Boston 2011 Fighting Back the Tide

 

Barefoot Running Style Video Presented at American Medical Athletic Association Boston Marathon Sports Medicine Symposium

Boston Marathon 2011- Fighting Back the Tide

Over 28,000 runners from around the world challenged the rolling hills through Boston on April 18th.  In its 115th  running Boston has become the temple for runners. It is the oldest marathon and the only one in which you must qualify.  Thousands of volunteers and over a million loud citizens support the celebration of movement.  Those of us who wear a military jersey feel the home team advantage on Patriots Day.  I represent the US Air Force.

As the lead in an initiative to create healthier running in soldiers I must challenge myself every day as we compel others to do the same.   As we age and have more added responsibility in our work and home lives, we constantly fight the tide of declining fitness and so called “normal aging”. 

Modern medicine is supreme in treatment of acute illness.  We fail in combating normal aging.  Technology, laboratory, and wonder drugs have little use here.  We must teach the patient to get the most out of themselves and join them in a continuous struggle with a dogged enemy…the aging process.

Dr George Sheehan understood that each of us is “an athlete”.  He wrote in 1983: “Man is a whole, a unity of mind-body-spirit.  And the whole is greater then the sum of its parts.  Holistic medicine has been accepted by those who believe that two plus two can equal five.  Those individuals who are trying to get the most out of themselves are …the athletes. Now people with chronic disease want to test their limits and act like healthy human beings.”

 As physicians we must embrace the original meaning of holism: the connection of mind, body and environment, the treatment of the whole person.  We must teach patients that health is not a factor of the quantity or quality of the medical care, but on each of us embracing holism. 

The approach teaches the physician to view every patient as an athlete.  Nowhere is this more urgent than in our care of the aging patient.  Rest promotes rust and deterioration.  We must teach patients that normal is not optimal.  We need to teach the finer points of exercise physiology and nutrition in aging, their effects on prevention and treatment of disease, and the limits and risks of exercise.

George Sheehan observed “Most people live nowhere near their physical limits.  They settle for accelerated aging, an early and precipitous fall.  They give aging a bad name.  Too many people entering their forties are performing at physiological levels more appropriate to somebody sixty years old.”

I had the privilege of having an amazing discussion with Stanford Professor and one of the leading Geriatricians in the world Dr. Walter Bortz and his wife Ruth Ann.  He is an 80 plus year old marathoner as is his wife who was the oldest female runner at age 81 with a knee replacement.  He coined a term called the “Disuse Syndrome” 30 years ago and just published a book exploring the factors of healthy aging, most which are in your control.  Walter has written prolifically in his long career on the perils of our new fascination with technology in medicine.  He and his wife took a pilgrimage to Calcutta to visit Mother Teresa and the Home for the Dying.  Mother Teresa’s advice : “Just love them.” 

Human performance declines 5 percent per decade after the 30th birthday.   It does not take extreme amounts of time or effort for our patients to stay on the slow 5 percent slope- four good hours of whole body movement a week will achieve it.

We must teach our patients not to be happy with the precipitous fall.  Normal should be viewed as the best one can be at any age.  Our aging citizens have discarded what is not useful and what is trivial in their lives.  They are enjoying the fruits of many years of work.   We owe it to them to give them the opportunity to live these years in the spirit of their childhood, to play, to exercise, and live these years as peak experience.

Frank Buckles who just passed peacefully at 110 embodied these principles.  “You must stress the body” Frank would say.  At 103 he disregarded his physician’s advice to rest and not get on his tractor to farm.  He also exercised without a shirt in the freezing cold after sojourns to the Martinsburg Spa back in the 50’s.  As a survivor of a POW camp, he understood this at an unconscious level.

I also had the honor of speaking with Harvard Professors and leading scientists Dr. Daniel Lieberman and Irene Davis on the topic of barefoot running at the American Medical Athletic Association Annual Conference.  Our 2 hour session was followed by over an hour of questions with an intrigued audience. Dr. Lieberman is an evolutionary biologist who has now become the world’s leader in healthy running. Why?  He quotes in his talk “nothing in biology makes sense  except in the light of evolution”.  He had amazing slides and stories from his trips around the world connecting healthy eating, living, running, and aging to how we evolved as the supreme long distance traveler on the planet.

 Dr Bortz found me after the talk and relayed a story of how he coined the term “Disuse Syndrome” after a short period where his leg was casted and quickly atrophied.  None of the medical specialist could explain this phenomena.  Dr. Bortz has spent the last 30 years researching , writing, and explaining why this occured. He applauded our mission of trying to get humans to unbrace their feet on a daily basis. 

We showed our spiritual video on Barefoot Running Style now posted on www.trtreads.org which brought applause from an audience who started the day skeptics but I sense now believed they were part of a growing re-evolution.

How did the race go?  Still staying on the 5% slope.  I’m 44 now and ran 2.37:00  for 165th place overall, and 15th in the 40 plus group.  Our Air Force team finished second by a hair.

My friend Chi Running author Danny Dreyer also fighting this tide.  After 3 days on his feet at the Expo and teaching running mechanics, he raced to a 3.36:51 at age 61. My Barefoot Professor friend Dr. Lieberman also set a personal best of 3.49:21 at age 46 (in shoes).

