This week on Twitter the lovely running blogger Laura retweeted a link to the Elle Running blog which had a feature entitled Claire Danes is running wrong. The author, Amy Lawrenson, looks at people’s feet while they run and she has decided that because Clare Danes is a heel strike runner, she is doing it wrong. According to Amy, heel striking is the worst possible way to run. She goes on to say that when you are heel striking you are putting immense pressure through the joints of the lower limb which could lead to problems. She says that we ‘should’ be running on our mid or fore foot.
Amy’s blog caused a bit of an uproar among some of the running bloggers I know, the main reason being that it could put of potential lady runners from trying to run or that runners could become embarrassed. Amy subsequently updated her feature:
‘We had some feedback on Twitter about this post. I was told by a physio that my heel striking was contributing to some pain I was getting in my knee and hip. A midfoot or forefoot strike was deemed to be preferable. Never feel embarrassed about how you run or scared to get out there! The best advice would be that if you want to take up running regularly then go for a gait analysis and speak with an expert who will assess your running style and discuss any tweaks you may want to make. I do believe that heel striking isn’t great for you but others feel the opposite, the best thing is to find what works, and is safe, for you’.
For me as a runner and a Physiotherapist who treats runners, I just wanted to raise some other points that had been niggling me:
My problem is that the author is applying the advice given by her physio for her individual case to the general running population. Someone looking for advice about running could read this and try and apply it to themselves, which would most likely result in an injury. You can’t just change from heel strike running to fore foot or mid foot strike. It needs time and work to transition. I had a chat with a guy from Salomon who told me that their athletes take up to three years to fully transition from mid foot to fore foot/barefoot running style.
I also need to mention the runners that I’ve seen in clinic who have read about fore foot and barefoot running and tried it.These are runners who probably had no real issues with the way they were running before but they’ve read about the latest running trend and naturally assumed they should be doing it. This is what has made me sad about running lately. There is so much advice out there but running is an individual activity performed by people of all genotypes and phenotypes: you simply cannot generalise what is right for one person to another. The research has not yet proven that fore foot striking or barefoot running is superior to heel or mid foot strike. Adharanand Finn trained with some of the best runners in the world when he wrote ‘Running with the Kenyans’ but even he discovered great variability in running style among the athletes he ran with.
I would also love for an agreement on what defines a ‘gait analysis’. Do we mean being asked to run on a treadmill in the shop while the shop assistant watches us try different trainers? Or do we mean a biomechanics lab where an individual is stripped down to their shorts, key points marked on their body and then filmed running on a treadmill while being picked to pieces from the trunk downwards or the feet up? (for me I love seeing what happens at the hips and work down, it’s not just about the feet people!). And if it is the latter then what about the potential stress that a ‘bad’ gait analysis could cause? Does the person giving the analysis give advice and exercises? If it ain’t broke do we need to fix it? Anecdotally I have seen people who have been given orthotics for flat feet and they’ve ended up with a world of other problems. This type of gait analysis isn’t that simple and I really don’t think everyone needs it.
I tweeted that I didn’t think everyone needs a gait analyis to run and it triggered a great debate among the runners I follow. One person felt that gait analysis by a physio helped to identify that the wrong trainers had been causing their knee pain. Another said that having gait analysis had enabled them to adjust their running style to help them avoid buying necessary trainers. Many other people felt that speaking to the people in the running shops had helped them buy the trainers that were right for them. But none of these people were instructed to run in a dramatically different manner.
I have had niggles and injuries of late and I am a mid foot runner. But as someone else said on twitter the answer is not always round the foot or issues with foot wear. It can be about so much more (usually inducing a back injury from lifting a toddler over here). I think the Elle Running blog may have had the best of intentions in sharing a running experience but picking on the way another runner is running is just the wrong way to go about it. I would like to know how Claire Danes herself feels about her running. If she’s not injured and she’s enjoying running then I’d say she’s probably running about right.
What do you think? Should everyone try and transition to fore foot running? Does everyone need a biomechanical analysis before running?