Bulky Shoes Save the Day

A question I’ve gotten is: how have you stayed injury free for a while now?

I’ve been injury free (knock on wood) for close to two years now.  I’m not a pro at keeping myself injury free and I know there will be a time I’ll get injured again.

Being injured has always given me a time to think about how I got to that point.  For instance, when I got a stress fracture on my 21st birthday I orginally thought I had bad luck.  Looking back I had extremely poor training (running every single run too fast and my body couldn’t handle it). To give you an idea, my PR pace in a half marathon was around 7 minutes and I thought I had to run 7 miles under 7:30 daily to get faster. Running fast during every training run doesn’t equal racing fast. It equals eventually getting injured.

Now I’ve adopted a “slow and steady” wins the race type of mentality.  It’s not a secret that I run extremely high mileage.  I’m pushing 60 miles most weeks and my comfort zone (and what I would consider my best running) is done when I’ve run 70 mile weeks.

That being said I’m running them at a lot easier pace.  That is why (I believe) I’ve gotten faster and stayed injury free for now.  I’m running high, easy miles.  It’s almost as if I don’t leave the base building phase. I’m less tired than running for an hour at a faster pace.

I don’t go to the track and run 400s, 800s…actually I just don’t go to the track. I’ve been to the track twice in my running career to do a “speed workout”.

My speed work is done in the form of races or long uptempos (runs at a slower pace then tempo…for me that is around 7-7:15 pace).  I would rather run 12 miles at a 7 min pace versus running 12X400s at a 5:30 pace.

Outside of my training I put running as one of my priorities.  I try and get enough rest and sleep to recover and I try to eat somewhat healthy.  That being said there are some days that I get neither.

I’m terrible at stretching so I won’t pretend that I do that.

Another thing that I believe has kept me injury free are the shoes I wear.  I love running in heavier and more cushioned shoes.  With the exception of race day, the shoes that are my favorite are the most supportive.  The Brooks Glycerin, the Newton Gravity and occasionally the Nike Vomero all have a lot of support.  The lightest shoe that is currently in my rotation is the Nike Pegasus. Most people would describe them as a big, bulky shoe.

Mimilist shoes such as the Nike Free, Vibrams, Kinvera or the Brooks Pure series might work for some but they don’t work for me.  The moment I wear something light weight is the moment I begin to feel aches and pains. Personally, I don’t think that wearing light weight shoes works for me if I want to wear high mileage and I’m okay with that. I love the cushion provided in these shoes.

Finally I’m not afraid to take rest days or a few days when things feel weird or off.  There have been several times that I have felt a weird ache or pain and taken 2-3 days off.  I’ve gotten a deep tissue massage or I’ve foam rolled until it gets better.  It’s mentally hard to watch as a week of training goes down the tubes because you’ve taken 5 rest days…but it’s a hell of a lot easier to watch two days versus two months of training go down the tubes.

These are just things I’ve found to help keep me healthy.  They might work for you or might not.

Questions for you:

How do you stay injury free?

Do you like light weight or heavier shoes?


39 responses

    • That’s an interesting article! Realistically I think a lot of people are in the wrong shoes for them and that creates injuries. I don’t think that shoe companies purposely create a shoe to injure people but different shoes work for different people. I don’t design shoes so what do I know LOL.

      • “people are in the wrong shoes for them”

        That is SO absolutely true! And a critical thing many people miss as they try to apply a ‘one size fits all’ (pun intended) approach!

  1. I had the same mentality when I started running – that every run had to be as fast as I could cover the distance. It’s funny that we came from swimming and still did this when we started running, because would you do all of every swim workout at your 500 yard free pace? Erm, no.

  2. This is really interesting, Hollie. I’ve always wondered how you’re able to run such high mileage each week – this makes total sense!

  3. I’m trying so hard to buy into the slow and steady mentality. It’s getting a little easier with every run. My shoes are big time bulky because I overpronate. Thanks flat feet, but it doesn’t bother me too much. I’m just used to it now.

  4. I’ve stayed somewhat injury-free by training smarter and running my run at an easy pace. That really seems to be key. I also wear heavier more supportive shoes when I am training.

  5. I also like shoes with more to them. Right now I’m wearing the Brooks Ghost 7 and New Balance 880 (will soon upgrade to the 1080). Any time I get a more lightweight pair, I start hurting within the first mile. However, I would still love to find a lighter pair for races and when I do speed work.

