Lockdown has restricted many of us to limited running spaces.
That is certainly NOT prison, nor comparable with the sacrifice of Nelson Mandela, but we can certainly benefit and be inspired by Madiba’s phrases on what is required in this lock down
Lock down is similar in terms of the ability to be seen as an opportunity! – It is up to YOU as to how you decide to view it — For runners at this time it can even be a blessing as it allows us to focus on aspects of our training and running that we often do not take the time to work on:
The attraction of adding distance to our daily weekly log is often overpowering compared to working on the basics:
This such a mistake given that how we run, how efficient, how energy saving, we can make our running, the faster or further we can go!
The faster we are over the short distance, the faster we can achieve times right up to 100km. [Above 100km additional factors start to come into play such as ability to run in fatigue / sleep deprivation and so on:]
Watch the video to see how simple it is:
This Video is part one of changing your style and why you may have been ‘forced’ into a particular unnatural style simply because of the shoes you were sold or told to buy, or were convinced were correct for you:
The History of shoe evolution – four decades that undid good running style:
The following is a history of how we became a country (world?) of poor running style – how our impatience, and commercial interest, rather than logical progression has destroyed the running style of the recreational runner:
Understanding why and how this came about will answer many of the questions that you are probably asking about why a good running style is not more frequently promoted and why shoes look the way they do.
For between 3 and 4 decades shoe companies have hoodwinked the runners (public and even medical) into adopting an illogical running style and our impatience to be seen to conquer goals, or match others achievements, we forgot the basics of learning a skill – start with the basics and build / progress.
Instead, we jumped in the deep end of the ocean, unable to swim, but in the belief that we would develop our (natural) style based on the need to survive, and the knowledge that we were ‘designed to run.’
This is why it is flawed – and how we have made so many people rich in the process.
Shoes: The most unnatural thing about running!
The FACT is that until around 1970’s there were basically no specialist distance running shoes, and until the early 1900’s virtually no track shoes. Thus we as a human ‘race’ (pun intended) had used our birth shoes:- barefoot or at best barefoot with a basic outer-sole or covering – Sandals and later simple plimsoles. Such shoes had no or minimal restriction on the natural foot movement but gave some protection against thorns glass etc:
Its important to keep in mind that people ran; Its true not many people ran distance races, but kids played in parks, streets and sports people ran in training or in events. From 1921 to 1980 there are roughly 10,000 finishers of comrades marathon who ran in plimsoles or similar shoes types such as the old (and still available in Asia) Tigers.
In the video I try to show the difference between zero drop, low drop, and high drop shoes using shoes that I have in my house (lock down so was NOT going out to get ideal examples) – The zero drop i use for walking in all aspects of my work while travelling, the medium drop of 6mm(red shoes) are a go-to for speed / short upto 21km/42km, and the black which are lightweight but show the style of the typical 10-13mm droop shoe; That said the black model is actually 8-10mm drop but helps explain the higher drop shoes:
A good general guide to drop is as follows:
* drop 0-4mm – tends to enforce a fore foot landing (more suitable to speed events)
* drop 4-6mm tends to enforce a fore or mid foot landing
* drop 8-10mm tends to enforce a mid foot landing (typical and more suitable in longer events)
* 11 and above – Tends to enforce a heel strike / jogging action
Note: these vary for each runners based on flexibility and mechanics of each person particularly in ankle, Achilles and calf .
How Jogging Technology Destroyed Good Running
It was only mid to late 1980’s that shoes started coming into South Africa with higher heels, deeper forefoot cushioning and restrictions on flexibility: Its worth reading the excellent Challenging Beliefs by Prof Tim Noakes to understand, how he was also caught up in this mystical technology of shoes.
For instance, shoes had torsional restraint features. Why was this required? In simplified form this evolution grew from Jogging:
The massive motivation of the running boom saw people getting off the couch to run (primarily inspired by Frank Shorter’s win in the 1972 Munich Olympic Marathon). Many of these were neither fit enough, nor in condition to run, and their sudden and dramatic change from a life on the couch to trying to run longer and longer; Long story short the style and term ‘Jogging’ was evolved and this tried to cushion the impact of running by using a cross between walking and running that required people to land on the heel and roll forward and push off from the forefoot.
This was NOT how we were designed to run (which is fore / midfoot depending on speed and mechanics) but the market grew at such a rate that shoes had to be designed to cater for it.
Large Drops Force Heel Striking
The easiest thing to change was the drop and suddenly this grew to 18mm and over which (as shown in the video) forced people into touching the ground heel first.
As we do with walking the outside of the heel (due to supination) touches first then we pronate (everyone does but some people excessively) to ensure the whole foot is on the ground and then we push off, again twisting into supination, (again everyone does), to propel us into the next step:
This twisting from out to in and back does NOT exist in a natural running style and so not surprisingly ended up initiating injuries, not simply in the foot, but further up the chain at each person’s weakest link.
The evolution of shoe “features / technology” has evolved and grown from that to the ridiculous and has been commercially driven with massive effect by shoe companies:
In reality for about 2-3 decades the shoe companies have capitalised and created myths on running styles: Its totally illogical that (hu)man can run for millions of years but suddenly in 1980 we have to have hi-technology shoes …….
What was the problem in 1970 /80’s running boom?
The real problem of the running boom, was patience – or more correctly the lack thereof:
We need to learn the Alphabet before we read or write!
