Why do so many avid runners end up injured from this activity that they love so much?
This has been a question that I have been content to answer with something as simple as "don’t run". I really haven’t been much of a fan of running as a form of exercise given the number of injuries I’ve seen as a direct result of distance running.
Lately I’ve been thinking more about running….. There has to be a better way.
If the human body was designed to run, then we should be able to do it without getting injured.
The thought started when I looked at a picture of an American ultra-marathon runner in stride next to a Mexican Indian runner. I noticed that the American was wearing cushioned running shoes with his heel ready to hit the ground. The Mexican, in contrast, was wearing sandals (nothing more than leather soles tied to his feet)and in his very relaxed stride his foot was poised to strike the ground on his forefoot.
Which one was more efficient?
I found that there is a small movement of runners and scientists that are advocating a forefoot running style. The most prevalent of the bunch seems to be Dr. Nicolas Romanov’s "Pose Method" that teaches what appears to be a very efficient technique for distance runners. A google search on "forefoot running" will also yield a number of very interesting articles and debates.
My initial opinion is that the forefoot technique is a far better option for the body.
One of the best indicators in my mind is to take a look at the shoes:
A typical heel strike runner needs a heavily cushioned shoe that absorbs the shock of each stride and supports the muscles, joints and tendons of the foot.
The flatter,very flexible, lightly cushioned shoe of a forefoot runner (think of track shoes), allow the muscles, and joints of the foot to dissipate force and manage the load of each stride, utilizing the appropriate amount of muscle activation throughout the kinetic chain to actually adapt to the activity.
Bottom line, the foot works the way it was designed in conjunction with the body in a forefoot stride, while a heel strike stride utilizes the compensations of a shoe to make distance running possible.
As I have been playing with this myself, something else about a forefoot running technique that I have noticed….. It’s going to take more time to adapt to running long distances. The small muscles in the feet and lower legs need to be strengthened and thus, won’t allow for putting in much more distance than you are ready for. This more gradual addition of volume should prove more appropriate for the body and keep the process injury free.
Perhaps we simply need to take the time to learn the right way for each of our bodies to run. Running is one of the few activities that we tend to be pushed into practicing with more and more volume over a lifetime, without ever getting any coaching or instruction on doing it right. Practice does not necessarily make perfect.
This may be more of a question than an answer at this point, but take some time to think about it. There may be a way to run for a lifetime without pain or injury.
Let me know what you think.