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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Running technique

If you want to create a debate that can easily turn into an argument with a group of runners, then bringing up running technique is a good place to start! Naturally, every runner, regardless of level or experience, has experience and an opinion on the "perfect running technique".

What has contributed to this issue in recent times is the availability of a wealth of information and "expert advice" on technique, from people who want to sell you shoes, to those you will sell you "style" if you give them enough money and six months of your running! Never before has there been such an emphasis on changing your technique for "better" running. That word - "better" - is never quite defined, and nor has it ever been scientifically tested. So when it comes to the one of the hottest topics among runners, one is limited to anecdotes and (often grand) theories.

Below are some posts we've done looking at the subject!


Running shoes
  1. Are your shoes the CAUSE, rather than the solution of injuries?
  2. Running injury - Shoe or training? A debate with missing information on shoes
  3. Barefoot vs. shoes: Biomechanics and important concepts
  4. The running shoe industry: Where will we be in 10 years' time?
  5. The footstrike: How should your foot be landing - midfoot vs. heel vs. forefoot striking
  6. Running shoes vs Barefoot running Q & A Part I
  7. Running shoes vs Barefoot running Q & A Part II
  8. Running shoes vs Barefoot running Q & A Part III
  9. Running shoes vs Barefoot running Q & A Part IV
  10. Running shoes vs Barefoot running Q & A Part V
  11. Barefoot running and injuries - a stimulus plan for therapists?

Running technique
  1. Is there is a "right" way to run?
  2. The Philosophy of how we run
  3. Biomechanical discussion and evaluation of Pose Running
  4. The scientific study on Pose running - what did it show?
  5. The second Pose study - effect of Pose on running economy
  6. Some suggested changes YOU can make to your running technique
  7. The marketing of running technique

Running economy
  1. What is running economy? Introduction to key concepts
  2. Who are the most economical runners in history?
  3. Biomechanics of running economy
  4. How can YOU improve your running through running economy?


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for writing these posts. As a new runner (1 year) this is something I have been wondering about myself. The opinion amongst most runners though seems to be that there isn't one right running technic, but that there are things that you can do wrong, that will lead to injury, e.g taking to long strides.

Anonymous said...

Do I have this correct? Ross Tucker is struggling with his running and can barely run without pain, learns pose, gets certified to teach pose and his running improves. Soon, his running becomes "automatic" so he ditches pose and goes on to write a whole blog series on who Pose does not work! Do I have it right?

The following taken from Ross' instructor page on the pose website


My personal experience with Pose
The Pose method of running has captivated my interest both from a personal and scientific point of view. Personally, I recently found myself in a situation where I found it very difficult to get back into running seriously after a fairly lengthy break from the sport, because running seemed to take so much effort. The morning after even relatively easy runs I felt muscle and joint soreness which was usually only felt after very high intensity training and I was ready to give up on training altogether.

The opportunity to learn a new running method as part of a research study being conducted here at the University of Cape Town where I study was an interesting opportunity to learn something, but I had not considered the possibility that it would be the answer to many of my running problems. After experiencing a few early difficulties in cancelling out years of bad running habits, I suddenly found that I was able to run and feel no pain, impact or soreness. I felt that I was unfit and knew how much training I had lost over the course of 11 months, but the act of running has never been as simple. I have since managed to return to the sort of training I was performing before and I feel effortless during runs which had previously been a great strain. I feel as though I recover a lot faster from training and I am looking forward to improvements in all distances with the Pose method.

From a scientific perspective, the concept of a running method which reduces injury and improves performance is too enticing to be ignored. I knew immediately that I wanted to study the method and its applications, and wanted to learn how to coach it. I am optimistic that the Pose method will become the accepted way of running one day, and feel privileged to be part of its development and progress.

Ross Tucker

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Afraid not. You asked "Do I have this correct?" and the answer is no, sorry.

I don't know if there is a date on what was written on the Pose site, but you might ask when it was written. You'd discover that it was written 7 years ago.

Your next question should be "who wrote it?" and you would learn that it is not me. It was written on my behalf as part of doing that Pose study.

So 7 years ago, marketing speak (much like those testimonies you'll read advertising revolutionary weight loss products - do you believe those?).

Of course, there is truth in what was written. The scientific basis is sound - but then, I've said that here on this site too. And yes, it is too enticing to be ignored.

But such is scientific progress - what is true today is not true tomorrow, so you should be careful about believing what was written for promotional purposes 7 years ago. They did once believe the world was flat, you know.


Unknown said...

I started as a swimmer many years ago and recently have returned to a life of activity but bearing a shoulder injury which limits my return to swimming. I have long resisted running as I was concerned about level of injury caused to joints (but it's nice to have actual numbers and science behind what I thought was true).

I'm interested to read more of these posts (I've only read a few so far) but was curious why there was little said of the Chi technique. Also, looking at the websites it is apparent that both are geared towards marketing and not promoting running itself which is always makes me wary.

Thanks for the information and focus on this topic.

Rob Smith said...

