Progressive Running

Best Ever Techniques to Run Efficiently

Author: admin (Page 1 of 13)

To vibram or not to vibram?

When I meet running enthusiasts for the first time I am usually asked variety of questions about Vibram Five Fingers (VFF), my favourite running shoes. I have been wearing them since 2011 and have never looked back. There are benefits in minimalism that do not exist in the opposite direction towards maximalism. Comfort level increases towards maximalism and efficiency drops. It is your call where about on this spectrum you like to settle.

Here you go, an FAQ about wearing VFF. Please do write me comments here or message me directly if any questions or different points of view.

Do VFF shoes help with your running form?

Shoes do not matter as much as the way you run matters. Wearing these shoes might force you to correct some movements but until the time you stop what you doing to start running in Pose you are just hanging around in the darkness repeating same mistakes hoping for the best. You gain some strength by wearing these and you mind your landing a bit more because you have less cushioning in your footwear which might help with some aspects of running techniques but these things are some dots that one day you have to connect to see the full picture, to understand why the rule of each dot has to be followed. The connection between these dots is explained well in Pose Method of Running, and only by that. Period.

Do you run faster in VFF?

My time improved at all the races from the time I switched to VFF but it was my own experience and may not apply to everyone. What I ignorantly did not do back in time was to run in Pose. When I had an injury I looked into running techniques, then I found about Pose Method of Running and found out it is not shoes causing injuries, it is the way we run.

My mate ran in these and got injured

Does he run in Pose? If no, I do not care. If yes, what was his training plan like? Was his goal realistic? Did he over train by any chance? What injury was it actually? For instance, I do not think you can get away with ITBS by running in VFF. Some injuries have nothing to do with techniques or footwears.

As you see there are plenty of plausible reasons before pointing fingers at VFF as culprit.

Does running in VFF mean having to run in Pose?

No but when you learn Pose method of running, you will see how less important the cushioning in your shoes are, or actually how that cushioning might work against you. So the answer is no, and it is your personal choice if you like to work out more muscles in my legs to have stronger feet (who said having big biceps and pecs are sexy only? lol).

One thing about cushioning in shoes, do a research about elasticity of tendons and its usage in running. That would help understand why this comfort in your shoes work against efficiency. Building a bit of strength in your feet would bring out the benefits of this elasticity.

Are you a barefoot runner?

No, I have tried it and my feet bled and I did not – still do not – have the passion/patience to build up strength for that. One would have to grow calluses on the soles of their feet to be able to run comfortably. I appreciate what barefoot runners do but I am not one. I take this thin protection for my feet from VFF and experience nearly the same.

Why do you bother running in VFF? Is there any benefits?

That is a valid question. It is a harder workout to run in VFF. Having said that, sensing the ground is a great feeling that might offset a bit of the pain from that hard core workout. You would go through some transitioning that might be painful. In fact, after years of shod running you start using some soft tissues (like tendons or muscles) that you had not used as much in the past, and they can get badly sore. Once you pass this transition (or if  you do a research first on how to gradually build up to avoid pain), I would strongly say running in them is a better workout for your feet. Like Leo in Matrix, transitioning to the other side!

Let’s take look at this example: In the usual two-handed pull up if your dominant hand is way stronger than the other one you always cover that weakness by using  the dominant one more. No one really cares how you perform pull-ups and as long as you do many you are considered fit (result orientation attitude); but behind the scenes one of your arms is weak and the other one is two times stronger. If you care, you will start working on one arm workouts for pulling yourself up to the bar which means a better workout for your arms. Similar example applies to planks: do it one handed, lift one leg off the ground, do it in variety of positions to cover all core and stablising muscles.

Wearing VFF works out many small muscles in your lower legs that would surely come handy somewhere sometimes in your life (strength is an asset). Wearing cushioned shoes might prevent some muscles to act properly, for instance the arch support can meddle with the action of Tibialis posterior; or standing on big toe which involves pulling plantar fascia is limited when being shod.

How about sharp objects on the ground?

I have never happened to step on something sharp since 2011 when I switched to them though I ran a few times for a couple of strides on gravels which was not pleasant; however, looking at the bright side, it was like those spotty massages for plantar fascia. Sydney and most Australian cities are clean and well-maintained, so I take the opportunity for doing a better workout for my legs/feet.