Learn. Evolve. Run!

Mark

mark@freedomsrun.org

www.trtreads.org

Congrats on strong finishers by local runners:

Tim Schuler, Chambersburg 2.45:59  380 place

Andy Mason, Hagerstown 2.47:53  466 place

Jared Matlick, Shepherdstown  2:59:04  1381 place

***Neil Cucuzzella, Ellicott City Md 2:59:14 1407 place – Jared dug deep to hold off my brother at the finish!

Rick Meyers, Chambersburg 3.04:54  2144 place

Bill Bondurant, Charles Town 3.15:44  4086 place

Missy Price, Harpers Ferry 3.36:27  9512 place

Jen Burkhardt, Charles Town 3.40:37  10732 place

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How to Run the Boston Marathon 2011

Mile 25 of 2010 Boston Marathon…I’m #1110

How to Run the Boston Marathon

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking

 www.trtreads.org

As you enter the week prior to the race here are a few visualizations to help you set your plan.  Running your best marathon is part art, science, guts, faith in what you can do, and a little luck.  Running your best 10k is mostly about fitness.

I’ve had the pleasure of running this race 17 times with a string now of 10 consecutive.  My only misses were for military and work duties and a foot surgery.  In all these efforts had 5 under 2:30, 6 between 2:30 and 2:35; 2 between 2:35 and 2:40; 3 between 2:40-2:44; and one DNF ( first one with lots of rookie mistakes). My best learning experiences were when the men and women started together and I had the privilege of running alongside and witnessing the patient approach and incredibly efficient running form of the top ladies. 

In the 1998  Fatuma Roba, the Marathon Gold Medalist in Atlanta and 3 time Boston winner, scooted over the ground with an incredibly efficient motion.  Her knees stayed low, she lifted up her feet, arms relaxed, and face always relaxed.  She stayed out of trouble by tucking behind the lead pack of more aggressive ladies.  I followed behind the train and we hit half way in about 1:13.  Fatuma then opened her stride up in the second half moving away from all of us to run a 2:23.  An amazing second half effort.  I was pleased with a 2:27 that day and credit Fatuma as any thoughts to go faster sooner were mitigated by her patience.

A few years later in 2001 I witnessed multiple world champion and Boston winner Catherine “the Great” Ndereba employ the same strategy.  Her light springy stride and complete relaxation of effort were a contrast to other ladies in the pack who’s body language and breathing displayed they were putting out more energy than Katherine.  As a group we hit the half in 1:14.  Katherine stayed  relaxed down the last set of downhill during mile 17 then tightened the screws with a huge acceleration over the Newton hills, running a 50 minute last 10 miles for a 2:24.  Katherine helped my day.  By cueing off  her pacing and relaxation I ran an  even race and finished in 2:29.

The other runner who taught me to have fun out there was the legendary 3 time Boston winner Uta Pippig of Germany.  In 1997 I ran with her until she dropped me at Cleveland Circle mile 22.  The crowds loved Uta and the noise escalated as she approached.  She smiled the whole way.  Maybe this was her cue to relax, feed off the crowd’s energy, and have fun in the moment. In marathoning you must be present in the moment; not thinking about how far you have to go,  what you may feel like later, wondering if you are going to slow down, fearing  the wall is coming.  Uta ran a strong fourth place that day in 2:28 and I finished a few strides back in 2:29.

All of these ladies made sure to get their fluid and nutrition at all stops. The few extra seconds used here paid dividends down the road.  They ran over the road not into the road, especially on the downhills…you could hardly hear them land as they did not employ hard heel striking technique.  Their posture was tall and their arms always relaxed.  But most vital was their efficient energy conservation and utilization strategy.

So how does this apply to you in your Boston Marathon, whether you are going to run 2:20 or 4 hours plus?

The best analogy I can think of is this: if you have trained your body properly with the right mix of aerobic level training and some up tempo stuff in recent weeks, you have built your efficient hybrid engine ready to race the marathon.  Many of you have driven in a Prius and watch the subtle shifts between gas and electric on the screen.  You do not perceive these shifts. Your engine runs on gas, electric, or a mix- depending on the effort. 

You are starting the race with one gallon in the tank- assuming you have eaten a nice meal the night before with a breakfast top off.

  • If you are in all gas mode, your engine will run about 1.5 hours at a strong pace….then you are out of gas.
  • If you are mostly electric you can run all day, but maybe maybe not so quickly.
  • If you are using the proper mix you will go quick and efficient for duration of your event, and you can even do some topping off along the way. 

 

The glucose utilizing pathway is the gas. This is your stored glycogen and blood glucose (pasta meal and breakfast) – easy to access for ready energy.  The fat utilizing pathway is the electric.  In marathons you must be in hybrid until the last few miles.  Hybrid is where your energy (ATP) is coming from both sources.

Many runners are in great “10k shape” (an all gas event), then run their marathon in the gas mode- and usually crash.  No glycogen sparing factors apply in races of less than an hour as long as you had a good pre-event meal to fill the tank. In marathons and ultras- top end fitness matters little and can only be applied very near the finish. Glucose gives 36 ATP per molecule, fat 460 ATP per molecule.  Now you know how a bird can migrate 7000 miles without a Powerbar.

