For as long as I can remember, I have taken part in sports on some level. Swimming is my first love and go-to-sport for fitness or relaxation. Running on the other hand was never on my radar. In fact, for many years I was very vocal about the negative impact running has on one’s body, knees, joints and every internal organ, at least that was my opinion. My experience with the sport was that of pain, discomfort and constant jarring.
As I grew up, became a mom and met new people, I was encouraged by friends and family members to try run a little – just as a social thing. My friends were big runners, running marathons and multi day trail races. I could barely make 500m without hurting – but I persevered. Slowly my distances without pain improved and very quickly I could comfortably run 5km and the bug bit. I entered my first half marathon which happened to be the Great Wall Marathon in China.
As I started to train for this, my biggest challenge in the sporting world at the time, increasing my distances and frequency of my runs began to hurt my body and my muscles tighten up. I continued to train through the pain as I had a goal in mind. The pain persisted and increased despite regular stretching and foam rolling.
Most of all, I had pain in my lower back – which I was told by fellow runners was due to a weak core; unlikely as I spend three days a week in the gym strengthening and building my core. My knees hurt through the knee cap, my ITB started to tighten, my glutes screamed in pain and kept me awake at night, my adductor muscles hurt from my knees all the way into my groin and the pain behind my knees was excruciating. I developed shin splints, a tight Achilles tendon and soleus, collapsing arches and plantar fasciitis.
In a nutshell, I was falling apart and an injury was waiting to happen. Fortunately, I did not sustain any big or lasting injuries as a result of all these niggles.
I went to China, ran my half marathon and returned home. I decided to go back to my first love, swimming and the pains began to subside. Then my swimming coach encouraged me to enter the Ironman 70.3 with her. The training began, 5 – 7 days a week for six months. As the running distances started to increase so my old pains and niggles began to resurface.
I visited a Bio kineticist who assessed and corrected my running style through 5 months of intense therapy and rehab – still the pain persisted. I became heavily reliant on my Chiropractor as he proved to be the only one who could offer some release and relief to my problems. Ultimately, I was advised to listen to my body and rest as this was the only way to prevent injuries.
Through all of this I will say that I invested, from the very beginning, in a well-known and reputable brand of running shoe. It was properly fitted and should not have been the cause of my woes.
I competed in my first 70.3 event and then went on to enter another having resigned myself to the fact that if I were to take part in sports, pain was part of the equation.
Enter ON Running
Our business partner called a meeting one day to introduce a new athletic shoe that was taking Europe and the professional sporting arena, particularly triathlon by storm. In a few short years, it had begun to take away significant market share from its competitors in Europe. He suggested we all try the shoe. I was reticent and, given my history, did not want to try a shoe that I had never heard of and quite frankly did look a little odd. I was worried that I would hurt myself for good.
I caved in and took home a sample to try. It took me several months to put on the shoes and take them for a short 5km trial run. What I experienced blew me away from the first few 100 metres I ran.
Each style of ON has several “cloud bubbles” on the soles of the shoes whilst the inner sole is hard. My initial impression was that it felt like I was walking barefoot. Very different to the insole cushioning, memory foam and support that other leading brands offer. The individual bubbles absorb the impact of the landing both vertically and horizontally, thus stabilising the athlete in a unique way. Upon landing, the bubbles compress and so the launch or push off is the equivalent to launching off a hard surface. No energy transfer is lost in foams or gels, thus the launching energy and power is transferred directly through the sole of the shoe to the runner. Stability of the tendons, muscles and ankles is improved.
My first run was a short 5km at my usual comfortable average pace. Here is what I noticed:
The shoes are so light, I felt as though I was running barefoot. The sensation of the landing and launching off the road surface gave the sensation of being pushed along, so my steps seemed to be coming quicker (my post run stats on my running watch confirmed that my average pace had gone from 6min/km to 5:15min/km without any additional effort on my part). I was very aware of my glutes, hamstrings and quads working with no strain or effort on my soleus muscles. At one point I became aware of my foot arches – they had started to go back into their normal (lazy) habit of collapsing as I got further into my run. The bad habit was very noticeable as the shoe, upon landing, was behaving differently. Having been through the rehab and training with the Bio kineticist, I was able to instantly correct the problem and continue running.
The result: no burning shins. My regular knee pain did not make a re-appearance. I did not experience the usual hot spot on the balls of my feet that I have become accustomed to in my regular running shoes.
The following day I went for a longer 12km run with the same shoes to see how I would fare. The shoes felt even better than the day before and I settled comfortably into my run. My average pace, although I was not trying to run faster, improved by 1min/km from 6mins/km to 5mins/km. At the end of my run my feet felt light and relaxed and so did my calves and ankles.
Having done 2 runs on consecutive days (unheard of for me) I woke on the third morning expecting the usual adductor and groin pain. I was surprised to find it was not there. Furthermore, I did not need to do my usual calf stretch to wake up and get my calves comfortable. I did find my medial glutes were a little stiff as were my quads and hamstrings. These muscles had not been used this effectively in a run before so I suppose lactic acid build up was normal and to be expected.
After a few more runs I found that despite the increasing distances and frequency of my runs, my calves, the tendons in my feet and ankles were not tight and my shins were not inflamed or painful. The ultimate prize was that my Achilles tendon did not, and I will add has not, tightened or presented its usual niggles since I have been running in ON.
I will say that I do stretch on a fairly regular basis but not after every work out session. My muscles are usually tight after a long run but I have not experienced any of the usual pain and discomfort that I was experiencing from running in the past. I also notice that with my glutes and quads being activated during my sessions I am more aware of my core, I can keep it activated and as a result do not have the lower back and hip pain of the past.
I walk on a regular basis with a good friend. Our walks are a good way to maintain our heart rates at a low intensity while catching up on our news. On one of these summer morning walks, I decided to wear my “other” running shoes as I had only run 30km in them and they were essentially new. I saw no reason to throw them out just yet and thought they would make good walking shoes. The difference to my now favoured ON’s was amazing. Whilst the walk was uneventful, I noticed when I got home and took my shoes off that my ankles were a little puffy. My foot arches also felt tender, but I did not give it much thought. The following morning was a whole different ball game. As I got out of bed and put my feet on the floor the tightness and discomfort in both my foot arches and ankles, as well as the ligaments, made it very painful to walk. Obviously, as I took several more steps gingerly, things loosened up but I realized I had not experienced this discomfort since I had started running in ON.
In the months following my first tentative trial run, I have tried out 4 different styles of ON. I have found them all to be comfortable and great performance shoes in their own way. My chiropractor is seeing far less of me these days too. It will take a lot to convince me to change from my ON’s. I am totally convinced and sold on the idea that ON is the best running shoe for me.
Artivle by: Ioanna Zografos