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From the Expert: Dr. Mark Cucuzzella On Single Focus Running Studies

Posted by on Thursday, February 14, 2013 @ 7:55 am | Leave a reply

recent study of less than 40 East African tribesman showed that most  land on their heels while running at a slow pace on a compliant surface (not pavement) and when they sped up most changed their pattern to midfoot landing.  Some in the media then grabbed onto this small sample and somehow arrived at the following “conclusions”:

•    Barefoot running is not a good thing…the fad is over
•    This supports cushioned running shoes with elevated heels

The study looked at the Daasanach who are a pastoral tribe living in a remote section of northern Kenya. According to the New York Times, “Unlike some Kenyan tribes, the Daasanach have no tradition of competitive distance running, although they are physically active. They also have no tradition of wearing shoes.”The study looked at the Daasanach who are a pastoral tribe living in a remote section of northern Kenya. According to the New York Times, “Unlike some Kenyan tribes, the Daasanach have no tradition of competitive distance running, although they are physically active. They also have no tradition of wearing shoes.”

 

Let’s see now, the African subjects were running barefoot; but people land in different ways, and as you speed up you get more forward on your foot. Not surprising as anyone who runs, coaches, researches, or even observes runners knows .  There was absolutely no reference or relevance to injuries or footwear effects in this study. These happy tribesman were jogging slowly in their bare feet as they do daily, and I doubt any of them had or ever will have running injuries.

They were active tribal people (not habitual runners) running at a jogging pace.

This study reinforces what many of us in the Running Medicine field have been voicing for a long time. People are focusing on one variable and most often it is footwear or what part of your foot hits the ground first,  and ignoring the other 90% of the equation.

Runners get hurt by running.  Most often by running  too much, too fast, and often with poor strength and movement mechanics. Humans are also highly variable and it is doubtful any of us does or should land in the same way every time, on every surface , and at every speed.

No one of credibility in the professional field is telling runners to land on their forefoot or ball of foot in isolation, nor suggesting  for folks to chuck their shoes.  What is interesting in studies is they rarely agree on what a forefoot or midfoot strike actually is.  A true forefoot strike is probably along the base of the 5th metatarsal (outside edge of foot), not the ball of the foot or metatarsal heads.

As an often barefoot runner I land different on different surfaces at different speeds. On soft golf courses and easy pace, I roll nicely from the heel.  Running fast on concrete, I need to engage the foot more as shock absorber and to prestretch the takeoff muscle contraction.

Remember the key is running elastic– landing close to your center of mass, and engaging the posterior muscles (glutes).

I still stand behind what we filmed here as the Principles of Natural Running. Not where do we say that runners should aim to land on the ball of the foot.

Running barefoot in itself will not change most of the other variables contributing to poor form and injury, but it does have a role in the relearning process.

See our Stability and Mobility section on the Natural Running Center, and notice where the real improvements occur and do lots of progressive drills to rewire the movement pattern.

Another finding reinforcing what we know is that as the runners ran faster, they landed on their forefoot more often. This is normal and necessary.

Everyone’s form changes when they go from 9:00 per mile to 5:00 per mile. As one moves faster it is efficient to eccentrically stretch the triceps surae the load the Achilles spring. This is like jumping: .load, trigger, fire.

Instructing an 9:00 mile runner  to  emulate the 5:00 mile biomechanics is short sighted and one should not suggest it.

My personal take-home messages from this recent study of African tribesman and the “barefoot” attention that resulted from it is as follows:

•    Do not focus on footstrike in isolation
•    Gradually increase cadence
•    Mix it up….surfaces, shoes, barefoot,
•    Use your glutes and extend the hips from a stable core
•    Watching a barefoot runner land on their heel does not mean that we were not born to run barefoot or that shoes need a cushioned heel.
•    Have fun!

Click here to visit the Natural Running Center!

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Metatarsalgia

Posted by on Monday, January 16, 2012 @ 3:32 pm | 2 Replies

Forefoot pain (metatarsalgia) is a condition indicated by pain and inflammation under the ball of the foot. This is increasingly prevalent in runners who are making a change to minimal footwear, barefoot running and Newton Shoes.

As with virtually all running injuries, forefoot pain is a result of doing too much, too fast, too soon. When people blame the shoes, consider whether they would have had the same thing happen running barefoot or in minimalist footwear? It’s a lot like saying “this helmet injured my head”, “this oven mitt burned my hand” or “these shorts tore my ham string.”

The bio-mechanical sensor plate in all Newton Shoes can lead people to believe the shoes are too hard and stress their feet. It actually works the other way around. The midsoles of regular running shoes are unnaturally soft (compared to the natural surfaces we evolved to run on), commonly leading to large, uneven depressions where the EVA foam collapses. Unlike Newton’s Action/Reaction technology, EVA never fully recovers, leaving an uneven surface under the foot.

