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Causes and Treatment of Plantar Fasciitis

Posted by on Monday, March 14, 2011 @ 8:40 am | 1 Reply

This post is by Dr. Mark Cucuzella, a Family Physician at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine and Associate Professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The plantar fascia (PF) is a strong ligament that runs from the heel to the metatarsal heads in the front of your foot. This ligament helps absorb the shock that occurs when your foot contacts the ground. It has function in the windlass mechanism recreating the arch on takeoff.

Plantar fasciitis is the common term for what should be more accurately termed Plantar Fasciosis. itits is an acute inflammation caused by a trauma or infection. osis is chronic degenerative condition.

No evidence exists for an ideal treatment of this condition without identifying and treating the causes, which can be many. Since we have no literature to guide us, I offer this advice based on my experience treating hundreds of runners and guiding them in self corrections.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

The PF is designed to manage a relatively small amount of stress. The intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the foot are designed to receive signals from the fascia and in turn manage the majority of the load. When those muscles are dysfunctional, the load is transferred to the PF, which is unable to handle it, and results in tearing.

You can repair these tears by using palliative methods, but PF may return as soon as you resume running. The only way that you can actually fix plantar fasciitis is to address the root cause: weak foot muscles. (Thank you Lance from Barefoot Science for the insight).

Several structural causes can contribute to PF:

  • Weak intrinsic foot muscles
  • A misaligned and weak first toe
  • Tight, shortened calf muscles
  • Tight plantar fascia

Other important contributing factors:

  • Increased mechanical stress from running or other activity
  • Obesity
  • Suddenly switching from supportive footwear that inhibit intrinsic foot muscles to flat shoes (flip flops) or barefoot
  • Poor walking and running mechanics
  • Wearing overly supportive footwear weaken the foot and make it less stable.

How Do You Correct Plantar Fasciitis?
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Special Presentation on Pain-free Movement January 28

Posted by on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 @ 1:30 pm | 2 Replies

Running-injury prevention leaders from around the globe are gathering in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for a three-day conference to discuss best evidence and best practices to prevent and treat running injuries. As part of the gathering, the group will meet the local community and share stories, experience and knowledge.

“The Re-Evolution of Running: Discover Pain Free Movement for Life” will be hosted by Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking, the Bavarian Inn, and the Running Clinic Canada on Friday night January 28, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Bavarian Inn.

Guest panelists include leading clinicians, researchers, teachers, writers, athletes and footwear experts from around the globe:

Danny Dreyer

  • Founder: Chi Running and Chi Walking
  • Asheville, NC; Internationally-acclaimed injury-prevention coach, ultramarathoner and best-selling author

Dr. Craig Richards

  • Newcastle, Australia; General Practice, Sports Medicine, Runner
  • One of world’s lead researchers on running injuries and footwear

Jay Dicharry, PT

  • Director SPEED Clinic University of Virginia
  • International Authority on Gait Analysis and Running Injury

Dr. Peter Larson

  • Professor of Biology St. Anshelm College New Hampshire, Marathon runner
  • Author/host of world’s most widely read site on running innovation- www.runblogger.com

Blaise Dubois PT/Sean Cannon, PT

  • Quebec City, Canada; International Leaders in running injuries
  • Authors and Instructors of over 40 international conferences

Jerry Lee

  • Boulder, Colorado; Co-Founder and CEO Newton Running
  • Innovator in first shoe company with primary mission of injury prevention.  Ironman competitor

Ian Adamson, MS Sports Med/BS Biomechanical Engineering

  • Boulder, Colorado; Director of Research & Education-Newton
  • Ultramarathoner and 7-time world champ Adventure Racer

Dr. Daniel Kulund, USAF

  • Chief Health Promotions Pentagon
  • Physician, Innovator of Running Medicine. Opened first true “Runners Clinic” in the 1970’s.

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella,

  • West Virginia University, Coach USAF Running Team, National Level Masters Runner
  • National speaker/teacher of healthier running; sub 2:35 marathons in 4 decades

Jeff Horowitz

  • Arlington, Virginia; Editor at Competitor Magazine

Speakers will share their most important discoveries and then allow questions and conversation with the audience.

“This is an amazing privilege to have all of these leaders in one room together willing to share and converse with the public,” says Mark Cucuzzella, MD. Over 60 percent of runners are injured every year. If the CDC were to evaluate this data they would shut down running events. Insurance companies now are reevaluating the advice to get fit if it involves running and the subsequent injuries and costs of expensive imaging studies and treatments. We need to develop entirely new approaches to running injuries and staying healthy for life”

The event is free to the public and geared toward walkers and runners of all abilities.

