What Is Natural Running?

  • Gord's Running Store Hosting Newton Natural Running Symposium July 11/12

    Next Monday, July 11 and Tuesday, July 12, come to Gord's Running Store in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, for a Newton Natural Running ™ Sympoisum and Form Clinic with Newton Running's Director of Education and Research, Ian Adamson.

    Learn the principles of running biomechanics, injury prevention and how to adopt a natural running stride.

    The natural running presentation begins at 5:15 pm at Gord's Running at 919 Center Street NW, Calgary, Alberta, and the form clinic is on Tuesday at 7:00 pm.


    For more information, visit www.NewtonRunning.com or www.GordsRunningStore.com.

  • Steve Mackel to Lead Vancouer, B.C., Natural Running Symposium

    Natural Running Form Clinic and Presentation
    How Running Naturally can Improve your Marathon
    Saturday, April 30, 2011, 8:30 a.m.
    Forerunners, Vancouver, B.C.
    3502 West 4th Avenue
    This is a FREE event.

    Who is Leading the Symposium?

    Steve Mackel lives in California and is a Newton Running Certified Natural Running Coach by Newton, Certified ChiRunning® Instructor, RRCA Marathon Coach, USA Triathlon Coach, and is Head Coach of the Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs.

    He founded running web sites SoCalRunning.com and recently launched MarathonTraining.TV. In 1999, he turned is attention to endurance sports training and in 2005 became a full time coach focusing on running. He has helped thousands of runners complete their first marathon and helped others gain new personal records. He focuses his attention on the biomechanics of running efficiently, increasing running speed and reducing potential injuries.

    What Will I Learn?

    -Basic running biomechanics
    -How Natural Running reduces injury
    -The Science behind the design of Newton Running shoes

    For more information, visit. www.forerunners.ca or call 604-732-4535.

  • Culver City's Sporteve to Host Natural Running Clinic

    We're excited to announce that the newest addition to our list of upcoming natural running symposia is Culver City's Sporteve, L.A.'s first active-wear store dedicated to looking after women's needs.

    The natural running form clinic, led by Newton Running's Ian Adamson, will be followed by a presentation on natural running biomechanics and injury prevention.

    Natural Running Form Clinic & Presentation
    Where: 3849 Main Street | Culver City, CA 90232
    Date: Saturday, April 16, 2011
    Time: 8:30 - 11:30  a.m.
    Contact: 310-838-6588 | sporteve.com

    Learn more about Natural Running Symposia here:

  • Transitioning to Natural Running Form and Shoes


    By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

    Whatever your body type, fitness level or experience, the two biggest changes you can make to improve your running performance and reduce the likelihood of overuse injury are:

    1. Wear shoes with a nearly level profile
    2. Learn how to run naturally

    How an Elevated Heel Affects Running Form

    For the past 30 years, running shoes have been designed with thickly cushioned, built-up heels. This type of shoe forces the body to balance itself in an unnatural, backward-leaning position. Your toes are pointing downward, your weight is shifted rearward, and your back is slightly arched. Basically, your body struggles to maintain balance while compensating for the lifted heel.

    If you’ve been running this way for years — and most people have — it’s likely the muscles and other soft tissue in your feet, lower legs (the Achilles tendons in particular) and core need to adapt to the proper body position that comes with running in flat shoes.

    The Achilles tendon acts like a large rubber band that stretches and recoils with every stride. If you’ve been wearing shoes with an elevated heel — including your everyday work and casual shoes — your Achilles tendon has a shorter range of motion. When you begin running in a level shoe like a Newton Running shoe, the Achilles tendon needs to stretch to accommodate for the 10-15 mm distance that used to be taken up by an elevated heel.

    How to Make the Switch

    If you abruptly transition from an elevated heel to doing all your mileage in a level shoe, you’re likely to feel some Achilles and calf muscle soreness. Instead, make the transition gradually: run less than a mile at a time a 2 or 3 days per week. Work on your form and build strength in your feet, ankles and lower legs with the following tips:

    Work on strength and balance:

    • Go flat as often as possible! Ease the transition on your Achilles and calf muscles by walking barefoot. Wear flatter shoes even when you’re not running.
    • Do balancing drills. Stand on one foot with a mostly straight leg, lift the other foot off the ground at a 90 degree angle and close your eyes. If you can maintain balance for 30 seconds with your eyes closed on both sides, you may have enough strength be begin transitioning to level shoes. If you lose balance on either side, make this drill part of your daily regime. (Be sure to work on each foot.)
    • Do barefoot heel dips on a staircase. While holding on to a wall or railing, balance yourself with your metatarsal heads on the edge of the stair even with the ball of your foot. Slowly dip your heel below the plane of the stair, feeling the stretch in your Achilles and calf muscles and then slowly raise back up.

