There Is No “Normal”

Since around the time of Thanksgiving I have been stuck in a bit of a rut. My running, writing, and overall motivation have been off and not at the levels they should be. I simply told myself that once things returned to “normal” I would be right back at it, driven as ever. Fast forward to early January and the motivation for all these fine activities was still missing.

See the thing is, there is no “normal”. There will always be disruptions and there is no ideal time to do the things you need to. Distraction and resistance will always be there to meet you in whatever form she decides to take. It could be going out with friends, holiday dinners, cold weather, or any other myriad of options.The perfect time to do something is the least optimal time. When something is done at the least optimal time, you learn something about yourself. You learn that you are capable of doing anything that you set your mind to. 2AM on a Friday evening when everyone else is out can be the perfect time for a run or for a blog post. Who’s to say it isn’t?

If you often find yourself struggling with this resistance and inner battle, I highly recommend you pick up the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield. He does an amazing job at attacking procrastination, resistance, and how we put off becoming our true self we were meant to be. It has helped me a lot to overcome my own issues and realize I need to just get started with what I should be doing. The momentum builds from there until it barrels along and I find myself extremely happy that I did what was required of me.


This especially applies to going for a run. It can be so easy to come up with so many reasons why you shouldn’t go for a run. However, all that matters is that feeling you get from going on a run. In 14 years of running, I have yet to regret a single run. Upon returning, I am always glad I embraced the struggle and made it out the door.


Always in Stride,


Rotating Running Shoe Models May Reduce Injuries

In a previous article I recommended that one should be polygamous with one’s choice in running shoe brand and not be afraid of trying new shoes. I also advocate that one should be polyamorous on a daily basis as opposed to a quarterly basis in regards to shoe models. Recent research has shown that rotating a variety of shoes can help to prevent and reduce injuries experienced from running.

The human body gets stronger as a result of stress. For example, if one looks at astronauts and long periods of time spent in space, we can see the effect of not stressing the muscualture. Due to the lack of gravity in space, the musculature is not stressed and therefore grows weaker. Upon returning from space, astronauts are quite weak and have lost significant amounts of muscle mass. NASA states that even during short flights of 5 to 11 days that astronauts can experience up to a 20% loss in muscle mass. This is a perfect example of how the body requires stress to maintain muscle and also to grow it. Astronauts on the International Space Station are required to work out for 2.5 hours a day in order to combat muscle atrophy.

If one stresses their foot with the exact same running shoe, day in and day out, the body is exposed to similar stresses every day. If you run multiple shoe models from multiple shoe brands your foot will be put through different workouts that work the foot in different ways. This will allow certain muscles to do less work on a given day while allowing them to work harder on another day. Scott Douglas states that the researchers from the study concluded that running injuries can be decreased by 39% by rotating a variety of shoes as compared to single shoe wearers. 


Some of the shoes that make my rotation.

I personally have about 8 different shoes I rotate through during a 2 week period. I do tend to have favorites, but I make sure to keep on switching it up. Instead of rotating two of the exact same shoes throughout the week, pick up a few pairs of running shoes on your next visit to your LRS (local running store) and rotate several different models during the week. While you’re at it, work on rotating the surfaces you run on every day as well. Switch between concrete, asphalt, dirt, grass, and whatever else you can find. Running surface will have an even greater impact on running stress as compared to varying your shoe choice.

Always in Stride,


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Time to Consider Friends With Benefits and Forget Long Term Relationships (With Running Shoes)

One of my favorite questions to ask a runner is what shoe they run in and why. The first answer is usually pretty easy for them to come up with and the second response is usually pretty typical. I usually find it to be one of the following: “I’ve always run in (insert shoe)”, “My friend runs in this shoe.”, “I’ve heard that (insert company) makes a good running shoe.”, or several other responses. All of these responses are nauseating to me and come with a mental eye roll. These are absolutely terrible responses if that is their only reason for choosing a shoe.