So how do you know you are running in your best hybrid mode?

This is difficult because the sense is not as profound as aerobic/anaerobic.  A slight increase from your optimal pace will switch you from hybrid to all gas without you realizing it, and the effects are felt miles later. Charging up hills early will tap your gas quickly.  Maintain effort not speed.

You must rehearse a bit in training.  I focus on relaxation and breathing.  If I’m breathing one cycle to 5 steps, then I’m hybrid.  Any faster I’m using glucose as sole fuel.  Belly breathe- allow lower belly to blow up like a beach ball on inhalation and pull your belly button back to your spine on exhalation.  Then you will fill the lower lung areas where oxygen exchange occurs.

Notice the breathing efforts of those around you and many are rapid breathing- they tend to suffer somewhere past half way.  Rehearse complete relaxation from the top down- eyes, jaw, shoulders, allow your legs to relax and extend behind you, relax and soften your knees and ankles.  Find you own cue for this.  If you use the Heart Rate Monitor in training strongly consider one during the event.

In a marathon, the last 3-4 miles you will be all gas to maintain the same speed as fatigue sets in.  The breathing is usually on a 3 to 4 step per breath cycle- that is OK.  Still stay relaxed and use some relaxation cues that you have rehearsed to keep your form.

Land softly, especially on the early downhills.  I run with a forefoot/midfoot landing harnessing elastic recoil, focus on posture and hip extension, and  a slight forward lean from the ankles.  When I first started learning this technique through ChiRunning I ran a 2:31 here at age 39 and felt none of the usual post Boston soreness.  Felt so good I lined up 5 weeks later in Ottawa for another 2:32.  I’m never sore after marathons now and feel I can keep doing them until I enter the retirement home. No pain…thank you.

Your shoes matter too.  Not that you are going to change your shoes in the next day based on my advice…but make strong consideration to not running in minimalist racers unless you have trained substantially in them and adapted to a natural barefoot style gait. I advocate gradually adapting  all of your training in the most minimalist shoe  My favorite race day shoe is the Newton Neutral Racer, an incredible marathon shoe if you are running with a proper style.  If you relax your lower legs and load the springy tendons in your feet and Achilles…these shoes with no heel elevation put you in perfect position to allow natural elastic recoil of plantar fascia, Achilles, calf muscles, and hip flexors.  “Born to Run” also makes the case for running with a more efficient stride and questions modern running footwear. The evolving world of modern sports medicine is going back to the future too and rediscovering what evolution has taught us.  For a library of information of footwear, running form, and biomechanics visit our website at Two Rivers Treads Center for Natural Running and Walking www.trtreads.org

Now a few extra ways to get from start to finish quicker on the same gallon. 

  • If you can add a little gas along the way then you can go more into gas mode.  This works a little at best.  If running too fast you shunt all blood to working muscles and nothing digests.  If you are in hybrid the early going you can continually add fuel- the key is not only the correct fuel, but the right pace.  A Powergel every 25 minutes is easy to digest and tops off the tank.  Carry them with you at the start.  The weight is nothing compared to the benefit you will get.  If you do the gels then you can drink water instead of the energy drinks which are often less predictable on the run. Boston has a Powergel station at Mile 17.  Carry 4 at the start (one every 4 miles or so) and reload at mile 17.
  • Maintain effort on uphill.  Your pace will slow. You can easily use all your gas here if your effort increases.  Shorten your stride, relax, and use your arms.  Then allow gravity to take you down.
  • If you are having a “bad patch” – try to refocus on relaxing, fuel a bit (sometimes a blood glucose drop triggers the sense of doom) , and have faith in your training and race plan.  Another nice trick is when you hit mile 21 it is not 5 miles to go, it is 4 and change. Mile 22 is 3 and change to go.  Just run to the next mile marker.

 

The fun of the marathon is that we are always learning and enjoying the adventure of it.  I’ve done over 50 marathons now with a couple under 2:25 in my younger years. I’ve had one DNF at my first Boston in 1989. I raced the first half in 1:08 in gas mode not realizing it, in really minimal shoes that I’d not trained in, and was done by 20 miles.  My worst time of the all the others has been a 2:44 at “run for hoses” Boston on 2005- 90 degrees and sunny.  No hybrid here as efforts to cool were overwhelming.  Another slow day was a 2:41 in the “run for cover” Boston in 2007.  This was year with 30 mph headwind and Nor’easter rain.  I was not in hybrid in this race in efforts to fight wind and cold, hit half way in 1:16, and suffered coming home. 

We learn from experience, taking chances, and occasional failures. My first marathon in 1988 was 2:34. 2010 went very well.  Dailed in the above principles and ran a 2:34.20 for 116th place and top ten in Masters Division.  Felt well enough to jog the next day.  Along the way I’ve run a marathon under 2:35 every year except for my year of medical internship when there was no time to find a race and 2009 when I ran 2:37. I’ve learned a few things in 20 plus years, but still there are uncertainties every time you line up.  Relax, taper up, and seize the day.      

Mark Cucuzzella MD

I’d like to especially thank my sponsors for giving me the continual opportunity to run this event, be part of new innovations in running and nutrition, and representing Service Men and Women worldwide.