Date: January 28 2011, 7:00 – 9:00 pm
Location: Bavarian Inn, Shepherdstown, WV  25443, www.bavarianinnwv.com

Free to the public.  Coffee and dessert will be provided. Cash bar.

For those wishing to dine prior to the event, call the Bavarian Inn at 304-876-2551 to make a reservation.

For more information, contact  Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking or  phone 304-876-1100.

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Form Drills for Natural Running

Posted by on Thursday, July 1, 2010 @ 7:30 am | 4 Replies

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

No one has perfect running form, but everyone can improve their running mechanics. Doing so can make you a more efficient runner, which means you’ll use less energy in every stride and boost your running economy (the ability to process oxygen efficiently while running). Ultimately, improved form can make you faster and less prone to overuse injuries. Screen shot 2010-06-30 at 5.01.13 PM

One of the primary ways to improve your running technique is through form drills. Form drills are easy to do and don’t take a lot of time, but they’re often overlooked, forgotten or ignored when a workout is completed. Taking an extra 5 to 15 minutes to do form drills a several times per week can make you more fluid, more efficient and even faster for both short and long distances.

Most drills take the aspects of good form — a compact arm swing, soft footstrikes with the midfoot under your center of mass, quick leg turnover, an upright posture with a slight forward lean at the ankles — and accentuate it in a repetitive motion that trains the body to be comfortable with that movement during your regular running mechanics. Some drills are aimed at building smaller muscles (such as the intrinsic group and lumbrical group in the foot), while others help your neuromuscular system fire quicker.

Do one set of each drill three to five times per week. You can do the drills before or after your regular workout, but doing them after a workout can be especially helpful in loosening muscular tightness brought on during your run.

1) Run in Place

This sounds simple, and it is, but it requires an adherence to good form in a semi-stationary setting while varying your cadence from high to very high. If you’re following the aspects of good form, you should be moving forward slightly because your momentum and a slight lean from the ankles will carry you forward.

While you’re doing this drill, think about each element individually — a compact and consistent arm swing, light, mostly flat, midfoot/forefoot footstrikes, a steady but relaxed head, jaw, neck, shoulders and torso — and how each plays into the bigger picture of your running form.

This drill is especially effective in teaching your body to increase leg cadence (optimally to 180 steps per minute) and learning how to lift your leg to start a stride instead of pushing off. Do three 15-second sessions per set.

2) Jump Rope

Jumping rope is simple, but as a drill it’s not going to help your running unless you’re doing it right. Jumping rope can instill the soft, midfoot/forefoot landings we aim for while running. Your body will naturally not let you land on your heel — especially if you’re jumping rope barefoot — because landing on your heels would inflict too much force on the bones, muscles and other tissue in your heels, ankles and legs.

It can also emphasize elastic recoil, as your heel settles on the ground before a new stride begins. Jumping rope also reinforces the notion that a new stride should begin by lifting your leg instead of pushing off. As you jump off the ground, focus on lightly lifting your feet off the ground instead of forcefully pushing off the ground.

Alter your tempo between slow, medium and fast speeds, all while concentrating on the tenets of good running form. Each set should be 15-20 seconds in duration.

3) High Knees

Running in place with high knees is another drill that accentuates lifting your foot off the ground instead forcefully pushing off to begin a new stride. This is essentially jogging in place, alternately lifting your knees to a 90-degree angle with your thighs parallel to the ground.

As with the jog in place drill, your slight forward lean and the momentum gained in this drill will gradually move you forward. Be sure to focus on soft, run midfoot and forefoot footstrikes, using your core to lower your leg down slowly instead of letting it crash to the ground.

This drill requires and also helps instill a compact and consistent arm swing, even though your arms might cycle slightly slower to coincide with the longer hang time of your legs. The motion of your arms will actually help you lift a foot off the ground to start a new stride and keep you balanced. (Briefly try this drill with your arms stationary at your sides and you’ll find yourself forcefully pushing your feet off the ground and you’ll have a more difficult time keeping balanced.)

Keep your torso, head and shoulders relaxed and fairly still during this drill and avoid too much vertical oscillation with your center of mass. Each set should consist of 20 high-knee thrusts or 10 elevations of each knee.

