Thursday, July 26, 2012

HEEL PAIN STAT-O-RAMA

Do you like numbers? Statistical breakdowns? If so, you're going to LOVE this post. If not, put on some goggles and a nose plug, because your head is about to swim.

Unless you're new to this blog, you know the battle I've been having with my right heel for over two years now. I won't get into the causes or just what's going on with it (I've bludgeoned that horse already), but it has affected my running in a huge way, unfortunately.

Being a stats geek, I finally did a little numerical study on what types of shoes—and runs—may be aggravating my heel and Achilles the most.

I'm obviously not a statistician, but I had to do this study for my own peace of mind.

The conclusion? Hold onto your sweaty sidesplit running shorts...

First, let me say that I've been rating my heel pain during each run ever since my injury first hit me in late May of 2010. I use a 0-5 scale; zero meaning no hint of pain, five meaning excruciating pain (fortunately I've never recorded a five. A few fours, but never a five).

SHOES
Since my recent acquisition of a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12's, I now have four active pairs of running shoes. I've run in the Adrenalines 6 times, so I ran the numbers on the 6 most recent runs in each pair of shoes:


Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12 - 28.8 mi - 9:45/mi avg - 1.33/run heel pain
Brooks Launch                 - 23.6 mi - 8:00/mi avg - 1.00/run heel pain
Brooks Defyance 3           - 25.2 mi - 10:11/mi avg - 1.00/run heel pain
Brooks Ghost 4               - 26.3 mi - 9:49/mi avg - 1.25/run heel pain

Conclusion? I'm not sure there's a big enough spread in average heel pain to draw much of a conclusion.

Since I've worn three pair of shoes in my training for several more runs than the Adrenalines, I ran the full numbers on them (part of 2011 and all of 2012 so far):

Brooks Launch                 - 55.3 mi   - 8:10/mi avg - 0.45/run heel pain
Brooks Defyance 3           - 170.7 mi - 9:17/mi avg - 0.73/run heel pain
Brooks Ghost 4               - 85.1 mi   - 9:31/mi avg - 0.71/run heel pain

Hmm. It looks like the overall heel pain is lower if I go back far enough. What surprised me was the fact that the lightest, least supportive shoe (Launch) has given me the least amount of heel pain, at least based on this sample.

Since there wasn't enough data variance to say, "Aha! I'll just stop wearing THAT shoe," I decided to track the types of runs I've done (all of 2011+2012 to-date):

Easy        - 118 runs - 0.69/run heel pain
Tempo     - 13 runs   - 0.85/run heel pain 
Interval   - 21 runs   - 0.76/run heel pain
Race       - 9 runs     - 0.33/run heel pain
5+ mi.    - 9 runs     - 1.22/run heel pain

Anything shocking and/or definitive here? What's shocking to me is that racing doesn't seem to hurt my heel! At least not the short 5k races I've been doing. So I think I've solved the problem here. I'll limit all of my running to races only. Thanks for playing along at home.

;-) Seriously, I'm assuming that race-day adrenaline plays a part in that number. As a side note, all races were run while wearing the Launches.

What does stand out somewhat (based on an admittedly small sample) is what I already suspected. Long(ish) runs hurt the heel more than shorter runs. It does surprise me, though, that the tempo and interval running pain numbers aren't higher.

How about the higher pain entries? Fortunately, I haven't gone over a 3 since late 2010. Here's how my 3's and 2's look:

3/5 - 6 runs - 100% easy runs
2/5 - 15 runs - 9 easy, 4 interval, 2 tempo

Well, that didn't help much, did it? It's interesting that all of my 3's were during easy runs.

Now...for the disclaimer that may make these numbers less relevant than they already may be. I don't track the heel pain I may feel the evening after a run, on an off day, or the day or two after a race. The numbers ONLY reflect how my heel feels during each run. I also didn't run the numbers on back-to-back (or more) runs, but there honestly haven't been many of them the past couple of years.

Also, let me throw this out there. The heel pain numbers may be a tad subjective to begin with. If I had an otherwise excellent run, but had some heel pain, that number may have been a tad lower in my mind. On the flip side, if the run was horrible, but the heel didn't feel too bad, I may have bumped the pain number up unintentionally. I don't think I let any bias affect my numbers, but I can't promise that.

How will these results affect my running? I plan to nix the over 5 mile runs for the time being. I'm also ready, after 10 weeks of it, to give the Zone 2 heart rate training a rest. I'd like to include a tempo and an interval day every week in an attempt to boost my speed just a little. I think I may also wear my Brooks Launches a bit more than I have been ;-)

Okay, you can de-glaze your eyes and stop yawning...

7 comments:

  1. interesting stuff actually. I'm a numbers guy myself. It's tough to decipher based on a subjective feeling but it does seem like the launch may be the best choice for now. Some testing to prove it would be best, i.e. more samples to pull from with those shoes.

    One thing that is somewhat clear is that running faster may actually be helping your ankle. I think it comes to down to running form, the faster you are, the less you land on the heel, hence less stress on it. Just my two cents.

    I'd also like to know if you actively do form drills? (skipping, high knees, cariocoa, fast feet...)

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  2. I'm a stats geek myself and loved this! Where's the graphs? :) Interesting what one find in stats. I love looking at trends and over the years my running produced some interesting ones.

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  3. Great post Colin. I love the numbers too. It must be a guy thing. I agree with Ron as I tend to be a forefoot runner for races and speedwork and a plodding heel striker on easy runs. To do an Analysis of Variance table you have a 4x5 matrix. You have 4 different shoes and 5 different running speeds or styles. Set up a table each row is shoe and each column is a speed. You should have equal amounts of data for each square. For example 5 interval runs in Launch and 5 interval runs in Defyance etc

    I would almost guess that the Launch is your preferred speed shoe from the average speed.

    It is also hard to do a blind test when you are the one picking the shoe to wear and running in them. You would almost have to have someone pick your shoes and you pick the run type for that day independently of each other.

    I would be interested to see this is in table form as your bias towards some shoes may be more apparent

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  5. Replies
    1. Nice information Colin. I hope I'll be able to read posts as informative as this next time I visit. Thanks for this.

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