Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Run Naturally? - Rant #1

I have had advice from several people - several athletes - that I should run naturally.  They say that in response to my musings about mechanics and the experimentations I have done on the treadmill.  And, I'm going to have a little rant on that subject.

First, after 44 years of living in the fad-loving, infomercial that is modern culture, the odds that I would have instinctively retained a clue as to what is natural seems farfetched.  Thus, the advice amounts to "run in your habitual manner".  In the last 25 years, I've only run a few times to catch a door before it closes.  So, I don't even have much of a habit to lean on.  What I do remember is two runs - one in middle school, where I did 1.5 miles in 12 minutes with a combination of rear-foot and fore-foot; and one in high school where I did 3.0 miles on a whim (with zero preparation) and my shins just below the knees were x-ray-to-make-sure bad.

Second, evidentally experimentation is natural for me.  And just as I'm experimenting physically on the treadmill, I'm exercising my brain by reading and evaluating research on running.  A recent paper in the journal Nature claims that a barefoot fore-foot striker on concrete experiences less force on the musculoskeletal bits than a shod runner on concrete heel-striking in the modern, thick-soled running shoe.

There is a very loud minority out there that refer to shoes as foot coffins, insisting that shoes turn the feet - each with its 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments - into insensate, injury-prone, flippers.  This sounds at least plausible to me, so I will keep investigating.  Mechanically, the arch, achilles, and calf muscles function as a spring.  And a spring that has been tailored across millions of years of primate evolution.  I'm inclined to trust that heritage more than a piece of rubber provided by Nike under heel.  Though I must admit, my Nikes look super cool.

On the other hand, look how super cool these babies are:


  1. Um, Sis, are you actually questioning the coolness of the FiveFingers?!?

  2. Have you tried them on? They're SO comfortable. Jon and I are planning on getting a pair for hiking/trail running.

    (Can you tell I've decided to go back and read your blog from the beginning... As a means of procrastination, of course)

  3. I did one exercise in them, and plan to work them into my routine after C25K. My understanding is you need to build up slowly with these, because you do stretch the calves a lot more with a flat shoe like that. And, yes, I can tell!