4) Butt Kicks

Butt Kicks accentuate the recovery portion of the running gait phase. Instead of using your hamstring to lift your leg off the ground, think about alternately flicking your lower leg backward with the use of your quadriceps and hamstring muscles then dropping it back down to the ground under the center of your mass.

The movement should be quick and pronounced but relaxed so that you’re able to return your foot to the ground softly at the midfoot. As with High Knees, a compact and consistent arm swing is crucial to keeping your balance and maintaining a high cadence. Each set should consist of 20 butt kick strides or 10 elevations of each leg.

5) Skipping 1 – Quick Skip

The goal of this drill is to quicken the timing of your neuromuscular system so you can increase your running cadence to 180 steps per minute or slightly faster. As you quickly pick up one leg off the ground with the start of a stride, the other foot skips off the ground with two small and quick hops before the legs alternate.

There is a staccato sensation to this drill when it’s done correctly, but the more you practice it the easier you’ll fall into a consistent rhythm. A compact and very quick arm swing is crucial to keeping your balance and maintaining a high cadence. Each set should consist of about 15 to 20 seconds of skipping.

6) Skipping 2 – Slow Skip

Unlike the previous drill, this is a slow-action skipping drill that accentuates the high knee action of the lifted leg during a running stride. With this drill, you’ll practice lifting your leg off the ground to being a new stride instead of pushing off the ground. To extend the duration of the lifted leg in the air, you’ll skip with the opposite foot.

The rhythm of this drill will also have a staccato effect, but it will be much slower in nature. A compact, slow arm swing will keep your balance and allow you to maintain a high cadence. Each set should consist of about 15 to 20 seconds of skipping.

7) Donkey Kicks

It seems like a silly name, but it looks just like it sounds like. Begin with a straight, slightly forward-leaning posture, a compact arm swing, level hips and flexed ankles and knees of the athletic “ready” position. Pull one leg backwards as if you’re kicking something behind you.

While balancing on the midfoot area of the stationary leg, repeatedly pull the kicking leg backward, then allowing it to recoil forward. This drill accentuates good hip extension and teaches your body to make footstrikes under your center of mass. Do 10 kicks with each leg per set.

8 ) Arm Pull Backs

This drill accentuates the proper motion of the arms during the gait cycle by highlighting the posterior portion of the compact arm swing. Begin with a level head and shoulders, keeping a straight spine with a slightly forward-leaning posture between the chin and hips. Alternate pushing your arms backwards as they are held at 90 degrees (or less).

The key is keeping your arms swinging in a plane parallel to your torso and not rotating your body to assist the movement. Do a total of 20 alternating pull backs per set, 10 with each side.

Danny Abshire is 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.

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Beware of Barefoot Running Injuries

Posted by on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 @ 9:17 am | 19 Replies

by Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

People have been experimenting with barefoot running for a long time, but in recent years the activity has gained mainstream notoriety and science-based credibility.

Most coaches, elite athletes, physiologists and other medical experts agree that running barefoot in very small doses on soft surfaces can help improve your running mechanics and teach your body to land lightly at your midfoot, but they also agree that you should wear some kind of running shoes most of the time.

“Throw your shoes away for good? Sure, if you have perfect mechanics and you’ve been living barefoot all of your life,” says Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a West Virginia University professor and 2:25 marathoner who has studied barefoot and minimalist runners in relation to running injuries. “But that’s not the majority of runners. Most runners absolutely need to wear shoes when they run.”

What Shoe Type is Best?

If you’re used to running in a traditional training shoe with a built-up heel, running barefoot can be a fascinating experience of freedom and can be the first step in developing natural running mechanics. Running unshod your foot naturally seeks out the ground by landing at the midfoot/forefoot, where it receives sensory interaction, or afferent feedback.

This sensory input immediately tells the rest of the body how to move efficiently with light footsteps, a high leg cadence, a relaxed but consistent arm swing, an upright posture and a slight forward lean from the ankles. This same feedback can be gained while wearing some types of lightweight shoes, but traditional trainers with thick levels of foam dampen the sensory interaction and make it much harder to interpret the ground, especially with the heel-striking gait those shoes promote.

How Run “Barefoot” in Shoes

Landing lightly at your midfoot and picking up your foot quickly to start a new stride is the most effective way your body knows to propel and protect itself while running. Conversely, your body generally doesn’t allow you to land on your heel if you’re running barefoot (especially on a hard surface) because it isn’t engineered to accommodate the blunt force trauma of repeated heel striking.