    Increase the flexibility and range of motion in your feet and lower legs:

    • Do common wall stretches. Lean into a wall with your hands while flexing the lower calf with a flat foot. Do this with both a straight and bent knee and repeat a couple times per day after the muscles are sufficiently warm.
    • Increase the flexibility of your plantar fascia. While sitting in a chair, cross your leg over your knee and firmly push your fingers or a thumb into the center of the sole of your foot. Maintain that pressure and point your toes up and down to stretch the plantar fascia.

    Focus on form:

    • After a run, use form drills to further develop specific aspects of proper running form. Skipping, bounding, high knees and butt kicks are easy and don’t take a lot of time.
    • Watch yourself run. Have a friend video your stride in traditional shoes, level shoes and while running barefoot on grass. Notice how your body moves differently in each scenario.
      Do your feet land under your center of mass? Are you running with a quick cadence and relatively short strides? Are you running with upright but slightly forward-leaning posture? Are you carrying your arms close to your body at about a 90-degree angle? Adopt this form in your new shoes.

    Take it easy!

    • Your inner marathoner might be craving the challenge and rejuvenation that a long run always brings, but refrain from going on long runs until you’ve gone through a gradual progression. Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent per week and make sure you’re diligent about self-analyzing your form and your progression.

    Danny Abshire is the author of “Natural Running” (VeloPress, 2010) and the co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colo.-based company that makes shoes that promote an efficient midfoot/forefoot running gait. He has been making advanced footwear solutions for runners and triathletes for more than 20 years. For more, go to newtonrunning.com.

  • Natural Running Program Reduces Injury Among Air Force Personnel



    (This article originally appeared in L.A. Air Force Base Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Quarterly newsletter.)

    Written by Captain Levi Severson, SBIRS CTF & Air Force Marathon Team Captain

    Most individuals in the Air Force recognize the importance of fitness to our mission, especially given our deployment tempo. What you may not know is running has risen to the #2 cause of recreational injury in the USAF (2010).

    In addition, the Fitness Assessment (FA) failure rate is above 10% on average, and as high as 28% at some bases. The overall cost of injury and FA failure is high when medical, physical therapy and administrative time, are factored in.

    These problems led to creation of the USAF Efficient Running Working Group (ERWG) last year. Thanks to the initiative of several doctors and other running-industry leaders, the knowledge gleaned from the natural-running movement will hopefully make its way to Airmen everywhere via Health and Wellness Centers and make running more fun for all.

    The ERWG has yet to be approved for implementation, but the intent is to provide education on form, online support, year-round training programs, teaching strategies, instruction on interpreting video gait analysis, certification of instructors, and education for medical staff. Due to my involvement with AF Sports and experience with teaching natural running form, I have recently been more involved with the ERWG and wanted to share some of the concepts with more Airmen.

    The Relationship Between Form, Footwear and Injury

    You can reduce your chance of injury by relearning the biomechanics you had as a child. I doubt the children in our lives put much thought into how they run since it is more natural to them. However, after years of running in shoes with an elevated heel and being coached to run with a heel strike, adults find it challenging to relean “natural” form.

    Starting in the late 1970s, running shoes began featuring increasingly cushioned heels, which creates a six to 14% ramp angle. This angle tilts your posture forward and puts you off balance. This instability increases unnatural forces on the knees, hips and back.

    What is Natural Running?

    An AF Sports team member, Lt Col (Dr.) Mark Cucuzzella, describes the fundamentals of natural running on www.freedomsrun.org under the “training” tab. His critical points are:

    - Land with bent knees with feet landing softly under your center of mass. Resist landing on your heel or taking overly long strides, which causes a loss of momentum. Run over the ground, not into it by visualizing riding a skateboard or Razor scooter. Ideal ground contact is with your foot under your center of mass.

    - Touch down quickly with your foot in such a way that generates a "tap, tap, tap" sound, rather than "thud, thud, thud." Keep your knees low and pick up your heels. A high knee lift is only for sprinters.

    - Short strides and a quick cadence results in less vertical bounce. Like throwing a ball between two points, the ball travels higher if the points are farther separated. The ideal cadence is about 90 steps a minute. Build up gradually to this.

    - Focus on the core and prefect posture. If you can teach your core muscles to lift your legs as opposed to pushing off with the small muscles of the feet, you have discovered new power. Think "run tall" and straighten your spine. Connect the dots between your ear, shoulder, hip, and bony prominence of ankle.  Initiate a slight forward lean from the ankles (not the waist). This harnesses some of the power of gravity.

