Running Wrong and Running Right

Sometimes perhaps it pays to work with professionals and I regret not having done so a long time ago when I first took up running.

I know…this is the third article on running in the last few weeks, but hopefully it will be the last one before the Mumbai Marathon on January 15. I have written today’s piece simply because something so weird and terrific happened three weeks ago with respect to my running style that I think my experience will be of help to those reader runners who are not particularly well-trained and/or find it difficult to run fast and/or keep getting injured frequently.

The last time I wrote about front-foot running, it was predominantly as part of the concept of barefoot running that has become quite popular after Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run”. I was quite carried away by the book and even went and bought a Vibrams Five-Fingers sole that simulates barefoot running. I haven’t had the guts to start using it but about two weeks ago, when I developed shin splints around 30 minutes into one of my running sessions, I switched consciously to a front-foot running style despite being in my standard cushioned Nikes that typically are meant for heel-first running.

Guess what!

It seemed after a few minutes that I was floating on air and for the first time in a long time I achieved a 6:30 mins / km time (my standard time is around 7:30 mins / km), and my shin splints disappeared.

Then I did something stupid!

Having read somewhere that the Bata canvas shoes we used to wear in school also simulate barefoot running, I went and bought a pair. (This too was an effort simply because most Bata stores don’t carry adult-sized canvas shoes…also the largest size they carry is a No 10, which was a little tight for me and they also actively dissuade you from buying these shoes in their stores, probably because they cost only around Rs. 200 a pair). Enthusiastically I started running in them. After 20 minutes, I had pain in both my lower legs, ankles and feet and I felt everything locking up. I stopped running and then waited for about 4 days for the pain to subside.

I have been observing fast runners for the last two months and most of them seem to be doing front-foot running despite wearing cushioned shoes and so on a hunch I too decided to continue front-foot running using my standard Nikes.

The last four runs have been so terrific…one better than the other. I have virtually no pain, I routinely do an under 7:10 mins / km pace, the running seems to take much less energy and it really feels like I am gliding on the running surface.

I cannot believe that for the last 10 years that I have been running, I have been running wrong.

Ten years!

And no wonder, I was never able to get my speed up, always had cramps after long runs and more often than not I felt like I was just plodding along!

And that’s why this article. If you are one of those runners who identifies with the kind of problems I used to have, please start front-foot running right away. If you Google “barefoot running”, you will find videos that show how this is to be done…however you don’t have to be barefoot for front-foot running.

This year, for the first time, I feel that I can perhaps finish the half-marathon in around 2:30 hours. To me that is a really, really big deal!

5 Comments

  • Thanks,really would try it,loved the article

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    ‘Front foot’ running is the natural way to run even when you run barefoot since the centre of gravity changes to less than ninety degrees when running. The cushioned shoes of Nike and other brands are also meant for front foot running except the cushions reduce the impact on the ball of the great toe which mainly bears the impact of ‘front foot’ running. You cannot run on heels! Walking, either slow or fast is done on heels. Good luck for the half-marathon and let us know if you complete it in 2:30 hours. I am sure you will!

  • Prabha Vinay wrote:

    As I had remarked earlier that I am a believe in front-foot running only since it seems to be most natural to me, this article has enlightened me more about my belief… Though I am not a keen runner, being a sports enthusiast and a classical dancer I always welcome updates about better exercising skills and running as walking is one of wonderful exercises for good health.. Thank you once again for this wonderful, englightening read…..

  • P. Venkatraman wrote:

    Trust you have transitioned slowly to minimals. There is a added strain on the Achilles tendon and also if not done slowly then top of the feet pain is known to develop. I have been using Bata Northstar brand for most runs now, except when the run is longer and in hot weather then I use Nike Free since they are better ventilated.

    All the best for your sub 2:30 PB

    Venkatraman

  • Ajay Bhonsle wrote:

    Appreciate your sharing this info with all & sundry – even potential competetors! Shall forward you an email re jogging tips that I received a while ago.

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