People were inspired and motivated to run a marathon and were told that anyone can run. Basically thats true but as with reading, and writing you dont suddenly just get given a book and read, nor can you simply sit down and write a book – yet people were being told that they could get out of the couch and go and run around the block and perceived that they could run 200m at the same speed that Seb Coe was running a mile! or run 2km at the same speed that Frank Shorter ran 42km.
Any muscle or joint that is asked to do something different for the first time takes time, not only to learn the correct motion and coordination, but also to adapt to the ‘stress/strain’ of that new loading.
The problem was that people were a) not being shown the correct running mechanics and b) wanted to do more than their body was willing to adapt to in the time they wanted:
This resulted in many overuse injuries and so the search went on for a way to create a more gradual adaptation which of course (il)logically saw people suggesting a combination of walking /running called Jogging – and as above the shoe craze (or is that the crazy shoe) was invented to solve this (unnecessary) problem: All that had to be done was to get the correct conditioning to use the mechanics that we were naturally born with:
A key component of correct running is a strong core: Its impossible to run with correct form unless your core is balanced and strong enough to hold the hips in a power position and with correct lean.
The jogging action allowed people to run (inefficiently) without working on their core, but the rush to cover distance meant that it was never taught.
The drills that elite athletes will maintain in their regular workouts to refine their style were never taught and never promoted sufficiently for people to make the transition from jogger to runner, ….. and the shoe companies were happy as that market was many times the market of the real runner! They could sell shoes that would be as good for walking the mall as jogging round a 2-5km block or hike up a hill!
The technology ‘advanced’ on the basis of using the shoe to correct or accommodate each and every injury that surfaced – hence the evolution of ‘Control’ shoes — yet in nature no person is born with such ‘control’ inserts, posts, bars etc in their feet: No person was born with extra high fat pads in their heels – Yet according to the scientists and podiatrists in the 1990’s we needed all these high tech shoes, to the point that over 75% of the shoes on sale were high drop and control because that percentage of the (South African) running population were ‘over-pronating’: Totally illogical Hogwash …. and the use of orthotics almost became pandemic in sales, as people tried to remedy their running ailments, which ironically had generally been initiated by incorrect shoes, by using additional orthotics which made their feet even more rigid:
The New Shoe Dispensation:
I can hear some people still questioning this line of discussion: However look at the changes now been seen in shoes:
Initiated by the likes of the Born to Run book the pendulum took to minimalism and barefoot: Around this time people also became aware of correct shoe lasts for kids shoes, with companies such as Froggies, developing specific lasts for school shoes: On an international level it was being understood that shoes needed to be wider and more flexible:
Nike were one of the first companies to acknowledge they had been incorrect when they brought out the first ‘Free model’. The shoe was cut in all directions under the midsole to allow total flexibility and the box contained the warning that runners should initially only use the shoe for 10 minutes and build up the strength of the foot before using it for longer.
This was the advice that each person should have followed in the initial running boom in 1970’s and then we would not be in this scenario of poor running styles 3 to 4 decades later!
But Minimalist Movement saw injury increase and Science split
Once again impatience caused a split: Some runners tried to make an immediate change from the poor jogging/running style to the natural style simply by changing shoes.
Once again no teaching, no adaptation: simply change of shoes as they were going to something called ‘natural’ so the body should, (in their minds), handle it and even welcome it.
Not surprisingly, the sudden change from high drop shoes to minimal and even zero-drop saw an increase in injuries: Some shoe companies used this to justify their current models and even science was split depending on the ‘side’ they had to defend.
Where are we now:
The reality is that in 2020 we find that the majority of shoes and ceertainly those with models versions in the 20’s and 30’s have dropped from 18/20 mm drops down to 12 /13mm drops, and many more to 10mm with a few but growing number heading into the 6-9mm drops.
There is considerably more flexibility certainly in the forefoot of the shoes from the toe to the mid-shank under the arch and a greater choice of totally flexible shoes:
In other words shoes that allow the runner to use the foot in a natural way.
There is a problem however:
Although the shoes are now returning to the basics there is a problem that still there is no education on how to run, and the alphabet. In addition feet that have been in rigid shoes no longer have the internal muscle and ligament strength to overcome the resistance of a cushioned shoe to bend it and use it correctly: (thats why the video will assist you)
Lock down is a saviour: – Change without injury
Lock down is a massive opportunity to learn and correct your running style, work on the basics, the foot strength, build your core and develop the alphabet of skills needed for natural running, and because we are held in our restrictive boundaries, the chance of over training (use) is minimised.
Of course if you spend all day and every day training then you can overdo it but one session a day working alternately on functional / core strength and running style and drills will see massive change and benefits when we eventually get ‘released’ into the wild of the streets and parks again.
What about those plates and record-breaking shoes? They are inflexible shoes!
Ironically the shoes with plates have been developed now with rigid plates, but this is done on a completely different basis.
The plate shoes have a different angle of landing built into the forefoot which puts the runner in a forward lean as they land. Some also have a ‘roll off’ to enhance the backward drive from the forefoot.
The plate gives good solid placement, but in combination with the (contrast) of a very soft and light midsole, plus the natural running mechanics the shoe increases the ‘apparent’ elastic strength of the runner: In other words the shoe does NOT have a spring, but then used by the runner in a normal / natural running action the runner has greater ‘springiness’
These shoes have assisted runners to maintain good position (core strength) even when fatigued and if anything support the concept of how we should be running, and the need for efficient running style – even more reason to make the change, build your core and practice the drills during this time of lock down…