Tag Archives: gait analysis

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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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!

Check out this episode!

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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!

The Host’s Website

Check out this episode!

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Online Coaching for Runners 02/28 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts

Online Coaching for Runners 02/28 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.

onlineThe Internet coupled with the advent of Bluetooth and GPS provides a unique opportunity to virtually coach runners online. Join Richard Diaz and Vanessa Runs as they discuss the benefits and provide real time support for one of our marathon running listeners.

It was not long ago that the ability to monitor heart rate was cutting edge information. Now many coaches are able to provide detailed advice regarding a client’s training across the globe! Richard Diaz reveals one of the hottest advancements in running and triathlon training technology.

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A case of Running Obsession


A case of Running Obsession 01/10 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.

Are you obsessed with your running? Dr Michelle Cleere and our host Richard Diaz and guests Charlie Engle and Vanessa Runs discuss what constitutes a running obsession. For Charlie, it may be he runs for a cure, Vanessa simply loves trail running. Is either healthy?

Listen as our host Richard Diaz and guests, Dr. Michelle Cleere – Clinical and Sports Psychologist, world renowned Ultra Marathon Runner Charlie Engle and Vanessa Runs, discuss the potential for running obsession; when it’s good, bad or downright ugly.

This is a very unique opportunity to visit running for recreation, for health and or therapy. When is the amount of running you do too much? Dr. Michelle’s passion is unlocking the power of the mind so that elite performers can play better and happier.

Charlie Engle turned his life around from being a drug addict to living sober since 1992. He refocused his addictive personality toward running, entering marathons, then ultramarathons, and self-created endurance missions. In February, 2007, Charlie and teammates Ray Zahab and Kevin Lin became the first people in history to run across the entire Sahara Desert, covering over 4,300 miles in what became a 111 consecutive day effort.

Vanessa Runs is a trail runner, as a journalist she has worked as an Assistant Editor, Online Editor. But it was office work, she lived for the weekends and her dog was bored.

In 2012, she quit her job gave away all her possessions, and hit the trails to run and write books. Her first book, The Summit Seeker, hit Amazon’s Best Sellers and Hot New Releases in the Sports & Outdoors category.

She lives day-to-day, bartering for the things she needs so she can live as a nomadic trail runner.



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Crazy arm swing lets your friends know you’re coming

Before I get rolling on this topic, I want to thank you, our audience, for challenging me to research and prepare for you. Today I exposed myself to some fascinating data that has helped me to support my claims in this article. A simple idea with very complex underpinnings that make this something I am excited to share with you.

Arm swing as it relates to running gait, as it seems, is our trademark move. How many times have you found yourself approaching a runner from a distance and come to know who it was by the way they moved long before you could make out their facial features?

Over the years I have written about running styles, what makes a more proficient injury resistant gait but rarely have I touched on how our arm swing influences the way we run. Just this year alone, I have already conducted running clinics in 5 different cities for runners of various abilities, some following the “Natural path” others still unaware of the ill effects of heel striking. Regardless of approach where foot contact is concerned, or the ability to adapt to a revised style of running, arm swing, I have found, is the hardest trait to correct. The way our arms move while we run holds heavy influence over global outcome, where pacing, energy costs and even injury is concerned.

Just for fun here are just a few interesting arm swing styles:

  • ·         T Rex – arms held static in front of ones chest with hands seemingly limp and arms appearing to be unusually short
  • ·         Knuckle dragger – arms held low, like a gorilla, bent a bit forward at the waist
  • ·         Spinner– arms seeming to swirl in circles also in front of the body
  • ·         Muscle bound– shoulders hiked upwards, elbows out, shoulders swinging side to side

I’ll just bet you could come up with a few of your own renditions.

I teach people a method of arm swing that through my research and experience has shown to be extremely effective in guiding us and providing enhancement to forward locomotion, which I am going to share with you, but first, I want to introduce you to some science that I found fascinating.