    - Practice running down a very gentle hill. When you allow yourself to relax and lean gently while maintaining good posture, and let your feet land under you to avoid braking- you are harnessing the power of gravity. This can be applied on the flats as well.

    - Bend your elbows bent 90 degrees and don't cross your hands in front of your body. Arms drive back, not forward. Relax your breathing and movements. Respiration occurs in the lower lung fields so learn belly breathing.

    In addition to Lt Col Cucuzzella’s highlights above, there are a variety of programs out there to help teach the movements and make it easier to visualize. These programs include Chi-Running, Cady Stride Mechanics, Evolution Running, Radiant Running, and Pose Tech Training that can all be found online.

    The Transition Process

    I had a lot of success after picking up the book Chi Running by Danny Dreyer and over a period of 4 months, gradually applying the book's principles. Eventually I was able to throw away my orthotics after 14 years of use and began wearing flat shoes (Newtons). Again, the transition to Newton shoes was a slow process where I started out wearing them one short run per week and eventually was wearing them every day after two months.

    I often get asked about running shoes and typically make recommendations based on my experience and knowledge of various products. When choosing footwear, consider your running surface (dirt, trail, grass, cement, pavement, etc).

    Generally speaking, if you are running on more manmade surfaces, a more protective shoe is preferred. For more detail on this topic, another great book covering the connection between form, footwear and training is Natural Running by Danny Abshire.

    After a year and a half of improving my running form and wearing flatter running shoes, I improved my marathon time significantly and experience fewer injuries. my goal is for participants in the ERWG to find more enjoyment in running, the FA easier to pass, and your improved health.

    As more the ERWG progresses, I will pass along updates. Good luck and happy training!

    Special thanks to AF doctors Lt Col Mark Cucuzzella, Lt Col Dan Kuland, and Lt Col Antonio Eppolito for allowing me to reference their research and publications for this article.

  • Danny Abshire on San Diego Morning Show


    While in San Diego this morningfor a Natural Running Symposium, Newton Running co-founder Danny Abshire stopped by the Fox 5 studios for Morning Show appearance.

    Click here to watch the video in which Danny discusses the natural running principles explained in his book by the same name, as well as the science behind Newton Running shoes.

  • Natural Running as Positive Deviance?

    Over 150 people turned out (and another 50 or so were turned away due to lack of space) for last week's speaker panel  discussion about natural running in Sheperdstown, West Virginia.

    Event attendee and blogger Pete Larson (www.runblogger.com) was struck by the turnout in a small town in West Virginia, which has a reputation as one of America's most obese states. "I couldn't believe it!" Larson wrote on his blog. "Here we were in a state renowned for it's inactivity, and I had to weave my way through a crowd of people who were squeezing into a room like sardines."

    Dr. Mark Cucuzella, organizer of the event, titled The Re-Evolution of Running: Discover Pain Free Movement for Life, attributes to tremendous response to a phenomenon called positive deviance. "That's when large change happens as a result of observing and following what is happening in a small sector, and then applying it widely," he says.

    Cucuzella is also a family doctor and owner of Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking store in Sheperdstown, West Virginia.

    Blogger Miss Zippy shares in this recent post what she learned from the panel of experts that included Danny Dreyer, founder of ChiRunning, Jerry Lee, CEO of Newton Running, Dr. Jay Dicharry, PT and Director of the SPEED Clinic at the University of Virginia, Dr. Peter Larson, Blaise Dubois, running injury authority, among others.

    Natural running symposia are held across the country and overseas. For a complete listing of upcoming events, visit the Newton Running website at http://www.newtonrunning.com/community/natural-running-symposium-form-clinic.

  • Danny Abshire Authors Book on Natural Running

    natural-running-bookDanny Abshire, the co-founder and chief technical officer of Newton, has authored a new book titled Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running. It is now available for online order just in time for the holiday gift-giving season.

    "This is the single most important resource for people who want to enjoy running as nature intended while protecting themselves from unnatural surfaces," says Abshire. "The book will teach you to run the barefoot way—with shoes—and become a more efficient, stronger and healthier runner."

    Danny is a passionate, lifelong runner who has spent 10 years designing and refining Newton Running shoes. As a longtime running form coach and injury expert, he has worked closely with thousands of athletes, from beginners to Olympic elites, helping them improve their running form and technique.

    "Danny has worked with some of the best runners and triathletes in the history of endurance sports," says Craig Alexander, two-time Ironman World Champion. "Just speaking to him will make you a better runner."