True, the calcaneus (heel) bone is a large bone, but it was designed to take the lower impacts of a walking gait and help balance the body as it rolls forward, as well as to help support and balance the body in a standing position as the rear point of a tripod.

Accepting large impacts on the heel bone from heel-strike running on the roads barefoot sends tremendous shockwaves (or impact transients) up your body. Those impact transients can have numerous negative affects upstream as your body tries to offset that force and remain balanced, including various forms of tendinitis, illiotibial band strains and adverse sheering in the pelvis and lower spine.

“It’s no different than somebody hitting you on the heel with a sledgehammer with 300 to 400 pounds of force,” says Dr. Daniel Lieberman, the Harvard University evolutionary biologist who concluded in a study released in January 2010 that running with midfoot footstrikes, either barefoot or in shoes, is better and less impactful than heel-striking. “So if you’re going to do that, it makes sense to wear shoes. A shoe makes that comfortable. A shoe essentially slows that rate of loading enormously — by about sevenfold in a typical shoe — and that’s what makes it comfortable and that’s why a lot of people can wear shoes and heel-strike.”

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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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Barefoot Running Goes Ballistic

Posted by on Thursday, January 28, 2010 @ 12:54 pm | 9 Replies

Barefoot running was one of the most talked about trends in the running industry last year. From the bestselling book Born To Run, to the explosive growth of the Vibram Five Fingers, runners everywhere seem to be talking about barefoot running.

Well, the buzz about barefoot running is about to hit a fever pitch. As we’ve talked about in previous posts, Harvard anthropologist Dan Lieberman has been studying the evolution of human running for several years. Dr. Lieberman has just published the results of his study in the journal Nature and the mainstream media is running (cough) with the story.

For those of you who listen to NPR on the drive home, you might have heard this story on “All Things Considered” today.  The story is also available on NPR.org and features a pretty interesting video:

Not surprisingly, Vibram Five Fingers are also getting a lot of attention from the media (Vibram sponsored Lieberman’s study). The Five Fingers clearly help people to try barefoot running, while providing some protection from rocks, glass, etc.

How do Newton Running shoes compare to Vibram Five Fingers?

As we talked about in the previous post, Newton’s are built for Natural Running but some of you may be wondering how Newtons compare to Vibrams. Amanda Brooks asked just that on her blog, Run to the Finish, and Newton Running’s Director of Education and Research, Ian Adamson, had this response:

“Running Newton Shoes and Vibram Five Fingers have many similarities, at least from a form perspective. The primary difference is the cushioning and energy return provided by Newtons, which is largely absent in Vibrams.

Newton Gravity Trainer: 3mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 2.0% gradient

Newton Gravity Trainer: 3mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 2.0% gradient

Both Newton Performance Racers and Vibrams have a 2 mm heel lift, or toe drop depending on how you look at it. This translates into a 1.3% gradient in the shoe, also referred to as ramp angle or drop. Newton Performance Trainers have a 2% gradient, which although very small, can be felt by aware runners. Regular running shoes have a much steeper angle, up to 15% depending on the shoe.

 

Asics Gel Kayano 15: 22mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 14.7% gradient

Asics Gel Kayano 15: 22mm heel-to-forefoot drop / 14.7% gradient


Barefoot running forces you to run efficiently and preventatively with respect to injury. Vibram’s allow people to experience barefoot running with an added layer of protection from harsh surfaces, while Newton’s go one step further, adding forefoot cushioning and  a significant energy return component.

Newton shoes are much kinder to the body’s structure and musculature when transitioning from a traditional running shoe to barefoot, and allow you to perfect a natural (barefoot) form while providing protection and cushioning.

Newton’s Action/Reaction Technology has been carefully designed to facilitate afferent feedback, which means the nerves in your forefoot feel the ground very quickly through the shoe. This is achieved through the outer lugs and internal semi-rigid chamber that is connected to the biomechanical top plate adjacent to your foot inside the shoe.

Traditional shoe cushioning mechanisms dampens afferent feedback, hampering proprioception and thus hindering your ability to self-regulate the impact of your foot strike. Studies show that runners strike much harder in cushioned shoes, one of the causes of injury. Running barefoot or in shoes that allow you to sense the ground encourage you to run protectively.”

Bottom line is that both Vibrams and Newtons encourage a barefoot or natural running style, but Newtons make it easier for most runners to transition their form after years of wearing ‘traditional’ running shoes.

