My New Half Marathon Plan-How It’s Going and a Whole Lotta Shoe Problems

It doesn’t seem like it, but I’m on week 10 of my new half marathon training plan for my 44th half marathon in state number 42, which means I’m in the nitty-gritty of all things running. I wrote a post about my new plan a while back, which you can read here. It’s very different from the training plan I had been following for my past several half marathons.

Previously, my plan was more of a run less, run harder kind of plan, with three runs a week consisting of a hill or tempo run, a speedwork run, and a long run. I also cycled, lifted weights, did yoga, and did core work so I was doing some sort of exercise 7 days a week. It worked fine for years but I felt like I was in a rut and needed to shake things up a bit. Now, I’m running five days a week, cycling one day, lifting one day, doing yoga once a week, and doing core work when I can fit it in. My runs now consist of a distance run usually around 35-45 minutes plus six 20-second strides twice a week, a tempo run, a fartlek run, and a long run that maxes out at 13-14 miles (runner’s choice).

So far the only running-related issues I’ve had have been shoe-related issues. For a couple of weeks I started having extreme calf pain about 20 minutes into my runs. I would stop and stretch but that did nothing to relieve the pain. Massaging my calves helped but not completely. After about 25 or 30 minutes of running, my right foot would go numb until I couldn’t feel it at all. The only thing that would bring feeling back to my foot was when I stopped running. Not good.

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Running in my Topo Fli-Lyte shoes before I knew they were evil

My first thought was the lacing on my running shoes needed to be re-done. Years ago the top of my left foot (I think it was my left anyway) would go numb and I figured out if I laced my running shoes differently, basically skipping the criss-cross pattern over the top middle part of my foot, that would solve the problem. I tried that this time to no avail. My foot was still falling asleep when I ran.

Then I thought maybe it’s just tight calf muscles. I had an appointment with my massage therapist and had her work extra long on my calf muscles and discovered that my right hamstring was about as tight as it’s ever been. She was able to completely get all of the tightness out of my hamstring and both calves- yes, she’s a miracle worker. When I ran the next day, my right calf tightened up again and my foot went numb. Sigh.

OK. Maybe it’s my shoes. I run with two pairs of running shoes, alternating them between runs. The problem is, I would have a tight calf and numb foot with both pairs of shoes so then I thought it must be BOTH pairs of my running shoes. Really? I bought them both just a couple of months ago so they weren’t that old, but maybe it is both pairs of shoes that’s the problem, I thought.

Fortunately I still had my Newton running shoes from last summer and fall. I never had any kind of calf tightness or foot numbness with my Newtons. I had been wearing my Newtons to the gym for lifting weights and things like that but they were down-graded to gym shoes because they had plenty of mileage on them. Last weekend I ran 13 miles in my Newtons and never had any problems with my calf or my foot, which told me it’s definitely my shoes.

I started thinking about my shoes, though. My Newtons have a heel-toe offset of 5 mm, which means since the height of the heel is 27mm and the height of the forefoot is 22 mm, the difference is 5 mm. Of the two pairs of new shoes I have, my On Cloud shoes have a heel-toe offset of 6 mm, with a heel height of 24 mm and forefoot height of 18 mm; however, my Topo Fli-Lyte shoes have a smaller heel-toe offset, of only 3 mm, with a heel height of 18 and forefoot height of 15 mm. Clearly, the Topo shoes have far less cushioning and heel-toe offset than either my Newtons or Ons. Maybe it’s just the Topos and my calf and foot hadn’t had enough time away from the Topos to recover. Either way, I couldn’t keep running in my old pair of Newtons so it was time to shop around for a new pair of shoes.

Apparently the current “standard” heel-toe offset is around 10 mm, meaning the heel height is around 10 mm higher than the forefoot height. The idea is there will be less stress and strain on your Achilles and calf muscles with a 10 mm heel-toe offset. I used to run for many years in Asics Nimbus shoes with absolutely zero problems with my calves or Achilles. I looked up heel-toe offset for Asics Nimbus, and lo and behold, they come in at 13 mm, actually 3 mm more than the men’s version. According to the Asics website, this additional 3 mm is to help relieve Achilles tension, which apparently women are more prone to than men.

I decided to buy a pair of Asics, though not Nimbus, with a heel-toe offset of 10 mm. I tested them out with a 40 minute run and didn’t have any calf tightness or foot numbness. The next day, I took a chance and went for a 45 minute run wearing my Ons and again, no calf tightness or foot numbness. Now finally I know- it’s the Topos causing all the problems. I had gone down too low of a heel-toe offset and my calf and Achilles were screaming at me for it. Lesson learned, more minimalist shoes (i.e. less cushioning and lower heel-toe offset) are not for everyone and certainly are not for me.

So now I just have to crank out a few more weeks’ worth of runs to get through this training plan before my next half marathon. I’m just glad I figured out all of my shoe issues before I did some real damage to my Achilles!

What are you all training for? How’s everything going with your training plan?

Happy running!

Donna