Switching gears to neutral

About two months ago I was having terrible IT band problems. Actually, I’ve always had IT issues but I’ve been able to keep it at bay with regular stretching, ART and tons and tons of rolling. It’s not a big deal but from time to time it gets really painful. The last time I went to ART I mentioned that my team had switched from Nike to Asics and that I was running in Asics’ stability shoe. He looked at me sideways, had me do some exercises and pronounced me a neutral runner.

Over the last few years as I’ve become a more efficient runner my gait has straightened out, my feet have strengthened and I don’t need all the structure and support I used to. So, the shoes were unnaturally forcing my feet out which was causing IT issues. So… I headed over to Fleet Feet and got the Asics Cumulus. The Cumulus has a bit of support but it is certainly a neutral shoe.

The first couple of times I ran in them I could tell a difference. It felt like my strike was more square on the pavement and it just felt more natural. That said, the first couple of weeks my feet were really sore. To the point where I thought I had plantar fascitis. As I adjusted to new shoes and stride I realized that my calves were really tight which was causing the foot pain. As long as I roll my legs regularly, I’m fine.

Since I’ve switched my IT band pain is basically completely gone. They still get appropriately sore and require a bit of rolling but they no longer feel injured or forced out of their natural pattern. And my glutes are a lot looser, too. When I run fast it feels like not having structure allows my legs and feet to spring into action faster and I’m in better alignment- more square. My shoulders, hips and legs are forming that straight line you’re always told to make.

I think my transition is due to a few things. As I’ve gotten faster, my gait is more efficient and therefore requires less outside stability. I also think that doing so much yoga barefoot has strengthened both my core and my arches which is helpful when running. Like I always say, everything goes back to the core strength.

I don’t think everyone running in stability shoes should run out and switch to a netural shoe. In fact, probably most shouldn’t. However, if you’ve been running awhile or have a persistent ache or nag don’t hesitate to get re-fit or to ask a second opinion. Just like your body isn’t always the same, your feet my change too. You should always be your own biggest advocate. Yes, seek the opinion of experts but you know your own body best.

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3 responses to “Switching gears to neutral

  1. amen to being your own advocate. the body is great at knowing exactly what it needs!

  2. OMG…I’ve been preaching that to everyone I know! No one who’s been running consistently for more than a year should need stability shoes. Your foot naturally adapts a more neutral stance the more you run. I totally think many newer runners run in way more support than they need, causing more unnecessary knee pain than they realize.

    Thank you for this post. It was highly informative =)

  3. That’s great news! Easiest fix ever for the IT band.

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