Years ago running was called jogging and it was done in old sweats and Keds.
Today is a different world as far as exercise attire and as for aging feet; shoes in particular have come a long way. Running and getting old may not work as well as we hope and sometimes it’s because of our feet and knees.
I cannot tell you how many acquaintances my age have said to me that they had to stop running because of their knees, so it was no surprise when my knees began to hurt. The first thing I discovered was that I had to stop lifting weights with my knees. In other words, leg extensions with weights at the gym were doing more harm than good. But my knees still hurt so I started to educate myself about running posture and feet.
I had obediently been supporting the shoe industry by trading my shoes in every 500 miles or so and hadn’t really considered whether or not they were hurting or helping me. As I began to explore the topic of running shoes, I learned that the latest buzz is that the best thing you can do, of all things, is run without shoes at all, barefoot. OK, I draw the line on running barefoot on icy pavement, but it was an interesting concept.
A shoe company even invented a shoe that looks like a foot and has a space for each toe but protects the sole from the turf. I do not have a pair, yet. I saw a woman running totally barefoot in a race in Brewer last year in November. I was impressed but not convinced; she was very young.
In the process of learning about feet, running posture and protecting the one’s valuable knees I learned that landing on the heel is probably not a great idea. It tends to jar the knee in a bad way.
I looked at my running shoes and sure enough they all had super heavy-duty heels that apparently forced me to land on them and had been sending shock waves to my knees for years. Thankfully a shoe company invented a running shoe that forces you to land on the forefoot instead, which purportedly doesn’t hurt your knees.
I bought a pair of those and immediately began to run like a 5-year-old. That means, landing on the ball of your foot. Remember those days when you could just run and run until some adult made you stop?
It felt pretty weird at first but amazingly my knee pain was gone. I have been running in this type of shoe for almost two years without even a twinge in my knees. Of course, the rest of my body occasionally acts up, but my feet and knees are quite happy. Forefoot landings may not work for everyone’s knees, but re-creating how you ran as a child is fun and highly recommended.
Noelle Merrill is the executive director of the Eastern Area Agency on Aging in Bangor.