Running – are you doing it correctly?

Running gait – the way you run is you may recall “is the single most important factor in reducing the probability of getting injured whilst running”.  This was my bold statement in my last blog on running.  I still maintain this. We can get you more flexible – I am still not convinced flexibility is all too important in running ability anyway, we can get you strong – especially your hips and knees BUT if we do not change your running it is all to no avail.  I am not an expert in running and in no way do I claim to be an expert runner.  This is very important to understand too.  There is no perfect running style.  Have a look at Michael Johnson or Paula Radcliffe and tell me they run perfectly. I know, you are saying but one is a sprinter and one is a marathon runner but in no way were they the “typical” runner and yet they were at one point the worlds best.  What I believe in is certain characteristics of running that may prove to help you get out of being injured and keep you that way. My journey into researching running and investigating what makes for good technique has opened my eyes to the lack of literature out in the world on running.  I mentioned Born to run  written by Christopher McDougall and another book I came across that I would also recommend would be Chi Running the concept is of  circles and motion and  ensuring the body is working in unison to allow for a smooth ride.  The concepts of Tai Chi are discussed and followed.  The read is very easy and truth be told the first few chapters will give you the basics of Chi Running.  The weird thing is that Chi Running, Born to Run and all the recent research into running are all saying the same thing – reduce your stride/step length, increase your cadence and alter your strike pattern and there is a good chance you will go along way to helping yourself stay injury free.  I guess this isn’t weird if it works!I have become my own personal project in understanding running mechanics and the effect it can have on the body. Prior to reading these two books and the current research I was most definitely a heel striker with a long, slow stride. I thought this was economical and the way forward. I had been playing sport my entire life – cricket, tennis, and rugby.  I had even managed to play at a decent level of rugby along the way. Yet not once had I thought my running technique was poor and even worse not once had any of my coaches, physios or trainers ever pointed out to me that my style was not economical or efficient.  I had always got a sore lower back from running. It was explained to me that my feet were not great and I required orthotics. I got these, they did help yet I would still get low back aching after every run or game of rugby.  Fast forward many years to exclude rugby as my sport due to multiple injuries and now running was still painful.

Why? Because my running style was not economical or efficient.

So I read “Born to Run” and went and bought a pair of “barefoot” trainers.  After a lot of deliberation and trial, I decided to go for Vivobarefoot shoes. I couldn’t bare the thought of running around in little toe gloves just yet! I had read you need to start off slow in terms of distance so I was ultra-cautious and did 1km for the first run. BOOM! Talk about muscle soreness in places I had not felt in a long time. My calves were so incredibly sore for 3 days after the run I could not believe it.  The most interesting experience from the run was absolutely no back pain and noticeably no quadriceps aching.  I put this down to to the fact it was only 1km and would need to do more kilometers to work out if this was the real deal.  So over the coming weeks I gradually increased the distance at 500m per run until I was easily doing 5km.  The same pattern occurred – sore calves and  also bum, no back pain and no quadriceps aching.  It was all very interesting and I started to enjoy running.  I realised the lack of quadriceps aching was due to the fact I was not braking every time I hit the ground. I was no longer landing on my heel and causing a massive eccentric load on my quadriceps with every step.  The shoes were a revelation and like so many people I had heard talking about this new type of running I was hooked.

The running continued and I thought I would try some more shoes along the way.  I had heard indifferent reports about the Nike Free’s. I went and bought a pair of nikefree 3.0’s. A completely different experience to running in the Vivo’s.  I felt like I was landing on a cushion and as such having to push through it too.  Was it as enjoyable? Not really. Have I done as much running in the Free’s – No.  The next pair of shoes I tried were kindly donated to me by Chris Evans at Fitbrands.  The shoes were a new brand calledOn-Running that has been very popular within the triathalon world.  They gave me the silver/orange Cloud Surfer and away I went.  Another very interesting experience – somewhere in between the Free and the Vivo.  I definitely felt light on my feet and they felt like they gave me something back.  I wasn’t getting the tough ride I got in the Vivo’s yet I wasn’t getting the soft push through sensation of the Free’s.  I liked them.  I liked them a lot.

Fast forward a few weeks and the the training for the Spartan Race has been well and truly underway and this weekend we do the spartanrace.  It has been a grueling training regime and not without some pains along the way.  I have had some right lateral knee pain that has stopped me completing all the runs.  I put this down to my awful right ankle (requires surgery at some point in 2013 I am sure) and my problematic right hip (labral tear and femoral acetabulum impingement) – all rugby related.  Still the running has been great and I am most definitely hooked.  After the race this weekend I plan on taking it easy.  The boys doing the run are keen for the next challenge – I suggested we train for a 5km under 20 minutes.  They are keen and so am I.

So remember:

1. High cadence – somewhere around 162-180 steps per minute (27-30 steps per 10 seconds) 2. Mid-foot to forefoot strike pattern 3. Run tall – look towards the horizon (cause that is where you are heading!) 4. High heel lift – at least to the height of your opposite knee 5. Elbows at 80-90 degrees and keep them behind your body and tucked in.

Most importantly – enjoy!


Scott Tindal MSc (SEM, London) MCSP

Clinical Director


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