Here are a few of our favorite "Frequently Asked Questions" about natural running and making the transition to being a more efficient, injury free natural runner.
Q: "Don't I need the arch support in a running shoe to be able to run?"
A: No. That is what your feet are for.
Q: "So I got the land on your forefoot thing, but man are my calves sore. What is the deal with that?"
A: It's not uncommon to experience soreness. There can be a number of causes related to training or terrain, but we'll address the culprits specific to making a "natural running" adjustment.
Traditional running shoes (even racing flats) have an elevated heel compared to the forefoot. This differential (typically 12-15mm) can be even greater if foam under the forefoot becomes compressed. After a lifetime in shoes with a raised heel, most people have a calf and/or achilles that is artificially shortened. Some of the soreness results in the body adjusting to its natural state.
Perhaps the more common culprit is the action of pushing off to generate momentum. Most people land with their heel (ouch) creating a braking motion, then have to push off to keep the desired running pace. Even when people begin to land on the forefoot, under their center of mass it is the pushing off action that can be the hardest habit to break. To eliminate the soreness and be as efficient as possible, work on picking up the feet vs pushing off.
Q: "Aren't running injuries really related to the hardness of the surfaces we run on?"
A: Unfortunately there is no data that supports this. When given the chance the body will adjust appropriately to the firmness of a surface. If you have a big bulky piece of unnaturally shaped foam strapped to your feet, they cannot sense accurately where they are and how to respond.
Q: "I have heard that forefoot strikers are just shifting the loading forces from the heel to the front part of the foot, and may be even more susceptible to injruy. Isn't that just changing one problem area for another?"
A: First there is no data that supports this theory or any theory that people who run in less or no shoes are more susceptible to injury, none. I can hypothesize that if you were to land with your feet far out in front of you (away from your center of mass) and your knees in a locked position that it wouldn't matter whether you landed on the heel or forefoot, you would be generating some serious force.
What most running data says is that if you can land with your feet under your center or mass, with slightly bent knees and a high cadence that you can dramatically lower the force you exert on the ground. This action is most easily facilitated on the forefoot.
Q: "I heard that only hippies run in minimalist footwear."
A: I guess hippies run in minimalist footwear. But, so do about 7 billion people and everyone who ever existed prior to 30 years ago.
Q: "Does form and technique really make that big a difference. I mean c'mon its running. Can't be that many ways to do it."
A: Does it make a difference in golf? Does it make a difference in swimming? Does it make a difference in shooting a free throw?
If running is this really simple and natural thing to do, then why do so many people get hurt doing it. It seems like injury is an accepted part of running. In no other sport and in no other part of life is getting injured so commonly accepted. I think that's a bunch of crap.
This beautiful sport gets a bad rap for being an activity that will blow out your knees and will destroy your body. Funny thing is that there is ZERO data that supports this hypothesis. There is lots of data that says we can greatly alter and lower the impact forces in running when we run with a more natural gait. You can train and work to be more efficient.
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