US Air Force www.usafsports.com

Newton Running  www.newtonrunning.com

Powerbar www.powerbar.com

And a special thanks to Danny and Katherine Dreyer of ChiRunning for their amazing teaching and passion for keeping runners healthy.  www.chirunning.com

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My First Barefoot Run of the Spring

Last week saw some warmth and sun….and finally I could take the first running steps without shoes.  My feet were a little tender so stayed on a soft grass surface.  Carried my extremely light Kigo Edge shoes so I could switch in and out of them as my feet allowed.  Total barefoot miles last week…10 of 70.  The goal this year is to  be doing at least 25% of my runs barefoot on all surfaces.

The feet take time to adapt…have patience and enjoy the feeling of the earth beneath your feet. The picture above was taken on the run with my Blackberry.  I use Correct Toes to keep my crooked first toes in the correct position so I spring off my foot the way it was designed to be used.  Correct toes are an invention of barefoot podiatry guru Dr. Ray McClanahan of Portland Oregon. They are available at our store. see his video and chapter 6 of our “footwear education”.

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Transition to Minimalism

I’m often asked to advise on how to get in less shoe….well here are some guidelines:

How to Transition to More Minimal Shoes….What’s Right for You?

Mark Cucuzzella MD, Two Rivers Treads, www.trtreads.org

A  great question and one we get frequently.  There is certainly no one answer and there is a big difference between a Newton Shoe transition and a barefoot/5 Finger/EVO transition. Newton Shoes have more protection than your bare feet and can be safely adapted into quicker that a pure minimalist shoe.

The most important question is whether someone is prepared to run barefoot or flat rather than the amount per week.  A young runner needs to transition into traditional running shoes in my opinion….sounds off beat but imagine the kid playing soccer in Sambas or the Kenyan runner being given a pair of running shoes.  Do we suggest….take it slow in these or you may get hurt.  We should though and maybe this is part of why so many HS runners get hurt now as we read stories of runners of years gone by  and wonder how they ran without injury.

 In our store we have a protocol to help folks.  If a runner is  strong in single leg stance, have anatomically correct foot, nice flexible heel cords, a good gait already….they are ready to roll pretty quick and do not need much transition.  They feel great immediately.  The opposite is true for someone who fails all these parameters.  They need lots of supplemental work and to get in a flat shoe ALL DAY.

 Walking barefoot and in thin and flat street shoes is very helpful for the running transition.

 A transition over a week or two is possible if one is already strong in the foot, committed to form training and structural issues, and will ease in with slow running and body sensing.  The only way to really learn good form is chuck the traditional shoes and do some of your running and drills in your barefeet. 

There are lots of common sense gradual progressions but no clear science.   A few methods out there:

  • Add a mile every day or two in the flatter shoes until you are doing all running in level shoe
  • Add 5 minutes every day or two in the flatter shoe
  • Add 10% a week in flatter shoe

Dial in really good form early and in 3 weeks you have a neuromuscular change that is hard wired.  Work on getting cadence closer to 180. Similar to fixing a swim stroke or golf swing…fix it immediately. Listen to your body, do the supporting core and mobility work to support barefoot technique, and progress gradually. Pick up Chi Running , Pose Running, or Evolution Running for good self instruction.  All offer great tips. Remember, you are trying to rewire a mechanical movement to a new “natural”.  It takes time and commitment.

 If you have a specific pain you need to listen and ask “why” and figure it out. 

Our store’s 12 Steps is a nice reference on getting ready to run in more minimal shoes

12 Steps to Healthier Running (http://trtreads.org/uploads/12_Steps.pdf)

Running Times Article on Transition  (http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=19217)

Come to one of our clinics http://trtreads.org/Clinics.html  for a hands on assessment to tailor a program that is safe for you.  Here’s to healthier running.  No pain…..thank you!

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James Enlightens a Running Store Employee

James in Bold Face Italics….”Runner” regular text (name removed for privacy) A long but insightful read.

James,
So, as I was working at the run shop today, a very solid and seasoned runner, a doctor no less, said to me, “Runner, I tried chi running and running mid foot and so on and boy, did I get hurt. I asked him if he used proper technique and so on and was patient and he said yes. In the end, he just wanted more cushion. Some very good and seasoned runners tell this to me. So, perhaps I speak blasphemy here but alas, it is what it is. Humans are complex and does one size fit all? All of the specialty shops are honing in on minimalism as they see it as a growing trend. Now dc is not Northampton ma and or Shepherdstown. The population is pulled and swayed in many directions. So marketing and communication are key as is simply producing a running formula that creates an injury free runner. So, my experience so far tells me that there is no 100 percent silver bullet to this effort of running pain free. And so there is a marketing and running injury free message that needs cultivation in order to spread the message with conviction. Can we get Allen Webb to run barefoot?

