Tag Archives: elite runners

Runners learn from their Mistakes

A tale of Running Shoe Confusion

I can remember a time, not that long ago, when the obvious reasons for knee pain and a host of other injuries a runner complained about could easily be identified as simply, an overuse injury. The prescriptive cure was “take a week off” and yin-yangall would be good again.

There was never a question of heel to toe angle or terms like “minimalist” or “zero-drop” when it came to purchasing a shoe. All running shoes were built pretty much the same way. A heavy soled heel with a mesh upper in a variety of color schemes. Sure, there were the air bags, gel sacks, cantilevers etc., but all running shoes were made based on the premise that we are meant to run on or heels. Then of course, we were not made to run, so, we needed our shoes constructed with specific applications. More rigid materials under the arch, less flex, more cushion all so that the shoe salesmen had a story to tell that was compelling enough to insure the sale.

No one ever questioned this logic until a guy named Chris McDougal, the running shoe whistle blower, wrote a passionate book about a forgotten tribe of Mexican Indians. The Tarahumara’s who happily exist on next to nothing in the canyons of the Sierra Madre. As the story goes, these canyon dwellers are renowned for their ability to run great distances through hill and dale either completely unshod or scantly protected, with some make shift sandal constructed from old tires and such. The book was aptly titled, “Born to Run”, which in one fell swoop called foul to the injustice the running shoe industry had perpetrated on civilized runners.

We were born to run; we don’t need all of this fancy protection beneath our feet. Our natural gift is a wonderful set of locomotion tools known as feet, in essence, was the argument posed. Of course, we do not live in the Copper Canyons of the Sierra Madre and if we were to move there, we had best bring some type of shoes to protect our pink, dainty feet which are a product of our societal evolution.

Sure, there are many anecdotes of species of men and women, who through environmental lifelong exposure, have developed an innate ability to motor over dirt trail, gravel and the like, without a care. Primarily because they are either too poor to own a pair of shoes or they simply had never had a chance to put a pair on. I would venture to risk the opinion that, given an opportunity to wear a pair of shoes, any shoes, for a week may cause them to want them. However, this is totally off point.

My chief rant here relates to the confusion that we as consumers tend to be exposed to, all for the benefit of a sale. The running shoe industry, at least those who I have been exposed to, who portray themselves as caring and solution seekers, flat don’t give a crap about us as consumers. Their entire focus is to develop a trend setting niche in construction of a shoe, one that allows them to spin a compelling yarn about the pitfalls that exists when, if you dare to wear any other shoe than their own. And in so doing, they gain a nice strangle-hold on the running shoe market.

I myself was duped for a time. I was absolutely drinking the Kool-aide when a shoe company (to remain nameless) led me down their well-constructed path to running righteousness. These evangelists spoke of the wrong that we have been exposed to for some 30 years and how it was their job to single handedly make things right. I thought, how cool is this! I was quick to set up my own metaphorical Kool-aide stand and got on my own little soap box and recited the songs taught me. Then one day, after all the other marketing thieves got on their own soap boxes and redesigned their own “righteous shoes” and the market was diluted once again, the evil appeared.

When the first company to realize that the “natural running concept” was losing steam, they made a command decision to make an abrupt turn and went hyper-cushy, the polar opposite of minimal and began to spin a new story for us to choke on. No, we don’t think you should run on a heavy soled heel, yes, you should be running in a neutral heel to toe configuration, BUT, the earth is unkind, you need a lot of cushion to buffer your landing to save your knees, hips, back… yada, yada, yada.balance

Which finally bring me to this: consumers are confused and the running shoe industry is responsible. Any idiot realizes that to shift from what you are accustomed to something that is completely opposite is asking for trouble. Runners who wear the traditional running shoe were prone to specific injuries. I like to refer to this circumstance as “The Devil they know”. Those who had consumed large doses of the Kool-aide, shifting to a minimal shoe, with little protection and little if any change in running style, resulted in a whole new assortment of injuries. I like to refer to these as “The Devil they don’t know”.

