March 15, 2011 in Features

Time to start your Bloomsday training

Dr. Alisa Hideg
 
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Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Group Health are offering free Bloomsday training clinics through April 23, each Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at Spokane Falls Community College. For more information or to register go to www2.providence.org/spokane.

Some years I remember to register for Bloomsday well in advance and feel very prepared. Other years I might be in shape for it, but forget to register until the last minute.

Bloomsday is less than two months away, so this is your reminder (and mine) to register and to start training.

Free community training clinics offered by Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Group Health started last Saturday and continue for the next six weeks at Spokane Falls Community College.

A big part of being ready is having the right shoes. I recommend you get them now so you will have sufficient time to break them in.

An increasingly popular trend in running shoes is the barefoot-type shoe. The idea is that these shoes promote a more natural stride, improve balance and agility, strengthen foot and leg muscles and foster better posture.

They aim to do this mostly by increasing the flexibility of the shoe and eliminating much of the support found in typical running shoes.

Most people, when they run barefoot, tend to run on the balls of their feet and their toes. Running in shoes tends to make heel-strikers of most of us, which may lead to an increase in some types of foot injuries.

If all that is true, it sounds like barefoot-type running shoes must be the best thing for all of us to run in. But there are some things to take into consideration before switching to this type of running shoe.

If you have osteoarthritis (worn-out cartilage) in any joint from your lower back to your toes, then I recommend discussing this with your health care provider, podiatrist or physical therapist before making a switch since the padding in traditional shoes may be necessary for you.

You should also take your running surfaces into consideration. Humans developed a barefoot, running-on-our-toes running style over thousands of years of running on grass, sand and dirt, not asphalt and concrete.

A friend of mine who runs in a barefoot-style shoe, and runs mostly in the grass at Manito park, loves her shoes. But when she was out of town and had only hard surfaces to run on, she developed painful shin splints within two weeks.

She now has her barefoot-style shoes for when she can run mostly on grass, and a pair of shoes with more support and cushioning for when she has to run mostly on asphalt and concrete.

One brand of barefoot-type shoe comes in various levels of flexibility and support. The manufacturer recommends that people start with the shoe that has the most support and least flexibility, and as their strength and balance improve (and the shoes wear out) switch to the next level.

If you are a heel-striker when you run, it is probably a good idea to make a conscious effort to change your stride before you change your running shoe. Becoming accustomed to a more toe-oriented stride can make switching to a barefoot-type shoe go more smoothly.

If you heavily pronate (roll your foot inward) or supinate (roll your foot outward) when you run, or have other foot issues, talk to a foot specialist before buying barefoot-type shoes. You might need more support than a barefoot-type shoe provides.

Another popular trend is curved-sole walking shoes. These are supposed to improve posture and strengthen muscles by making it harder to balance, forcing you use muscles that you otherwise do not use much when walking in a regular shoe.

Because of the balance challenges that come with curved-sole walking shoes, I would not recommend them for a long course like Bloomsday unless you have been training in them for quite a long time already.

If you plan to walk the course, wear a shoe designed for walking. The support and padding are not structured the same and some people experience shin splints when they wear a running shoe for serious walking.

Whether you plan to walk or run this year, the most important thing for having a good Bloomsday is preparation, so let’s start our training now. Ready, set, go!

Dr. Alisa Hideg is a family medicine physician at Group Health’s Riverfront Medical Center in Spokane. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Today section. Send your questions and comments to drhideg@ghc.org.


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