Many runners may remember the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. McDougall’s tale of the Tarahumara and their passion for endurance running. This tale convinced many runners to question what footwear was best for their sport. The book also glamorized running ultra marathon distances. While Born to Run remains one of my favorite books, the approach McDougall takes with running is not a practical choice for all runners. The passion with which McDougall described running longer and longer distances with minimalist shoes is not a transition of footwear to be taken lightly. The book examines what is proper running mechanics and how this is altered based on our shoes. The detail that can go overlooked; is running with minimalist shoes does not reduce the risk of injury across the board – as told by the inspirational story of the Tarahumara. Even if a responsible transition is made to such a drastically different shoe, runners can still be slowed down by injury regardless of footwear. Running with a faster cadence, the number of steps per minute is a good way to reduce the impact of running.
The target cadence for running, especially minimalist running is 180 steps per minute. Any runner can benefit from a quicker cadence. A higher cadence is typically associated with more experienced runners. Higher cadences correlate with lower vertical movement and shorter ground contact time. These should be the goal of every runner to reduce the risk of injury. Irrespective of the running shoe worn the focus can be on shorter quicker steps. A heel strike with each step can be replaced by a mid or forefoot strike to assist with improving running mechanics. Also, keep in mind that a taller runner will typically have a slower cadence. Do not overthink your running form. A runner’s gait should be smooth and natural. This can be compared to a baseball swing. As baseball players are learning to swing a bat there are certain fundamentals to the swing. However, baseball players have a slightly different approach to their swing compared to one another.
The take away from the book that has most stuck with me is to enjoy the sport of running. To continue running as a long term choice of exercise it is important to remain engaged and motivated. A runner’s shoe is a personal choice and whatever that maybe we are all Born to Run and a shoe does not define that.
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McDougall, C. (2016). Born to run: A hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Image from: Cleveland High School Cross Country Weekly Skill Topics Page. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2019, from http://www.runningmovies.com/chsFOR.html