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Natural Running – DEFINED

Posted by on Monday, January 25, 2010 @ 12:40 pm | 10 Replies

Terms like barefoot running, forefoot running, midfoot running, chi running, minimalist running, etc. get bandied about so often these days that it’s difficult to define any of them and they’re all starting to lose any true meaning. Here at Newton, we think ‘natural running’ best describes what we’re all about. What do you think? (click image to enlarge)

What is Natural Running

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Do Running Shoes Cause Injury? Our Response

Posted by on Tuesday, January 12, 2010 @ 12:00 pm | 15 Replies

Newton Running shoes are minimalist in that they have a heel-to-drop between 1 and 3%, depending on the model.

 

There’s a great discussion going on over at RunnersWorld.com about a new study that links running shoes to injuries here. Here are a few thoughts that our Director of Education, Ian Adamson, would like to add to the dialogue:

  • There are several on-going, multi-year studies at Harvard, MIT and the University of Newcastle (AUS) that are looking at injury related to footwear. Harvard department of Anthropology is about to publish a study that dissects unshod human running gait and injury (or lack thereof.)
  • If the only injury from running shoes is Achilles tendinitis, is the implication that the other “running related injuries” such as neuromas, plantar fascitis, blisters, bunions and joint problems would be present in if people didn’t run?

How Shoe Geometry Affects Running Gait

I’m on the front line seeing runners who present with all of the above and more, and the vast majority are treatable with appropriate shoes (the closer a shoe reflects the geometry of the foot the better, although protection from man-made and unnatural surfaces is prudent), especially a lower heel/ramp angle combined with proper form coaching.

There is no doubt in my experience (running competitively since 1973, 12 years as a professional athlete, 10 years in the shoe industry, 10 years as a bio-mechanical engineer) that lifted heels in running shoes introduce an unnatural geometry that interferes with our natural (and injury protective) gait.

Ramp Angle Comparison in Minimalist Shoes

It would take a lot to convince me that strapping 1/2 to 1″ foam to your heel doesn’t alter your stride. If you cut virtually any running shoe lengthwise you can see the drop from heel to the ball of the foot. The Nike Shox as noted above is one of the worst offenders. It used to be that 24 mm heel height (1 inch) and 12 mm (1/2″) forefoot was standard, but those numbers have changed dramatically in the last few years. Some popular running shoes are up to 35 mm in the heel.

The old standard drop (24-12) gives an 8% grade in a Men’s US size 9 shoe, but most are now far in excess of that, up to 15% in some cases. An 8% road grade (rise/ run as a %) is where most states give truckers a warning. Racing flats can be better in terms of being more level, but virtually none are actually level. The best on the market are:

It is interesting to note that some perceived “flat” shoes are not: Nike Free 5.0 (10 mm/6.7%), Nike Zoom Streak XC (11 mm/7.3 %), Nike Luna Racer (12 mm/8.0%), Brooks T6 (13 mm/8.7%). On the other end of the spectrum, the Brooks Beast has a 16 mm drop and 10.7% grade.

My personal experience: ran track and cross country barefoot and injury free through high school. Ran in Dunlop Volley tennis shoes through college (no heel lift http://www.volleys.com.au/flash/index.html), injury free. Was given a “modern” running shoe with a heel lift by a sponsor in 1989 and sustained my first running related injuries. Started back with level shoes again in 2007 (Newton) and viola, injuries gone.

–Ian Adamson

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Shoe Geometry 101 – Running Shoe Re-Evolution

Posted by on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 @ 12:00 pm | 7 Replies

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

At the start of the first American running boom in the 1970s, most people were running in fairly lightweight shoes that consisted of a rubber outsole a thin foam midsole and a lightweight nylon upper. Although simple by today’s standards, some of those early shoes were pretty good at allowing the foot to move naturally without the need for excessive muscular force and allowed a runner to obtain afferent feedback from each foot’s interaction with the ground.

As footwear technology advanced over the years, running shoes generally became cushier, softer, thicker, heavier and, in some respects even more comfortable. But, while some of the innovations were driven by performance, the end result in many cases was anything but performance-oriented. And that’s why, 30 years later, thousands of runners run with inefficient mechanics predicated on a heel-striking gait. Not only is that form not optimal for running fast, it can also lead to numerous overuse injuries.