Does it limit the distance you run?

Initially yes but as you build strength and tolerance in your feet the distance you can do in one go will expand. In fact you face the reality of your strength instead of borrowing a bit of strength off the shelf for a quick result. Quick result is luring, I understand and I fall for it in some other aspects of my life. At running I have chosen not to go for quick results. I want sustainable outcome, and I would rather develop strength in my feet rather than buying something not as good off the shelf.

What is the main caveat  at running in VFF?

Your feet are more exposed to the ground and if your technique is not right/efficient you may wear your legs out faster by just running the way you run. Almost all conventional shoes are built based on the assumption that runners push off the ground. I doubt there are many people out there advising against it. Most people are result-oriented, and not as much into how to get the result. This pushing off the ground is the main culprit to common injuries like Achilles tendinitis or shinsplints. If you push off the ground at running (aka paw-back) your chance of getting injured is higher in VFF. That is my opinion.

What I advocate here is the path to your goal matters and the first step to get it right is to fix your technique. You should not suffer from the way you run. You might make mistakes in picking realistic goals but you should avoid inefficient running techniques that by nature, no matter what your goals are, make you incur extra costs.

So is it just a personal choice or what?

Everything is a personal choice. You can choose to be inefficient at running and it is totally respected. Back to what I said earlier on this page, your footwear does not matter as much as the way you run does. Once you sort out your running technique you may see my point that the best way of getting result out of it is to go minimalist unless you are unable for physiological reasons.

In a nutshell, it is a personal choice that comes with extra benefits, mainly efficiency. It is a harder workout, and you know, no pain no gain, but please fix your techniques first before jumping into these.

You sounds badly opinionated!

No, prove me wrong to see how I turn my back to everything I said here; till then I will go with these:

Is front foot landing good or not?

“Should I land on my front foot at running?”

I can strongly say that this is the most frequently question I have been asked about running. Maybe I should build an FAQ page actually…

Unlike some people’s expectation, the answer to the above question is not a straight Yes to front foot landing. This is because the way we land is determined with what we do before landing, so focusing on landing would not direct you to the right conclusion and understanding of best running technique.

I can say for sure that if you are landing on the back of your foot, you are not running right. You are wasting energy and you are somewhere on the spectrum of self-harm purely from the way you run (could be benign, could be severe); however the opposite of that landing style, front foot landing, is not necessary a good sign.

Let’s get you familiar with this jargon: Active landing. It is when you deliberately impose or exert a specific way of landing. For instance, because a running mate of yours said front-foot landing is good, you enforce your front feet to touch the ground first. THAT IS BAD.

Fore-foot / Front-foot Active Landing

The right landing happens when you do not interfere with it and take your focus to where it must be only: fall and pull. If you know these two and you are working your way up to master Pose running, keep going. If not, let me tell you these: do not drive your knees, do not try to reach forward and do not push off the ground, and … . Yes, at learning Pose there are a lot of DO-NOTs to be aware of.

Running is known as “natural” – honestly this term is vague – but it usually comes with a lot of extra things that no-one knows how they adopted them into their running form (it is kind of the definition of natural, right?!) and then these extra things are exactly the culprit of all the headaches: the injuries, over-tiredness, too much soreness, and so on.

If you get your propulsion purely from falling forward, if you switch off the propellers (muscles) in your legs to avoid interfering with this gravitational torque that drives you forward (and is [more than] enough for moving forward), you will landing under your hips and most likely on front or whole foot. At landing under hips, the centre of your body mass is right above your landing leg (no landing ahead of the body), which is good (generates no ground reaction force against your direction of running). In this case it does not even matter how the landing happens. You become agnostic to it; however, in slow-motion running form analysis of such runners, they all land fore-foot or whole foot.

Conclusion, do not copy the final output of good looking things thinking you will be fine. Riding an expensive car or going on an expensive holiday destination or living in a penthouse does not make you rich but looking from the other end of the line, you will have the option of doing any of these if you are rich. If you see the point, good luck with your running :)

If you are a regular follower of my weblog you probably know what “running technique means, but if you are not, you might have heard the buzz phrase of “running technique correction” or the like. My question for you is, what is the reference to analyse somebody’s running technique? Without a reference one may only come up with a bunch of anecdotal tips heard here and there from “successful” runners, not necessarily “efficient” ones.

