Showing posts with label running shoes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label running shoes. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How to Run Injury-Free

In our previous article on running safety, Are Running Shoes Killing your Feet?, we revealed new research that challenges some long-held ideas about preventing running injuries. These new ideas are changing the way running shoes are made and altering the way running coaches help those who are training to run.

Born to Run - The Minimalist Shoe Movement

After reading, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, I started noticing that runners were talking about or looking for a more lightweight, minimalist running shoe. I wanted to find out more about this type of shoe.

running form
The minimalist shoe is like running
barefoot and is the newest
revolution in running shoes.
What is a minimalist shoe? Basically, it's a shoe that, by design, attempts to stay out of the way of what your running would be like without the assistance of a running shoe. So, it's a shoe that mimics as closely as possible what it would be like to run barefoot.

Common running shoes that most of us are familiar with are more structured running shoes and they are made to control or stabilize the foot and ankle and substantially cushion impact forces. This style of shoe might be the right solution for some runners. But as research presented in our previous article, Are Running Shoes Killing Your Feet, revealed, many runners may be better off with a simpler shoe, or possibly even running barefoot. Why? Because not all runners run the same way.

One of the problems with the traditional running shoe is that it's design virtually forces a heel-strike-first style of running. The traditional running shoe has extra bulk and height built into the heel of shoe. The thought was that runners would reduce injuries if there was more cushioning between the heel and the road. The problem is that many studies seem to indicate that those who “heel-strike” – landing heel first, then rocking forward to the rest of the foot when running – have a greater likelihood or frequency of injury than those whose initial strike is the forefoot or mid-foot.
A 2012 study performed by Lieberman and colleagues, Foot Strike and injury rates in endurance runners, Medical Science Sports Exercise, revealed that competitive cross country runners who run heel first experienced a marked increase in injury rates, compared to those who have a forefoot strike. Other studies support this including Physiological and ergonomics factors in running shoe design, reported in Applied Ergonomics.

In the study Foot strike patterns of recreational and sub-elite runners in a long-distance road race reported in Journal of Sports Sciences 2011, stated that the majority of elite runners – those with the most experience and running faster – are forefoot strikers, rather than heel-first.

Choosing a shoe with a less built-up heel will allow you to adapt to a style of running that gives your heel a break, and allows you to run in a way that lets your foot land under your center of gravity, which most running coaches consider ideal.

Should you change the kind of running shoes you wear?

Possibly, but this is a decision that should be based on how you run and what you want to get out of running. While most elite runners land initially more to the front or middle of their foot, rather than heel first, a few elite runners do land heel first. The fact is that foot shape, size, leg length, body weight, body form, body posture, and bone density differ from one runner to the next. So one shoe style or running form does not fit all runners.

So before you change shoes, consider this; as the expression goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Are you experiencing pain (such as shin splints, forefoot or heal pain, etc.) in your current running shoes? If not, then why switch? But if you are in pain or getting injured, then perhaps it's time to go to a reputable running shoe store or join a local running club for running tips or advice on a running shoe that might be better suited for you. Running clubs and running stores are both good sources for running training or running tips, as well as where to find the best local running trails and running routes.

Be open to trying something different. New forms and new shoe styles may feel foreign, and will take a period of adjustment. But in the end, if you are running pain free and injury free, you will enjoy it more and you will have better endurance and a better experience.

Whether you are a running beginner or into marathon running, these are a couple of my favorite sources for running information.
  • - A guide to minimalist running shoes and other advice for runners.
  • Science of Running - A blog by Steve Magness, Head Cross Country coach at University of Houston.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Are Running Shoes Killing your Feet?

If you are a runner who suffers from running injuries, it's possible that your shoes could be at fault, no matter how fancy or expensive they are. In fact, some research even suggests that the more expensive the shoe, the more frequent the injuries. The research suggests that athletic shoe manufacturers may have been "getting it wrong" for years – designing running shoes that, though intended to reduce running injuries, may have in fact increased injuries.

Before starting running, or before you go another painful step with your current running program, pay attention to this recent data. You may save yourself from injury.

Running Benefits vs. Running Injuries

In recent years, an increasing amount of data is changing the way that running shoes are built, largely in response to a growing demand for a more minimalist style of shoe. One of the initial drivers in this change toward less structured, more minimalist shoes was Christopher McDougall's research suggesting that human beings are physiologically designed for running.

McDougall's search to find a way to run with less pain and injury became an actual journey around the globe, leading him to discover that:
  • There is little evidence that running shoes prevent injuries.
  • Some of the world's greatest modern-day runners run barefoot, or run with little more than a rudimentary  pair of sandals.
  • Though running shoes (shoes that are specifically designed for running) have only been a part of our running for less than a hundred years, long distance running has been a part of human history for thousands of years.

starting running
The style of running shoe you choose may
increase the likelihood of injury
Equally compelling is the information McDougall shares regarding how running shoes have changed in the last 50 or so years, going from the simple racing flats and other simple-soled designs to heavily designed/structured marvels of engineering, but that these changes have not reduced running injuries.

Insider Medicine reported that more expensive running shoes do not guarantee a decrease in the likelihood of injuries to the feet, legs or knees. In some cases, lower end shoes actually reported fewer injuries than higher priced sneakers.

Many people think that the more they spend for something, the better the quality. We have this perception for many things, not just for running shoes. But high price does not always equal superior quality. There may also be truth to the thinking that running in shoes that have more cushioning could cause a runner to be careless because they think they have better protection.

The bare-naked truth about running

As radical as this study sounds, do not immediately chuck your $140 running shoes and head out for a pair of discount store shoes. Other equally startling studies seem to indicate that your chances of avoiding running injuries and your chances of improving your running abilities or performance increase if you train with no shoes at all.

In SPORTSCIENCE, a peer-reviewed journal, physiotherapist Michael Warburton suggests that wearing running shoes reduces running performance and increases the risk of injury.  Even more surprising is what Warburton suggests is the better option:  Running barefoot.

And indeed, several internationally renowned athletes have competed barefoot, running races with great success and no shoes. This includes South Africa’s  Zola Budd-Pieterse, an Olympic record holder, and Ethiopian Abebe Bikila, the first African to win a gold medal who also became the first person in history to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the marathon. I recommend the movie, The Athlete, about Abebe Bikila to find out more about barefoot running.

Barefoot running:  Sounds crazy, right?  Before you write this off as being a solution just in countries or cultures where walking and running barefoot is the norm, and thus couldn’t apply to U.S. running, you should know that Warburton cites several studies in his report which collectively indicate that acute and chronic injuries in countries where barefoot and shod populations co-exist, such as in Haiti, the rate of lower extremity injuries are substantially higher in the shoe-wearing portion of the population.

You may be wondering then, is it safe to run in running shoes at all? It can be. In our next article on running safety, we’ll look more closely at how you can significantly reduce your risk of a running injury, rather than ditching running altogether.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer