Getting fitted for running shoes
It’s been 13 years since I went in for a proper shoe fitting. So many things have changed, both in the running shoe world and in me physically in that time. It’s time to replace my beloved Merrell Ascend Glove trail shoes, but I’m having trouble finding a replacement. Time to go back for a new shoe fitting!
[Sound of running on rocky trails]
BJ SMITH: That is the sound of me running the trails at Medoc Mountain in my favorite pair of running shoes. Shoes that have been with me on my longest runs. Shoes that have helped me over roots and rock … through mud, and water. Shoes that I wore when I took my kids on their first hike. Shoes that are long overdue for retirement.
Hello and welcome to 16 Weeks. I’m BJ Smith and this is a podcast series following me on my journey to get back in shape so I can run a 50K ultramarathon.
I know I left you hanging after my last update as I was being ushered out of the examination room by an x-ray technician, but you’re going to have to wait until the end of this episode to find out what that’s all about. Right now, we’re talking about those old trail shoes.
My first running shoe fitting
The most important piece of equipment in a runner’s collection by far is shoes. Not just any shoes … true running shoes.
I call 2004 my “false start year.” I started running on the treadmill at the gym, never more than 20 minutes at a time. I even ran a couple 5ks, but by the fall of that year, I had stopped running. My true love of running wouldn’t kick in until I started back up again in 2012, but there was one lesson that I learned from my false start year — If you’re going to run, you have to have “running” shoes.
At the time, I only had a pair of department store Nike cross trainers — just some shoes to kick around in on the weekend and wear to the gym. But when I started running in them it wasn’t long before I developed a nasty case of shin splints. All of the running advice forums I visited said basically the same thing, “you have to go to a running shoe store and get fitted for a proper pair of shoes,” So I did.
I walked away with a shiny new pair of Mizunos that day and said goodbye to shin splints.
Discovering Merrell running shoes
As time went on my running form changed and I got stronger. In February of 2013 I purchased a pair of Merrell Bare Access 2 shoes. You know you love a shoe when you can remember the month you got your first pair over four years later. I bought those shoes just before I discovered trail running, so when Merrell released a similar shoe for trails, I had to have them! That shoe was the Trail Ascend Glove. I got a pair that summer for my birthday and those are the same shoes I’m still running in four years and hundreds of miles later.
I’ve known for a long time that I need to replace those shoes. I’ve replaced my road shoes a few times since, so why haven’t I replaced the trail shoes?
One reason is, since I started working from home, I don’t get to go on as many trail runs as I did when I worked five minutes from a trailhead. I don’t hit the trails at lunch several times as week anymore.
Another reason is they’re expensive! My road shoes cost 90 bucks. Trail shoes tend to cost around $120 depending on the make and model. That’s a third more!
And the other reason I haven’t replaced these shoes … Merrell stopped making them. As a matter of fact, Merrell doesn’t make anything even close to the Ascend Glove now. When I contacted Merrell about a replacement they offered to send me a pair of their new Bare Access Flex which is the biggest update to the Bare Access line — the model that I’ve used as my go-to road shoe for over four years. If you follow me on Instagram, they’re the bright red shoes that you’ve seen me in lately. Merrell told me the Bare Access Flex is “trail capable” and I love this shoe, but only on the road. It doesn’t have the aggressive sole and rock protection that I need on the trail. By the way, look for a full review of that shoe on our website [link] soon.
I researched online to find other brands that may be similar to my old Merrells. Running coach Eric Orton suggested Inov-8 when I spoke with him. I’ve also heard a lot of great things about Topo Athletic, so I ordered a pair of Inov-8 Roclite 290s and Topo Terraventure.
The Inov-8 is a beautiful shoe, but they were just too tight for me. The Topos … as much as I wanted to love that shoe I just couldn’t. They weren’t right for me. I wrote a full review of the Topos on SixteenWeeksPodcast.com under the Gear section. I detailed some of the things that really impressed me and those little niggles that kept me from loving them.