Runner

Runner,

I will apologize in advance because I cannot recall your background or history, but I will advocate my 2 cents worth. I have had many experiences with this and it will always be so. A few things worth mention regarding presenting considerations to customers:

 

I’ll be realistic and say I am aware there is no 100% solution to much of anything, but over 99% is convincing enough to me. When I hear of folks who give up or tell me it doesn’t work for them, it is usually because they do not give it time. I am convinced that if that 1% of folks spent the amount of time it takes to get their bodies back to how they were at the age of 2 or 3 that we would hit more like 99.5% success. The other 0.5% may have some sort of birth defect or disorder the body is incapable of adapting to for the act of running….mother nature wins on this one. The time it takes to undo 20+ years of interference from bad shoes, deformity in the foot caused by bad shoes prior to the age of 8, and sedentary hunched over lifestyles can sometimes require more than 2 years of patience and discipline….or sometimes it can happen within a few months. Some folks don’t want to take 2 years to rehab, much less 2 months. I took a year and a half to reach about 95% good…it is the best thing I have ever accomplished physically for my body and it 100% works. I am not into racing, but only since my gradual improvement in form and footwear started over 2 years ago, I have ran the fastest 5K, 10K, marathon, and 50 mile of my life back in November…all personal bests were within a 2 week period….the 50 mile was the first event in that 2 week period…..at the young age of 46. This was not my intention; it all just happened because I felt great and was enjoying running the most I ever have.

 

There is no arguing with nature and 3.5 million years or evolution…nothing can refute that this is how we function best. 30 years of misinformation and marketing of traditional (“normal”) running shoes and heel striking (“normal”) is tough to overcome….A quick look at “normal”….only 50 years ago it was normal for everyone to smoke cigarettes. Today it is “normal” for women to wear bikinis at the beach…..not true 40 years ago. “Normal” is not based on any form of logic or health considerations, it is simply what the majority does.

 

A lot of folks aren’t aware of the facts and evidence, or they don’t have the time to learn the facts, do not think they can, or should change, or they think it is not worth it because today they are A-OK (very similar position of a die hard smoker….no pun intended). These are the folks I do not put any pressure on at all…I provide the opportunity for them to become educated and obtain good equipment for a healthy running experience, what they do with it is up to them, but at least I have done my job. Again, I reference the volumes of evidence on our web-site….they can choose to ignore this if they like. I tell them to just take a look the next time they are laid-up from their next running injury. I can usually provide a few quick “no-brainers” to at least get them a little more curious.

 

 

20 of the last 22 winners of the Boston Marathon mostly grew up and trained barefoot….Africans from Africa (African-Americans suffer the same fate as most Westerners by growing up with our “normal” horrible shoes on, and leading our “normal” unhealthy lifestyles). In other words the African winners are not heel strikers, they have a cadence very near 180, they have never worn traditional running shoes, they run an extreme amount of miles this way, these many miles are run on natural surfaces of rock (concrete) and hard clay (asphalt) along with a lot of hard dirt and sand as well (not much grass due to hidden sharp objects), and they spend very little of their lives hunched over in a car or at a desk. Its no wonder we can no longer compete because we do so many of the wrong things, but continue to consider it “normal”. It is no doubt our marathon times will continue to decline until natural running and minimal footwear again become our “normal”. Natural running form and minimal footwear was the normal back in the 50’s and 60’s when we were competitive…..before the traditional running shoe and marketing propaganda changed “normal”.

 

80% of “normal” shoe wearing, preschool-aged children have foot and toe deformities that are not seen in children that go barefoot.

 

75% of children wear shoes 1/2 to 3-1/2 sizes too small during critical years that the foot is in development

 

These numbers show what good our current “normal” mindset is doing….basically no good at all. This is very convincing stuff even to the most skeptical. Someone has to make the effort to change this mindset across current generations or it will continue to perpetuate. I am making this effort as tactfully as I can manage.


James

James,
Also, I am not trying to beat a dead horse but simply point out that there are different categories of runners. Some are naturally more efficient, etc and so even though they might not benefit from a simple low profile piece of footwear at the present, they might ten years down the road, etc.

Ok but what about people like Bill Rodgers(our greatest distance runner). He ran well and probably would have done so on any shoe

Runner

Hello Runner,

 

Bill Rogers did not wear traditional running shoes in any of the photos I have seen of him when he was in his prime…We have an Onizuka in our shop…it is a minimalist shoe. Most athletic runners of his time wore the minimalist Onizuka or something similar. 

I attached a picture of Bill Rogers Running….he is on the far right….he is not a heel striker….looks like good natural running form. I attached a picture of one of the shoes he used to put his name on….it is more of a minimalist shoe than a traditional running shoe. Looks like about 2 to 4 mm offset….traditional running shoe is 18mm heel offset.

 

Bill Rogers is actually one of the better examples of what we once were just before the horrible influences of the traditional running shoe started taking its toll on natural gait and human physiology: A great example of “2+2=4”.

 

On categories of runners…I consider that we are all very much the same….we are human bi-pedals…we are all born as naturally efficient runners and walkers.  Our genetics, engineering, function, design, etc. have not changed in the last 30 years. We can all be efficient runners with less injury if we use our bodies properly for the very natural movements of walking and running we are all designed and built for. This applies to a 13 minute miler or a 4 minute miler. 

 

My favorite question: Why do we need to add 3/4″ heels and arch support all of the sudden for running or walking? We did fine for over 3.5 million years without these things and our survival depended on it.

I challenge anyone to try to find just one single good reason they should add heel lift, arch support, and restrict the toes and midfoot, with a shoe; While I can find dozens of evidence based reasons not to.

