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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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Newtons Are Just What the Doctor Ordered

Posted by on Tuesday, September 22, 2009 @ 9:36 am | 5 Replies

Dr. Segler

This morning we received a very in-depth Newton shoe review from Dr. Christopher Segler, a renowned podiatrist, foot surgeon and Iromnan finisher based in Chattanooga.

The full review is posted below, but for the time-challenged, here’s his overall impression:

“I can say that for me personally, I believe Newton Gravity Trainers are proving to be a valuable training tool and are changing the way I run for the better. As an award-winning podiatrist and foot surgeon caring for athletes, I would recommended Newtons to any of my patients who have had a history of injury, or simply hope to run more efficiently.  It seems the greatest benefit is, of course, for those demanding efficiency such as marathoners and Ironman triathletes.”

Newton Running Shoe Review
by Dr. Christopher Segler

Why I Decided to Write This Review

There are really two reasons I decided to write this review of Newton Gravity Performance Trainers. The first has to do with the fact that I am an award-winning foot surgeon and podiatrist who has chosen to limit my practice to elite, competitive and recreational athletes. For this reason, I get questions about running shoes from a lot of runners.  I am frequently asked about “new trends in barefoot running” as well as about shoes like Newtons that reportedly create more of a barefoot-type running experience. I always prefer to answer such questions on the basis of scientific theory as well as personal experience.

The second reason is that I am an age-group Ironman triathlete who has aspirations of qualifying for Kona one day. So I have a very personal interest in discovering any and every way to increase my own biomechanical efficiency, decrease my risk of injury, and run faster.  Newtons (in theory) should to do all three, so I thought I should give them a try.

Continue reading

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How to Reduce and Avoid Common Running Injuries

Posted by on Monday, June 22, 2009 @ 8:18 am | 7 Replies

Efficient form and lightweight shoes are the keys to staying healthy

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

Do you think a running shoe with a thickly cushioned heel pad and rigid medial post can keep you from suffering common running injuries such as plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome or shin splits? Think again.

Recent research and news reports are confirming what those close to the sport have known for years: running shoes with thick midsoles, extensive anti-pronation devices and large heel crash pads don’t prevent injuries.

The key to preventing running injuries is to run with lightweight shoes and efficient, low-impact running form. Running in heavy, overbuilt running shoes can put more strain on a runner’s body, reduce proprioception necessary to engage proper form and make a runner’s feet and lower legs overwork braking and propulsive muscles and connective tissue — a combination which can actually make a runner more prone to common overuse injuries.

A recent study at the University of Newcastle in Australia concluded there is no scientific evidence to support claims that running shoes with elevated heel crash pads and elaborate anti-pronation systems prevent injuries in runners. The findings have been published in the March 2009 edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Since the 1980s, distance running shoes with thick, heavily cushioned heels and features to control how much the heel rolls in, have been consistently recommended to runners who want to avoid injury,” Dr. Craig Richards, one of the researchers, said in a press release announcing the results of the study. “We did not identify a single study that has attempted to measure the effect of this shoe type on either injury rates or performance. This means there is no scientific evidence that [those shoes] provide any benefit to distance runners.”

Dutch researchers have previously found that between 37 and 56 percent of recreational runners become injured at least once each year. The most common maladies are found in the feet and lower legs, but others include pelvis and lower back injuries.

“Not only can we no longer recommend a shoe [with an elevated heel and pronation control system], but the lack of research in this area means that we cannot currently make any evidence-based shoe recommendations to runners,” Richards said in the release. “To resolve this uncertainty, running shoes need to be tested like any other medical treatment, in carefully controlled clinical trials.

“This will ensure that only running shoes with proven benefits can be marketed and sold as therapeutic devices. Until this occurs, health professionals will not know whether the distance running shoes they are recommending are beneficial, harmless or harmful.”

A recent story in the London Daily Mail confirmed what the Australian report suggested in an excerpt from a new book called “Born to Run” by journalist Christopher McDougal. That story referenced Dr. Daniel Lieberman, professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, who offered the startling conclusion that: “A lot of foot and knee injuries currently plaguing us are caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to overpronate (ankle rotation) and give us knee problems.”