Finding a Running Shoe specialty store
It became clear that ordering pair after pair of shoes online until I found the right one, was only going to be an expensive waste of time. I had to find a proper running shoe store and get fitted like I did during my false start year, but this time I had to find a store with a great selection of trail shoes. It’s been 13 years since my first fitting and a lot has changed, both in shoe technology and in me physically.
[Walking into Store. Door Beeps]
ANNA PETREA: Hey. Can I help you?
BJ: Hi. I haven an appointment with Kim.
ANNA: You’re looking for Kim?
BJ: I drove up to Bull City Running Company to meet with Kim …
KIM CHAPMAN; My name is Kim Chapman and I’m one of the owners at Bull City Running Company in Durham, North Carolina.
BJ: I chose Bull City because they stocked the brands of shoes that I just can’t find all in one place around here. Plus, they direct several trail races including a series called Tough as Trails, so they get the unique needs of trail runners like me. They’re also one of the few stores that lets you take the shoes outside for a run before you buy them. The drive took me an hour and 45 minutes each way, but it was worth it.
BJ: I need a new pair of trail shoes. What would I do? What am I looking for when I come in here?
KIM: You are not unlike most customers coming in off the street who really come in for the first time to go through our fit process for running shoes. And what that involves is taking a look at your biomechanics and your running gait in order to find the shoe that’s most appropriate for your foot type.
So when I say your foot type, we do a couple of things to take a look at how you distribute your weight through your gait cycle, what’s happening with your arches, what’s happening with your knees, your overall sort of lower leg structure as you’re moving heel to toe … or not.
And that’s part of the gait analysis — how do you run? Are you a heavy heel striker or do you tend to have a more sort of efficient midfoot strike or do you stay right up on your toes?
From there, that gives us a clue as to where to start on the wall of shoes. And we will certainly measure you up taking note of any foot features that that you may have …
KIM: And there are many, many foot features out there to say it politely. But, we want to make sure, for instance, if you’ve got a wide forefoot, if you’ve got issues with bunions, or callusing, we look for a shoe that’s got a wider toe box that’s going to accommodate that.
Running shoe terminology
BJ: Before we get any deeper, let’s cover some quick shoe terminology. Kim just mentioned the Toe Box — that’s the area in the front of the shoe where your toes hang out. A wider toe box gives your toes more room to splay out.
You’ll also hear us talk about Stack Height — the combined height of everything under your foot: insole, midsole and outsole.
And then there’s Drop or Ramp — that’s the stack height at the heel minus the stack height at the toe or midfoot. So a shoe with a 30mm heel and 18mm forefoot will have a 12mm drop. 30 minus 18 is 12. A shoe with a 21mm heel and 21mm forefoot is a Zero Drop Shoe.
A big one is Motion Control versus Neutral. Motion control shoes are made to correct issues like overpronation that cause too much side to side motion in your ankles and knees. A neutral shoe lets your muscles work more naturally. I’ll go ahead and admit that “motion control” is a trigger for me. I believe that the majority issues “corrected” by a motion control shoe can be overcome by the strengthening of a runner’s feet and ankles — IF — they take the time to do the strength training. If you have weakness in one area, the body will compensate by working harder in others which eventually leads to injury. Ok, off my soap box.
The other thing you need to understand is the difference between a road shoe and a trail shoe …
KIM: A trail shoe is built to be a little more durable and a little more rugged. And usually that feature is most prominent in the outsole. So, with a trail shoes, you’re going to have a more aggressive outsole, maybe some more aggressive lugs on the bottom that are good for traction, getting through mud and dirt, roots and rocks and they tend to be a little more weather repellant. We don’t have any waterproof shoes because they don’t breathe and that’s not very fun to have hot, sweaty feet.
BJ: Yeah, especially here and I’m on the eastern side of the state, so in Eastern North Carolina there’s a lot of mud and a lot of humidity and a lot of suck!
KIM: Right. And you know, one of the other features — depending on, again, what kind of trail running you’re doing — is how well does the shoe drain? If you know that you’re going to be on a course where you might be going through a lot of mud or a lot of roots or sort of creeks … or even running across rivers as we do at the Eno River here, you might want a shoe that drains really well and so that’s another feature we would look at as we select some shoes for you to try out.