As the saying goes: “Better to do business with the devil you know than the devil you don’t”. Because these new injuries (The Devil we don’t know) are uncharted territory, we are rightfully fearful. “I Have never experience pain here before, how long will it last, can I recover, will I need serious medical intervention”? Some of us braved the new discomfort and were prudent in understanding this change required some timely adaptation, surfaced on the other side of these learning pains to the Promised Land, many did not.

The old prescription of “Take a week off” is no longer effective. Yet there is a silver lining. All of this confusion caused us to question what’s right, wrong and cause and effect. Speaking for myself, I learned much about running and shoe design. My quest for knowledge on the subject of running mechanics seems unquenchable. Now things are far clearer to me and hopefully, I can share my lesson with those I meet. My abridged overview is this: stability, mobility and impact absorption remain the responsibility of the amazingly intuitive bodies we possess. To think that we can create applications that are smarter and more efficient than the guidance provided us by our central nervous systems and intricately efficient limbs is just idiotic. Our bodies are highly adaptive yet they wield a double edge sword. If we do not keep our swords sharp they will fail us. However, our bodies are forgiving at most any age, under the right circumstances we rebound. Running well requires education, in many cases, re-education. Good shoe construction is really pretty simple. They should be light but not so light that they do not offer ample protecting from un-natural surfaces, i.e., shards of broken glass, metal objects, concrete, pavement and the like. The sole should not be so thick that it takes you too far from the ground or dampens afferent feedback (the signals that support proprioception). At the same time, they should not be so sparse that an untrained runner is forced to contend with more of the environment than he or she is trained for. What a running shoe should not do is try and cause your feet to react to imposed structures such as heel counters, arch supports and restrictive materials designed to correct foot movement.

“I have never seen a person run poorly barefoot over a grassy field. Given the opportunity, our bodies find the correct solutions for the terrain presented.”

Some may think; I have flat feet, I pronate or supinate so I need a stability or motion control shoe. Where these circumstances may exist, there are no case studies that report correction as a result of applying these applications. I have found that in many scenarios, with some retraining, (exercise, drill and gait correction) natural functions return. None of which will occur overnight. If you have taken a life time to grow weak, it is only reasonable that it will take some time to grow strong. No, it won’t take a lifetime.

I believe there is a right and a wrong way to run. There are specific postures and ground contact points that are in keeping with the laws of physics and kinematics that are simply irrefutable. There are opportunities that exist when our working muscles and tendons are applied to task, in these appropriate planes, that make the act of running easy on the joints, economical and efficient. Invest in this knowledge and you should run healthy for many years to come.

Written by: Richard Diaz, founder of diaz human performance and The Natural Running Network


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Interview with World Triathlon Champions Leanda Cave and Tim Don 05/23 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts

Interview with World Triathlon Champions Leanda Cave and Tim Don 05/23 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.

Leanda Cave won the Ironman World Championship and the 70.3 World Championships in 2012. Tim Don won 4 triathlon World Titles and competed in 3 Olympic Games. Richard Diaz asks about racing, where the sport is taking them and how they like the ride so far.

Tim has a great start on the 2014 season and Leandra is hungry for another win at the Escape from Alcatraz in June. Join us for a unique and candid conversation with two world class triathletes.

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Going Faster Part II – Gaining an Edge with Aero Wheels

reynolds600-450In Triathlon, Cycling Aerodynamics shaves precious time. Paul Lew, Director of Technology & Innovation at Reynolds Cycling explains; the importance of the right aero wheels for every condition and when they make a difference. This information is critical for every triathlete, beginner to pro.

In the previous broadcast Jim Gourley, Author of FASTER, shared his insights on the influence of carbon wheels, wetsuits etc. on performance.  Now we will introduce cutting edge technology from the leaders in the Multi-sport performance industry.  Be sure to listen to each broadcast, it will surely help you finish your next race faster as you back your performance with Science!

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Running Shoes what you don’t know can hurt you!

Emily newMarathon Runners, are you confused, injured or simply ill-informed about running shoes? What’s best for you, minimal, zero drop, stability or motion control?  Join us as we bring back Dr. Emily Splichal to de-mystify shoe selection for all types of runners.

There is so much marketing hype in the billion dollar shoe industry it is hard to sort the fact from fiction.  Dr Emily is a world renowned podiatrist, educator and founder of The Evidence Based Fitness Academy. She has a lot to offer in the way of sound advice for runners, especially those who have been plagued with running injuries.  This is a show you don’t want to miss!

