Last night I came home exhausted, the sort of exhaustion brought on by overload. I though a hot tub soak and a good read would help me unwind so I could fall asleep. The husband unit had pointed out a good article on running in Outside Magazine, so I grabbed that. I’ve got a running workshop coming up soon and I like to catch all the latest hype and buzz.
Super bad choice for unwinding. Dang! I hate it when something ruffles my feathers right before bed, especially on a night when I need some good sleep. I almost wrote the letter that night, but made myself wait until morning. Here it is, my first letter to the editor of a major publication (just in case it never gets printed in the actual Feedback column):
The trouble with quoting scientific studies to resolve a question (You Don’t Know How to Run, April 2013) is that studies can only test for a single variable. Biomechanics must be done with regard the the entire body within gravity. Likewise, running is not just done with the feet. If there is no mention of hip flexion, extension and lateral stabilization regarding stride form, then any interpretations of foot impact are moot. Heel strike verses mid-foot strike has another variable too: speed. Good walking form requires heel strike. As we speed up, the heel strike lessens and the foot lands more in the mid-foot (if the foot is properly landing directly below the torso). These are more important variables to consider when improving running form than what kind of shoes to purchase. I loved Christopher McDougall’s comeback to the hype: “When did I ever say buy shoes?”
Here are my added points I would like to make. First–I love Outside Magazine. Second–I am a barefoot runner. As in no shoes.I’ve been trying a couple of minimalist shoes and had some good and some bad experiences with them. I also have run in so-called “traditionalist’s” shoes. Third–I own a business, but hate hype marketing, which, sadly, works great but only until the next fad comes along. Fourth–most of the research in the article was most likely paid for by shoe companies (Joe Hamill, professor of Kinesiology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, is quoted extensively and “has done research for shoe companies”) as is most of the magazine paid for by shoe companies that advertise.
Barefoot running is about finding alignment through natural movement. That sounds so much better than this snippet from the article: “The minimalists believe they’re poised to inherit the earth. The traditionalists have no plans to surrender. The battles are being fought runner by runner, shoe by shoe.” Alignment is based on science and is different than posture, which is is based on social constructs. Rather than science based, this article is posturing the two sides of the discussion as enemy camps. Why are we fighting?
Because of money, of course. According to the article, Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run launched a 500 percent increase of FiveFingers shoes sales. If the next trend is just regular ol’ barefeet, well, no shoe sales will follow. Podiatrists don’t like to promote bare feet because they sell orthotics (sorry that is a generalization, and I know there are good podiatrists that are not just out to sell orthotics, but there is good money in them and that is a fact). Are there injuries on both sides? Of course. Even if we run with perfect form from head to toe, shit happens.
This I know to be true: our feet are beautifully bio-mechanically designed. To work with our knees. And our hips, and torso, neck and head. Gravity is constant. Strength is relative. Speed is an imposed external parameter of running performance which has gained importance due to cultural influences. Aerobic exercise means moving EVERY muscle, one of which is the heart. Alignment is based on physics (gravity being a big player) and means that every joint is able to move in a proper relationship to every other joint. Only then can every muscle properly move to become nourished aerobically and strengthened eventually. That would be an internal parameter of running performance, and much better science than jabbering on about shoes.