Today starts our 12-point systems check of your physical and lifestyle practices as we ensure you, dear reader, are actually Ready to Run.
As previously mentioned in Part 1 of our series, we have 12 standards that we have identified as critical to maintaining your physical readiness for the skill of Running. Whether you are a distance runner or a team sport athlete in a sport that requires running of some form, meeting The Standards ensures you don’t get snagged by a preventable injury. Will the unexpected jump and bite you with an injury every now and again? Absolutely. But what we’re ensuring here is that you don’t get injured unnecessarily. That type of injury is no one’s fault but you own. In other words, it’s completely preventable.
Standard #1: Neutral Feet
This standard is all about paying attention more than a specific exercise for you to perform. The idea here is that to support the rest of your body, your feet need to be pointing in the direction they were designed to point: forward. When you stand in any other position, be it pigeon-toed (feet pointing towards each other) or duck-footed (feet pointed out), or some third, horrid combination of the previous two positions, you end up hanging on your joints. Funny thing about your joints, they’re mainly designed for motion, not bearing all the load of your body as your legs slam into the ground while you run.
The root cause of poor foot position is most frequently just a lack of body awareness. If you don’t have a reference for how to stand and walk with good posture, keeping your toes and feet pointed straight ahead isn’t going to happen. Instead of letting your arches collapse, knees cave in, hips tilt awkwardly, and low back strain to hold you up, we recommend you try the Bracing Sequence. You can get the video explanation here or hover over the pictures for a written explanation below.
Your glutes and abdominals are scientifically created to keep your pelvis and low back in good position. Additionally, your glutes control excessive rotation in the thighs. Next time you go shopping, try to observe how many people walk with their knees almost banging together. It’s a good bet if you look down from their knees their feet are pointed in some direction other than forward. If you look up, you’ll probably find they either walk hunched forward or over extended (sway-backed). Try not to stare.
Good position of your trunk, and pelvis allows you to point your feet straight ahead and create tremendous power to run, jump, land, change directions, and lift with greater power output. Better position equals better performance. I love simple math.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT SHOES
There’s a misconception that the problem with your feet, and the reason you hurt when you run, is that you don’t have the right shoe. If I get a custom fit shoe, the thinking goes, I’ll be able to run without pain. Or, I can spend $300 and get a laser-fit custom orthotic.
The shoe industry has created a false construct to sell you the perfect shoe. If your foot is classified as neutral (normal arch, your foot doesn’t roll in or out as you walk) you are the lucky winner of a “Stability” shoe. If you are flat footed (little to no space between your foot and the ground, your feet tend to point out and roll in when you walk), you get to strap on a “Motion Control” shoe. If you have a particularly high arch (foot tends to roll out as you walk) you will-allegedly-do best with a “Cushioned” shoe.
There’s a problem with trying to fit the shoe to the foot. Shoes have no influence on how frequently you will injure yourself when running. We added a list of references at the end of the post that speak loud and clear to this point. The shoe industry has failed to fix your feet, let alone your ability to run without hurting yourself.
There is zero scientific evidence that your $150 motion control shoe reduces your risk of injury. Ditto for that custom fit orthotic. So now you’re out well over $400 dollars and you’re not any closer to actually solving the root cause of your pain.
A FEW WORDS (AND ENTIRELY SEPARATE BLOG POST) ABOUT YOUR FEET
Fighting For Your Feet. 1700+ words of goodness on restoring the strength and suppleness of your feet. For the specific mobility and strength work to wake up your feet, this is the place to start. Dig in!
There’s really no getting around putting yourself in the right position to run well. Your feet have to point straight forward, as do your knees, and your spine needs to look like a spine-not a banana or a snake-if you’re going to come out unharmed from this fun we call “running”. Anything less than normal position turns the conversation from if you’ll get injured to how long it will take until you get injured with that crappy position and running mechanics.
The easiest way we’ve found to apply this standard is as follows: every time you stand up, or before you sit down, go through the bracing sequence. This will take a fair amount of mental focus at first, but as you continue to practice you’ll notice two positive habits emerge. First, you will spontaneously find yourself in a better posture more frequently. Second, and more importantly, you’ll catch yourself slouching more often, which is the first step in fixing the problem.
- Malisoux L, Chambon N, Urhausen A, Theisen D. Influence of the Heel-to-Toe Drop of Standard Cushioned Running Shoes on Injury Risk in Leisure-Time Runners: A Randomized Controlled Trial With 6-Month Follow-up. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016; 44(11):2933-2940.
- Grier T, Canham-Chervak M, Bushman T, Anderson M, North W, Jones BH. Minimalist Running Shoes and Injury Risk Among United States Army Soldiers. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2016; 44(6):1439-46.
- Molloy JM. Factors Influencing Running-Related Musculoskeletal Injury Risk Among U.S. Military Recruits. Military Medicine. 2016; 181(6):512-23.
- Knapik JJ, Pope R, Orr R, Grier T. Injuries and Footwear (Part 1): Athletic Shoe History and Injuries in Relation to Foot Arch Height and Training in Boots. Journal of Special Operations Medicine. 2015; 15(4):102-8.
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