Remember your first relationship? There are a lot of good reasons why it didn’t last and why the person you are with now is a heck of a lot better. You’re smarter now, you’ve gotten experience, you’ve learned, and you know what you want. (To those who married high school sweethearts, erm, Congrats!:)) To run in the exact same running shoe simply because you always have is asinine, especially if you have no idea why you bought that shoe in the first place. Not to mention a wide variety of shoe models and companies pop up every year, pushing the envelope of technology and function. If you’ve run in the same shoe for 20 years, you’re missing out on countless opportunities.

When purchasing anything in life, some questions should come to mind. Some purchases require more thought than others such as a car, house, TV, and of course running shoes. Running shoes are a medical investment and preventative care. A running shoe is going to affect every aspect of your training, gait, posture, and a myriad of other things. You NEED to be informed about the features and specs of your running shoes.

So what should you be asking your local running shoe store employee when you go in?

  • Why did you pick this shoe for me?
  • How will this shoe help to make me a better runner?
  • How will this shoe affect my biomechanics?
  • What is the heel toe offset of this shoe?
  • How does the toe box width compare to other shoes?
  • Where is the research to support the claims this shoe company makes?
  • Do you have an agenda or requirement to encourage one shoe versus another?
  • How can this shoe help to make me faster?
  • How can this shoe help my efficiency?
  • How will this shoe help to prevent (or cause) injuries.

This is just a short list to get you started. Going in and buying running shoes with little to no knowledge is running Russian roulette. It can end very badly. Get over your love affair and long term relationship with your current shoe or shoe brand. Make the store employee earn their paycheck and ask to try on a wide variety of shoes each and every time. Be polygamous! Run in several different brands and models during your training. Each will stress the foot in different ways and can be good strength training. Develop a few shoes with benefits relationships and don’t be afraid to cheat on them. After all, they are only running shoes and do not have emotions or feelings…yet.

The Sports Gene

This past week I read The Sports Gene by David Epstein. The book looks into the genetics of sports and seeks to determine why select people, or groups of people, excel at certain sports. Epstein delves into touchy topics of race and ethnicity from a scientific standpoint and gets down to the details of what really matters. For far too long the field has been neglected as people have always been afraid of it being seen as only a “race issue”. Lucky for us, the answers are slowly but surely arising. We all come into this world with different talents and traits and that’s okay. It should be celebrated, not tucked away. We have gifts to give and certain geographies of the world are better at different things.



If most of you reading this are like me, then you will be most interested in how this applies to running. The first topic that comes to mind is Kenyan runners and is addressed in the book. Epstein looks into a tribe in Kenya named the Kalenjin. They represent about 12% of Kenya’s population of 4.9 million people. Interestingly enough, more than 75% of Kenya’s best runners who go on to become some of the world’s best runners come from this tribe. Many studies have been done on the Kalenjin to investigate what makes them so great. One such study performed by the Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre compared Kenyan Kalenjin boys to Danish boys living in Copenhagen. Most of the standard running metrics such as VO2 Max and proportion of slow twitch muscle fibers were found to be the same in both sets of boys. However, the Kenyan boys were on average 2 inches shorter in overall stature, but had legs that were 3/4in longer than the Danish boys. Not only were their legs longer, but also skinnier and possessing less mass. Less mass in the lower legs makes for a more efficient pendulum swing, therefore creating a more efficient runner since they need to expend less energy to swing their leg through.

I won’t give away all the findings of the Kenyans and the rest of the book, but rest assured Epstein does a fantastic job at looking into a variety of other topics and factors in a myriad of sports. This type of research made me wonder what “my people” and my body type are best suited for. Given my lack of funding, research laboratories, and travel budget; I resorted to Google to research what sports my ethnic background ancestors were best at. To do this, I simply googled olympic medal history for my countries of origin of Scotland, Ireland, and England. The findings: my ancestors were damn good at rowing and shorter distance cycling.

