London Marathon – what do you really know about running?

The inaugural Virgin London Marathon is nearly upon us and as a result we have been getting a lot of runners coming through the clinic doors aiming to resolve niggles and pains that they are enduring. It is always interesting to hear the training stories and more interesting to watch what people choose to run in and how they choose to run. As a sports physiotherapy company operating in West London we have seen it all. But what do you actually know about running?A recent study titled the “Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: is lighter better?” aimed to answer one of these questions. Their findings, although only based on 12 participants, supported previous research that running barefoot has no metabolic advantage over running in shoes. In fact, they found that when comparative weights (equal to that of the shoes being used) were attached to barefoot runners legs, their metabolic (VO2max) demand was less efficient than the shod runners by up to 4%. The fact is as weight increases so too does the demand on your body however running in a shoe that is 130grams in weight may improve your overall efficiency by 3-4%. Every little helps when running 42km!

Another study investigating “The effect of running shoes on lower extremity joint torques”. For those of you who do not know what a torque is, it is the tendency of a force to rotate an object about an axis. Having increased torque is not always a good thing and what they found was that wearing shoes as opposed to being barefoot increased torque at the hip, knee and ankle in all three planes of movement. These increases are associated with the elevated heel, and the material under the medial aspect of the foot. A finding of a 36% increased knee flexion torque could result in increased quadriceps activity and increased load on the patella-femoral joint. This could lead to conditions such as anterior knee pain (patella femoral joint pain syndrome), inferior fat pad impingement and patella tendinopathy as more loads are experienced across the muscles and joints. Interestingly, the effect of running shoes on knee torque during running (36-38%) was greater than those reported in high-heeled shoes during walking (20-26%)! This does not go out and run the Virgin London Marathon in high heels!

What does this all mean to you the runner? I would suggest finding a good pair of cushioned shoes that weight less than 130 grams each and get your local London Physiotherapist (preferably one of the team at Kensington Physio and Sports Medicine) to assess your running. Stride length, cadence and landing patterns as described in one of my earlier blogs are all very important variables that can be altered and will make a huge difference to you. Whether it is MTSS (“Shin Splints), anterior knee pain, ITB syndrome, patella tendinopathy or you just want to become a better runner then I would suggest you give us a call.



Clinical Director

Studies cited:

1. Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: is lighter better? Franz, Wierzbinski & Kram 2012. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

2. The effect of running shoes on lower extremity joint torques. Kerrigan et al, 2009. American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.


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