Like any trail shoe or road shoe, we bring out a selection of shoes that are most appropriate for your foot type. We’re going to let you walk in them, run in them, take them outside, take them inside. Whatever you want to do to really give them a good test ride before you decide the one that’s right for you.
The shoe fit process
BJ: Ok. So how do we get started?
KIM: Well, I’d have you take of your shoes and socks.
BJ: Oh, take off my socks too? I should’ve trimmed my nails. Alright.
KIM: I promise you I have seen it all when it comes to feet.
KIM: So nothing surprises me. Alright. So the first thing I notice when you are non-weight bearing, seated here, is that you’ve got some good definition to your arch, you know I do see some daylight under there as opposed to arches that would fall flat to the floor. And in terms of width, pretty average width, pretty regular. Nothing too crazy going on there. Go ahead and stand up for me and we’ll see what happens when you bear weight on your arches.
[sound of BJ standing up]
KIM: So really what I’m looking for is a couple things. Between non-weight bearing and weight bearing do I see the structure of your arches change at all. Are they collapsing in at the midfoot there? Also, what’s happening in terms of the structure of your legs. You know some people have a more bowed feature to their lower leg. That tends to be consistent with an under pronator. The opposite of that of course is kind of like the knocked knees and when the knees come in that tends to be a little more consistent with overpronation which is the collapsing in of your midfoot.
I don’t see too much in terms of your leg structure. At your arches though, there is a little more weight distribution to the inside of your body — that’s medial collapse, but hard to say at this point whether or not it’s anything that would need correction.
Next thing I would like you to do, if you can — use me for balance if you need to — is just a one-legged squat.
Yep. And come on up. And then on your left leg.
Perfect. Ok. So what I’m looking for there is the alignment of your knees over your big toe in particular. And as you noticed — and this is also one thing in terms of that alignment — is what’s happening with your knees. And both of your knees kind of collapsed into center a little bit which is consistent with a pronated foot type … when you have sort of that weight distribution to the inside of your body … when those arches collapse in a bit there’s a cascade effect. So the knees will collapse in and there tends to be some instability at the feet, the knees will follow and hips and that’s there’s different types of shoes for different foot types … to try and get you as aligned and neutral as possible.
Next thing I’d like to do is just to watch you walk your normal everyday walk towards the window over there and back.
BJ: As I’m walking, I’m really starting to get nervous about what she’s going to suggest. Medial collapse, pronation. The next thing I expect to hear is motion control shoe. Ick!
KIM: So as you were walking I was keeping an eye on your midfoot. There’s two joints in your midfoot — your joints of pronation and shock absorption. And we want those joints to be as stable as possible as you move through your gait cycle. They’re not a fixed joint, they need to need to move, so everybody does pronate a little bit because we have to. Really what we’re looking for is any pronation outside of a normal range and, from what I’ve seen, as you were moving your feet look pretty stable to me. And even though we saw a little bit of that kind of collapsing knee in as we were watching you before … that looks pretty good to me.
What I’m going to watch you do now is run in a neutral shoe.
BJ: Right there! That’s a major difference between my first shoe fitting and this one. Before, the guy had me stand up and just took a look at what my feet did and then prescribed those Mizunos — a motion control shoe. Kim looked at what my feet and legs did and, instead of just stopping there, she wanted to see me move before coming to a conclusion. Already she sees that I’m stronger than the first test suggested.
KIM: Alright. Let me measure you up and I’ll bring out a few shoes to get started. Put your left heel in there, please.
BJ: Do I stand up?
KIM: Yes. Stand up and put your heel all the way to the back.
BJ: She measures my feet — both of them — using a Brannock Device, the same standard metal contraption you’ll find in all shoe stores.
KIM: I will go pull out a few trail shoes for you to start with and then we’ll see where we go from there.
BJ: When Kim came back we talked further about my preferences and the shoes I’m currently running in. I had my old Merrells with me in my backpack since seeing the wear pattern on the soles is useful to the person fitting the shoe.
