Fitting a Square Peg Into a Round Hole

To be honest today, I feel like a square peg, that is trying to fit into a round hole, when it comes to minimalist running.

Since about November of last year I have attempted to run with more of a forefoot/full foot landing to my running style and use less shoe.


After a lot of research and thinking, I really and truly believe that running with more of a forefoot/full foot landing is a better way for me to run.

However, at some point during my runs, usually after 2-3 miles, my focus flags and my running form begins to revert back to a heel landing and by the time I am 5.0 miles or more into a run – I am a full-fledged heel striker again.

Do I do this consciously?


Changing my running style/form is one of those things in my running that I have worked very hard on over the past year and it seems that no matter what I do, this is what happens – I revert to landing on my heels when running. Short of hiring a running coach to train me to run differently, I have a feeling I am stuck with this running style that I have developed.

And yes I have run with no shoes on too this summer, so don’t go there, it hasn’t helped me.

Why is this a big deal now?

The Altra Instinct’s I am running in now are a GREAT running shoe and I really like them more than a lot! They seem like they would be that 500 mile shoe, I am looking for – if I really was more of a forefoot/full foot landing style of runner.


Unfortunately, they do not seem to be the right shoe for the way that I actually run (instead of the way that want or think that I run), especially once I get out beyond the 5 mile mark, when I tend to revert back to landing on my heels and pawing through my stride.

These shoes have a much lower stack height than I have run in, to go along with the zero drop.

From what I can tell, this change of shoe style does not have that bit of added protection and forgiveness that shoes like the Kinvara 2, Nike Free, Newton, etc. gave me, when I would revert back to a my heel landing running style.



Problem Solving Mode

The past couple of weeks I have battled discomfort/pain in my hamstrings and right hip, that hadn’t been problems before switching to the Altra’s. So over that time I have trying to figure out what is causing this, so that I can run without discomfort after these issues get resolved.

Going back through my running log, I noticed that I had some of the same aches and pains starting, when I tried running in the MT20 and MT110’s, which also have a very low stack height.

So I tried running in my Newton Gravity’s, since they are the only higher stack height shoes (more heel) I have around that are not worn out or that are not trails shoes. When I did the hamstrings and hip don’t bother me nearly as much during or after the run (they are still healing, so I expected some issues) and I was able to run a faster pace than with the zero drop shoes without discomfort.


It seems that it is what it is.

Even though I want to run with a forefoot/full foot running style – I don’t.

If I want to run in zero drop or other lower drop shoes styles, it seems that I need shoes, with a higher stack height, that offer more protection and forgiveness for when I start inevitably landing on my heels.

In other words I still need running shoes that can protect me from myself.

The reality is that

After yesterday’s run and reviewing all the video’s that I have taken of myself since last October, there is not much doubt that I continue to land on my heels more often than I land on my forefoot/full foot, when I am running.

Which really sucks and is pretty damn frustrating!

Especially since I have actively attempted to change my running style to a more forefoot/full foot.

So it isn’t the Altra’s fault that my hamstrings and hip are uncomfortable, it is that my running style doesn’t fit with a zero-drop, low stack height shoe. In other words I have tried fit a square peg into a round hole and it just ain’t working too well.

Which really sucks too, because I do like these shoes a lot. I have an idea that I will still run some in the Altra’s, but will keep them to the shorter runs.

From what I can tell it seems that for now, my sweet spot for running shoes is around 25-30MM stack height with 6-10MM drop. In other words a shoe that is designed more for a heel landing running style, but also works well with someone trying to land more towards the forefoot/full foot style of running. 

Final Thoughts

Everyone runs with a different style and my style has more of a heel landing than I thought it did, which makes a low stack height running shoe difficult for me to run in without eventually having discomfort, due to the lack of forgiveness for when I do revert to landing on my heels.

I guess the lesson that I learned while reading Tread Lightly really applies to me here – “do what actually works for you – not what you want to work for you or works for someone else.”

Yep, I feel like a square peg, that is trying to fit into a round hole when it comes to changing my running style to be a forefoot/full foot running style. I have finally figured out that I need to stop worrying about trying to become more of a minimalist runner and instead work more on finding the shoes that work for me – whatever category they are listed in.

But I still plan to keep working towards the elusive forefoot/full foot landing, it is just taking a little longer than I expected Winking smile.


3 comments on “Fitting a Square Peg Into a Round Hole

  1. Pingback: Buying Adidas Adizero Sonic 3 | A Veteran Runnah

  2. The problem isn’t your inability to change your form or that you can’t – its that you’re training approach and priorities are not ideal for making the gradual changes you need to make in order for it to work. You have been trying to increase your volume and to a lesser extent, intensity. As a coach to others I work with, I recommend having no other priority other than correcting form. That means only running as far as good form takes you. You can’t train your brain and muscles to change if your form always breaks down. You just end up where you started – reinforcing the old and making no change. That said, if you run with a heel strike and it doesn’t cause injuries, I tend not to steer people toward major gait changes.

    Just my 2 cents…

    • You are absolutely correct! I know what I need to do in order to actually change my form, but the reality is that I am unwilling to reduce my mileage /intensity to do it correctly. Maybe someday but it doesn’t bother too much right now, so onward and upward. Thank you for taking time to comment :-).

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