Changing My Stride

I just finished Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, and in short it said:

  1. We were, as the title of the book states, born to run: our bones, the nuchal tendon, our lungs, our sweat glands, and even our bipedalism have all evolved to allow us to run, not necessarily faster, but longer than any other species.  Those stories about ancient hunters chasing a deer until it dies of exhaustion are true.
  2. Most foot injuries are caused by bad form/foot weakness/modern running shoes.
  3. Running is (supposed to be) a joy, and most, if not all of us can run much further than we think we can.

There’s a lot of other fascinating content in the book about the Tarahamura,  scientific research, ultrarunners, etc., but that was the gist of it.  Reading it made me really want to go out for a run, but when I finished the book it was about 3AM, so I decided it was best to leave it till later.  In any case, I have decided that:

  • I want to run more frequently (maybe a quick 3k after each lifting session on top of 2 times a week), and
  • I want to change to a forefoot strike, and maybe eventually to a barefoot run.

The reason for this is simple, and as McDougall states in his book, we’ve been running for several millennia, and the invention of shoes with air cushioning and gel and soles that adapt as you run and whathaveyou have only been around for about a century.  And, coincidentally (or not), with the invention of these thickly-padded shoes also came an outbreak of foot injuries, from plantar fasciitis to shin splints to achilles tendonitis.

Weird. More protection for your feet means fewer injuries, right?  Wrong – more protection for your feet changes the way we run and makes our feet weak.  And if we have an altered gait and weak feet, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that our feet are getting injured more.  Our feet were made to run: they contain 52 bones (25% of the bones in our whole bodies) that serve to help us run properly.  If you run barefoot, you tend to run with a forefoot strike (landing on your heels on hard concrete hurts!), but with our padded shoes we tend to land heels first.

That’s what I want to change.  I’m always looking for ways to make my body more efficient, and I think that barefoot running – running as evolution intended us to run – is probably the most efficient way to run.

But I can’t jump right into running barefoot, or even just forefoot running: my calves won’t be able to take it, and I could and would probably hurt my achilles tendon.  So what I’m going to try to do is run parts of my runs with a different stride, until eventually I can handle 6, 7 miles on my forefoot without too much difficulty.  (I just tried this, alternating between forefoot and heel strike about 400 meters at a time, and now my calves are burning like crazy).  If you’ve got any tips on swapping over to a forefoot stride, please comment or shoot me a message – any help is appreciated!

Anyway, here‘s a link to McDougall’s Born to Run. If you’re a runner, you should definitely check it out.  If you’re not a runner, you should definitely check it out too.  This will make you want to go run.



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