  6. Loved this post! Especially now that I am injured… I’ll take any words of wisdom offered. It’s funny – I used to have terrible IT band issues. When I switched to Brooke’s Pure Flow shoes they went away BUT now I’ve had two really bad achilles injuries. I’m running (or attempting to through pain) in the Brooke’s Transcends now and they are very heavy but super comfy. I think the Pure Flows, with the minimal heel-toe drop concept put a lot of strain on my achilles. I also think some peoples’ legs were just configured better for running and escaping injury. But I’m also not a shoe designer or orthopedist so I know NOTHING! 🙂

  7. Great observations Hollie. My take on running shoes continues to evolve. I started in Saucony’s and then moved to Brooks. I need a neutral shoe and found that the Ghost line was a good fit. When they came out with the Pure Flows, I shifted to them and they are one of my go to shoes. I just got a pair of Pure Flow 3’s and have run all my marathons in Pure Flows. I also tend to be a bad heel striker, I have tried and liked Newton Gravity’s as a means to help me focus on moving up onto my forefoot. From a cushioning perspective, I have now added Hoka’s into my rotation. I was skeptical about this shoe. Great cushioning and very lightweight, which I really like. So bulky does not necessarily mean heavy.

  8. Its awesome that you’ve figured out what works for you. I’ve learned that lighter shoes are better for me because they help me to midfoot strike rather than heel strike.
    I also think foam rolling and working with a knowledgeable chiropractor or PT have helped me with injuries.

  9. I wear different shoes for different runs. The only really “minimal” shoes I’ve had were my racing flats (now retired since I got hurt in them) and my Brooks Pureflow, which I mostly used for short mileage when I ran in them, but they are also now retired and i use them for the gym. There are so many shoe options now… even if someone likes a low drop like 8mm, you can find trainers like that. Maybe because I run more now, I pay more attention, but it seems like in the past few years, more options have come out in general. Hokas are really popular with my friends here and they love them. I think different things work for different people, too. Shoes are so tricky and I’ve gotten different evaluations at different stores and at different stages of my running “career”.

    I do think that yoga kept me injury free for a long time. It forced me to stretch and ironically, I took it up when I was injured and needed an activity to do. Plus it just makes me feel better and enjoy a more low-key workout some days 🙂

  10. You’ve actually changed my thinking a little on running hard a lot. I know I could probably find the same thing in a book perhaps, but seeing it in practise is inspirational…I’ve rarely seen this in practise. From being injured so many times, it’s a big deal to me to stay uninjured. Running frequently, and sticking to base-like mileage is starting to work for me too this year

    • Also, I’d be interested to know if or when you’d feel like the time will be right in your training to start incorporating some more aggressive speed work in again. I’m assuming that you’re not going to be training like this for the rest of your life, but rather in certain phases of your life (?). Perhaps a topic for another blog post.

      • Sure Mike! I don’t think I’ll ever be a runner that relies heavily on paces anymore. I think when I add speed work, it’s generally in the form of races but I do have a follow up idea for this post!

  11. I was wondering how soon you returned to running after your stress fracture? I’m 5 weeks of no running from a borderline reaction/fracture and will probably start up again soon. I was thinking of switching to a more neutral shoe since my injury’s in the upper tibia, but you’ve got me reconsidering! 🙂

    • I think you should get fitted for a pair of shoes that works for you. I personally recommend going to a local running store and have them looking at your gait!

      (That is where my SF was a few years ago, upper tibia). I slowly just added miles back. I ran once a week, to twice a week and eventually just building miles by about 10% for a while. It took me another two months to get back to the mileage I was beforehand. I also ran completely garmin free for 3 months and didn’t worry about pace!

      • Definitely a good idea to go to the running store! I’m also getting fitted for inserts tomorrow. I didn’t know you had the same injury…I also plan to start slow but had been worried 5 weeks wasn’t enough time. We’ll see I guess! Glad to see you recovered from it.

  12. Everything you said in this post is pretty much how I feel most days. I used to think I had to run hard to get fast. But then I’d get injured (probably a combination of factors – shoes + upping mileage too quickly, poor body mechanics). I took a lot of time off this winter to regroup mentally and physically and while I’m slower now than I was last year, I enjoy longer runs so much more. I know what a comfortable range is for me and I try to stick to that. While the plan I’m using now has speed workouts built in I’m not planning to go to the track – I ‘ll probably just build them in to my normal run on those days somehow.