So how does this stack up against my own personal performances? As much as running is my top passion, my genetics are not best suited for it. I have a lot of mass in my thighs and calves which makes my legs a very heavy pendulum to swing through the running gait as compared to a Kenyan. I tend to have a lot of power on the bike, but do better in the shorter races where quick expenditures of power are beneficial. What I found most interesting, was the prowess in rowing. In my short 6 months of rowing I showed more success (physically, not technique) than in any other sport in my history. My legs allowed for great explosive power to pull the oar through the water and I had a tunable upper body to develop strength for the end of the stroke. Endurance for races of 2K to 6K was of no issue, the latter being my better event.


I think there is a lot to be said about this research and I do hope that the bounds of being “politically correct” start to come down. While I believe it had good intent at the start, I think it is actually starting to have a negative impact in the opposite direction with people not being allowed to say anything. The Sports Gene is a great step forward to analyze our genetics and to discover what activities best suit various types of people. For me, Epstein gives me a ray of hope when he refers to a “hard working gene” in a chapter about ultrarunners. Perhaps there is a chance for my running prowess yet:)

Always in Stride,


The Greatest Amount of Pleasure

This Saturday will mark the beginning of the Western States 100 lottery signup period. I will be putting my name into this lottery with hopes of being granted admission to compete in the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100 mile trail race. The race travels from Squaw Valley, California down to Auburn, California covering treacherous terrain ascending 18,090 feet and descending 22,970 feet. The race began in 1955 as an endurance horse race but transformed into an ultramarathon in 1974 when Gordy Ainsleigh decided to compete on foot when his horse pulled up lame the year before. He completed the journey in just under 24 hours and a legendary race was born.

Most people’s response to this decision to enter the lottery is a combination of “What is wrong with you?”, “Why would you do that to yoursef?”, and “You’re going to hurt yourself.” Somehow, I hear these responses but don’t really hear them. They float in one ear and out the other without a second thought. To be honest, I don’t really have more than two reasons why I want to run this race. It pretty much comes down to a mindset similar to that of Alaskan sled dogs where “It has to be the one thing in life that brings the greatest amount of pleasure.” – Eric Morris. I also am ever curious to see how far I can go and what I can discover about myself. Outside of that, I just simply enjoy it, the scenery, the people, the environment, the atmosphere, and spending time in my beloved state.

I think it is very important to have a passion that elevates you and gets you going like nothing else. It is far too easy to settle into a ritual of work, eat, tv, sleep, repeat. A routine like that leaves a lot to be desired and lacks meaning. Seek out that which strikes a burning passion in your soul making you excited to wake each and every day. “Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson



How Bad Footwear Affects Your Feet

We are going to focus on yet another aspect of the correct fit for running shoes, with the next topic being the toe box! That begs the questions what is the toe box? As can be seen in the picture below, the toe box is the portion of the shoe that holds the toes and forefoot. The toe box plays an integral role in the fit of a shoe and also in how the foot functions while running. Let’s take a look at the main reasons in depth.

1. Compromised Mechanics of the Foot

As you walk or run, your foot is loaded with force from the ground and your body weight. In order to disperse this force across the foot, the foot gets wider. A narrow shoe will restrict this natural splay of the foot and can also result in blisters, deformities, and injuries.

2. Decreased Durability of Shoe 

A narrow toed shoe is not just bad for your feet, but also for the durability of the shoe. Narrow or short shoes will cause increased pressures on the upper of the shoe which can result in a variety of holes and shoe defects. You can see in the picture below how the side of the foot “bursts” out the side of the shoe as it attempts to splay. Asics is one of the biggest offenders of having a narrow toe box.


3. Decreased Stability, Strength, and Support 

When the foot and toes are not allowed to splay out the way they naturally do, we lose a lot stability strength and support. Think of it this way, if we were to do a push up contest, how would you want your hands? Would you want them all scrunched up on top of each other and taking up a very small surface area? Or, would you prefer to spread them out to cover a larger surface area with nice splay all around? Of course you would prefer the latter, it is stronger, more stable, and more supportive of the weight you are putting on your hands. The same goes for your feet. The wider the better.