KIM: Well there’s been quite an evolution of shoes over the years. We’ve owned Bull City Running for nine years now and we’ve seen a huge swing in terms of the type of shoe that kind of dominates the wall. You know, nine years ago it was one-third neutral shoes and two-thirds some level of control shoe or stability. And then came the barefoot movement and that swung the wall in the opposite direction where we saw almost two-thirds some kind of neutral with many in that true minimal, almost barefoot category. And then all those people who tried that … well not all of them … a whole lot of them got injured. Calf strains, Achilles strains. And now we’ve sort of seen this shift back to a little more middle ground where we certainly have still more neutral shoes on the wall than stability, but much less of the true barefoot, really minimal shoe.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5
BJ: Ok. So what are these shoes?
KIM: This is the Altra Lone Peak. And given the feedback you just gave me about sort of feeling more of the ground … so Altra is a zero drop shoe, no offset between heel and forefoot. Also one of the first foot-shaped shoes to hit the market. This is the Lone Peak. We also carry the Superior which has a little less midsole material. If you end up preferring that feel, I’ll bring that out for you to try as well. A little less cushion. A little more ground.
So. You want to go take a jog in these?
BJ: We lace up the Altras and head out the door to a courtyard with a long sidewalk.
[Outside. Sound of BJ slowly running away down the sidewalk.]
BJ: I head down the sidewalk working my way up to a normal pace, all the while Kim is taking mental notes on what she sees.
[Sound of BJ coming back toward Kim]
BJ: They’re actually really comfortable.
KIM: So, yeah. So my first was sort of, “how do they feel?”
BJ: So far they’re actually really comfortable. They’re much more flexible than I kind of expected them to be.
KIM: Ok. Yep. So having watched you run, I think definitely keeping you in a neutral shoe is the way to go. You’ve got a fairly efficient midfoot strike and I don’t see too much of that medial collapse, which I had maybe seen a little bit of initially when we just had you weight bearing on one leg. But yeah, in terms of shoes, I think there’s no reason to move you into any kind of control shoe … especially now that I know your history in a minimal shoe.
KIM: If you’re ok with this and you haven’t had any, you know, major injuries or discomfort with it, I feel comfortable keeping you in this type of shoe.
BJ: Whew! Ok, we’re on the same page with the type of shoe … no motion control. Now let’s see some more options.
KIM: Are you familiar with Topos?
KIM: Oh. Well … How so?
BJ: I can go ahead and tell you … we should probably stop.
BJ: The Topos were a smart choice, but as I mentioned earlier, I knew we could scratch those off the list.
Hoka One One Speed Instinct 2
KIM: Alright. Next up … I want you to try this Speed Instinct from Hoka.
I was already a little panicked when I saw the Hoka box because, even though they’re a zero drop [Editor’s note: the Speed Instinct has a 3mm drop], neutral shoe, they’re famous for having a massive stack height. I mean a borderline ridiculous amount of cushion in the midsole. Seriously, Hokas are the platform shoe of the running world. But I was determined to keep an open mind.
KIM: Now, you may have your own, sort of … Have you run in a Hoka trail shoe before?
BJ: I have not, so I’m … I’m pretending that I don’t know how tall the cushion is and I’m just saying, “you know what? I’m going to give it a shot.”
KIM: Yeah, and so my recommendation always when people are trying on shoes — road shoes or trail shoes — and we’re kind of putting them all up to head to head competition like this is … our goal at this point is to really find the shoe that feels the most natural on your foot. And usually that’s the shoe you notice the least about. So, the less you notice about your shoes, the better.
KIM: So this is the Speed Instinct from Hoka. It’s very different from like what you may see on the Bondi V or the Clifton which has sort of massive stacking height of the midsole … in the premium cushion.
KIM: This certainly does have some cushion, but not nearly as high a stacking height as those road shoes. And this has actually been one of my favorite trail shoes to run in over the past year.
[Outside: Sound of BJ running in the Hoka One One Speed Instinct on the sidewalk]
The Hoka wasn’t bad. I wasn’t thinking about the cushioning as much as a the slipping heel, which could be fixed by using the heel lock lacing method, but it was cut more narrow around the toe box than I’m used to. On to the next shoe.
Altra Superior 3.0
KIM: So have you run in any of the Altra shoes before?
