As we “comfortably” situate ourselves into the off-season, reducing our training mileage and racing, this is an ideal time to work on balance and form. A runner will typically average 1,200 steps a mile on one foot. And the gravity force on the body structure is 2.5 times the body weight with each step in the mid-stance phase of gait, no matter if you are running in perfect Kenyan style or in the heel-strike-jogging pattern.
Stabilizing yourself in mid-stance then becomes the essential task for healthy running. Moreover, stability, balance, and strength on one foot is even more critical when transitioning to more minimal shoes which do not control the foot. So how do we get better at this? First, try this simple test used by running form guru Jay Dicharry of University of Virginia‘s Center for Endurance Sport. (Note: this test appeared last summer here, but it’s worth repeating.)
The test: Stand on a flat surface with your hands on your hips and your weight on one foot. Get a friend to watch you as you hold that position for 30 seconds. Have them see if you can maintain that with all your toes on the ground, and without raising the inside of the foot. Test the other leg. Then take a break, and do it again with your eyes closed.
If the inside of your foot and big toe come up off the ground, you use your trunk a lot to maintain balance, or you fall, that suggests that you don’t have good control of the muscles in your feet (yet), and need to do some work before you remove your shoes.
“The easy thing is that if you fail the test, the test becomes the exercise,” says Dicharry. ―Do it as often as you can– while you’re brushing your teeth, while you’re barbecuing, while you’re drinking a beer. When that gets easy, do it with your eyes closed. It’s better to do it 20 times a day for 30 seconds than for 5 minutes once a week.”
Another thing you might want to do is ditch the chair and get a stand-up desk. Many of us spend hours a day sitting in front of a computer at work and at home. Why not stand while doing your work or answering emails? Take your shoes off when you do this for even greater benefit. There is growing medical evidence that the massive amount of time one spends sitting is negative for one‘s overall health, so yet another reason to get out of the chair.