February 18, 2019

There are three main characters that appear in almost all running technique stories; the good, the bad and the ugly. 

THE ‘GOOD’

Rarely seen outside the developing world, except in BBC documentaries and televised athletic events, this runner is Mother Nature’s poster boy (or girl) for natural function.

The defining characteristics of an upright posture, relaxed rhythm and animal-like elasticity are found in the best of natural runners such as the Tarahumara, the Bushmen and the East Africans and contribute to their legendary speed, endurance and resilience against injury. In fact, this running style is probably the signature movement pattern for homo sapiens, and it would be logical to assume that the benefits associated with adopting it should outweigh any inherent risks.

Unfortunately, as all BTR coaches know most ‘beautiful hypotheses’ are ruined by ugly facts and in this case the ugly fact is the modern shoe- shaped foot.

THE ‘BAD’

Instantly recognisable to coaches and runners alike by their heel-striking, slumped posture and overstriding-shuffling gait.

This much maligned character is held responsible for virtually all running-related evils in the world and most running technique and natural movement coaches have sworn a solemn oath to eradicate this breed from the face of the earth. BUT like all complex, supposedly-evil characters, they often display redeeming features (brutal

dictators who are kind to animals etc) which should be taken into account. The ‘bad’ runner can often display a skillful-pendulum type running style that is efficient and enables them to cover a lot of miles without injury (in fact, this is the most common running technique adopted by ‘good’ ultramarathon runners).

There is a lot of wisdom in the old adage ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ which definitely applies to this character and as all BTR coaches know the ‘risk-to-benefit’ ratio of changing running technique should always be in the forefront of your mind.

THE ‘UGLY’

Since the heady days of the ‘barefoot revolution’ which began in 2010, this character has been showing its ugly face at coaching venues around the world and ruining the simple and elegant ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ story being delivered.

This character epitomizes the ‘self-educated’ runner who has read everything in the blogosphere and in the running tabloids re: ‘good’ running technique and ‘knows’ they are running correctly. In my experience,

these runners are just as broken as ‘bad’ runners and are particularly prone to chronic-lower-limb injuries such as achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis. The skill of running resides in the sub-conscious mind and ‘over-thinking’ creates tense, rigid and over-exaggerated movement patterns and a brave new world of pain and dysfunction.

What you ‘think’ you’re doing and what you are ‘actually’ doing are often poles apart, and this is where a running coach with a trained, experienced eye armed with a video camera of at least 60fps becomes the ultimate ‘beauty therapist’ for runners.


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