One Work­out

Fartlek = Swedish for Fast

Canadian Running - - FEATURES - Alex Hutchin­son is one of the most re­spected sports science writ­ers in the world. His lat­est book, En­dure, is avail­able now.

This spring will mark the tenth an­niver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of Christo­pher McDougall’s best­selling book Born to Run, widely cred­ited with ig­nit­ing a huge wave of in­ter­est in bare­foot and min­i­mal­ist run­ning, which in turn trig­gered a surge of re­search into the link be­tween shoes and run­ning in­juries. So where do we stand af­ter a decade? Not as far along as you might think, ac­cord­ing to a provoca­tive ed­i­to­rial in the British Jour­nal of Sports Medicine by Univer­sity of British Co­lum­bia biome­chan­ics re­searcher Chris Napier and Univer­sity of Mon­tana phys­i­cal ther­a­pist Richard Willy.

Napier and Willy point out sev­eral log­i­cal fal­la­cies that have plagued the ran­corous shoe de­bate. One is the “ar­gu­ment from ig­no­rance,” in which ev­i­dence that con­ven­tional mo­tion-con­trol shoes don’t ac­tu­ally pre­vent in­juries is taken to mean that al­ter­na­tives like min­i­mal­ist or max­i­mal­ist shoes must be bet­ter – even though they’re plagued by the same lack of ev­i­dence. An­other fal­lacy is the “ap­peal to na­ture,” which as­sumes that shoes that per­mit a more un­con­strained and “nat­u­ral” foot mo­tion must be bet­ter for us.

The dispir­it­ing truth, the au­thors ar­gue, is that from a sci­en­tific per­spec­tive we sim­ply don’t know which types of run­ning shoes are best for a given per­son. As a re­sult, they write, “run­ners should be in­structed to choose a cer­tain type of run­ning shoe over an­other shoe no more so than a blue shoe over a red shoe.” The al­ter­na­tive, they sug­gest, is to worry more about how you run rather than what you’re wear­ing. Learn­ing to avoid prob­lems like over­strid­ing and hard land­ings through “gait re­train­ing” may be the best way to in­jury-proof your­self – but that too, they ac­knowl­edge, will re­quire lots more re­search to con­firm.

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