The biggest culprit of modern running shoe design is that most training shoes have large, overbuilt heel crash pads that encourage and really only allow a heel-striking gait. Even if you wanted to run with a natural midfoot/forefoot stride pattern, the geometry and heel height of many shoes will not allow your foot to land naturally or parallel to the ground because the hefty heel gets in the way.

What is Natural Running?

Simply put, natural running is the way the human body was meant to run in its purest form - namely, barefoot – across a solid surface. That means running with efficient mechanics centered around landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot (the ball of the foot, but not the toes) and quickly lifting your foot off the ground instead of pushing off with excessive muscular force.

In order to accommodate that style of running, a runner needs to be able to feel the ground and interact with it accordingly just as when barefoot.

And to do that, the runner needs to be wearing lightweight, minimally designed running shoes. The afferent feedback from feeling the ground encourages your body to run with light footsteps, upright posture, a relaxed arm swing and a slight forward lean.

That important feedback is obtainable via minimalist, lightweight running shoes designed to allow the foot to strike the ground with a natural midfoot/forefoot gait but is impossible to receive wearing thickly cushioned shoes and a heavy heel-striking gait. Practicing natural running form can be simple, but it may take time to unlearn old habits and learn proper technique. Ultimately, natural running can help make a runner stronger, more efficient and less prone to overuse injuries.

What Are Minimalist Shoes?

Minimalism in its simplest form involves picking shoes that allow the foot to move more naturally than standard shoes allow. But not all minimal shoes are created equal. Newton Running shoes were designed to be an extension of the feet, enhancing ground contact without the jarring impact shock of the road, sidewalk or hard-packed trail below.

Newton’s reduced heel height and sleek geometry allows the shoe to stay out of the way as it approaches the contact with the ground, and along with enhanced forefoot communication, allows the runner to strike lightly at the midfoot/forefoot instead of using a heel-striking motion that requires heavy breaking and excess muscular force.

Newton Running’s patented Action/Reaction Technology™ encourages natural running or a barefoot running gait and enhances the shock absorbency, leverage and energy return throughout the gait cycle, ultimately helping achieve a faster cadence and more efficient mechanics. Newton’s independent lab research shows the system returns up to 28 percent more energy and reduces impact up to 44 percent when compared to training and racing shoes offered by leading running brands.

Practicing natural running form can be simple, but it may take time to unlearn old habits and learn proper technique. But it also requires having the appropriate footwear to allow your body to run the way it was designed to run. Once you learn to run naturally, you’ll put yourself in position to run faster and healthier for the rest of your life.

Click here for a video about Choosing the Best Shoes for Your Needs.

Danny Abshire is 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.

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Newton Running: A Love Story

Posted by on Monday, November 16, 2009 @ 10:52 pm | 3 Replies

We stumbled upon this fun story of a budding (?) relationship from blogger Lola Runs, who is chronicling her adventures in the world of online dating on her blog. LolaRuns’s second date with ‘BoyGenius’ turns into a discussion of natural running form and Newton Running shoes. Will true love ensue?

LolaRuns goes on a second date with BoyGenius

One day after LolaRuns first date with BoyGenius, BoyGenius text LolaRuns to request a second date. A second date would be lovely LolaRuns responded.

Throughout the week, leading up to the date schedule for Friday, November 13, BoyGenius and LolaRuns text about BoyGenius’s running program and Newton running shoes. Please recall that LolaRuns hasn’t been running because of a pounding ache in her lower back when she attempts to run. When LolaRuns shared this information with BoyGenius during the first date, he immediately peppered her with questions and concluded that it was her running form that was producing the back problems.

Him: “What is your running style? How do you land? Are you a heel striker?”

Me: “I tend to lean back and strike with my heel.”

Him: “It’s your running form. You need Newton running shoes. They have a patented technology with exposed grooves that encourages mid to forefront running. Let’s walk over to the Potomac Running store and I will show the shoes to you. You have to strike with your midfoot or forefoot if you want to run healthily.”

This is where cute BoyGenius even demonstrated the proper running form while walking on Market Street. LolaRuns was a bit smitten at that point.

The texts during the week followed the same vein with questions about LolaRuns workout – the stairclimber for an hour for the past two months – and the new Newton training shoes that would be available in the next month. BoyGenius also encouraged LolaRuns to check out the Newton web site and watch all the videos – which LolaRuns promptly and attentively reviewed. LolaRuns was sold on the Newtons – and quite possibly on BoyGenius.

Read the rest of LolaRuns’s post here. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure rooting for BoyGenius!

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