Humans would not be the way we are if it didn’t work. We are only degrading our natural, efficient performance capabilities the more we interfere with our natural design and function.

 

James

James,
I do not think bill ran in traditional or complicated running shoes because back in the day, there were so few to choose from. I mean the 70s and 80s were the early years of the run boom. Think about the shoes that Tarzan Brown or Jon Kelly used way back when? They probably threw on whatever seemed comfortable, what they were given for free and so on. So, we need to get back to the basics

Runner

Runner,

 

Based on your replies, it does not seem that you are reading any of the emails I am sending you. If you are reading them, it does not seem you are paying attention to what I am telling you. Therefore, I will leave you with one last thing on your theory of “categories of runners” and then only respond if you promise you have read what I am telling you.

There is a “category of runners” that are informed and intelligent enough to drink water for a long run on a hot day, and there are other runners who don’t because they are ignorant of the science and evidence that staying hydrated is a more healthy way to perform the exercise of running. The same goes for running form and shoes….one “category of runners” will remain ignorant or misinformed of the most healthy way to perform the exercise of running (natural form and in flat shoes, minimalist shoes, or barefoot).

Like remaining properly hydrated, the benefits of healthy, natural running form, and proper footwear that does not interfere with it, has nothing to do with whether you are an elite athlete, or a pedestrian walker….it works for all humans – just like staying properly hydrated works for all humans. This is as clear as I can spell this out.

 

Believe it or not, back in the 50’s it was considered “normal” to refrain as much as possible from drinking much water leading up to, or during a marathon because popular belief was that it slowed you down and left one “sluggish”….this “is what it is”. Today we think of this approach as ridiculous, because science and the evidence have proven otherwise. We will think the same thing in a few short years of how ridiculous traditional running shoes and heel striking were, now that science and evidence have shown what most can figure out for themselves without “Big Box” Shoe Company providing us a marketing gimmick.

 

James

James,

I hear what you are saying and truly understand it. However, I do think all human bodies are different and what is applicable to one or several people might not be to others. I have had the opportunity to visit the labs of big shoe companies and meet with biomechanics doctors assessing foot strike and subsequent muscle activation sequence and more. Barefoot/minimalism is applicable to many or maybe all but is it a must? In other words, will folks automatically get injured is they run in a regular shoe? I agree that running form is important but how many people have time to really delve into it? The same applies for anything really. So, you can take the purist approach or my way or the highway or try to accommodate the masses while using gradual and subtle methods to educate them to think about changing. Rome was not built in a day

Runner

OK Runner…

 

Not all people stay hydrated when they run…Is it a must? Can they get by without it? Will some folks automatically get injured or pass out if they don’t hydrate properly? Is it applicable to everyone? Do some humans need to be hydrated yet others do not? Is it healthy? Should someone who doesn’t hydrate properly change their ways if they choose not to delve into it? Come on Runner…you are not hearing the point. Everything about natural running and proper footwear is based on human physiology, just like staying properly hydrated….no difference. This has not changed in the last 30 (or 3 million) years no matter what some expert scientist at Big Box Shoe Company tells you or tries to sell you. I can only figure they enjoy the fact that 60-80% of runners wearing their shoes are injured every year…maybe so they can sell them a new batch of snake oil every 6 months? Are you really, seriously, accepting that these injury rates are OK?? It is starting to sound like it, and it bugs me to death most folks are like you when there is absolutely no need for this…especially in our youngsters. If football helmets had these kinds of injury rates you can only imagine how fast the sport would be outlawed.

 

I know about the labs & biomechanics’ doctors etc. The big shoe companies are feeding crap to the masses and they have admitted it…all of them….as well as all the folks I know who worked at multiple big shoe companies for dozens of years (and I know a few and have heard and read interviews from more). They sell shoes and market them without anyone ever even running in them to try them out…this is absurd….this is a fact and it happens all the time…has for over 20 years. They are all starting to “change their tune” even though the body hasn’t…they are afraid people are getting educated. The main man at asics forever has recently switched 180 degrees from condemning barefoot running only about 5 years ago to very recently recommending it as the best way everyone should run. If you are going to rely on their info, what else would convince you from these big box guys other than this guy?

Proper muscle activation sequence relies on communication thru the foots nervous system to even work close to normal…did they explain that this communication is nearly impossible when you have 18mm of foam under your foot? They have a great way of creating “foot strike” data. The biggest problem with this is that the foot never “strikes” anything if it is working properly…the human body does not enjoy striking anything…the foot, like the hand, is best at touching, feeling, landing, absorbing, communicating, absorbing and adapting, communicating some more, balancing, stretching & loading, and finally propelling. This is what’s called “natural foot function” and does not occur in the traditional running shoe. The shoe guys don’t get it….they want everyone to “strike” on the newest thing they can cram into an inch or two under your heel. This is all to make them more millions, not to solve the typical runners’ injury problems….that would be easy, but much less profitable.

The big box guys deal in marketing fashion and social acceptance of “normal” the way they create, and re-invent it….nothing to do with science and health.

