I’ve been to (minimalist) Mecca

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella at Two Rivers Treads

In my ongoing full-time job that is called rehab, I once again trekked down to West Virginia to the Two Rivers Treads shoe store yesterday. Two Rivers is unique–the first running shoe store devoted 100 percent to minimalist shoes. The store is chock full of minimalist shoes, from street shoes to running shoes. Lots of traditional shoes as well, all cut open and dissected to show their overabundance of heel drop and cushioning. The store is owned by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, who hosted the “Re-Evolution of Running” panel discussion I attended a couple of weeks ago.

James, who led the natural running clinic

Dr. Mark is one of those rare souls whose heart is truly into helping others. His efforts are geared at educating the running public about traditional and minimalist footwear, along with helping runners learn to revamp their running style. All with the goal of keeping runners healthy and therefore happy. To that end, I worked with Mark and his co-worker  at the store, James Munnis, to learn better running technique.

It was enlightening and I came home with thoughts swirling around in my head. Clearly, this is going to be a one-step-at-a-time process. I can’t make all these changes at once. A few I will concentrate on, and that most people can benefit from:

  • Aiming for a cadence of 180 footstrikes/minute–for many people, this fix alone makes a world of difference*
  • Pushing my arms backwards more than forwards (hands stopping at the rib cage) to help prevent overstriding and help my feet follow suit
  • Keeping my head from bouncing up and down, this driving all my energy forward.
  • Strengthening my feet–they are a weak mess right now, which doesn’t help with the ability to single leg stance, which is what running essentially is.

Interestingly, when I went to see my PT today and go over all of his video analysis, it fell right in line with what I learned yesterday. Harmony in my treatment plan! My PT also timed my cadence today, once on the Alter G and once on a regular treadmill, and there was my 180. So no need to work on that, at least!

My path is now clear and I’ve “seen the light” about where my running needs to go. It’s a good feeling.

* Tomorrow I’ll show you some pics of the Alter G in action and give you the update on my PT session. A tiny bit of running is back in my life. Baby steps…

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  1. Matty O says

    My experience with this: http://mattheworavec.blogspot.com/2010/10/today-i-learned-how-to-float.html

    You read it back then haha, wonder if you remember it or not.

    Good luck. I really hope this is the trick. I have been experimenting on my own with the higher cadence, light foot fall, no heel strike and have had HUGE steps in the right direction.

    Last night we had agility with the pups and I was sprinting around the rink and my IT's flared up bad. So I have done enough messing around to state that my previous running style only adds to the problem.

    Please keep posting about this, I am taking notes :)

  2. drkgood says

    How do they recommend strengthening your feet and getting down the timing of your cadence to 180 when you are just training on your own?

  3. Angie says

    Thats so cool! I'd love to learn more about how those litle things can affect running. I'm also excited to see the Alter G in action pictures! I hope I can try it out sometime :)

  4. Jill says

    YAY YAY YAY!!!
    I'm curious if you bought any running shoes or given any recommendations? I talked to my podiatrist and he suggested minimalist, too, but not TOO minimal. He said my Brooks Launch were great…but I have a bit of pain with them sometimes.

  5. drkgood says

    Thanks for the input. My orthopedist told me I should never go barefoot, but I don't believe it. I'd rather strengthen my feet than rely on an insole. From doing TKD I understand the importance of strong feet. Thanks for your suggestions for building foot strength and counting cadence. I'll definitely work on those things as I start building up my training again.

  6. Jess @ Blonde Ponytail says

    Yeah! can't wait to see the pics of you on G!

    180 steps per minute?! Do you know where you were? I like the verbage you shared!

  7. C2Iowa says

    Good post. Since I started running – I have always kept track of my cadence. It falls right around 180 -187 depending upon my fitness level. Looking forward to the clip

  8. TRI714 says

    I have to agree with Kovas on the arm motion suggestion. I can't wait to try that. Head bobbing I know can be an issue of mine at times.

  9. kelly says

    cadence! such a great things. i haven't thought much of my arm swing. i probably run like an ape. glad you see light at the end of the tunnel! always a great, great thing!

  10. Marlene says

    LOL at full time job – so true!! It sounds like you have access to some really great resources and are taking full advantage. I hope this pays off for you!!!

  11. ShutUpandRun says

    Very cool tips. My PT talked to me a lot about the arm thing yesterday. I didn't realize how far my arms/hands were coming forward.

    I have a gait analysis tomorrow, so am interested to learn more there as well.

    Keep the info coming!

  12. Aimee says

    That store sounds so amazing! I wish there was a store like that here!
    I'm glad you have a plan and it's all falling into place! Yay!
    Did you get any shoes?

