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July 16, 2007

Why is there a battle over how we are supposed to land in running? Why has such a seemingly simple question become so complicated and the subject of discussion? During the running boom of the 70-ies through the 90-ies it has become a well-known and well-established opinion that landing on the heel is the only option to run properly, with less injuries, more economically, etc. Any other options were rejected for no obvious reasons or for some made up reasons such as: landing on the forefoot is only suitable for elite runners, etc.

Well, there was no scientific proof or any existing experience to back up this opinion, but still it stayed. Medical and science community seriously talk about "cushioning" by landing on the heel. And what was not even funny, they considered the heel's pad, with a tiny fat layer there to be meant for cushioning!! Alleluia! Where does it come from? Are you out of your mind? Since when are bones meant to be used as cushioning tissues? We can't really talk about fat on the heel as cushioning. If you want to check it for yourself, please, go out and run barefoot on the asphalt on your heels. It'll be a good reality check and will clean up a mess in your mind.

This, generally accepted and established opinion, was spread out by media and coaching, through the books and magazines, and taught at different presentations, clinics and camps. Yes, it also became the philosophy and hard core politics: "This is what we think is right, and there is nothing to discuss here anymore". I would say that temporarily, in a specific field of human activity, we lost our freedom to speak about any other vision on this subject. So the majority of runners accepted this, never proved opinion, as their only reality. Numbers speaks by themselves - the heel-striking community make up about 80-85% of running population.

There is nothing funny here at all, as the officially recognized statistics of annually injured runners, according to ACSM data, is about the same - 85%. Isn't it an incredible coincidence? Unfortunately, this is no coincidence, it is the cause and effect data. If we do believe in such things, then we have to accept the fact that such high rate of injuries comes from doing something wrong. It's like violating the traffic rules would bring our car to collision and us to injuries as a consequence. Nobody doubts such coincidence in driving of cars, but in running our injuries are almost looked upon as an act of God.

Why didn't we question if heel striking were good for running for so long? My guess is that it was kind of brain washing done by running shoes manufacturing companies. They needed to develop an easily manipulated market and they took the easiest way to do it. Their proposed way wasn't related with our education and skill development, but on the opposite: with our laziness and our desire to find a quick solution for our problems. So instead of developing the skill of movement, they proposed "protection" through all kinds of cushioning, stability, motion control, etc., shoes. Wow! Sounds as something even better than the divine project - human beings with billions of cells in our brains, incredible complexity nervous and cardio-vascular systems, our muscles and bones operated by our nervous system, etc.

If we take the shoe companies approach, then they have developed something better than our Creator. Of course I can't accept this, and who will? So the question of how to land in running popped up again in its purest form. Why do we do it in this, and not in that way? The answer is as simple as Nature. Everything should be done in the way our Nature requests, or to be more precise: nature demands. In running, as in all other movement, it is all about gravity. To use gravity we have to fall forward from the vertical position, because it is the only one from which it could happen and for this matter we have no other choice as to start from the ball of the foot.

I was running around this notion for over 30 years and didn't find any other solution. Nature always comes back to this point in order to produce movement in this environment. It is like saying, "Please, do not waste your time and efforts, if you want to use/consume gravity, get into this position as soon as possible and be as precise as possible".

We are getting more and more proof for this matter and a recent Ph.D. of Graham Fletcher confirms this idea, too, which existed from time of creation. Why should we neglect it?


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