Running Injuries: It’s Not You, It’s Your Shoes and Bad Research

For decades, research has suggested that running injuries are the result of the human body being inherently weak. Unsurprisingly, most of the literature tends to portray female runners as being more fragile than male runners as well.

Further, those ideologically opposed to barefoot and pure minimalist running argue that running is harmful because humans did not evolve to run on artificial surfaces such as asphalt, yet running on grass is linked to more injuries.

Running injuries caused by bad shoes and the wrong foot strike
Very rarely does a study on running injuries consider foot strike or footwear as a risk factor. It doesn’t help that the running shoe industry domesticates runners by creating a false reality that running is detrimental to the human form. Whether you believe in evolution or not, there was a large portion of time when humans ran without the modern running shoe and never injured.

The gist is, many reports caution runners that our musculoskeletal system lacks the capacity to absorb the impact peaks and transients associated with running, but what these reports fails to take into account is foot strike and footwear.

Running Injures Stem from Bad Shoes and the Wrong Foot Strike

The most severe methodological shortcoming that plagues much of the research on running injuries is that very rarely does a study consider foot strike. Because of this, associations between ‘risk factors’ such as muscle strength imbalance, gender, age, running experience, flexibility, and running injuries are misleading.

Truthfully, the best scientific evidence indicates that foot strike pattern (heel strike vs forefoot strike) — heavily influenced by footwear — is the fundamental variable that affects impact peaks and transients during running. Unfortunately, running injuries remain high because clinical interventions does not reflect this scientific understanding.

Decades of systematic reviews have been carried out to identify the main risk factors of common running injuries only to discover that the strongest predictor of these injuries are impact peaks and transients, which are associated with a heel strike landing, not a forefoot strike landing.

With that said, future research should focus on understanding the conditions that interfere with foot strike as well as perceptual responses, instead of emphasizing the ‘weakness of the human form’.

Likewise, researchers need to more adequately assess the degree to which footwear effects kinematics and biomechanics because the standard running shoe creates circumstances that prevents a runner from reaching their highest potential.

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Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!

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