  13. Bill and Debra says

    Cool shoes at that store..I love the colors of the Newtons. Let us know what kind of shoes you got. I need to start back running.

  14. Paul says

    Super interesting place!

    – garmin has a foot pod attachment that I use to measure my cadence. I got my average from 78-80 at my long run pace (10:00) up to 85 (this is the same as 170 in your way of stating it) 90 seems hard for me at medium or slow paces. Do taller people get to be a bit slower?

    – Visual imagery I read about and try to use: imagine you have a glass wall right in front of you, moving with you, that your knees will hit if you go forward too far. Also imagine a glass ceiling above you that your head will hit if you bounce up too much.

    Hope I get a chance to visit that store someday!

  15. Jason says

    I am so happy for you. Every little bit helps and you are taking the right steps and precauations. Keep it going MissZ….can't wait to that day when you are crusin' down the street again!!!!

  16. Jeff - DangleTheCarrot says

    Sweet! Seems to be all coming together for you. You gotta have a sense of relief now that all the lines are being connected? gonna have to go test my cadence.

  17. P says

    I was going to ask you about counting your cadence, but thank goodness for Paul's comment above. Any excuse for new gear, right???
    I'm looking forward to testing out that arm-swing suggestion as well.

  18. Kate says

    I am happy to say I have literally 180 foot strikes/minute, on the dot! :) Woo hoo. I have one thing going for me.

    You and Angela (my partner) would get along. You two have the same philosophy and your attitude reminds me of hers.

  19. MCM Mama says

    Sounds like a really cool experience. I may have to figure out how to get up there and check it out. Can't wait to read more about the whole process.

  20. Michelle says

    Sounds like a great store. It's interesting that things you listed are very similar to the focuses emphasized in ChiRunning. I'm still watching and re-watching that DVD.

  21. Mark says

    Thanks Amanda for visiting and the kind words on the store and the customer service and teaching. Yes we are in this for the right reasons. We opened the store on a whim. We have started building events in our state to fight childhood obesity and build trails/gardens at schools. the events got too busy for a blackberry so we needed a HQ….thus the store. Having worked with running mechanics, injury prevention, research, and minimal footwaer design well before it became the "new" thing….logically we started the store in the correct model from the start-no heels on shoes! And as you saw we do not take ourselves too seriously and stress the fun. We are from West Virginia and heck its just running.

    Come visit again when you can trail run with us.
    Spring Half Marathon just announced http://www.harpersferryhalf.org May 14 (reg next week)
    http://www.raceforthebirds.org Apr 9
    http://www.freedomsrun.org Oct 1

    Mark Cucuzzella

  22. Richelle says

    Even before I started experimenting with new shoes, I upped my cadence to 180 and noticed that it made a huge difference. It's actually really easy to figure out: 3 steps per second.

    Now I have to do the other three things you suggested (change arm position, head position, and strengthening my feet)! :)

  23. Richelle says

    Oh… I have a couple questions for Mark, since he so graciously posted a comment. Does minimalist running work for someone who has flat feet (like me)? Wouldn't I need orthotics to support my arches?

  24. Chris K says

    So the one thing I am good at now is cadence. I can do 180 bpm like clockwork. It took a year, but once you get it, it sticks.

    I insist you immediately buy a little clip on metronome, set it to 180, and clip it onto your hat for every run. It's take awhile, but soon your footsteeps with completely match the beep,beep, beep of the metronome.

  25. Pretend this is real says

    One trick I've found for cadence is Podrunner. Podrunner has free 1 hr Podcasts (you can download from iTunes or on their webpage.) It's techno, which I know a lot of people don't like, but I find that it frees my mind from the music since there's no words and allows my mind to drift. The bonus is that your feet unconsciously start moving to the beat and fall into line. There are 3 at 180 cadence, at least until you can make your own mix to help you out. Enjoy!

  26. Silly Girl Running says

    This is so exciting! Thanks for sharing those tips for working on your natural running form!

    I hope to get a run in tonight, and will start couting if I get somewhere near that 180!

    And Yay on running back into your life! :)

  27. Mark says

    For Richelle on the question of supporting arches. go to our "footwear education" section (read all 8 chapters) of our site http://www.trtreads.org and the articles by rossi in the "running articles- footwear" section. arches are supported by their ends…think architecture. the arch was never meant to bear weight until we elevated heels- taking the center of mass away frow the heel mechanism which is meant to bear weight….thus your arch does not need "support" if the foot is strong and correct in position and function. if your intrinsic foot muscles are weak you must strengthen them. getting out of heel elevation shifts weight back to where is should be. it's pretty simple anatomy.


  28. Evolv Rose says

    Happy healing- hope that alter-G is working well for you. I'll have to look into this store for tips and advice- hopefully they ship!