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Best Running Tips Newsletter, Issue #023 --
Get Faster Today Without the Extra Work!
November 17, 2010
Today I'd like to talk to you about running technique.
Running with proper form and technique makes a big difference to your
running. Less injuries, less energy wasted, less time required to
recover, etc. It is an important topic.
However, there seems to be a general feeling out there that
your technique is just what it is. You either have a good technique or
you don't. Too bad if you don't.
Like the stubborn believe that some people are just good in maths and
some aren't and that there is nothing you can do about it. I can tell
you, I have tutored plenty of kids in maths and physics and you can
definitely help them improve. You just need to give them a little extra
help. Give them the right tools and techniques.
They may not become geniuses overnight. But improve they can,
and sometimes more than you'd dare to dream. It's exactly the same with
running technique. Provided you have the right tools and learn a few
tips, there is plenty you can do to improve your running technique.
Again, if you run like an elephant, this will not magically transform
you into a gazelle. But, give it some time and you will improve your
One important part of running technique is the movement of your arms. Do you arms move from front to back or do your arms move across your body?
If you move your arms across your body you run less efficient and you
twist your body. This slows you down and can cause back injuries.
only this by focusing a little more on your arm movement and you will
run faster. You don't have to do extra training. Just pay a little more
attention. It is really like free money!
Another important part of running technique is how your foot lands. Do you know if you are a heel-striker or a midfoot-striker? There is a lot of focus on this topic in the last few years.
I decided to find out a little bit more about it all and spoke to Ian Adamson, Director Research & Education of Newton Running, the creators of Newton running shoes. Newton running shoes have been developed specifically to stimulate midfoot-landing.
I asked Ian a few questions (in the below BRT = Best Running Tips, IA = Ian Adamson).
BRT: To what do you credit the rise in the "barefoot running /
natural running" movement? "Born to Run", Chi running, Pose running,
all of the above, something else?
IA: Firstly, natural running is only "new" in the US as runners (and
shoe companies) realize that modern running shoes exacerbate many
running injuries. Most of the worlds population has never worn a
"modern" running shoe and don’t suffer from the injuries of those who
Plantar fasciitis, chrondomalacia, joint pain, Morton’s neuroma etc.
are unknown to the hundreds of millions of African and Asian children
running and walking to and from school with bare feet and minimal
footwear. Even in western countries, there are many people who were
never sucked into the hype of big built up shoes and heel striking.
Elite runners like John J Kelly (1957 Boston Marathon winner) and Bob
Ronker (Cincinnati running guru and early employee at Runner's World)
are just two well known runners who have stuck by the early wisdom that
we should run naturally as if barefoot – and this is protective and
Born to Run has brought this to the consciousness of the running public in general, while Chi and Pose running have been preaching this for decades.
Newton Running company is the first company to actively promote
the idea of natural running with a shoe line exclusively designed for
this purpose. The hereditary of Newton Running goes back 18 years even
though the product has only been available since 2007.
Today the science has finally caught up and there is a good body of hard data supporting what we know about natural running.
Ian is very clear on what is best for your feet. In an attempt
to stir the pot I decided to ask a little bit of a cheeky question...
BRT: The surface on which we run nowadays is not natural anymore. We
run on concrete predominantly, we can't be expected to run in the same
way as our forefathers did who did not have the same hard underground
to run on. It's evolution. We have gone from midfoot/toestrikers to
IA: Heel striking is purely a product of having a heel on a shoe.
Athletes ran on hard paved surfaces for decades with no cushioning in
their shoes and did not suffer the injuries we do today on traditional
cushioned shoes. Heel lift is a relatively modern invention, only since
the 1970s have running shoes had a heel lift.
In fact running with minimalist footwear encourages a forefoot
strike on hard surfaces, not a heel strike. Afferent feedback while
running (the feedback of feeling and reacting to the ground through the
nerves on your feet) causes a runner to adopt a protective running
position. That is, one in which the runner suspends their body with
muscle and tendon using flexed joints – the athletic position. In
contrast, a heel strike bypasses the athletic position and sends the
impact shock from the ground directly through the bones and joints.
