After reading McDougall's book, I experimented with forfoot striking but soon settled into attempting to "run tall" - essentially, avoiding my old loping strides that I fear used to lead to my knee and shin problems in favor of shorter strides and front-to-mid foot striking. It required some adjustment in that I needed to work to increase the speed of my legs and am still working on loosening up my calves (this stride makes them extremely tight), but the benefit is that I haven't had any major injuries and I'm running as fast as I have since I was a teenager.
However, Bernd Heinrich's argues against the "run tall" notion in p.226-7 of Why We Run:
"The primary way to increase running efficency would be to minimize leg lift while maximizing stride length; and of course, using the lightest shoes possible.I practiced running using gravity and momentum as much as possible to swing my feet. A sprinter expends an exorbitant amounts of energy with each step, which is essentially a leap. I needed to train a stride that would be a compromise between an energy-efficient short step, where the feed are barely lifted, and a long stride, which necessitates more knee lift. By running as much as possible at race pace during training, I hoped to cultivate that specific optimum stride for the distance I intended to run.Now, i'm not looking to optimize anything here - I'm really looking for a comfortable way to run down the road that makes me fast but mainly one that doesn't hurt me. And it's important to note that Heinrich needed to explore to to find his perfect stride; he had back problems so severe that he was deemed unfit for active military service, and by all accounts had an ungainly form in high school. Once he found something that worked, however, he went on to run some extremely fast times, and even set the American record for the 100 km. As I mentioned in my review of the book, what he describes really should be described "Why He Runs, since it's not for everyone, but the basic principles behind this thinking are sound and have given me a lot to ponder as I work may way through my longer runs.
What a long-distance runner can least afford to do is lift his whole body up and down on successive steps. he must glide. An ostrich or any other elite marathoner exhibits almost no up-and-down motion of the head or the shoulders. Suppose a 150-pound runner goes up and down only 3 inches with each step; then over the course of a 100-k run he will have lifted his 150-pound body mass a distance of about two miles. That's a lot of work, and it must be strenuously avoided in favor of horizontal motion."
To me, however, the salient point is what Eric calls "running softly." I try to minimize the impact my feet have with the ground, trying to roll the feet so that the impact is like a perfect curve. Heinrich talks about this a bit as well, so i'll close with a scene from his record setting race:
"For a quarter mile or so, I feel the rhythm and switch my conscious editing to concentrate on the opposite limbs. Once and a while, I vary the length of my stride, to contract my leg muscles for slightly different durations, like frogs varying the length of their calls. The rhythm of my footsteps is steady, unvarying, and like my heartbeat, it is unconsciously timed with my breathing. ... The rhythm preserves synchronicity, synchronicity translates to smoothness, and smoothness means energy efficiency. p. 248Related Posts:
Runnign Form: Active vs. Passive
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