When the “barefoot running” buzz started a few years ago, I was very skeptical. I listened to the anecdotal stories about barefoot running and claims from the “radical barefoot fringe” stating running shoe companies are manufacturing shoes that are fundamentally flawed in design, contributing to the proliferation of overuse injuries suffered by runners.
I’ve had the good fortune to hang around some really smart and open-minded runners who have provided me with helpful insight on this new “natural” evolution in running technique and shoe design. A colleague of mine recently gave me the book “Natural Running”, written by Danny Abshire, co-founder of Newton Running, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that has been at the forefront of low-heel profile shoe design and natural running technique. I was concerned the book was going to be a subliminal commercial for Newton Running shoes, but I’m happy to report that Danny Abshire does a fine job in keeping the narrative objective and interesting. Danny spent the early part of his career designing athletic shoe orthotic inserts for elite athletes and he is regarded as top running technique advisor for runners and other endurance sport athletes around the world.
Evolution of Running Shoe Design
The first section of the book provides some excellent background on the evolution of running shoe design during the pre- and post-running boom eras. One interesting observation is the fact that even with all the “advancements” in running shoe technology and design since the 1970s, the injury rate of the running public at large has remained high (over 50%) and has continued to climb.
Healthy Running Technique
The middle chapters of “Natural Running” shed a light on the importance of running form technique and the different gait cycles that are common in runners and walkers. Abshire lists some do-it-yourself tests to help you analyze your running form. One very interesting discussion point surrounds the amazing communication process between the brain and our biomechanics as we run. This discussion lends credence to the claim that the traditionally designed running shoes we’ve been wearing may be limiting valuable biofeedback our brains need to maintain healthy running form and technique.
Foot Biomechanics and the Physics of Running
The latter sections of the book provide helpful information on the anatomical structure of our feet and how our foot type affects our running form and technique. I also found the discussion on the physics of running very enlightening. Abshire does an excellent job in explaining how running technique and different types of running shoes impact our orthopedic health and the way we run.
Injury Prevention, Strengthening Exercises, Form Drills
“Natural Running” concludes with a great discussion on how to avoid common running injuries along with a great assortment of suggested dynamic strength and form drills. I found the exercise and form drill descriptions easy to understand and apply in the real world. There’s even a suggested eight-week transition plan for individuals interested in adopting natural running techniques.
In summary, if you’re interested in learning more about the natural running topic, this book is a good place to start. It’s not too technical and the information is objectively presented. “Natural Running” is a helpful resource for accurate information on natural running technique, form analysis, and the evolution of running shoe design.
By Fred Klinge