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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Treating Running as a Skill

By: Joel Luedke

We touched on it last week with our Study Spotlight looking at the perceptual illusion of cushioned footwear and how that can set you up for injury.  It wouldn't be fair to put out that information and not follow it up with something to help move you forward on to the next step.  That is the point of this article.

I truly believe running is a skill and should be treated like one, but that wasn't until recently.  I ran a bunch (like actually quite a bit) in grad school and just went out and did it.  No thought about form, technique or anything of that nature.  I just put on the shoes and off I went.  Things ached and hurt but with time they subsided and it wasn't always bad when I was running.  I also learned that pretty much 80% of people need to be in some type of pronation supported shoe (learned that from some high up shoe guys).  So I thought I was set.

Then a few years later I started digging into it more.  We treat every other sport technique just as that a technique or a skill.  We practice our throwing, shooting, passing, even defense with great focus on how it is done but we just assume we know how to run without paying much attention (other than sprinters, they pay a lot of attention to this).  It is thought that we actually run 'natural' and with our skill early on in our development, pretty much leading up to the first grade.  Then shoes happen.

This is our first time getting introduced to a set of "high-heels".  No not the pumps people wear out  on the weekend but the very different heel to forefoot height of traditional running shoes.  There is often a difference of 8mm or more (some much more).  This may not seem like a huge different but add up the time you're in shoes and how much that is shortening your Gastroc-Soleus-Achilles complex.  The amount can become mind numbing.  This seems to be where skill goes out the window and the heal striking shoes up and any thought of practicing is now gone.

For the remainder of article we are going to overview why 'heel-striking' can be so hard on your body and why we need to focus on more of a skill approach and utilizing techniques to accomplish those tasks.

Heel-Striking

You generate a ton of force into the ground when you strike it, 2-3x body weight to be semi-exact. Your bones and joints aren't meant to take all this force alone.  When we 'heel' or 'rear foot' strike we set up to put most of the force through the ankle joint, travel up our tibia, directly through our knee, onto the femur, up through the hip and potentially putting your hips/pelvis out of alignment. All not good things.

Often times with heel striking there are lots of other abnormalities in gait.  Your legs can swing around because there is no lift in hip flexion.  Your knee may dive in and cause patella femoral pain.  Your arch may collapse and then you start developing shin splints.  These are the reasons I really believe that you should treat running like a skill and you can prevent so many things from happening.

Treating it as a Skill
I was skeptical at first. I'm not a little guy, I've run before and been somewhat successful so why change it up but it made sense to do so.  The great thing about doing this new technique/skill is it was much more efficient and less painful (when done correctly).  First you switch to a midfoot/forefoot strike instead of a heel strike.  This immediately takes away from the pounding on your joints and switches the weight and absorption of it to your muscles and tendons and allows them to act as shock absorbers.

It also is more efficient because you are using gravity to assist you. How?  You are leaning forward and using your hamstring to act as a piston and pull your foot around to land underneath you.  You aren't pushing yourself off the ground with each step and if you do in this form your calves will tell you about it and allow you to adjust and refine your technique.  This allows for instant feedback without all the pain that could come along with it.  Along with more efficient you are better able to keep your hips, knees, ankles and feet in line and limiting excessive movement that is robbing you of energy and efficiency.  Very much a win win.

This is just the surface of how treating running like a skill can help you. Please check out the videos below demonstrating the different that these couple running techniques can do for you.  I also highly recommend checking out Running Revolution for more ideas and a ton of exercises to practice to perfect your form, reduce your injury risk and improve your performance.

Chi Running Example




Pose Method Example






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