To run efficiently, you have to understand your body and how it naturally moves across a surface with as little muscular force as possible. The tenants of good running form include running with short strides and a quick cadence, landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot area (the ball of the foot, but not the toes), and quickly lifting your foot off the ground instead of pushing off with excessive muscle force. A slight forward lean and a relaxed arm swing are also key components.

To illustrate what Newton Running calls the “Land-Lever-Lift” technique, take the simple test of running barefoot across a smooth floor. More than likely, you’re naturally going to land lightly at your midfoot/forefoot and quickly pick up your foot to start a new stride. Your body doesn’t allow you to land on your heels because it isn’t engineered to accommodate the blunt force trauma of repeated heel striking. Unfortunately, most contemporary running shoes have been designed for running form that demands heavy heel striking and dampens the afferent feedback which allows the foot to sense the ground.

Two of the biggest mistakes distance runners can fall prey to are 1) excessive heel striking that causes abrupt braking of forward momentum, and then pushing off too hard with the toes to start the forward motion again; or 2) using only propulsive muscles,(the calf group, hamstrings and Achilles tendon) by running too far up on their toes like a sprinter and not using the body’s natural cushioning system. Each of those form flaws puts too much vertical movement into every stride, and that leads to inefficiency and considerably more impact, muscle and tendon stress on the body.

Danny Abshire is the co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colo.-based company that makes shoes that promote an efficient midfoot running gait. He has been making advanced footwear solutions for runners and triathletes for more than 20 years.

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Running Form 101

Posted by on Thursday, February 26, 2009 @ 8:34 pm | 1 Reply

danny-abshireGood form is the key to efficient running and preventing injuries

By Danny Abshire, co-founder, Newton Running

When most people take up running for general fitness or to train for a marathon, they don’t think twice about how to do it. They buy a pair of running shoes, lace ‘em up and start running.

While that simplicity is one of the things that makes running so desirable, if you start running without learning proper form, you could wind up being woefully inefficient, and, worse yet, set yourself up for a variety of debilitating injuries.

What is Good Form?

To run efficiently, you have to understand your body and how it naturally moves across a surface with as little muscular force as possible. Along those lines, the tenants of good running form include running with short strides and a quick cadence, landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot area (the ball of the foot, but not the toes), and quickly lifting your foot off the ground instead of pushing off with excessive muscle force.

A slight forward lean and a relaxed arm swing are also key components. To view an example of good running form in action click on the “Run Right” video here.

Land/Lever/Lift

To illustrate what Newton Running calls the “Land-Lever-Lift” technique, take the simple test of running barefoot across a smooth floor. More than likely, you’re naturally going to land lightly at your midfoot/forefoot and quickly pick up your foot to start a new stride. Your body doesn’t allow you to land on your heels because it isn’t engineered to accommodate the blunt force trauma of repeated heel striking.

Two of the biggest mistakes distance runners can fall prey to are:

1) Excessive heel striking that causes abrupt braking of forward momentum, and then pushing off too hard with the toes to start the forward motion again; or

2) Using only propulsive muscles,(the calf group, hamstrings and Achilles tendon) by running too far up on their toes like a sprinter and not using the body’s natural cushioning system.

Each of those form flaws puts too much vertical movement into every stride, and that leads to inefficiency and considerably more impact, muscle and tendon stress on the body.

If you’re landing hard on your heels and excessively braking and then pushing off, you’re going to strain the muscles used for braking (especially the quadriceps group and the anterior tibialis along the front of your lower leg) and propulsion (calf and hamstring muscles), as well as the connective tissue in the lower leg, ankle and foot (plantar fascia and Achilles tendon), and that can lead to a variety of injuries.

And if you’re too far forward in a sprint position, you’re overusing your calf and hamstring muscles and putting a lot of strain on your Achilles tendon.

Good Form Matters

You wouldn’t enter into any other sport without learning proper form, so why do it in running? For example, if you bought a brand new pair of golf clubs and went out and hit 100 balls at the driving range without any instruction or idea about proper swing technique, you’d probably have inconsistent form and very mixed results, plus you’d wind up tired and very sore the next day.

Good form because it leads to efficiency, which equals less impact and that equals injury prevention. The key is running relaxed and having the awareness to just touch the ground and lift quickly on every stride.

Danny Abshire is the co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that makes shoes that promote an efficient midfoot running gait. He has been making advanced footwear solutions for runners and triathletes for more than 20 years.

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