At any given context without a reference, you cannot analyse, criticize or evaluate anything correctly, or let say scientifically. So what is my reference for analysing running techniques? Yes, you know it, Pose Method of Running.

Here I am going to write down pretty much all major wrong doings at running raised by Pose Method.

Late Pull

Pull is one of the three components of Pose running. It is when the foot on the standing leg is lifted off the ground. The best moment for doing so is when the moving foot has just passed the standing knee. Late Pull is identified in slow motion video analysis when the foot of the standing leg delays to leave the ground after this moment. The main culprit causing late pull is the need to push off the ground. In fact, the back foot stays down for a hearty push.

Late Pull

Push off (pawback)

It is an unnecessary action mainly done by the lower leg to push the ground backwards for generating propulsion. The reason for being unnecessary is that the gravitational torque is enough to propel the runner forward. One way to spot it in slow motion video analysis is to check the direction of toes right after leaving the ground. Toes pointing straight down reveals it. Other way to identify it is to measure the change in the angle of the ankle joint before and after leaving the ground, the minimal the better.

Pawback and Late Pull are usual siblings meaning usually runners hold the standing foot down for a strong push-off.

Over-striding

Is when the runner extends the landing foot forward, reaching a point in front, perhaps to make an elongated stride. Because it usually comes with landing ahead of the body it should not be mixed up with, they are separate things (landing ahead is discussed down this post). Also, most of the over-striders land on their heels first however rarely there are front-foot landers that over-stride.

To my own observation and understanding, over-striding is a reaction to exploit pawback/push-off. When there is push-off, one common way of getting the most benefit from this unnecessary action is to extend the legs for a longer stride.

You can tell over-striding when the shin is not pointing straight down around the landing time. The knee is extended a bit to get the foot to reach further away for an “elongated stride”. Note that the landing may be with front-foot, mid-foot or rear-foot, however in most cases it is with rear-foot first, aka heel-striking. It is further discussed in Active Landing.

Overstriding, simply caused by trying to reach forward.

Active Landing

That is when the runner intentionally exposes a particular part of the foot to land first. It can be any part of the foot, but in barefoot or extreme minimalist running style it would be either front or rear, and in shod running there would also be mid-foot landing because shoes have mid-foot, whereas an actual foot has arch instead (no mid-foot concept in barefoot running). According to Pose Method of Running, runners should let the landing foot just fall, along with the whole body that is falling, to land underneath the hips, as if the landing detail is autonomously left to lower legs. In proper form the shin is vertical to the ground or the knee is above the ankle at landing time.

Exposing front-foot or mid-foot first

Exposing heel first

Landing ahead of the body

Happens when the landing spot is ahead of the vertical line crossing the centre of the body mass. Landing ahead of the body results in a ground reaction force that is against the runner’s movement. Additionally, it exerts extra pressure on the knee of the landing leg.

Landing ahead of the body is the usual sibling of over-striding but as above-mentioned, they are different things.

Trailing (the leg) Behind

Usually another consequence of pawback but generally it happens when the direction of pulling feet upwards is not towards the hips so that the leg trails behind the runner. In fact the runner’s focus is in front on where to land so the leg is left unattended trailing behind. It shifts some weights backwards so it negatively impacts the fall phase where energy is injected into the momentum. By moving feet towards hips the legs turnover would be faster. Pulling towards hips can be interpreted as “all runners should do is to fold unfold knees”. It is a buzzword about Pose runners that their knees are low. If knees stay down, feet would almost kick the bottom, do not they?

Knee Drive

Another unnecessary movement although it generates a lot of energy and might come handy at occasions like a quick vigorous sprinting uphills. This movement is found inefficient especially at long distance running.

In Pose running knees tend to only fold and unfold. It feels like as if knees are pinned on the sides so they stay where they are to work like a hinge, merely lifting shins up and bring them back down.

Driving the knee forward and a bit upwards too

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