As I was pouring over some lofty research papers on gait, I was lead down a deep path, beginning with the first and second law of thermodynamics, which speaks of energy costs, then on to a term known as entrophy. Then it was like I was hit with a hammer! Entrophy is a theory that suggests that all things begin in order and then all order begins to dissipate to eventual chaos. This ensuing chaos where humans are concerned is largely responsible to our environment. For example; infants are typically born with the ability to be perfectly ambidextrous. Through the process of selection and parental influence we begin to retrain or corrupt these motor skills. Teaching our children to be right handed vs. left is one way that we introduce imbalance. From these early stages of our lives we begin to form our traits. Another example of this degradation of inherent skill can be found in our breathing patterns. Watch a baby as it sleeps, as they breathe they draw air deeply into their bellies which is far more functional than chest breathing. Take a deep breath; odds are you filled your chest and not your belly. This action draws your diaphragm up against your lungs and inhibits as much as 25% of your potential to take on air. When did this transition occur? This is one of those burning quandaries that I have yet to find an answer for, yet, it like other human motor functions have altered or degraded with time.

Getting back to my point; we, with time adapt and mold ourselves around our personal environments. We develop imbalances, and from these imbalances, physical traits that come to be our nature. Training, regardless of discipline or purpose, is all about honing in on our functional asymmetries. Our arms and legs have the potential to work together to assist our forward locomotion, transferring roles of stability, guidance and propulsion, “if” trained to do so. 

armside  To the contrary, what I have found to be more typical is our trademark moves that are commonly disruptive to our forward progress as runners.  Think of your arms as you might a steering wheel; while driving down a road swinging the steering wheel from side to side will cause your car to travel on a jagged course. Unlike a steering wheel, your arms also have the ability to assist in drawing you forward if they were to oscillate forward and back in a rhythmic fashion. Further, there is an energy potential that exists that can greatly influence your rate of speed while reducing energy demands.

Do this experiment; stand up, relax your shoulders, bend your elbow a bit more than 90 degrees so that your hand is slightly higher than your elbow. While maintaining this angle, draw you hand back to your hip. Think of it as “getting ready to draw your six shooter”. Be sure that your elbow is not splaying outwards but is pulled straight back and behind your hand. You should begin to feel tension where the muscles of your chest connect to your shoulder, much like pulling on a bow string to release an arrow. Now, simply release and relax your arm while maintaining your arm angle. Like a pendulum, you have initiated energy and released it. For many people, this action is cumbersome due to tight pectoral muscles. But this action/reaction potentiates an opportunity to assist the legs in forward motion.

With training, this action can become “our nature” and far easier to perform and will yield a significant enhancement to our running costs, equilibrium and stability. It is a matter of creating order where once there was chaos. Getting our arms into the swing of things so to speak.armfrnt

Another flaw that seems to get overlooked is what we do with our hands. I see various grips, from hitch hikers, slap happy loose hands to tightly balled fists. Clenching your fists is much like clenching your teeth, it causes unnecessary tension. A good hand posture is one that that is lightly cupped not clenched. By simply lying your fingers against your palm and resting your thumb atop your index finger, your hands will come along for the ride without generating any extra stress.

handOne more experiment; the next time you go out for a run, employ this arm swing, try and introduce a rhythm  in where your arms start point is where your hand meets your hip and the finish is where your elbow is in alignment with your hip. Once you have it down, as you are jogging, try doubling up your arm swing speed. I wish I could be there to watch this but since I can’t, I’ll tell you what is going to happen. Your leg speed will double to match your arms. Clearly, this is an indication of the importance and reliance your legs have in relation to your arms.

Arm swing presents an opportunity to improve your running. A good arm swing can minimize lateral rotational movements that can have adverse effect over the way you contact the ground, they can help to propel you forward, increasing your pace and reduce the cost of work. Or, they can help your friends identify you from a far! I suggest you try and give these concepts some thought and find out for yourself what a little intelligent training can do for you.

To find out more about one of our many running clinics, simply visit us at www.diazhumanperformance.com  or www.naturalrunningnetwork.com we would love to meet you!

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What’s up with Aero Helmets? 11/15 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts

What’s up with Aero Helmets? 11/15 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.


Join host Richard Diaz and guest Paul Craig, President of Running and Cycling Ent., and exclusive US distributor of Rudy Project, makers of the most favored Aero Helmet at the IRONMAN World Championship. Learn what an Aero Helmet can do for your finish times.


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All about Compression Wear for Runners 09/13 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts

compressionAll about Compression Wear for Runners 09/13 by The Natural Running Network Live | Sports Podcasts.

