Natural Running

What is Natural Running?

Letting your body run as it was designed to do. This will be slightly different for everyone but the aim is the same. The aim of running is to move forward as efficiently as possible so we are able to go faster or longer or both depending on our running aims. Our bodies are very impressive feats of engineering and will find a way to keep moving forward if we have the mind to do so. We may not be running in the most efficient way as any number of factors may cause our bodies to have had to adapt or compensate for something. It has been said that we have become efficient at running inefficiently.

The factors that may cause us to adapt our running style (and become more inefficient) are many; tight or weak muscles, poor training techniques, footwear, environmental factors, an injury, a biomechanical imbalance in our skeletal or soft tissue make up, diet or nutrition, poor or incorrect (but often well meant) advice, our own stubborness to finish / win/ lose weight / etc, not listening to our bodies, the list could go on. Once these adaptations or compensations are in place there is no reason why our bodies will change them. They are the way our body has overcome the problem – it has recognised there is a problem and done something about it. Often the problem is that the initial compensation will cause a knock on effect and the symptoms occur when the body has run out of options available to it, i.e. it cannot introduce any further changes.

The way to overcome these compensations are to change our running style with specific training exercises, it can be a bit like starting again or learning how to run again. Most of us have never had any formal running training. This is at odds with pretty much anything else we undertake. Most people who run will only seek advice when something has gone wrong and that advice will usually not entail a close examination of our running style and provide answers to what is found. It is usually to address the symptoms that you are experiencing either during or after a run.

At some point it is good to have a thorough assessment of your running style so the cause of the symptoms can be addressed. If injuries keep on appearing (either the same one or new ones) then your body is trying to tell you something – there is something out of balance somewhere and it cannot keep on like this. Something has to change. This can also be the case if you never seem to be able to run faster or further than a specific distance / time. Something has to change to make this next step.

The design and aim of modern running shoes is being questioned. These shoes tend to have a high soft heel (a crash pad) and increasing and varied levels and type of support – often called pronation control. These shoes have been designed to control the amount of pronation that our foot goes through during the loading or stance phase of our gait cycle. Pronation has been blamed for having a role to play in most sporting injuries and therefore ,the theory being, stop or reduce pronation then injury rates will improve. But many studies over the last 20 years show injury rates are about the same (if anything they are higher now then back in the mid ’80’s). Many companies now have a range of minimalist shoes that allow the foot to function as near to ‘normal’ as they are able. The main differences between the shoes are the heel to forefoot height differential and the torsional stability of the shoes.

If you decide to embrace a more natural running style your body will need time to adjust and the process will be different for everyone. You can either go completely natural in one go which will mean a huge reduction in your current training and start again with new shoes and a very gradual build up back to running and complementing this with specific training drills. Or using the drills and techniques to complement your current training. You will remove one or two of your sessions and do specific natural running training drills in minimalist shoes.

There are various authors who have come up with their version of how to run either barefoot or minimalistically. These include Pose external site and Chi external site and can be found on various websites if you need more information.

The main issue we come across and is cited as a problem with modern running shoes is the large heel causing a heavy heel strike. This is particularly problematic when the strike occurs in front of your centre of mass as is causes a breaking force back into the body. We do see heel strike that is under the body and this is better. Natural or minimalistic running technique is based around a midfoot or forefoot contact under your body. Running shoes with big heels prevent this from being possible due to having to overstride to make contact on the heel.

Therefore has our running style changed to accommodate how modern running shoes have been made and the features in them have contributed to a change from a more natural running style? The answer that relates to yourself will only become evident if you run in a natural way with a minimal shoe and see what happens. How will your running style change, will you become efficient, can you run faster and for longer, do you have injury problems or niggles? There is only one way to find out.

Interested? Keep on reading.

The following is some information on how to start to change to a more natural running style. Feel free to give it a go. If you need any further information then please contact us and we can see what we can do. This is what we can offer: – A full running / biomechanical assessment from our podiatrist. This will include high speed video analysis and possibly inshoe pressure analysis.

  • Footwear advice, you will need minimal shoes to obtain the most successful outcome.
  • Injury advice, and if required, a rehabilitation program following assessment.
  • Foot mobilisations to complement your transition.
  • One to one or group pilates classes specifically designed for running.
  • Group classes providing advice on our method of transition to a more natural running style.