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3 Reasons you hate running: part one - your feet

Running is something that comes naturally and is loved by a lot of people, yet it is also something that is despised by many others.

In the most recent podcast released on Peter Attia’s “The Drive” Irene Davis is hosted on the show. Together they dive into fascinating depths of running, including the anthropology, the biomechanics and the relevant science surrounding it.

For those interested in the topic, we highly recommend giving it a listen.

In this three part series, we’re giving our take on the subject in a much cruder, digestible and time friendly manner.

 

For the first part of this series, we are focusing on your feet.

Foot mechanics has taken a hammering in the recent decades. Since the 1970’s footwear has been developed with the idea of “helping” weak, tight or generally poor foot mechanics.

What this has led to is generations being told that a certain type of footwear or orthotic is crucial for the health of your feet. And this caused all kinds of problems.

A quote from Irene during the podcast (as shared on the link if you haven’t clicked it) reiterates this:

"Rather than have the runners adapt to the running, they took the shoe and adapted it to the runner." — Irene Davis.

Come 2010 and the book Born to Run was published (along with a number of other opinion pieces) which brought to light some of the newest science and matched it with some old traditions - revolutionising the way we think about running.

A study done in 2014 titled “Injury-Reduction Effectiveness of Prescribing Running Shoes on the Basis of Foot Arch Height: Summary of Military Investigations” concluded and again we’ll quote:

“Selecting running shoes based on arch height had little influence on injury risk in military basic training.”

So in typical human nature we (a lot of people, not us specifically) threw the shoes out and went running.

The result?

A catastrophic amount of foot, ankle and general soft tissue injuries of the lower limb (we got a little lazy when it came to sharing research regarding this claim but ask any physio or podiatrist and they’ll back us).

The main reason being, all these feet and running mechanic patterns had become so used to functioning with support and cushion style footwear (in other words become weak) now had to suddenly be able to handle running a whole new way over night. Undoing patterns that had been learned over decades.

The body doesn’t typically respond well to that kind of stress.

So where does that leave us?

We have seen that foot ware has led to a breakdown in human mechanics and it doesn’t match the way we move. We have also seen that kicking the shoes off doesn't leave us in a great place either.

Well, let's take a step back and talk about the way we run for a second (and they do this on the podcast very well so I highly suggest you listen to it). If you were to throw on your new Nikes and jog up and down the road, you’d probably find that your heel strikes the ground first.

If we told you to now sprint up and down that road, you’d find that your forefoot strikes the ground first.

Take your shoes off and you’ll find that your forefoot strikes the ground first regardless of the speed you're running.

Hopefully this gives you an indication of what part of your foot is supposed to strike the ground first when you run.

Now, onto the part about your foot being weak. It probably is. From even before you can walk, shoes are thrust onto your foot because it is a societal norm (yes even in West End, more people wear shoes than less). So your body has been conditioned to function with shoes from the moment you start using your feet and legs to generate force.

This leads to a whole host of breakdowns in your movement patterns. If you are a regular runner and want to change from high support and cushion type footwear to lower support or “minimalist” type of shoes, you need to earn the right to do so first.

 

How?

You do this by making your feet and the surrounding joints strong.

This involves strengthening the muscles that control your ankle, knee and hip. We suggest finding someone that can teach you how, and a good exercise scientist, physiologist or strength and conditioning coach is a good place to start.

 

Take the time to learn and build your strength (and confidence) in your feet before you demand them to run!

#teamSOF