Compression tights look great while training and racing. Quality running tights, socks, and accessories offer huge benefits, if you know when, what and why to wear them. Listen as Richard Diaz and Richard Verney, Director of Sales at 2XU demystifies there use.

When is the best time to wear compression socks vs. calf sleeves? Does compression wear make me a faster Runner? How can recovery tights reduce soreness? How do I best care for these technical garments? All of these questions will be addressed in this interview. If you race and or train and don’t understand compression, this is a show you don’t want to miss!


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Why follow when you can lead? Become a great Coach!

For those of you who are not aware, I want to share some insights regarding our coaching certification program. To begin with the idea came to us more out of necessity than desire. There are only so many people we can reach from where we operate to provide a level of training and coaching that our consumers are so very hungry for.

Running popularity is on the rise. There are more people participating in events from the half to full marathon than ever in history. These events are no longer reserved for the fittest of the fit; a marathon is now something that many

Matt Fitzgerald speaking on hydration for runners

part of our lecture series at dhp

average folk have added to their bucket list. With this popularity stems a strong need for support and education. Even as popular as running has become it also holds the record for the most injuries in sport. Nearly 7 out of 10 runners are sidelined with nagging injuries, most of which could have been avoided had they been properly trained; this is where we come in.

Make no mistake about our intent; we can give a hoot less about what other certifying bodies’ think about our program or if what we are providing even is in keeping with the needs of elite athletes. The market for running is not made up of elites, it is made up of everyday people who are trying to get into shape, gain some confidence and meet some life challenges. Our program is for them, because we know that half of the battle is being able to get up each morning to train without getting injured. And, beyond what is typical, our program not only addresses the ability to survive the work, our program teaches people how to run well beyond expectation!

Our certification program is no simple walk in the park. To represent us as a Certified Natural Running Network Coach we have high expectations. We demand a level of understanding and knowledge that few other certification programs provide. Sure our program is set over three days but our curriculum and study materials will open Pandora’s Box. We teach proper running mechanics but that is only the beginning. We also teach the art of program design, how to implement heart rate training with our proprietary system. We teach running anatomy, functional strength training, hydration and nutrition strategies, and finally but not least of importance, how to identify and deal with injuries.

We have a strong relationship with the principals at Rock Tape and have adopted their taping strategies and are fortunate enough to have them provide this element of our education hands on. We also bring experts to our training, such as Matt Fitzgerald, author of numerous books relating to nutrition and endurance sports.

functional strength training at dhp

Learning to apply functional strength for runners during our certificationof numerous publications relating to sports nutrition and endurance training.

Part of our plan is to encourage our new coach candidates to join our network and take responsibility as a regional coach in their area. This way we can grow our membership, create events and develop a community of runners who will show the world what a bit of sound education can do! Our runners end up with better and progressively faster finishing times, are able to log more weekly mileage all while avoiding the pitfalls of injury that most other runners have to battle with.

What we set out to do is no small task but the result is that each and every person that certifies with us, wherever they end up will be far more capable leaders and superior running coaches. I stake my nearly 30 years in the business of coaching and working with athletes on it.

So, if this is something that has been lingering in the back of your mind, or you already stand as a group leader in preparation for an event such as a marathon, you should contact us right away or visit us online; www.naturalrunningcoach.net

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Whats New and Exciting? Helping runners achieve their goals.

Our business is really pretty diverse. We see athletes from various sports and various ages from very young to adult professionals and on occasion, world class elite athletes. In all the years I have been at this profession one thing I know to be true; regardless of talent, we all face similar challenges, just at different levels. Most of the athletes we work with at our facility are running athletes. If you think about this; regardless of distance or intensity, it all boils down to the fundamentals of motion, economy and efficiency.

Our tennis players need a high degree of agility and explosive speed even though the furthest distance they may run is less than 10 yards. Marathon runners do not require agility but they do need to refine their motor skills to minimize the cost associated with running for hours at a time. Energetic manipulation is critical for long distance runners and so for them this is an area of strong focus.

The short story today is that I am happy to report that through our running clinics we have been offering on the road we are meeting runners of varios abilities and within a few hours are able to enlighten and provide them with useful tools to improve their running, minimize or completely eliminate nagging injuries.

If anyone has a question related to these topics, I would enjoy communication with you.

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