    And as far as taking days off – I just took off 3 days in a row because I was utterly exhausted and last night I had one of the fastest runs I’ve had in a while. Go figure! 😉

  13. I actually prefer to run with pretty minimalistic shoes. Not that I do a tonne of running, but I have a pair of Glycerins that I’ve tried to run in and I just can’t do it… too heavy. I do draw a line at -too- minimalistic, though… I’m pretty sure I’d never be able to do Vibrams.

  14. Great advice! I have been injury free for almost all my years of running (16 years!) A good chunk of those years was spent just easy running and no racing, but still! I have been racing for about4 years and have only had to take about a week off for runners knee.
    The pace is interesting to me…right now I think I am running a little too much in what I call the gray area…not too hard but not easy either. My 1/2 PR is 1:32 (this was a totally flat course…recently I ran 1:37 on a totally hilly course!) and I have been doing a lot of my runs at a 7:55ish pace.
    I too wear heavier shoes…I have tried to switch a few times and I am not even quite sure why…but it doesn’t work for me. The lightest I can go is the Kinvara 5’s….I have done some training runs in them too…but I wouldn’t work for me to only run in them! I also take 1 day off a week. A runner who I really like just added an easy run to replace her day off per coaches instructions…I thought about doing it….but I am pretty sure my body would rebel 🙂

  15. So great that you have figured out what works best for you! I seem to run my best around 45 miles per week with some good solid speed work in. Right now I’m just trying to build my base to get my mileage a little higher and will start adding in some speed work next week! Racing definitely is a great way to get some speed in! I definitely agree with you about making rest a priority — It is crazy how much sleep can help. I also take a day or two or three off when I’m feeling weird aches and pains. I def need to have a date with my foam roller tonight!

  16. I’m currently coming out of the longest injury I’ve (I think) ever had, and it’s really causing me to reevaluate how I’ve done things in the past, especially with shoes. I totally bought into the light shoe craze and I don’t think my body could handle the mileage I was putting on. My podiatrist scolded me for wearing “racing flats” while training. Oops.
    So, from now on, cushion shoes, orthotics and slow miles! I’ve been incorporating tempo runs (one a week), and I think I will do some speed work closer to major races, but my main focus is to not wear my body out like before.

  17. Im super big on rest and recovery. When I take a day off it’s 100% off and that has helped me. And as far as shoes it really depends on the race distance. If it a half marathon or longer distance I train primarily in a heavier shoe but if it’s 5K based training I go with lighter shoes since my mileage and volume are less. For example right now the Brooks Pure Drift is my primary training shoe

  18. Running smart is so important to staying injury-free. My coach had a talk with me last week because I’ve been doing too many “fast” runs and deviating from the target paces. Now that I don’t have another race for a bit, I’m really trying to be diligent and follow instructions; it’s all about staying strong (read: injury free) for Nationals. And you know I have so many pairs of sneakers. It’s not even funny. 🙂

  19. I love the way you train and I did the same thing before I had a coach. You’re always smart about taking rest days when your body feels like it but you are disciplined enough to run longer and get enough mileage in.

    I wish I liked the Vomero more but they are a bit too stiff for me. The glycerins are SO nice and soft though. I love those for slower recovery days or second runs.

  20. I love this post and it has been sitting open in my iPad since you posted until I finally am sitting in the airport with free time to reply 🙂

    I think you have succeeded by finding a path that works for you, and maximizing what helps you and minimizing what doesn’t. You have goals, so figuring out what is going to get you there is important … and I applaud you for that. As you have shown through your posts recently, you are also being pretty honest with yourself, which is also important. I have seen too many people who say ‘I know what works for me’ followed by an injury.

    Personally I love lightweight shoes – and I have found that after switching to lightweights (Nike Free and now Saucony Kinvara and Virrata) my wear pattern has greatly improved, which is great. And as I have mentioned before, I am fortunate to be 25 years of running with no injury. Many of those years are at lower annual run volumes, and I have never (and will never) be a zoom-monster like you … but I am happy over the last few years with my pace and endurance improvements.

    Good for you again – and always listen first and foremost to your body before articles telling you what to do 🙂

  21. I ended up going with the Asics Kayanos after trying on a ton of shoes… I am hoping these help me stay injury free! I like bulky shoes, but that is because what I most used to running in 🙂

  22. Yummm yeah… as I read this and simultaneously ice my foot, I need to read this haha.

    I really do believe that regular “easy” miles are incredibly important. I have a bad habit of counting average runs as easy runs, and that’s simply not the same!

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