I got to take part in the most amazing event last night. About an hour and a half away from here, a group of running specialists gathered for a panel discussion titled “The Re-evolution of Running.” This was a true who’s who in the world of minimalistic approaches to running. More than anything, these guys want to get to the root cause of running injuries and figure out how to prevent them.
I might have been more than a little intrigued before going. And I left with my mind bursting with new information I can’t wait to put into practice.
Among the gathered group was Danny Dreyer, the inventor of chi running; Dr. Daniel Kulund, who opened the very first runner’s clinic back in the ’70s and was likely the first guy to think of water running for injured runners; Dr. Craig Richards, all the way from Australia and one of the world’s leading researchers on running injuries and footwear; and stud of all studs Ian Adamson, another Aussie who just happened to win EcoChallenge a million or so times. There were also several other doctors and PTs, and the whole thing was moderated by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, who owns the Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking.
There was far too much information presented for me to cover it all in one post (or ever!) but here are some of my take-away points:
- We start shaping our feet via shoes by the age of 1 1/2 or 2. If you look at a kid’s foot, chances are their toes are easily splayed. Look at the typical adult’s foot that has been encased in shoes for years on end, and you’ll find something quite different (like my “stuck together” toes)
- These splayed toes give your body a wider landing field. Landing on your heel, which is a small target, leads to more impact on your body.
- The keys to decreasing injury are to first be conservative in your mileage progression; then consider simpler shoes (or bare feet) to decrease the interference between the foot and the ground; and then learn to run in a fashion that decreases the stress on your body–think a cadence of 170 to 190 steps per minute.
- There’s no conclusive evidence that the traditional shoe models (motion control; stability, etc.) reduce injuries, nor is there conclusive evidence that the minimalist approach is better, yet. But Richards thinks it’s worth considering what effect any given shoe might have on injury rates.
- Kulund sees the future of running as a sport that incorporates both the miles as well as dynamic strength work to help prevent injuries.
- We are doing our kids a disservice by encasing their feet in big clunky athletic shoes.
- If you want to wake up long dormant muscles in your feet, your best bet is to walk around barefoot outside–moving over rocks and other objects help strengthen and condition your feet back to a more natural state.
- If you want to go all the way to barefoot running, you must have patience. To do it safely could take the better part of a year or more. Richards advised that if you weren’t willing to put in the time, don’t even bother getting started.
This is just scratching the surface for now. What I liked is that these guys are not zealots about going more minimal with shoe wear. In fact, Richards advice was that, if you’ve been running without injury in a regular running shoe for years, why change it? But if you are confident that you safely progress your mileage and yet you continually get injured (that would be me), it may be time to consider a different approach.
My son and I made a trip to the local shoe store today. Guess what we bought?