    In Natural Running, Abshire explains the posture, arm carriage, cadence, and land-lever-lift foot positioning that mimic the barefoot running style. Runners transition from heel striking to a midfoot or forefoot strike, which studies show is how the body evolved to run. So that runners can relearn this more natural running gait, Abshire offers an 8-week transition plan, complete with a tool kit of strength and form drills that build and maintain the musculature required for natural running.

  • The Whole Body Kinematics of Natural Running

    The following article was written by Danny Abshire, Newton co-founder, and covers the mind-body connection necessary for natural running.

    Danny(newton)Learning to run with natural, efficient form isn't just a physical endeavor. It is a whole body movement, coordinated by an instinctive mind-body connection. The many motions your body makes when running are choreographed and orchestrated by the brain as it continually tries to rebalance your body with gravity.

    When running naturally, two major factors allow us to default to the healthiest, most efficient running posture. The first is maintaining a posture that is neutral or balanced with gravity. Stand up barefoot and notice if your feet and pelvis are level, and if you are lined up vertically from the head through your shoulders, hip and knee through the center of the foot.

    Second is the sensory input derived from your feet, specifically the forefoot. The brain is a proficient computer that instantaneously responds to input from the foot by making the micro adjustments needed to keep your legs, arms, torso, shoulders and head positioned to be balanced with gravity. And thanks to the harmonious mind-body connection we have, it can all happen without us thinking about it.

    Through gait analysis patterns and scientific studies we know that when running naturally or barefoot humans will instinctively touch the earth with a midfoot or forefoot landing, and we will touch with less impact than a heel-strike landing. When running naturally, your forefoot senses the ground the instant it touches down and starts a kinematic chain that propels your running mechanics into the most efficient and effective position for the terrain you're on. Subconsciously, you alter your form slightly on different types of terrain and in different conditions — slippery, wet, dry, rocky, muddy, steep, flat. Why? Because your brain takes the sensory feedback from the forefoot's interaction with the ground and positions your body accordingly.

    Your brain helps the body make adjustments to find the proper balance with gravity, no matter what compromises it has to make. For example, something placed under a portion of the foot which puts it out of a level, balanced position will cause the whole body to react and make micro adjustments to center itself.

    A common but detrimental example of this is running with shoes where the heel is lifted 12-15mm higher than the forefoot. The ramp angle caused by this lift (which can be found in most traditional training shoes made in the past 30 years), forces the body to make adjustments to become balanced with gravity. Knees become locked instead of the pliable spring suspension systems, hips tilt forward, the lower back arches and the upper torso tips backward. This results in more pressure put on the knees, hips and lower spine. In other words, the mind-body connection puts us in balance with gravity, but the whole body kinematics will be such that we're trying to move efficiently from a very inefficient (heel-striking) position. Worse yet, the soft cushion of foam in the built up heel sends the incorrect message that it is safe to run with an inefficient heel-striking position.

    It's easy to see that this is not an optimal. Running from this position, your body must continue to compensate with all of its movements. With each stride, it's trying to return to a compromised balanced-with-gravity position. The most common result is a heel-striking gait rather than the more efficient midfoot or forefoot footstrikes. The braking motion involved with heel striking allows your body to quickly get balanced with gravity, but it demands more muscular force to regain the momentum lost while braking at the start of each stride.

    That's why some runners — many whom have been running for years — will say, "I'm a natural heel striker," or "I heel strike when I get lazy." The truth is, it has nothing to do with being natural or lazy and has everything to do with the mind-body connection. Your body is compensating for the compromised starting position in shoes with a built-up heel, which is not sustainable for most people.

    If you're starting in a position in which you are balanced with gravity and your feet are flat on the ground (or in shoes with only a slight ramp angle – less than 3%), your body doesn't have to compromise at all. With a slight forward lean from the center of your mass, you will start to fall forward. Lift your leg and place your foot level back under your body, and you're running naturally. Meanwhile your uncompromised mind-body connection will position your head, arms, torso and hips so you can move as efficiently as possible. It's what our body knows from the time we're born and it's the most efficient form of running. And it's what allows our muscles, heart and lungs to exert the least amount of effort while running at any given pace.

  • Ruff Fitness' Natural Running Clinic

    Many of you who do not live in the cities we have visited have been curious about what exactly goes on in our Natural Running clinics. This clinic shown in this video was not put on by us, but it is taught by Dr. Mark who makes frequent appearances at our events and will give you a pretty good idea about how to get started changing to a more natural form. It took place in Hagerstown, MD at Ruff Fitness.

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