4. Injuries associated with narrow toe boxes. 

Placing your foot in a narrow toe box shoe can cause a variety of injuries, deformities, and foot conditions. We’ll go over some of those conditions:

a. Bunions – A narrow, restricting toe box can force the big toe over towards the other toes and result in inflammation of the big toe joint. This is a painful condition and causes crowding of the other toes which can lead to more issues. 

Bunions are painful and certain not good looking. (

Bunions are painful and certain not good looking. (

b.  Hammer Toes – A narrow toe box can force the foot into an unnatural position in which the toes are cramped. Over time, the muscles of the toes can shorten and result in the deformity seen below where the shape of the toe resembles a hammer. 



c. Arthritic Toes Wearing tight fitting footwear places extra stresses on the joints of the foot which can lead to painful arthritis (swelling of the joints). Pain and stiffness in the toe joints are typical symptoms of arthritic toes.

d. Metatarsalgia This condition is associated with pain and inflammation around the joints in the ball of the foot. Narrow or short footwear places extra pressure on these joints resulting in the condition.



e. Black Toenails 

If a shoe is too short, the toes will jam up against the top of the shoe. This blunt trauma can result in black toenails as seen below. Black toenails can also fall off and sometimes fail to regrow.



Let’s take a look at the best choices and worst choices for running footwear as far as the toe box is concerned.


1. Altra Footwear



2. Mizuno Evo Series Footwear

3. Newton Running Shoes

4. Pearl Izumi

5. New Balance Minimus Series

6. Vibram Five Fingers

7. Skechers

8. Skora



2. Brooks

3. Nike

How to fix your feet if they have become deformed?

A combination of getting proper fitting footwear and using correct toes (below) will go a long way. The more you can walk around barefoot and unrestricted the better. This will help your foot to regain previous strength/form and allows for some of the damage from narrow footwear to be undone.


How should a shoe fit in the toe box?

You should be able to “play the piano with your toes” in the toe box of your shoes. You want enough room for your toes to move around and also want a shoe that accommodates the splay of the foot. In the front of the shoe, you want about a thumbs width of space to allow for swelling of the foot as your run and to prevent black toenails.

What does a healthy foot look like?



Notice the space between all the toes and how wide the foot is. These sets of feet are very healthy, strong, and stable.

What does a foot look like that has been deformed due to footwear?

Shoe deforms1Shoe Deforms

Don’t let this happen to you! Get footwear that actually fits!

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The Child Custody Battle

I’m in the midst of an ugly child custody battle as we speak. Luckily there are no lawyers involved and both sides are being somewhat reasonable. Ironically enough, you, yes you reading this, are in a child custody battle of your own. The custody battle for your inner child.

When we first start out as little fledglings we are full of dreams, hope, passion, and vigor. There are very few bounds and the possibilities are limitless. However, slowly but surely, the “real world” makes an effort to beat it out of us until we become a compliant drone. There are endless rules that don’t really make all that much sense when you step back and look at it all. “Wear this, do that, listen to that person, you have to get this type of job, work for the man, work isn’t supposed to be fun” … the list goes on. Somehow we have been convinced that life should not be enjoyable for at least 40 hours a week, that all posted rules must be followed, the way things are should just be accepted, and that we should be saving ourselves for retirement. We delay fulfilling gratification and convince ourselves that we need to consume the latest and greatest gadgets. So the vicious cycle continues…

Life doesn’t really, or shouldn’t really, work this way. Nothing is guaranteed with the exception of the very moment you are currently in. Even if only for several minutes a day, you should seek to release that inner child and do what you truly want to. Running is a great way to do so as it is such a rudimentary form of play and relaxation. While running there are no bosses, silly suits, or reports to be created. There is you, the trail, and being the best version of yourself.

