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I've been walking and weight lifting for fitness since 2008-09 (quit smoking, too) and started running in late April of this year when I saw a flyer for a 5k at my local Y. I thought, why not? I only had about 4 weeks to train and ran it in 33:24, not bad for a newbie! Unfortunately, I didn't stretch after the race and had a recurrence of tendonitis in my left ankle so I wasn't able to do anything for the rest of May/early June. I've been pretty consistent about running during July (I always run outdoors on our gravel road or on pavement) and had been having problems with my toes going numb somewhere between mile 2 & 3. I went to a running store that does video running gait analysis and found out first that my pretty running shoes were too small, not letting my toes move as they need to. Second, I overpronate in the right leg so I needed more supportive shoes. Lastly, I thought I was making a lot of noise on their treadmill while I was jogging at a slow pace, kind of like a stampeding herd of elephants, and sure enough, I was landing on my heels. So now I've fixed the numb toes problem, have a good shoe for my overpronating foot and am trying to learn how to land mid-foot. I first tried running with a shorter stride; it felt good but I was as slow as molasses. Then I ran barefoot on a treadmill and did ok, just couldn't go very far since my calves were hurting at 1/4 mile due to the change in muscle usage. Later, I did intervals of walking with bursts of running and realized that when I really run, I was running correctly! Yippee! I do know how to run properly! Well, sometimes. Now I'm trying to run that way and get my speed and endurance back. Any suggestions, ideas, or tell me it's just going to take time just like it did in the beginning?
You can change your landing to a midfoot or ball landing by leaning forward slightly. If you do this you will have to land further forward on your foot. I tried it to reduce the impact on my heals. But as you said then my calf muscles really would hurt. I have gone back to landing more toward the heal but just not fully heal. It is working well for me. Actually many of the better runners land between the midfoot to the heal. So I think whatever is comfortable fore you would work. If you are going to change the way you run it will take some time to build up the muscles that will be used differently.
Started C25K June 6, 2011
Completed C25K August 6, 2011
Lions Club 5K August 13, 2011........................... 25:54
Sole to Soul 5k March 31, 2012.......................... 23:52
Home Run for the Homeless April 28, 2012 ..........24:15
May in Bay May 26, 2012................................... 22:43 1st in AG
Fat Little 5k June 16, 2012.................................. 22:39.6
Lions Club 5k August 11, 2012............................ 21:51 1st in AG PR
North Coast Challenge Sept 1, 2012.................... 40:30 PR
I think the biggest thing is practice - getting used to the feel. You'll end up taking shorter strides compared to heel striking - which is a good thing. (In actuality it's probably not heel striking itself that is bad but taking too long of strides. It's just that heel striking is an easy-to-understand possible indicator of over-striding.)
As you've experienced it taxes the calves more. Especially since you've had Achilles problems in the past I'd be very cautious. Stretch a lot and use a foam roller as well. You can likely go into some pretty thin-soled shoes. (If you land under your hips the foot/leg will respond well and handle the landing as the body should. This will also build up your foot strength which will make you less prone to injury - in all likelihood.)
"Kick off your high heel sneakers, it's party time."
-- From the song FM by Steely Dan