BJ: I haven’t.
KIM: So this was the Lone Peak. This is the Superior and the big difference between the two is a lot less material in that midsole. So it’s going to be a little more responsive with the ground. You’re going to feel a little more of the ground. I mean, in terms of protection from roots and rocks though, I mean there’s still a nice plate in the forefoot there, so we’re not talking about anything that’s going to be particularly uncomfortable … just a little bit less cushy than the Lone Peaks.
KIM: Same deal. Want to give those a little test.
[Sound of BJ running in the Altra Superior shoes]
BJ: I don’t know. This one’s hard to say since it’s on concrete. I can definitely feel the difference. These are the what?
KIM: This is the Superior.
BJ: The Lone Peaks … I didn’t notice my toes as much as I did in these.
BJ: So I don’t know.
KIM: Ok. Well we can [fades out]
BJ: Both Altras felt pretty good. It was hard to tell the difference with just a short run down the walk, so we put those to the side for more testing. But first, Kim has one more shoe for me to try and it’s a familiar name.
Inov-8 Terraclaw 250
KIM: This is the Terraclaw from Inov-8.
BJ: I’m just curious, what size is that?
KIM: These are all 10 and a halfs.
BJ: Oh really?
KIM: Yep. Is that a half size bigger than you’re used to?
BJ: Yes it is, actually.
KIM: I’m not surprised.
BJ: The Inov-8s … I actually have a pair in my car in the box that I have to send back because I bought a 10.
KIM: Ah. Ok.
BJ: And they’re way too tight and uncomfortable.
BJ: And those are the Roclite 290.
KIM: Ok yep. Well, so Inov-8 is a little different and the truth is there’s not great standardization with sizing among brands. Inov-8 has a more unisex platform which actually … interestingly makes most shoes fit big on people, not small.
KIM: So who knows what’s going on with the model you had.
BJ: I can already tell these feel way more comfortable.
KIM: We don’t actually want your foot making with the shoe at all and we tend to fit with like close to a thumbnail at the end so that as your feet do expand when they’re running which, especially for endurance events they will, you’re not going to lose toenails and the shoe’s still going to be comfortable.
BJ: The odd thing about these shoes is, at 10 and a half, the Terraclaws are a little big. Kim even suggested I may want to try these in a 10. In my car, I have a pair of size 10 Inov-8 Roclites and they’re too small! Same brand, different model, different fit.
The Terraclaws felt good, but Kim was a little concerned about the fit. The extra fabric may have a tendency to bunch up over time.
So it’s decision time. I have three contenders to be my next favorite trail shoe. Altra Lone Peak: zero drop, wide toe box, a little more cushion and structure to the outer than the other shoes, but super comfy for those long miles. Then there’s the Altra Superior: slightly less cushion than the Lone Peak, but I did notice the lighter fabric bunching around my toes. Would that be a problem down the road? Finally, the Inov-8 Terraclaw. The lightest, most flexible of the bunch, but there was a fit issue. And then there’s the drop … remember, that’s the difference in the stack height at the heel and stack height at the forefoot. All of the other shoes today were zero drop. The Inov-8 has a bit of a drop.
Kim said earlier, “the less you notice about a shoe the better.” I definitely noticed the heel pad when my foot came down. Is that something that I’d get used to over time? Maybe it would make me pay more attention to my foot strike if I feel the heel make contact first?
KIM: Here’s what I’ll tell you. I mean, that is valid. However, when we get tired … when we fatigue, our form does start to deteriorate and even a fairly proficient midfoot striker does settle back on their heels and that’s where that crash pad in the heel or the cushioning or whatever you’re feeling in that heel connection does become important.
BJ: Instead of being a bad thing, it’s actually helping in the end?
KIM: Well, it has to be comfortable. So when you say you notice the heel …
BJ: Yeah, I guess it’s not like a big thing or a pain or … there’s no discomfort it’s just that, “oh, I feel my heel touching,” right?
KIM: Got it.
BJ: And I know it does anyway, but maybe it’s a little bit earlier in the strike. And so I guess my concern is, as I fatigue, it’s going to hit sooner and it’s going to … Even if it’s only a little bit, is it going to get in my way?
