Even though we were all born to run, things we have done in our lives have compromised our natural bodies. From tucking ourselves into our desks in 1st grade to wearing shoes that elevate our heels, we have set ourselves up for many problems that follow us and get worse in adulthood. How many hours a day do you spend hunched over a desk or computer with your neck protruding out and downwards? What does it take to restore your tissues, joints, and mechanics to optimal levels? The 12 standards from the previous post (see link at bottom) are the starting point. Below I outline Kelly Starrett’s points from his book, “Ready to Run”.
Standard #1) Neutral Feet
This means that when you are standing, walking, or running, your feet are straight. They aren’t pigeon-toed in or splayed out like a duck. They’re straight. By maintaining straight feet in a neutral position you’re setting the stage for efficient movement. Running is like a series of jumps. With each jump, your foot makes contact with the ground. This is your foot strike. As soon as it hits the ground, your body craves stability. If you land with your foot inward (pigeon-toed), your system needs to make specific compromises to generate the stability you need. This most likely manifests in your joints and connective tissues of those joints. You will begin the process of wearing them out.
The neutral foot position is best when you also use it in combination with a braced neutral spine. This means that you’re squeezing your glutes and your belly is tight. The last piece of the neutral spine is your head is in alignment with your spine. This takes work daily! Not just 5 minutes a day when you think about it. “Practice makes patterns”. If you continue to walk more incorrectly than correctly, you will still default to the incorrect way when you’re not thinking about it.
Is the stability running shoe a solution? $3 billion a year is spent on running shoes in the United States every year. As Christopher McDougall points out in his book Born to Run, the motion-control and stability technologies offered in today’s running shoes can create more problems than they solve. According to Starrett there are 3 main divisions of running shoes: cushioning shoes, stability shoes, and motion-control shoes. The template that has been in place since the 1980’s is that you select a shoe based on the amount of pronation (arch collapsing inward) you exhibit. Some stores and physical therapy clinics use forms of gait analysis and watch you run on a treadmill. If you’re a mild pronator, you’re advised to buy a cushioned shoe. If you’re a severe pronator, you’re matched with a stability shoe. If you’re just a terrible collapsing mess they give you the boat-like, super-stiff shoes that have been engineered for “motion control”. Overbuilt running shoes are the worst. All that foam and cushioning has proven to be a science of marketing rather than any valid type of science. Shoe companies benefit from the fear people have of running being so dangerous that you always have to be on the right surface and in the right shoe.
The arch of your foot is a non-weight bearing surface. The arch does not need to be held up by something. The ligaments don’t stretch out and collapse. It is a combination of the 3 arches shown in the picture. When you stand/walk/run with neutral feet and a neutral, braced, spine, you also turn on your arches! You can flex your own arch by pinching the floor with your big toe. Try squatting with this small, simple addition to your setup position. I felt a huge difference! As a natural
flat-footer myself, I felt instantly stable like this and found it easier to push my knees out.
Coming next: What kinds of shoes should you buy?