Some of this is pretty intensive. In football refereeing, the movements involved include: Walking, jogging, sprinting, running backwards, stepping sideways and combining them all together. This means that the body is under a lot of acceleration and deceleration load. Over recent times, I’ve experienced some knee pain which has been linked to these loads, with normal running not causing a problem. What’s going on?
Firstly, I did put on about 10 kilograms over the course of last season. This would not help at all! Thankfully, I am working on that, with over a stone of weight now lost as part of a strong healthy eating and exercise change of regime. I’m combining that with circuit training, in the form of CrossFit in order to build an overall stronger and more flexible body. My flexibility in particular is REALLY bad and this is always a big risk factor for sporting injury.
Secondly, how’s my equipment? As mentioned above, I’m okay with normal running, and have some excellent Saucony ‘Stability’ running shoes which have served me really well. No blisters and no pain. This is over a variety of ground from tarmac to grassland. I’ve experimented with various football boots to try and replicate this on the field, and my primary pair at the moment are the Asics Lethal Tigreor 3 ST boots. They have a raised heel which is said to help prevent load, injury and so on.
Am I missing a trick?
For CrossFit it is important to have neutral shoes when working with weights. I got a pair of Inov8 F-Lite 230 shoes, which look, well, exactly like this:
I LOVE THESE SHOES. They are incredibly lightweight, comfortable and breathable. Within moments, I was realising just how clunky and heavy my running shoes were.
Now, these notably don’t have a raised heel. This promotes ‘natural’ running. There’s a lot of material around of this, but ultimately it removes the heavy heel-strike action which is common with running shoes. Here’s a good video to detail it a bit more:
Now, I’m happy to go with neutral shoes rather than barefoot! I started out with a gentle 5k run on a treadmill. I deliberately started by heel-striking for comparison. As usual, there was a constant “THUD! THUD! THUD!” on the treadmill. I then shifted into a natural style, with my weight forward and landing on the ball of my foot. Instantly, the impact was MUCH reduced and, well, it felt more natural. I gently increased the speed throughout the workout, being sure to increase my cadence rather than thrusting my legs further out in front of me.
My calf muscles are still recovering (Nothing serious, just the expected levels of soreness). I am using muscles that I have not used when running before, due to the running shoes compensating. I am looking forward to developing this slowly over time: A controlled transition period is key or serious injury could occur.
How will this translate to football refereeing? Well, classic football boots are relatively neutral. Take the Adidas Copa Mundial, for example:
The heel is not particularly raised. These aren’t as flexible as my Inov8 trainers (not surprising: the boots need to hold the cleats in place) but I feel that the natural running principles are still sound. Weight forward, no heel striking, keep those feet landing under the body! Was just trying to raise my heel in different shoes and boots a crutch to avoid fixing my incorrect form?
It’s always exciting when taking the first step on a new journey, so it will be interested to see how this one goes!