The lyrics to the latest Avicii song “Wake Me Up” capture the sentiment rather well. “Feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart. I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start. They tell me I’m too young to understand. They say I’m caught up in a dream. Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes. Well that’s fine by me.” I live in a world where decisions are not made based on money, but passion. A world where silly jargon and outfits used to show intelligence and rank are laughed at. The world where “life is a game for everyone, and love is the prize”. If I am just living in a dream, certainly don’t wake me up. I’ll always win the battle for the inner child because it is a fight worth fighting.


Drop the 1/2 Inch High Heels

If you are a runner reading this, there is a good chance that your run today involved ½ inch high heels. Now I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t wear heels when I run!!” Unfortunately, you most likely do. The majority of the running shoe industry designs their shoes to be a half inch higher in the heel than in the forefoot. This measurement is often called the drop or the heel-toe offset of a shoe.

Low Heel Drop Shoe.

Low Heel Drop Shoe.

High Heel Drop Shoe.

High Heel Drop Shoe.

This begs the questions, why would running shoe manufacturers ever do such a thing? The most common reason is attributed to legendary Nike founder and Oregon coach, Bill Bowerman. The original thought behind the design is that runners need to lengthen their stride if they want to go faster (true, but the length needs to come out behind the body). Bowerman assumed the best way to do this would be by increasing the cushioning in the heel so runners could extend out farther with their leading leg. However, he was unaware of the high impact forces and impact transients that are associated with heel striking as well as several other downfalls of the design. There are little, to no benefits of running in a half-inch, high heeled shoe.

So what dangers does being in a half-inch high heel pose?

1. It puts the body in an unnatural posture with increased pressure on the lower back, shoulders, and ball of foot as pictured below.


Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 8.00.47 PM

2. It encourages a heel striking gait, which puts extra stress on the joints, soft tissues, back, and neck.

The yellow lines help to show how a 1/2 inch high heeled shoe can "catch" as the runner's leg comes through the stride. The level red line shows what the shoe would look like if the midsole was removed and the shoe was level. The runner would have more time to bring the leg closer to the body and bend the knee to run more efficiently and help absorb impact.

The yellow lines help to show how a 1/2 inch high heeled shoe can “catch” as the runner’s leg comes through the stride. The level red line shows what the shoe would look like if the midsole was removed and the shoe was level. The runner would have more time to bring the leg closer to the body and to bend the knee to run more efficiently and help absorb impact.

3. Shortened calf muscles and achilles tendon, robbing the body of natural spring. 

Calf muscles and achilles tendon atrophy and become shorter if subjected to high heeled shoes on a regular basis.

Calf muscles and achilles tendon atrophy and become shorter if subjected to high heeled shoes on a regular basis.

Major offenders of the half-inch high heel are:

  • Brooks Traditional Shoes
  • All Asics Trainers with the exception of 2 shoes
  • Most all Nike Traditional Shoes
  • New Balance Traditional Shoes
  • Mizuno Traditional Shoes

Brands that feature only level platform shoes (at most 8mm offset):

  • Newton Running
  • Saucony
  • Altra
  • Pearl Izumi
  • HOKA One One
  • Merrell
  • INOV-8
  • Skechers
  • Vibram Five Fingers
  • Vivobarefoot

Some of the major offenders have recently come out with lines featuring level shoes:

  • Mizuno Evo Series
  • New Balance Minimus Series
  • Nike Free Series
  • Brooks Pure Series

So next time you go in to pick up a new pair of running shoes, make sure to ask the store employee to try on some level platform shoes to at least give it a try. Don’t be afraid of brands you may not have heard of or seen in the major magazines, many times these are the best manufacturers who focus more on principles as opposed to the bottom line profits and market share.

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I know I only alluded to the heel-striking debate in this post, but will be sure to tackle it in the upcoming posts. Get ready!

