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Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Discussion on Running, Running Shoes, and Walking


     I am preparing a lecture for our state podiatry meeting at the end of June this year. It is entitled Running vs Walking: How are they different? As I prepare for the talk, I find this blog and any comment you may have will be very helpful. There are many theories out there on what the right running form is, or the right running shoe, or is running better than walking, etc etc. I will begin to analyze in this blog post that I will update constantly over the next 2 months. It will be a work in progress to fine tune my thoughts. 

     So, what does a podiatrist want to accomplish with more information about running, walking, and running shoes. Probably most of all to help patients avoid injury or speed up the rehabilitation of an injury in progress. And, this information can be imparted to the athlete on how to make running much more enjoyable and actually better in the long run.

     Most know that running and walking provide similar health benefits (better cardiovascular, less diabetes, less blood pressure and cholesterol), you just have to do 2.5 times the amount of walking than running to accomplish that feat. Thus, one hour of running produces the same amount of benefit to the body as 2.5 hours of walking. A benefit of running however is that it releases peptide YY to reduce appetite so runners are leaner for sure. Walking definitely has less injuries and less wear and tear on the body, with studies showing 40-80% of all runners getting injured every year. Real Age Benefits of walking: 10,000 steps per day makes men 4.1 years younger and women 4.6 years younger.

     Where does a podiatrist fit in? We must be able to help patients with injury treatment that includes: shoe recommendations, orthotic devices when needed, running style changes, training guidelines, stretching and strengthening help, and advice on what makes sense and what does not.
I think that will be be part of this lecture recognizing fads, shams, great ideas well tested, and you definitely have to keep an open mind.

     Most will agree that there are aspects of running form that create smoothness, efficiency, less injuries, and more power. The image above clearly shows some of them: upright posture, arm swing compact, slight forward lean of the trunk, foot land under or just in front of the body.

In this photo, the forward body lean is exagerated.

Here the runners going stride for stride appear to be overstriding, a cause of many injuries, where there foot strike is too far in front of their bodies. The impact shock needing to be absorbed by the muscles and skeleton, and the deceleration needing to be stabilized by the muscles, makes overstriding very energy inefficient.

     If you talk to college track and cross country coaches, one of the key changes they have to make in a freshman runner is to run with a greater stride rate (or cadence) and much less stride length. You can run faster in two ways: longer strides or faster cadence. As the runners above show, the longer their strides the more impact shock to the knees and hips. Since typically overstriding is associated with a heel strike pattern, it gives heel strikers a bad name. You can over stride with a heel strike form, a midfoot strike form, or even a forefoot strike form. 

An exagerated heel strike from overstriding

His overstriding will produce a midfoot strike. See how far infront of his body his heel is, classic sign of overstriding. This produces greater up and down motion (not efficient since we want forward motion only) requiring more effort from the legs to cushion the fall). 

     One of the tricks we have taught our runners is to keep the cadence at 170-180 steps per minute, overstriders run at 150-160 steps per minute. I have a metrenome on my iPhone that I can set for this to practice the step rate. Remember 2 strides equal one step (A step is the time you put one foot down until you put that same foot down again). A stride length is from heel contact of one foot to heel contact of the other foot.  When you are overstriding, you are going slower than this, using greater stride lengths to achieve faster speeds. Remember, you can have an efficient 170-180 cadence at any speed, but this cadence is the most efficient.

     There are a few tricks out there for better running: cadence of 170-180, lighter shoes, lower heel height, slight forward lean with pelvic/core training.

To be constantly continued.....


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Thank you very much for leaving a comment. Due to my time restraints, some comments may not be answered.I will answer questions that I feel will help the community as a whole.. I can only answer medical questions in a general form. No specific answers can be given. Please consult a podiatrist, therapist, orthopedist, or sports medicine physician in your area for specific questions.