KIM: And in that case I would maybe just go back to that initial piece of advice about, if that’s just something you notice in terms of your foot strike now when you’re pretty fresh and just testing them out, it’s probably maybe not the best thing for the long haul.
KIM: Only because, as you said, once you start to fatigue you’ll start to spend a little more time back there and that might not be where you want to spend your time. Certainly not for efficiency. If you find a true zero drop shoe helps you move through your gait cycle and increase that turnover with a little more efficiency, then let’s take the heel out of the equation.
BJ: So the Inov-8s are out. That leaves us with the two Altra models. Kim suggested taking them out for a head-to-head run with a Lone Peak on my left foot and a Superior on the right. I headed back out for one last trot down the sidewalk. When I returned …
BJ: So I think overall the Lone Peaks feel best. I feel … it’s almost like the material bunching in here …
KIM: Yes, it is. The Lone Peak has a more structured upper and I think what you’re feeling is that it’s giving you a little more of a wrap here … a little more of a hug as opposed to being a little more kind of loosey goosey on your right foot and that’s a good thing.
BJ: The Altra Lone Peak seems to be the winner, but there are three things keeping me from pulling the trigger and buying a pair.
First, I tested them on a paved surface that’s going to be less forgiving than a trail. Second, they’re still quite a bit more of a shoe than I’m used to. Maybe the slightly leaner Superior would be better in for me in the end … or the Inov-8s. Which brings me to my third point. I thought at the time that the Inov-8 Terraclaw had a 4mm drop just like the Roclites sitting in that box in my car. After a little research, I discovered they had an 8mm drop which is pretty significant when coming from a zero drop shoe.
[Sigh] I’m going to have to sleep on this some more. There is one big lesson from today’s trip.
You can’t do this online!
BJ: So now I can honestly say that researching online does not give you the information you need to know.
KIM: Well, yes. And I mean I would agree and not only because I built a business on that …
KIM: But right. I mean certainly you can find product almost everywhere … anywhere … online, a lot of big box stores. Although I will say, you know, with some of the more niche specialty brands we carry, I mean they only distribute to run specialty stores and that’s a plus for that in-store experience, but you know, even more than that, you were a pretty cut and dry case in terms of your gait and your biomechanics, but that is not the majority of the folks we see. You know, most people, especially who have been running for a while are rehabbing some kind of injury or do need some kind of corrective support in their shoes and being able to get that right without too much support or too little does take a little bit of trial and error and you can’t diagnose that online.
BJ: If you’ve never been to a specialty running shoe store for a fitting, that should be your first stop before buying a pair of shoes. If you find yourself continually fighting injuries, go get fitted! If you were fitted at a specialty store and you still have problems, go to a different store.
I recommend doing a little research to find a store that carries a variety of brands that specialize in the type of running you do. Even if it means driving a couple hours to get there. I knew roughly the type of shoe I wanted and all of my research led me to three brands: Topo, Inov-8, and Altra. Those brands had retail locators on their websites. Bull City Running Company was the only store that carried all three brands within 200 miles of my location.
A look at their website revealed that Competitor.com listed Bull City as one of the 50 best running stores in America [link]. Combine that with all of the trail races they put on and Bull City Running Company became an obvious choice. Do a little research. Your body will thank you for it.
About that X-ray
BJ: Recently, I found myself at an urgent care office trying to get treatment for an injury. The good news is it wasn’t a running related injury. The bad news … it did have an effect on my training. And it was a stupid injury. Here’s how I explained it to my orthopedist, Dr. Wilhelmsen.
[Inside a doctor’s office]
DR. BRUCE WILHELMSEN: What can I do for you? Why are you here today?
BJ: So I injured my shoulder back in December … playing around.
DR W: Can you be a little more specific than that?
BJ: Yes. Unfortunately. So I was at a gymnastics meet for my daughter and one of the other dads said he always wanted to jump into the foam pit that they practice all their landings in. And when I got him out I asked him how it was. He said, “you gotta do it.” “No thanks.” “You gotta do it.” So, peer pressure got to me, so I jumped in.