The unfortunate result for many runners is misaligned metatarsals as the foot adapts to the soft surface and digs increasingly deeper holes into their shoes. Over years and decades it is common for people to end up with badly misaligned bones, like uneven keys on an old piano. Returning to a naturally firm surface like barefoot, minimal or Newton Shoes can be a painful experience as the bones realign, pulling on connective tissue and stressing the nerves.

Leaving the condition untreated can lead to other problems such as stress fractures of the metatarsals or Morton’s neuroma. As with most medical conditions, the cause should be removed (often too much too soon) and then treated. Once addresses, it is important to ensure good running form and appropriate running shoes, with a conservative amount of time to adapt.

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Newton Running’s Take on Barefoot Running

Posted by on Friday, January 29, 2010 @ 2:13 pm | 3 Replies

In the past few days we’ve been inundated with calls and messages from friends, customers and fans asking, “Did you see NPR.org barefoot running story or
BBC barefoot running story story about barefoot running?”

The answer is yes, we’ve seen Dr. Lieberman’s studies at Harvard and it clearly validates what Newton Running is all about.

Please read the open letter below from Newton Running co-founder Danny Abshire and our Director of Education, Ian Adamson.

Our Take on Barefoot Running

Many of you have seen or heard the numerous national news stories about barefoot running in the past few days. This news comes on the heels of the recently published study, Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners by Harvard University anthropologist Dan Lieberman.

Dr. Lieberman and colleagues concluded that modern, cushioned running shoes change the way humans run and hypothesize based on their biomechanical findings that forefoot and some midfoot strikes may make runners less prone to some kinds of injury. (He explains his hypothesis in this video).

That comes as no surprise to us at Newton Running. Our company was founded on the belief that the lifted heel in modern running shoes promotes improper form and can contribute to various injuries. Our shoes are designed specifically to accommodate and enhance natural running foot-strike and gait and are based on decades of research and observation on shoe technology and running mechanics.

Running barefoot is not a viable option for most people, except for short training sessions on forgiving surfaces. Plus, the transition to barefoot running or ultra-minimalist shoes can be difficult and/or painful for runners who have spent their whole lives running in heavily cushioned and overly structured shoes.

Newton Running shoes feature a geometry and design that facilitates your natural gait and protects you from harsh running surfaces. We offer the only viable alternative to both modern running shoes and barefoot/ultra-minimalist shoe running.

Newton Running Shoe Design

1. Typical running shoes feature a thick, padded heel and a steep heel-to-forefoot ramp angle (gradient), which encourages heavy heel striking, increases shock loads and dampens afferent feedback (the ability to sense the surface under your shoes). Newton Running shoes have a negligible gradient (between 1% and 3%), which allows your foot to land with a reduced impact and take advantage of your body’s natural suspension system. (click images to enlarge)

heelprofile_illo

2. Newton Running shoes provide industry-leading impact force reduction and energy return with our proprietary Action/Reaction Technology™ strategically placed on the sweet spot under your forefoot.

sweetspot

3. Newton Running shoes are built with a biomechanical plate positioned directly under your metatarsals to enhance afferent feedback and allow your feet to spread naturally under load. The soft foam in regular running shoes dampens and blocks valuable protective feedback at foot strike. Without feeling the ground, runners will impact and push harder, creating the possibility for injury.

4. The anatomically designed upper and midsole allows your foot to move naturally throughout the gait cycle. In contrast, most modern running shoes are highly structured, rigidly encasing your foot and preventing natural movement. Over time, this weakens the foot and creates overuse of propulsive muscles/tendons, increasing the likelihood of running injuries.

Coaches around the world routinely use barefoot drills to improve running form. Newton Running has created the first natural running shoes for everyday training and racing that encourage barefoot running form. Join us in the Natural Running revolution.

Sincerely,

Danny Abshire Co-founder and CTO
Ian Adamson Director of Research and Education

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The (Popular) Science of Newton

Posted by on Friday, March 6, 2009 @ 9:43 am | 4 Replies

Although he doesn’t actually test Newton shoes, Adam Weiner from Popular Science offers an interesting take on the science of Newton Running technology in this article, Will Barefoot Running Cure What Ails Us? I love his intro:

“First of all, let’s set the record straight. Man is a natural long distance runner. Despite impressions to the contrary foisted on us daily from our predominantly sedentary and ‘well-fed’ modern lifestyle, it is interesting to note that for long enough distances a well-trained human can outrun just about any other creature on the planet.”

Weiner then further evaluates:

“In fact, consider the following: Man evolved to run barefoot, and shoes arrived on the scene only in the last few tens of thousands of years or so. Try running barefoot some time (preferably on a softer surface like grass) and pay attention to your foot strikes. You might find that it’s almost impossible to land heel first. Your command central (your brain) just won’t let you do it. Too much jarring. Your bare heel isn’t designed to handle that pounding. The evidence supports that landing nearer the middle to front of the foot is the most efficient way to go.”

Check out the full Popular Science story here.  We’re going to try and get Mr. Weiner in some Newtons so he can actually try them for himself.

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