Wednesday, November 18, 2015


There are many excellent resources online for the average runner looking to improve body awareness and technique.  My goal is to provide you with a place to start because ultimately your journey to finding the most healthy and sustainable way to run for you will look different than my own.  That said, to recap my last entry, here is an excellent educational video on how to chose a running shoe based on evidence, not myth.

Below are a few resources that I studied as I looked at how to improve technique.  Some resources are much better for technique while others do an excellent job of explaining the biomechanics of running and what factors to assess on yourself to see where you need improvement.  I'll try to summarize this for you,

“Anatomy for Runners”by Jay Dicharry is an excellent resource for understanding the biomechanics of running.  It's meant for the runner not the doctor so you can start using what you learn on day one (although it's a great book for sports/orthopedic providers as well).

The Air Force's own Dr. Mark Cucuzella runs the Natural Running Center and opened the first minimalist-only shoe store in America (Two Rivers Treads) to provide runners with not only "alternative footwear" but with proper education on running technique and training as well.

Dr Cucuzella, US Air Force Reservist

If you have a little hippie in you like I do, Michael Sandler and wife Jessica Lee wrote an excellent "how to" book called "Barefoot Running."  Michael's story is especially compelling as he went from a traumatic accident which led to a titanium left hip/femur as well as a very banged up left knee (he has no ACL), along with nearly a 1" leg-length discrepancy back to running.  His book explains how he did it, the exercises, the technique, the progression.  This is a great book if you're looking for a step-by-step guide and you want to avoid injury.

Michael Sandler overcame tremendous injuries to run again.  He has dedicated his life after the accident to teaching other runners what he has learned.

I personally like a guy known as "Barefoot Ken Bob" as well.  He has some great tips to help people learn how to run lighter, softer, and smoother.

Barefoot Ken Bob has been a barefoot runner for many decades, long before the minimalist movement ever started.  He says he ran barefoot precisely because he doesn't like pain - being barefoot allows him to adapt his stride to promote the softest landing possible.

With all of the "resources" I've mentioned you'll notice there is a very big theme of barefoot running.  What is important to realize is that I am not advocating people just take their shoes off and go for a normal run.  You can get hurt on day one doing that.  What I do advocate is that people become aware of what they are doing when they run.  In my own personal experience, I actually had to go completely barefoot because my technique was so far gone - it's what 14 years of competitive running can do (when you are fast people generally don't say anything about your over-striding).  Because I had run 14 years and 20,000+ miles the wrong way, changing was a monumental feat.  The resources I used allowed me to re-learn a better movement pattern.  I typically do one short barefoot run a week to encourage and remind my body the right way to run.  The rest of my runs I wear only the amount of shoe I need to tackle the terrain and no more.  As far as I can tell in all of the scientific literature, this is the way to go for healthy and sustainable running.

On that note, if you have pain or an injury it's important to see a physical therapist who knows something about running.  Everyone's body is unique and why we do what we do is also unique.  A running technique evaluation only gives a little bit of information, I might see that your hip drops and you lose alignment, but this doesn't tell me why...for that there is likely more digging in an evaluation that has to take place.  It could be hip weakness but just as likely it could be a timing issue or that your gluteus medius is over-worked because it's compensating for something else that isn't working.  That's why I don't recommend treating yourself if you have an injury and just working on technique doesn't always address the other problems.

But if it is simply a technique issue, then practice will be the most important factor.  It isn't easy and that it why I believe that so many people have failed.  That doesn't make it impossible either.  But it's the same reason so many people try to lose weight and don''s hard to change.  I literally just used the exact resources I mentioned above and by taking off my shoes was able to teach myself better form and technique, my feet were my coach.  If you are as determined as I was it is highly probable that you can improve technique without spending a lot of money on someone to coach you.  There are people who train running form for a fee but I can't speak to their abilities or to what exactly they are teaching, I only know what I teach when I coach running technique.  Pose and Chi running are popular programs but they promote a very rigid way of doing things and it's the primary reason why I do not promote their programs.  Instead I promote body awareness and learning how to move so that you are soft, smooth, quiet, and efficient.  The exact movement will look different between people and even on yourself as you vary your terrain, distance, speed, etc.

It took me a few weeks of focused practice but the light went off and as long as I didn't do too much too soon my body adapted.  I went from being unable to walk without pain to running a mountain marathon, a mountain ultra-marathon, and in the Spartan World Championships, placing 12th Elite female in 11 months of working on my running form and not worrying a lick about my speed.  No running shoe could ever give me that.  That my friends was a crap-ton of hard work...

Completing the Pikes Peak marathon in Aug 2015.  I ran in sandals for 25.5 miles and took them off when I started to slip in the rain.  The final 3/4 mile I ran barefoot down the street and into the finish.  Nine months before I literally couldn't walk without foot and hip pain.  I never gave up and worked on my technique like it was my job.  Now running is no longer a "high impact" activity because I know how to run correctly.

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