But the calf (and hamstring) niggles continued—less significant than before but still noticeable. And I could tell that something was still off a bit about my stride; maybe it was a bit uneven. There were a couple of diagnoses that happened rapidly in sequence that provided the next set of clues as to where to focus.
First, my chiropractor evaluated my big toe mobility and was "shocked" at the lack thereof. Shortly after that, the massage therapist at his practice commented on the lack of mobility in my right ankle. Both these issues are probably injury-related—I spent much of my senior soccer season in high school playing on a sprained right ankle—and I'd never taken any steps to address them. Protecting my right calf/Achilles from excessive flexion during the 2012 season probably compounded the issue.
So the final (for now) efforts foucsed on increasing both the range of motion and neuromuscular control in my foot and ankle through strength and mobility work. (I go into this more in a post on proprioception and ankle dorsiflexion on Runblogger.) I combined this work with a form thought from Caleb Masland about "toe up, toe off"—in other words, dorsiflexing the ankle when the foot is in the air to create the opportunity for an elastic rebound and good toe-off during your stride.
It was this final thought that seemed to seal the deal on moving to a midfoot strike. Such a pattern was abundantly clear during a recent tempo run, where the uptempo portion (around lactate threshold pace) was clearly run on the midfoot (or even forefoot) with my heel barely touching the ground, if at all. It wasn't a conscious effort on how the foot landed that caused this, but all the work done in the past and the final "toe up, toe off" thought. I can't guarantee that I'm a midfoot striker every time I head out—nor do I feel one needs to be—but certainly the tendency is now there at any effort that is marathon pace or faster.
And the calf pain has completely disappeared (save for the occasional odd twinge when I land funny during non-running activities). I noticed a bit of slowing in my workout pacing initially, perhaps due to a little bit of inefficiency in working with the new midfoot or forefoot strike. But I'll gladly take the tradeoff of no pain and, hopefully, reduced ongoing injury risk. And I look forward to jumping at the opportunity to move to even more of a minimalist running shoe this year with a greater degree of confidence.
This article originally appeared on Predawn Runner.Sign up for your next race.