You still haven’t told me a reason you might have come up with for why anyone requires an elevated heel, support under the arch, and a restrictive toe box. All traditional running shoes have these features, so there must be quite a few reasons we humans must need them for something. Good luck finding any science or good evidence on this….it doesn’t exist. I have seen a few shoe adds referring to “MAGIC” features in their shoes…I am not making this up, but millions of runners accept that it works. Makes me wonder if I should get more involved in a different, more intelligent sport….maybe football?

 

James

 

James,

We live in a capitalist economy based on supply and demand. McDonalds is not good for you but there is plenty of demand. The same scenario repeats itself everywhere. Cars kill the environment but we drive them, right? So, regarding running shoes I agree with you that a no heel or barefoot or minimalist running shoe combined with proper form is the best way to go. With this said, will as Asics 2160 kill a guy who runs a few miles a week to keep some pounds off? Some folks might not be ready for full blown minimalism and thus, you do not want to discourage them for doing some fitness. As for the shoe companies, I really do not know the depth of their assessment of all this. I do know that they are making minimal shoes due to increased demand. So, the trend is growing. I do think it will end if too many people get involved too much and too soon and get injured, etc. Do you work in the run industry?

Runner

Well Runner….

not sure where you got the idea I would discourage someone from running or exercising?? There are many healthy products we offer and sell everyday as a transition for folks away from unhealthy footwear….we have never provided advice that would discourage…like I have told you, we are here to provide healthy opportunities and to provide accurate advice based on science, evidence and facts, not to make a buck with unhealthy gimmicks, fads, marketing, trends, or misinformation. Our customers see this, they absolutely love it, they tell all their friends, and they all come back for more…the consumer is craving this type of service. This has drifted from Big Box and their only focus has become $$. See our web site mission statement….it works. http://trtreads.org/About.html

 

We are here to be a part of, and help lead, the return to sanity of many years ago…not to profit from a trend. If you want to profit from a trend, like Big Box does now, keep selling the crap. Folks will continue to demand and use this stuff because they have been brainwashed for years, and many retailers will continue to reap the profits from selling the snake oil as long as they are comfortable doing it. I am not, and never will be comfortable selling or promoting the lies and misinformation of the seriously unhealthy product known as the “traditional running shoe.” I know better, but if you choose to be comfortable with this, enjoy. Yes, a 60-80% injury rate is considered “seriously unhealthy”…….to me.

 

I am curious where you want to fit into this…are you more comfortable working at McDonalds, selling Quarter pounders to overweight, type II diabetics, or would do you choose to sell just as many (or more) healthy choices to this person, the person who will benefit from it the most? The guy who runs a few miles to keep the pounds off, but is constantly discouraged from running due to injuries (60 to 80% of all runners), is an enormous market……we exist on this market and it works.

 

We are not “in-and-out” burger, we are “come in and make an informed choice for a better experience”. We are not a “shoe store”, we are a healthy opportunities and options store……We made a good dent into that 60-80% of injured runners number this year, and even did better just getting folks started, or re-started with walking or running when they didn’t think they could, or should, based on: #1- they receive bad advice #2- because they were doing it wrong #3- because they were wearing unhealthy footwear. Sometimes all 3…….this success we enjoy is a good feeling each time I see it, get the e-mails, and talk to the re-invigorated out and about or back in the store for a visit. The success stories are people of the full spectrum: Performance athletes, folks battling obesity, battling or recovering from cancer, pregnant or just gave birth, 70 year old recovering from 15 years of heart and lung disability and running first marathon, 16 year old trying to compete again in senior year track season, middle age getting back into running after years off from pain that made them quit (our biggest, most successful market), and many more. The most common fix to keep or get these folks going again was to just offer them a chance to experience their exercise in healthy footwear. With some motivation and a few tips on how to run or walk properly, those who give it some time enjoy a success rate of 100% at their level of capacity. Most become hungry for more and expand to higher goals.

 

There is a huge demand for cigarettes and many other unhealthy choices for consumers. Do you want to open a tobacco shop and sell these to people who will eventually develop emphysema, lung cancer, or many other health problems? Or do you want to open an organic grocery, or a healthy lifestyle based retail store that doesn’t stock cigarettes? (how about a shoe store that only stocks healthy shoes, but no cigarettes?) This is your choice….you can easily open either store, and they will have demand and income and are both legal and based on capitalism. If you choose to be comfortable selling cigarettes in your health based store, you had better be prepared to smoke them, and advertise & promote them, or you are only proving you are not committed to them to your customers. You have to be willing to sell cigarettes to 18 year olds (legal age)….possibly providing an opportunity for them to ruin their health for life…is it legal? Is there demand? Will you earn a profit doing this? Yes, but is this really what you want to do when there are healthier, just as profitable and as much “in-demand” products available for you to sell?

I use cigarettes as an example, but there are many other unhealthy, legal, high demand products out there you can replace that word with if you don’t like me using it. Politics and Nazi’s have nothing to do with your choice to offer only healthy products so I will not comment on that.

 

James 

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Dashing Through the Snow…and laughing all the way

 

 

One of the greatest pleasures in winter is going outside and touching the snow in a “gear free” state.  This picture is from a snow shoe and XC ski path at Copper Mountain Colorado. With a perfect pair of flat and thin soled winter running shoes like the EVO 2 one does not need the burden of heavy snow shoes.  As I float past the gear heavy hikers they look in disbelief that moving in the snow can be effortless.