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Meeting the Energy Demands of an Ultra Endurance Champion

Mike-1Everyone who trains or races beyond just a few hours is challenged by energy depletion, hitting the wall, or bonking.  No one knows this better than an Ultra Marathon Runner. Much less a Champion like Michael Wardian 5 time member of Team USA for the 100K World Championships and 3 time qualifier of the USA Olympic Trials with a personal record of 2:17:49.  Richard Diaz has invited these two professionals to share their knowledge on the topic of feeding and energy replacement during the long run.


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What your Running Shoes can’t do for you!

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Jay_02Every Runner should listen to this interview with Jay Dicharry MPT, CSCS, and Director of The REP Biomechanics Lab in Bend Oregon. Richard Diaz and Jay discuss what Running Shoes can’t do for you and what you need to do to avoid injury and perform optimally.  

Jay is the author of Anatomy for Runners and one of the most knowledgeable clinicians of biomechanics in the running industry today.  Learn what not to expect your running shoes to be able to do for you and what you should be doing to become a stronger more efficient runner.  This is a conversation that is long overdue!

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Training Smart with Heart Rate 04/11 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts

Training Smart with Heart Rate 04/11 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.

DrSanMillanTraining with heart rate is the most effective way to improve endurance for cycling and running.  Join Richard Diaz and Dr. Iñigo San Millán, director of the Exercise Physiology Lab & Sports at the UC School of Medicine as they discuss heart rate training.
Dr. Iñigo San Millán was selected as Colorado’s Top Thinker 2013 in Health. He also served as director of physiological testing for the professional cycling team Garmin-Transitions, Spain’s pro team Once and Saunier-Duval, as well as Astana in 2007. While a number of his former employers have been beset by doping scandals, San Millán is widely regarded as an exponent of a clean cycling.

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Running The Grand Canyon-Rim to Rim to Rim 04/25 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts

Running The Grand Canyon-Rim to Rim to Rim 04/25 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.

rim2rim.psdTrail Running is on the rise; one of the most epic challenges for an Ultra Trail Runner is traversing the Grand Canyon.  Listen as Vanessa Runs shares her journey from rim-to-rim-to-rim, running through one of the 7 great Natural Wonders of the World.

How long will it take?  Well, first of all, it’s not a race. It would be crazy to do this run and not take some time to enjoy the incredible scenery.  A mid-pack runner should plan on at least 13-15 hours.

It is a tough run, with a little bit of everything as obstacles: some rocky sections of trail, some exposure, two BIG hills, heat, cold, altitude (7000 feet at the south rim, 2600 feet at the bottom, 8000 feet at the north rim).

You will definitely feel like you’ve accomplished something when you finish.  And you will see the Grand Canyon as few have ever seen it!

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The 1929 Bunion Derby the most grueling ultra-marathon of all time 05/02 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts

The 1929 Bunion Derby the most grueling ultra-marathon of all time 05/02 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.

bunion-derby2.psdOn March 31, 1929 seventy seven men began an epic 3,554 mile footrace from New York to Los Angeles punishing their bodies an average of 46 miles for 78 days over mostly unpaved roads in hopes of winning $25,000 in prize money. The 1929 Bunion Derby is considered the most grueling ultra-marathon of all time.

The event promoter Charlie Pyle put together a traveling Vaudeville show in hopes of raising the prize money, complete with dancing debutants, an all-girl band wearing pilot outfits and black faced comedians.  This is an amazing tale told by the author Charles B. Kastner.

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Interview with Geoff Smith 2 X Winner of the Boston Marathon

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Geoff-SmithOn the eve of The Boston Marathon, our guest Geoff Smith 2 X Winner reflects on past achievements as a World Class runner and the state of running today. What does The Boston Marathon mean to him, given the tragic attack on America’s most important Marathon?

Geoff Smith was the man to beat at all the major races back in the early 80’s, having been edged out by Rod Dixon at the New York Marathon in 1983 by a mere 8 seconds after leading the race for 26 miles. He won Boston handily in both 1984 and 1985, a true running legend with a lot to share. This is a show you don’t want to miss!

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