Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hello Better!

Last year, I stealthily completed my first half-marathon. It was a secret mission because between wedding planning and Europe traveling, I lacked the discipline to train - and in turn, the faith that I would actually finish. But this year, having no projects to direct my energy towards, I decided to double down!

I signed up for the SF Marathon, my fair city’s flagship course and the one on which I had completed my first half. Midway through my training season, I started experiencing a sharp and shooting pain through my foot. Long story short, it was tendonitis and I could not continue with my training. Bummer. Demoralized, I half-heartedly ran the half-marathon instead.

Luckily, I was given a second chance when I won an entry to the Nike Women’s Marathon! But as I started my training, I discovered that although the tendonitis was gone, a new and exciting repetitive strain injury was present: runner’s knee. My future in running looked grim.
Enter Newton Gravity’s (seen here in all of their technicolor glory). The first I heard of Newton’s was in a triathlete store in Portland. I thought they were a cheap Nike ripoff. Well, I was wrong on both counts. They are not at all like Nike’s and they are not at all cheap. I revisited the shoe again at the Vineman Expo and tried them on. The shoes are unique in that they are designed to make you a mid-foot striker by way of these large lugs in the front of the sole. It seemed a little out there (aka hype) but I was desperate for anything that promised relief for my knee pain.
Tell me again how amazing these shoes are?
Well folks, I’m now a believer. These shoes are amazing. Almost overnight, I went from runner’s knee to pain-free. And I’ve not only been running faster, I’ve been doing so consistently! The biggest difference the shoes have made has been to my form. The lugs really do help correct my strike from heel to mid-foot. I’ve been running more with my feet under me, at a higher cadence, lessening the jarring impact on my knee. The soles provide just enough structure and support, but the 3mm drop (the difference in height between the toes and the heel) maintains a minimalist feel to the shoe.* 

In case anyone is wondering if there was some kind of placebo effect or if the timing of my knee recovery matched up perfectly with my Newton purchase, let me tell you of my semi-scientific experiment. I actually also purchased a pair of Nike Pegasus with a similar feel and comfort as my Newtons. In fact, I love the look of the Pegasus more than the Newtons (they have lightning bolts on them! I was so motivated to prove that they were just as awesome so I could justify wearing them during the actual marathon).
glitter (left) or lightning bolts (right)
Well, unfortunately they are not. Since I had to ease into my Newton’s and the mid-foot running style, I alternated shoes between runs and invariably, my Nike’s would have me limping after 6 or 7 miles, while my Newton’s would carry me through the end of the course. After one particularly painful 7-mile run, I put the Nike’s away and have been running exclusively on my Newton’s. The past two weekends, I was able to complete the longest runs I’ve ever done with only some soreness and stiffness afterwards. During the runs, I’ve been able to be as pain-free as one can manage on 13+ miles.

I didn’t think shoes could make that big of a difference in performance (and I naively thought they were all pretty much the same). But, the Newton’s have converted me and I’m counting on them to carry me through the last weeks of training and the 26.2 miles on October 20th! In fact… I might be so in love with the Newton’s that I may actually run regularly, post-marathon. Like... for fun? (What?!)

Disclaimer: This post is in no way affiliated or sponsored by Newton, but I would not object to a pair of 2014’s Gravity’s to try out and review :)

*Incidentally, I had done a running assessment at UCSF in early summer, and they had recommended exactly that format of shoe.