Patient: “Doc, it hurts whenever I move like this.
Doctor: “Don’t move like that.”
In a recent post on his blog, Chris McDougall writes about “discoveries” that Doctor Daniel Lieberman at Harvard has been making about humans and running, and figuring out how to run more efficiently and safely by changing the way we move in order to avoid pain.
Of course these “discoveries”, like Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the new world, are nothing “new”, at least not to those of us who have already been running barefoot.
However, if not to experienced barefoot runners, the research certainly can be useful and enlightening to those who have been telling us that barefoot running has got to “hurt more” than when we protect our feet with thickly padded running shoes!
Which of course is exactly the point! If the way you run in shoes would hurt while running barefoot, then, like the doctor said, “Don’t move like that” … unless, of course, your goal is to damage your body!
Which is exactly the problem; protecting our soles from running makes it comfortable to run in an injurious manner!
One of the things Daniel Lieberman has shown years ago is that a heel-first landing causes more impact. Of course it’s obvious to barefoot runners on hard rough surfaces that heel-first landings hurt. That, again, is why we stopped doing things like that when we began running barefoot.
I find there is a lot to be amused by in running shoe marketing. Of course, these things are only amusing because I haven’t bought into and suffered from them.
A decade or so ago the Running Barefoot website (you’re already here) was just beginning to become popular, and all we had was a few hundred examples of folks who have reduced and/or eliminated their running injuries by running barefoot. One of the amusing things about running shoe marketing is that back then the running shoe marketing people were pushing, almost to the exclusion of racing flats and other minimalist footwear, extremely over-padded shoes to protect us from impact because “obviously” impact is what causes injuries in runners. The sad thing is that these shoes not only did NOT protect us from impact, because they only blocked the perception of impact, they actually encouraged us to land with greater impact.
For decades researchers, like Steven Robbins (and more recently Lieberman) and other researchers have shown that impact can be reduced by pain avoidance while running barefoot.
But Lieberman’s research and McDougall’s book have not, only shown that we can eliminate impact from running – by simply changing the way we run in a way that would not cause pain if we were running barefoot in that manner, but have made this information part of the popular dialogue.
Now that these findings are getting lots of publicity, shoe manufacturers have now been hemming and hawing about how there is now no evidence that the impact of landing hard on our heels causes injury!
Could these be the same people who have insisted, and often continue to insist or imply in there advertising campaigns, that we need to protect ourselves from injurious impact by wearing thickly padded shoes?
It seems to me that the shoe companies care less about injuring their customers than about selling us products that not only don’t do what they claim to (prevent injury from impact), but actually contribute to injury by encouraging people to land with greater impact than what they would if they were barefoot and could immediately feel the impact, and change the way we’re running to eliminate the impact, before running several miles, on a regular basis until our knees and backs cannot take it anymore!
But, to answer their question, Lieberman and his collegues have been pouring over 4 years of data from Harvard’s cross-country team. What they discovered was not only that fore-foot-first landers were getting injured less, but also runner greater distances than those who were landing heel-first!
Fortunately for runners, there are folks like McDougall and Lieberman and a few others who have consistently been looking for evidence, rather than marketing hype, to discover the truths about running and injuries.
For myself, though I’ve often been an “easy sell”, the whole notion that we need to protect ourselves from something as natural as running has always been obviously ridiculous!
- Why is running form “controversial”? Because your pain is worth a lot of money.
- Running Barefoot @ Harvard
- Research of Steven Robbins
- Born to Run
- Barefoot Running Step by Step