Monday, May 9, 2011

Safe Running

The modern running shoe, as we know it today, wasn't prevalent until the 1970's. With thick padding, heel cushioning, and ever-changing custom fits & forms, the style in which humans run now is extremely different, and more dangerous, than how we did prior to the modern running shoe.

It seems like common sense would tell you extra cushioning and padding would protect our muscles and feet from any impending injuries, correct? No.  In fact, when the modern running shoe became popular, running injuries sky-rocketed. With heel padding, 99% of us do what is called a heel strike run.  We extend our leg, flex our foot toward our shin and allow our heel to absorb the impact.  This is like taking a hammer and slamming it against your heel with about 3x your body weight (or even up to 10x).  No amount of cushioning will protect your achilles tendon, shins, and knees from that kind of force.  Are you 135 pounds? That's over 400 pounds of force on a 3 inch area on your foot.  This is what most of us look like:

Now, take off your shoes, run down the road, and tell me the difference.  Can't do that right now? Let me show you what would happen:

Do you see the difference in the foot landing? Your body reacts to the lack of protection and compensates.  Instead of landing on your heel, you use rotational force by landing mid/fore-foot and then transfer the force back to your heel.  The whole foot is utilized to absorb the impact by rotating it.  You ever see a stunt man jump from the 4th story of a building and safely land directly on his feet?  No.  They transfer the impact to the whole body by bending the legs for cushion, duck and then roll their body across the ground.

Now, am I saying take off your shoes and go completely barefoot. No.  I won't even do that.  I'll probably step on a nail, come crying to Mike, and he'll just call me a clutz, like always. What I will tell you is that you must practice proper running form.  This alone, even with a modern running shoe, can reduce injuries to almost zero.  If you dare, try out a minimalist running shoe.  They simulate barefoot running but provide protection from the elements.  They have a zero mm heel to toe drop (meaning there is no incline from the toes to the heel.  No cushioning).  They are essentially made for protection from the elements, and no other reason.  Forget what you normally look for in a running shoe (lots of padding, comfort, huge heel, and go for something that will be safe for your body.  I bought a pair of Merrell Pace Glove shoes, practiced a proper mid-foot landing, and have seen a huge differenceform and subsequently, felt all my pain go away. There's an extremely thin sole and a quick-drying mesh material to surround your foot.  And no, I don't wear socks either, but the shoes are so well made that I do not get blisters. With my old shoes, I dealt with terrible shin splints (as some of you may have read not to long ago) that lasted for weeks, keeping me from running.

The most popular shoe that you probably recognize is the Vibram Five Finger shoes.  Again, they provide the protection your foot needs from the whether and terrain, but has zero padding, incline, and allows you to run the way you would without a traditional running sneaker.  Personally, I couldn't pull the look off and I wanted something I could wear every day without getting the crazy stares, which is why I went with the Merrell Pace glove (which has a Vibram sole).

Here's to safe running, proper form, and no further injuries!

1 comment:

  1. totally cool ~ I adapted my strike through a strategy of increasing my cadence (I strike between 180-190 times each minute) and shortening my stride. Interestingly enough, doing this has lead to an increase in "free speed", meaning, I don't work as hard, but I go faster. Not that everyone who runs is into running fast, certainly, the ultra marathoners are more concerned about going for a long time rather than going for speed, per say. Check out the blog runrichmond ~ He wrote a great post about barefooting and linked a site with drills that will change your form (which you've already started the process, it sounds like). Still, the drills are cool, and the guy who does the vid is lovely to listen to...