Thursday, February 09, 2012

Running Without Injury

I used to have a horrible running style. I'd land heavy on my heal with each step, jarring my whole body. By age 12, I had bad knee problems and had to quit jogging.

Susanah Baker writes:

For those of you who have been following the barefoot and minimalist shoes debate, the recently published research by theHarvard ‘barefoot’ team led by Daniel Lieberman adds weight to the argument that what matters most in preventing injury is how you are running rather than what if anything you are wearing on your feet.  
In their latest published research Foot Strike and Injury Rates in Endurance Runners: a retrospective study the team from Harvard did a retrospective study to test whether runners who habitually forefoot strike have different rates of injury than runners who habitually rearfoot strike.  They concluded that runners who habitually rearfoot strike have significantly higher rates of repetitive stress injury than those who mostly forefoot strike. But they also found that some runners were fine with a rearfoot strike, while others were injured with a forefoot strike.   The team “predict that these runners have better form than those who do get injured: they probably land with less overstride and more compliant limbs that generate less severe impact loading (…). These predictions are supported by several recent studies, and they emphasize the hypothesis that running style is probably a more important determinant of injury than footwear (with the caveat that footwear probably influences one’s running style)”
This research certainly backs up much of the theory that Malcolm Balk aims to put into practice during his Art of Running workshops.  Applying the principles of the Alexander Technique helps runners to achieve the ease and efficiency of movement needed to prevent injury. 
There certainly seems to be a good case for using barefoot running or minimalist shoes as a way of improving one’s running style and to overcome nagging injuries which can often be caused by a heavy heel strike action.  But looking to these as a panacea is not the best way forward.  Instead the focus should be on running form.