(part i) now i have been following the POSE method for a year, i feel i can add my comments. i should say that i am not a religious follower (i am very bad at doing the drills and i would say that i have not reached the POSE standard...) but i have successfully changed my running style quite radically.

for me, the key innovation of dr romanov is not the POSE technique, but the POSE method. that is to say, HOW to learn the technique. this is where all the "fluffy stuff" about perception comes in; i am ok with the science that justifies the technique.

i have to admit i was sceptical about this idea of perception, especially after previously being put off by the mystical explanations of chi running. however, i experienced it myself when i went to a workshop with dr romanov and saw with my own eyes the difference in a video of my running style before and after doing a simple drill. i did not consciously change anything.

for me to make the kind of investment i needed to make to change my running style, i had to really believe in its benefits. as i say, chi running was unable to convince me as i needed hard science - others may be more convinced by mysticism, its horses for courses. if you want to pick nits, its true that dr r skims over some of the details in his physical model but it is clear to me that he understands this and that he only does it to simplify the exposition. i think that the "fanasticism" that you tend to see on these websites comes from the fact that one really needs to believe in what they are doing in order to acheive it. some people find it necessary to get their justification by convincing others: just ignore them.

my objective and reason for turning to POSE was to get around a dodgy knee (torn meniscus) and i was also very sceptical about these big fat expensive trainers and orthotics everyone was telling me to buy. i couldn't see why my weight (90 kgs) should mean that i had to run with cushions on my feet when the ground reaction forces experienced by an elite 60 kh marathon runner running at 20km/h in wafer thin shoes are higher than mine. in that sense i can say "mission acomplished": i now run on the ball of my foot with racing flats and my knee only gives me problems if i walk around too much in work shoes.

however, it was not without its problems. i put this down to my bloody minded and extreme approach to things. this year i tore an achilles, a hamstring and - running too many miles too soon in vibrams - i got a stress fracture in my foot. even worse than last year!!! as anyone who has recovered from any injury will know, it takes months for the body to make the necessary adaptions to a new running style. the feet grow muscles they never had, the tendons and bones strengthen, the weakest link in the chain moves to another point etc.

Rob Smith said...

(part ii) so, i agree with the previous posters that 12 weeks is not enough - also, it is a difficult thing to test because you really have to be very single minded and PATIENT to change your running style. i would not recommend just anyone to do it, only those really determined or with knee problems. it is clear that the total loading is more or less the same (i would say less as the vertical oscillation is less but then the cadence is higher so its swings and roundabouts). BUT the load is shared between the knee and the achilles-calf system (see paper by dr noakes on this). once the body has made the necessary adaptations, the maximum load on any one system is reduced and - i believe - leads to less injuries. i'll let you know next year... :-)

as a side debate there is the whole issue about minimal shoes / barefoot. i found it impossible to learn to run on the ball of my foot in conventional trainers. if you go down this route then don't make my mistake - give your feet time to grow the appropriate muscles and make progressive transitions to lighter and more flexible shoes. it is possible to run POSE with normal trainers just as it is possible to run "badly" barefoot. they are two separate issues but each has its benefits in my opinion and the two complement each other perfectly.

lastly, and for fear of sounding like one of the "cult", some people have commented that the POSE site is all about marketing. its normal that there are books and videos for sale but the forum offers free "coaching" by video analysis by POSE coaches. furthermore, the only way to disseminate effectively the method is to train new trainers and to provide a certification and springboard for their careers. by the way, you can find out absolutely everything you need to know about POSE just by carefully browsing the site: there is an enormous amount of material in the way of articles and videos. i cannot criticise romanov for commercialism as it really is not strictly necessary to buy his books or undergo his sessions (but these help!) because everything you need is there, for free, on the website. the "marketing feel" of the website comes from his insistence to brand the method as POSE - and who can blame him? its good for the method, its good for him and - as other close copies have demonstrated - its necessary to avoid it all colapsing in a vague mishmash idea.

wildrunner-uk said...

Could it be that the era of community, mass running with its emphasis on the Marathon has produced poorly developed style? Long slow running does not require toe-off and drive.
Speed work that evolves from this style seems to rely on increased cadence and bounce from midsole (air/gel) cushioning and may produce the increased injuries which we are now told are due to over-designed shoes and not running “barefoot” (!)

In the 1970 -early 80s more athletes would start as youngsters with shorter distances and they needed to adapt their Achilles muscles to using spikes –with less heel than trainers. They would subconsciously learn to drive off their forefoot both on track and cross-country.
At that time, I was advised that the best trainers for speed and my high arched feet would be slip lasted –to allow the metatarsals to flex without impacting against a “board”- and curved or semi-curved to enable forefoot striking, natural rotation and toe-off.
After 35 years with fewer injuries than others –hardly any Achilles problems- I am convinced that I have a greater use of my natural suspension to absorb impact and my forefoot supination represents the body’s ideal foot-strike at sub 6.30 m/m pace...although age makes it is more of a challenge!
I’ve noticed that new shoe designs (“free” and “barely there”) trade on flexibility and proximity to barefoot running yet they still have deep heel wedges.

We wonder why we haven't got the same depth of faster finishers in races? Surely we just need to set a trend of racing shorter distances. Running should not be an expedition of hydration and fuelling that requires less overall strength, posture and balance.
No amount of style theory will create more balanced runners who can experience and enjoy the exhilaration of faster pace and competing at the edge instead of this fixation with endurance which restricts muscle range and causes injury.

Anonymous said...

I've just spent an afternoon reading your series on running technique. Fantastic. Thanks for the effort in putting it together. Best wishes, Richard

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting blog. I would like to pose one question though: what about running technique for sprinters? Probably because the vast majority of hobbyists are joggers, magazines like Runner's World, fitness bloggers, and shoe companies seem preoccupied with running only as occurring on distances greater than 5 miles. But surely Usain Bolt is just as much an elite "runner" as an elite marathoner. As someone who is nowhere near an elite runner, but who still enjoys sprints (50m, 100m, and 200m), I have always been completely baffled by most runner's magazine's discussions. My heels never strike the ground and I don't have 4 hour workouts. I don't see the chi or pose methods being any help to someone running 50 meters. When I have had injuries (or have looked for info to prevent injuries) I seem to find better resources under topics for dancers or soccer/futbol players.