A lifted heel interferes with the runners gait cycle by
engaging the shoe with the ground in front of their center of gravity.
This introduces a braking force and heel strike, both detrimental to a
natural, efficient and protective running gait.
So, heel striking is something we should aim not to
do. Should we now all go to becoming midfoot-strikers? I guess when you
have been running happily and healthily for years and years without any
issues, then I'd see little reason to drastically change your style.
What's that expression again... if it ain't broken, don't fix it! There
would still be merit in trying to improve though.
But are you relatively new to running? Or have you been
suffering from injuries like plantar fasciitis? Then you may just want
to pay a little bit more attention to what Ian is saying.
So, how do you change your technique? There are some tips and
tricks. You can do strides, butt-kicks, leg lifts, rope jumping etc.
Anything that promotes high turnover of the legs.
What does that have to do with midfoot-striking? Well, in a
very non-scientific way of explaining this: when you run with quick
turnover of your legs, your legs do not have the time for heelstriking.
When your legs go faster, you will revert to a style in which you land
more on the front of your feet and take lighter steps...
BRT: When talking about running technique and running cadence
I often advise people to get a metronome and set it to 180 bpm and try
to run to the beat. Most people have a stride rate of 160-165 instead
of about 180. The benefit you get from running at 180 bpm is that you
are forced to take lighter steps, pushing you more towards mid-foot
Would you agree with that?
IA: This is true, and a higher cadence also minimizes vertical
oscillation, a major source of running inefficiency. In addition, a
higher cadence increases muscular efficiency and decreases muscular
effort, like spinning with a low gear on a bike. Lower force, same
For more tips on running drills that promote natural running see:
One last thing regarding the use of a metronome:
In Born to Run
there is a story about a veteran runner. He gets tested. I think he is
asked to do a 1-mile all-out. Then he is asked to wear a metronome
during his training runs and just focus on doing 180 strides per
minute. He is asked to not change anything else in terms of mileage or
effort. Later, he is tested again. He does a 3-mile run and all three
mile-splits were faster than his previous 1-mile!
I felt that was one of the more important little facts out of this great book.
They tested a veteran runner who had been running for a long time
already. I think the man was like 60 or so. At that age, after a long
history of running, you are not really meant to improve anymore. But
this guy did, all thanks to running with a metronome for a few
Click here for a link to a cheap metronome
Finally I wanted to learn from Ian why Newton running shoes are a
good product that will help you improve your running technique further.
Obviously he is a fan of Newton running shoes, but what about some of
the other products available?
BRT: What is the compelling case to use Newton running shoes rather than Vibram Five Fingers, Nike Free or going barefoot?
IA: Vibram Five Fingers give you excellent afferent feedback but
have virtually no cushioning so the impact shock from the ground is
intrinsically high. The forces imposed on the fine bones of the feet
are punishing for most runners over even moderate distances.
Nike Free shoes still have a significant heel lift and soft
foam. The heel lift is an unnatural geometry (doesn’t follow the
profile of the bottom of the foot), and the soft foam collapses under
the area of greatest pressure, which is where you need the most
support. This amplifies rotational forces, misalignment and
lateral/tortional joint forces.
What I liked about this answer is that Ian has tried to answer
this from an objective point of view. I think it also highlights how
the guys at Newton running think about shoe development, what they take
into account etc.
I hope this newsletter has provided you with some food for thought. I
hope you'll consider the use of a metronome and will try to adopt your
Consider the drills provided in the running drills link above to
improve your running technique. Incorporate them in your training. We
runners should pay as much focus on technique as we do on mileage,
intervals, tempo runs, etc.
Maybe even more. After all, improvements in your running technique will
make you run faster and give you a lower injury risk without having to
The guys at Newton Running have got a great selection of
running shoes. The above clearly shows that they put a lot of thought
and effort into the creation of their shoes. Also see my review page
of Newton running shoes:
Newton Running Shoes
Apart from these shoes, also make sure you check out the following links with more information about running technique....
I hope this mini-interview was helpful to you.
That's it for now.
Talk to you soon.
In the meantime, come visit my site often and happy running.
Best Running Tips
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