A few simple technique pointers:

  • Land soft and light….like running on sand
  • Allow natural hip extension and recoil (see picture)
  • Do not strike the ground with either the forefoot or heel…simply let your  foot swing forward and gently land underneath you.
  • Dress comfortable and carry water…easy to dehydrate in high altitude.
  • Wear shoes with flat sole allowing full ground interface (like the EVO 2- warmer variety of EVO)

Why is the foot’s communication with the ground so fun in the snow….read this rated “R” piece (parental discretion advised)

http://www.mountaingazette.com/mountain-notebook/the-joy-of-sliding-why-our-feet-make-skiing-feel-so-sexy/

Enjoy!

 Mark

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London meets Shepherdstown in the Quest for the Perfect Kids shoe

London and Shepherdstown Unite in the Quest for the Perfect Child’s Shoe  (Published in Shepherdstown Chronicle Feb 28th)

Clarence Darrow made this statement during the 1920’s: “Chase after the truth like all hell and you’ll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat tails.”  This week the leads from Terra Plana Vivo Barefoot flew in from London to meet me in our quest to seek truth as it relates to what we put on children’s feet.  Galahad and Asher Clark are seventh generation shoe designers from the Clark shoe family and are the industry leaders in what they call “The Barefoot Revolution”.  Also visiting from London was Lee Saxby, a world expert on gait biomechanics  and  Dominic Jones, Terra Plana’s lead in sustainable manufacturing. We collaborated at the $1.5 million Gait Lab at University of Virginia headed by Jay Dicharry, a world leader in gait mechanics, and his team of graduate students.  At the end of the two days, the clear message is  that children need less shoe.

70% of your brain’s information for movement comes from the nerves on the soles of your feet; the more you can feel the ground, the greater your body’s understanding of its surrounding environment and natural movement. I’ve always believed that children should play in their bare feet or in play shoes that complement natural foot development and proper biomechanics. Unfortunately, the modern shoe industry and its marketing machine effectively convince parents that when running and walking, a child should wear miniature versions of traditional adult running shoes- all containing elevated heels, extreme cushioning, and rigid soles that don’t allow flexibility.

In early development, a child’s foot is widest across the toes. If our population wore shoes that were designed with this functional shape from birth, most adults would also have feet with the widest part across the toes. A child’s developing foot is composed of mostly cartilage, which is gradually replaced by bone. If the cartilage is deformed by badly shaped shoes, the bones will take on the deformed shape. Shoes must allow enough room for natural growth until the foot bones mature (ages 18-19 for girls and 20-21 for boys). Simply put; inflexible, poorly shaped shoes are potentially harmful – they restrict the natural movement and development of the foot.

A void exists in the development of proper youth footwear, where natural foot function and development are perhaps most critical.  Without any supporting evidence, the President of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM ) David  Davidson made this comment when asked about children’s footwear by Running Times MagazineKids should not be running in minimalist footwear at all, and as in other shoes, should be wearing brand name running shoes with good motion control, cushioning, etc…

I find it surprising that there are no supporting documents to the APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association) parent flyer which states “Select a child shoe that’s rigid in the middle. Does your shoe twist? Your shoe should never twist in the middle.” Curiously, right below that piece, and written in fine print, there is this statement: “…this does not apply to toddlers shoes. For toddlers, shoes should be as flexible as possible.” I’m left wondering “So at what time does a toddler become a child and we cast their feet?”

As a parent and physician I believe that the AAPSM and APMA statements could cause harm in a developing child’s foot. A foot builds its own intrinsic support via communication with the ground, building strength and stability through proprioception, and allowing normal force loads to be applied to the areas that nature intended. If you change anything from what is natural in a developing child, proceed with caution. A foot that is bound in a rigid and supportive shoe is disconnected from communication with the ground, and this may in fact affect foot strength and function and bone growth.  

The next time you are in a park, watch a child run barefoot.  Notice the relaxed movement, springy quick steps, and foot placement.  They do not strike hard on their heels. Then watch the child with the highly cushioned or supportive shoe.  The difference is easy to see.

So what are the important features to look for in a child’s shoe?

  • Ultra-thin flexible soles to allow proper proprioception
  • Low, flat to the ground profile
  • Soft and supple materials
  • A toebox wide enough to allow natural toe spread
  • Proper fit – critical

 

Why do I care so passionately about this?  The most important reason is that I am a parent and want to do what is best for my children without the influence of commercial marketing claims or trends. I have watched my own children (ages 6 and 7) dramatically change their movement patterns after discarding the heavy, inflexible “Sketchers with lights” and getting them into slip-on Vivo Barefoot shoes. When I ask them to put on their shoes now, they consistent grab the Vivo’s. We gave away 100 pair of Vivo Barefoot kids shoes at Freedom’s Run . Dozens of moms and kids have thanked us for the discovery they have made.   Have your kids take a pair for a test run at Two Rivers Treads.

For more information visit our Kids Page at www.trtreads.org

Here are some pictures form the trip with running gurus Lee Saxby of London and Jay Dicharry of UVA in the lab testing shoes and the principles of movement.  I learned a TON from Lee in 48hrs.

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