Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Learning to Run

In a way that supports your body rather than battering it to pieces.

Since there has been so much interest in natural/minimalist/barefoot running I thought I should point everyone toward some resources.

There are, to my knowledge three major and a few lesser known running methods that will allow a person to run as nature intended.

Today I will give you a brief description of the three major methods and some links that will allow you to get more information.

Each of the three schools will get you to the same place through slightly different methods and teaching styles. The three mentioned here seem to be an example of "convergent evolution" in that they don't seem to have drawn much, if anything from each other.

What you get from this sort of study is this.


As you see here, this woman is having no trouble running on asphalt barefoot (though she could do the same thing in the right shoes) She has a good forefoot strike, she's using her feet and legs as shock absorbers, and adjusting her stride to the the speed she wants. I believe she studies Pose, but she could have developed her technique form any of the schools of running I mention here.

In no particular order we have;

Chi Running

This method was created by a fellow named Danny Dreyer out in the San Francisco Bay area. He draws his principles from Tai Chi and applies them to running quit successfully.

Chi Running is, as one might expect from where it was created, laid back, progressive, go-with-the-flow, training. Some people say it is a bit "new agey", but if so, the people who are involved are new agers who can run all day long. (rather than the more common sort that barely know they have a body).

Dreyer is very generous with his information and has a YouTube channel with all manner of useful tips. It's well worth checking out.
Chi Running YouTube channel

Pose Running
The Pose Method (tm) of running was developed by a Russian sports physiologist named Dr.Nicholas Romanov, and it does have that Russian flavor. It is very precise, incremental, and has drills and exercises to progressively develop each aspect of your running stride. While some might find Pose a little Anal, you can't argue with the results.

Evolution Running
Coach Ken Mierke developed Evolution Running from studying runners from Kenya who, as it happens learned to run barefoot long before any of them ever put on a running shoe.

His method is the most "jock-like" of the three in my experience. He gives the experience of working with a "steak and potatoes" all American coach who just happens to be a genius at understanding movement.

Pose and Evolution running are just a bit more geared toward competition I think, but you can run a marathon with any of the three.

There are a few things that I would have liked to have seen addressed in the available material from each of these three schools that are not, but any of them will put you on the right track (no pun intended) for learning to run efficiently and effectively.

In a later post I will tell y'all about some of the things I do to work on areas of running that I find important that are somewhat peripheral to learning proper technique (such as play, exploration and practical skills)

And of course, to run well it helps to have a proper soundtrack.




Mo'in said...

Dear Mushtaq,

I thank you for this information, these links, and the series of posts addressing this field that I so want to explore!

All good wishes,


Steve Perry said...

I dunno. Since we didn't evolve to run barefoot on concrete, I believe you have to a long way to offset that. (Barefoot in the nice rain forest or even on moist sand? Yeah. Heavier than two hundred pounds on the sidewalk? With bad knees already?)

Not me.

Mushtaq Ali said...


Running on concrete is, in my experience as easy, or easier than running on hard pan, rock, packed soil or many other surfaces.

I have, as it happens, run on Serengeti(where we seem to have evolved) and a lot of it was as hard as concrete,being baked for Milena under the equatorial sun, just not as smooth.

Running in soft heavily padded shoes actually makes you strike harder than running barefoot (as demonstrated by pressure plate tests) I don't run barefoot in the city, there is just too much crap on the ground, but with the minimum possible footwear I find it much easer running on concrete an asphalt than in padded shoes.

barefoot running is not something I recommend for everyone, and you have to work your way into it. If you have been wearing shoes your whole life the muscles in your feet will have atrophied.

If you were interested in improving your stride and being able to lessen the shock to your knees while running I would recommend a shoe like the Nike Free (as much as I hate to give Nike a plug)which would allow your foot to articulate and to rebuild its muscles.

Steve Perry said...

I was a fairly serious runner when I was young. Barefoot every summer as a kid; ran the 880 and mile in high school, and started training for a marathon back before there were many joggers of whom to speak. No running shoes in the local stores when I started doing six or so miles a day, so I started in Keds. Eventually found some racing flats, and eventually moved up to New Balance when I could find a pair.

Around the house, I still go barefoot more often than not.

At two hundred pounds, the stress on my feet and knees was too much to do it on concrete without some kind of padding. (That video of the slip of a girl -- what, eight-five pounds of her? -- running is nice, but I'm not a gazelle, I'm a rhino ...)

Moot, because I'm not running any more, but walking. A knee with half the meniscus gone isn't going to say quiet long if I start pounding it ...

Mushtaq Ali said...


First, I want to make sure that you understand that I am not saying that you need to start running barefoot. That is a personal sort of thing.

I am merely suggesting that your science needs to be updated.

As Dr Craig Richards pointed out in a 2008 paper published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine, There are no evidence bases studies, non at all, that demonstrate that modern padded running shoes make one less prone to injury. Dr Richards went so far as to publicly challenge the various shoe manufactures to produce even one scientific, peer reviewed paper supporting their claims. The various companies have been notably silent.

If you think about the physics of the thing, there is not enough padding in a modern running shoe to make any real difference in shock absorption. At 200 lb you would generate about twice that amount of force (very roughly) with each running step. does it really seem reasonable that a 1/2 inch of foam would do much to relieve that amount of force?

But don't take my word for it. At the 1986 meeting of the American Society of Biomechanics, E. C. Frederic who was director of research for Nike Sport Lab, stated that "When subjects were tested with soft verses hard shoes, no difference in impact force was found" he then went on to say "the second propulsive peak in the vertical ground reaction force was actually higher with soft shoes".

To make a long story short, modern running shoes offer no real protection from injury, and have been implicated in all of the modern running injuries that have become epidemic since the early '70s.

As to the woman I used for the illustration, yes, she probably weighs 100 lb or so. I on the other hand mass about 180 lb at 6' 2" these days and can run across concrete barefoot with equal ease (though I think my form is not as good as hers)I could do so even when I weighed 200.

It is not a matter of weight, it's a matter of structure and position (much like Silat strangely enough) Our bodies were designed to be able to efficiently absorb the impact of running. We have the musculature and ligaments of a running animal and we are the only primate that does.

I remember your knee surgery, and understand your not wanting to abuse it by running on it. You might want to take a look at Danny Dreyer's new book on "Chi Walking" which applies a lot of the same principles he uses for running to walking for lighter impact and such.