Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mid-foot running, what used to be right is wrong

Coffee bad good, land on your mid-foot heel
Today's run (street): 3.25 miles

There are some things that are constantly reported by the media in terms of safety and/or health benefits. Coffee is one. Years ago I read that consumption of coffee is tied to nervous system impairment and hyper-stimulation of the adrenal glands. Recent studies now position it as a super-food with minimum health risks related to the over-consumption of caffeine.

Another subject is barefoot-style running. Back in the olden days (pre-80's), running shoes were minimal in design and people suffered injuries when running. The answer to that was generation after generation of over-built and highly cushioned running shoes with corrective technology to control pronation. But the injury rate remained exactly the same.

Following studies at Harvard University and publication of the book Born to Run, minimal shoe design returned to the marketplace and an emphasis was put on mid-foot landing and "natural" running style. These shoes have captured almost 10% of the market and I'll admit that I've bought into it as well.

Today, the New York Times published an article in their Well blog, with research supporting heel striking as the "more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin." What!?? I was very surprised to read this, because the minimalist approach seems more logical. Why wouldn't a shoe that supports a bio-mechanically correct stride be the better choice?

According to the studies, heel striking seems to facilitate more efficient energy expenditure. This is the opposite from everything I've read before about the subject. I'm not sure what to do with this new information. I'll probably continue to use lighter, flatter and more minimally constructed running shoes because I prefer them. Besides that, despite all my efforts to run with an efficient mid-foot stride, my outsoles still show quite a bit of heel wear.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting commentary here -- I suspect that the true answer in running form is the same conclusion that one would arrive at in anything...and that is: it all depends. Depends on what? Depends on the individual. For me - a mid-foot strike is best and Saucony Ride 3s are the shoe that seems to keep me healthy. For you it might be a minimalist shoe and a forefoot strike - for another person it might be a heel-strike (even some of the elites have a slight heel-strike).

    I think people get in the most trouble when they try to change what's natural to their specific body. IMHO there should be much more of an emphasis in finding what's right for you individually than trying to prescribe something that's best for everybody. Every body is different and thus every runner needs to find out what combination of shoes and form keeps them going. Just my two cents anyway.

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    Replies
    1. That's the key point about a natural stride - natural has a different definition depending on the person.

      I've never felt right in cushioned trainers because the height inhibits my natural motion. The move to lower/flatter platforms and lighter shoes, with a focus on the mid-foot, is the combination that works best for me.

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