helps to notice and become aware of what you were wearing, how the new option compares, and does it provide that sense of comfort, stability and even distribution among the tripod points. If not, try on another option, style or model/make. Take your time to find the right shoe.
There is more to the process than finding the right fit or the right shoe or even running barefoot. As Christopher McDougall wrote so simply in his article in the New York Times Magazine this fall, “We don’t need smarter shoes; we need smarter feet.”
So how do we get smarter feet? By finding your STEP. I have been running for 31 years and have been teaching the Feldenkrais Method for 26 years. In that time, I’ve have had a lot of opportunities while running, training and competing to think, feel and develop a simpler way to help you discover your STEP.
First off, find your tripod for each foot. Then develop a visual image of the tripod. Next, transfer the thought to the sole of your right foot. Feel the image under the sole of your foot and connect to the earth. Imagine the ball of the big toe, ball of the pinky toe, and the heel all pressing evening into the floor/earth. Congratulations, you have now established a visual image, and transferred it into a physical awareness/sensation. Repeat now with your left foot. While standing become aware of both of your tripods. Now you are ready to learn to STEP. It is really a simple concept. Just thinking, and finding the STEP, creates the opportunity for all those natural motions to fall into place. If you have too much to focus on, it becomes confusing for both your mind and body.
While standing, notice both tripods. From there you can shift your weight a little more onto one leg and get ready with the other leg to take a STEP. It doesn’t matter which leg, just notice which leg feels more automatic to initiate a STEP. Take a STEP and land on the whole foot, finding the tripod again. From here notice what must take place deep inside your hip joint to allow you to have your weight evenly distributed over the three points of the tripod. You must bring your hip directly over your ankle and the sole of your foot. I call it 'growing tall' in the hip joint, or finding the 'high point' in your hip joint. How do you know if your doing it right? Slip off the high point of the hip joint. Try taking a step and keeping your hip and upper body back behind you; most likely you will only have your heel down. What would it take to bring yourself on top of your ankle/foot? Feel the effort to get there. Now try taking a step and shooting your hip laterally out to the side, do you now roll to the outside of your foot and loose your balance? What effort would you need to do to bring yourself back into balance over your ankle/foot? Take a step and bring your hip in direct alignment with your ankle/foot. Do you feel the tripod now? Does your knee actually disappear? How balanced and or stable are you now as you grow tall over your hip joint? Can you feel how your chest becomes lifted? Now Step back and repeat the same movement at least 6-8 times with this foot. Notice each time it becomes easier to find your STEP, and getting tall in the hip joint, as well as your entire self. Notice your balance. From here, feel how free it is to bring the other leg through to find your STEP with this leg. Repeat on this side 6-8 times. Once you have felt finding your STEP, you are now ready to take your image, thought and sensation outside for a run or to the treadmill. Remember, this is just one moment in your gait that is critical for proper alignment, propelling yourself forward, finding balance, stability and effortless running. The key is finding the moment when you're on the entire foot; finding your STEP.