Now, I don’t know if I had my arm out when I fell in …
DR W: Now when you jumped in, this wasn’t like you’re doing a cannonball. Were you trying to do a stunt or just …
BJ: No, I just kind of like laid down into the pit.
DR W: You got a running start?
BJ: I fell over. Oh no. I was just right there. Bloop! Popped in.
But the problem is I sink.
BJ: He’s a lot skinnier than I was, so he did not. He popped right back out. I don’t know if it was my embarrassment … I was trying to get out too fast and I was like reaching and did it. I don’t know the exact instance that it happened, but I do know after that my shoulder started to ache.
DR W: Immediately after that or the same day.
BJ: Yeah, within a couple minutes.
DR W: Ok. You’re left shoulder started bothering you then
BJ: Left shoulder started doing that.
BJ: So yeah, I got peer pressured into falling into a foam pit at a gymnastics training center. It would get better and then I would do something to reinjure it. It was a cycle that lasted from December until around February when I noticed it gradually getting worse. I had trouble sleeping because of it. When I’d go out for long runs with my Osprey hydration pack, it became more and more difficult to reach the lower left pocket. And then came the move that sent me to the doctor.
BJ: Thursday, I’m at my son’s soccer practice retrieving a ball that went over a ditch and after stepping in the mud and sinking, I decided I was going to jump over the ditch on the way back. And when I did, I threw my arms up in the air when I was jumping over the ditch … and that was the worst pain by far. I felt it shoot down my tricep …
DR W: Just with the range of motion?
BJ: Just when I threw my arm up …
DR W: You didn’t fall at that time?
BJ: I did not fall, it was just throwing my arm up in the air. I made it across the ditch just fine.
BJ: Think about jumping over a long distance … you throw your arms up in the air as part of the motion. That motion sent burning pain radiating from my shoulder out through my tricep and my chest. It would be a few minutes before I could move my arm at all.
It turns out I have adhesive capsulitis — also know as frozen shoulder — brought on by that initial injury. The joint stiffens and scar tissue forms slowly over time. When I jumped that ditch, I threw my arm past my now limited range of motion. Instead of my shoulder rotating back in the joint as it should. It was forced forward stretching those muscles and tendons and causing inflammation.
Dr. Wilhelmsen placed me on nonsteroidal anti inflammatory medicine and sent me to physical therapy. Quick disclaimer: he did give me the option to have an MRI, but said a tear in my rotator cuff is unlikely at my age. We both agreed to save the time and expense of an MRI unless my condition didn’t improve with PT.
So how does a busted shoulder affect running? I had to wait for the inflammation to go down after the most recent injury. It was painful to run and I didn’t want to do anything to prevent it from healing. Next was the physical therapy. I spent about an hour a week at PT, which wasn’t so bad, but it also required another 30 minutes a day of exercises at home. That time had to come from somewhere. I still have a little flexibility in my training schedule but, it’s pushing the training into the hot season and that might be a problem.
Coming up on the next episode of 16 Weeks
ERIC ORTON: The one great thing that kind of came from the whole barefoot, Born to Run side of things is that it put a lot of conversation out there about what a shoe should be. Before Born to Run, you very rarely heard people talk about stack height and drop …
ERIC: And all this and that really created this whole shift in the industry that was a good thing. We had to shift maybe too far, but now it’s kind of come back where there’s a lot of great shoes out there that have a variety of drops, based on your experience level and strength levels, that still act naturally and are flexible.
BJ: That’s Born to Run Coach Eric Orton. We’re continuing the shoe conversation and getting into why I make the shoe choices that I do. Plus, I face my arch enemy … the heat and humidity of an Eastern North Carolina summer. You’re not going to want to miss this one!
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Special thanks to Kim Chapman at Bull City Running Company in Durham for taking me through the fit process and letting me tryout so many new shoes. I’ll be back soon to pick up a pair!
This episode was written and produced by me, BJ Smith. The music you heard was by Poddington Bear.
16 Weeks is a member of the MouthMedia Network. Check out our other shows at MouthMediaNetwork.com.
Until next time … I’ll see you on the trails.