Always in Stride,



Why Do You Do What You Do?

The question the title poses is simple and straightforward. What is your motivation for doing what you do? Are you doing it so you can look good for someone else, doing it for status, doing it to be recognized, doing it for a promotion, doing it to fit in, or any other myriad of reasons? In my opinion, there is only one true reason to do something and that is because you believe in your heart it is the right thing to do and it aligns with your passion.


When you do something because it aligns with your passion, it shines through and others feed off of that. Too often you see people making purchases to “keep up with the Joneses” or to impress someone else around them. Perhaps a workout routine was started only because you wanted to impress that cute girl or guy in class and not for because you enjoy how it makes you feel?

I find some aspects of our society rather gross with how some people will go into debt just to make it look like they have “made it”. I also find it gross when companies are doing something simply because it is profitable and will do whatever it takes to ensure it stays profitable. I find it far nobler to pursue something because it is what you believe to be the correct thing to do.

This is part of the reason I love running so much, because it most often comes from a very pure place. It is a pursuit of consciousness, of being, and of self growth. At it’s most basic form there is no profit involved except what you personally get from your run. It costs nothings and offers smiles, relaxation, enjoyment, and endorphins.

Think about it with all the decisions you are going to make today and also with all the purchases you are going to be making soon. Is it because it is truly aligned with who you are or are you fooling yourself and attempting to fool everyone around you? Why do you exist, what is your purpose, what do you believe in, what inspires you?

“The more you inspire, the more people will inspire you.” ~Simon Sinek


Always in Stride,


Support the Arch?!

Spend enough time in the running industry and you will surely hear the phrase “support the arch”. For quite some time now, an emphasis has been put on so called “arch supports” and “stability shoes”. The creation of these devices is certainly not surprising as humans have an innate desire to control everything. Unfortunately, even an activity as simple and pure as running cannot escape.

Arches of FootHaving an orthotic or arch support in a shoe is going to hamper the natural movement of the foot and undermine the physics of the arch. An arch gains support from the pieces pushing on each other and dispersing the force down to the ground and foundation of the arch. If one were to put pressure underneath the arch, this would disrupt the pieces pushing on each other and potentially cause failure. It is hard to imagine that out of the box arch supports or even custom orthotics have been so expertly designed that it is not disturbing the natural support of the arch. Even if they have been designed perfectly, it is often redundant, expensive, and unnecessary.

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, Galleria d...

It was said by Leonardo da Vinci “the human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” The foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 tendons, ligaments, and muscles. If we look at other arches in the body, such as the back, we can see that there is no need for “support” there either. We would all look rather goofy walking around with hard plastic plates on our backs to support this engineering marvel. Arch supports restrict the natural movement of the foot and pronation (also natural). Pronation and semi collapse of the arch helps to disperse the forces experienced while running and the collapsing action is similar to that of a spring. Once collapsed, the spring is loaded, only to spring back as the runner prepares for take off into the next step.


Colosseum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If one were to pass the phrase “support the arch” along to an architect or engineer they would mostly likely cringe. The arch gains its strength through design, not extra structures that undermine the function of the arch. If we take a look at the 1900+ year old Colosseum, you will notice there are no “arch supports” supporting any of the arches in the building, they do just fine on their own and so called supports would put the structure in jeopardy.

So why are there “arch supports” in running shoes and orthotics?

  1. It is a big money maker. As mentioned before, humans are always looking for ways to control things and an arch support easily plays on this desire.
  2. There is some research to suggest that an arch support can be used temporarily to strengthen weakened feet. However, they should be done away with afterward and used only as a tool.
  3. Marketing. Running shoe companies are constantly looking for ways to differentiate their product and provide more “benefit” to the consumer.

All of this information is what I have found to be true from the experiences of those I deal with and my own. Feel free to contradict what I have said, point out errors, or agree. I hope to have use the comment section as an open forum. If you prefer, feel free to email me at

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