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Running the Wrong Way? by Dr. Lon Kilgore - CrossFit Journal

Running the Wrong Way?

By Dr. Lon Kilgore

In ExPhysiology, Running

March 17, 2010

PDF Article

Modern running shoes feature heels packed with cushioning technology—but Dr. Lon Kilgore wonders if they prevent the foot from functioning as it was designed.

The basic structure of the human foot has not changed significantly for some four to five million years. We have supporting arches that carry the weight of the entire body and virtually any load placed upon it. The many joints comprising the arches are quite well endowed with a multitude of muscles, tendons and ligaments. When the foot contacts the earth underneath it during movement, the joints in the arches flex in order to dampen the forces encountered. The foot is purposeful and wonderfully engineered, perfectly constructed to carry out its function

When we consider the range of human activity and any possibility of anatomical predisposition to injury, one would assume that during the many millennia of human history, regular advances in technology would either reduce injury rates or improve locomotive function if there was indeed an environmental challenge and need. Strangely, such advances were not seen until the past century or so, a pitifully small segment of human history.

Why this? We consider shoe design to be a major component of exercise performance today, so why did our ancestors avoid improving shoe design and function? And how do we know they didn’t?

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12 Comments on “Running the Wrong Way?”


wrote …

Great article! I've been way more attentive to running styles lately and noticed many of the points brought up in this article. I think even learning (or attempting to learn POSE) should be started in flats or barefoot. It will negate the regression to heel striking and make falling back to it NOT an option.

My biggest challenge is actually FINDING flats out in town. Online may be a better option, but still hard to find there too.

Any suggestions anyone?


replied to comment from Nate Alexander

My Pose instructor approved of these:

I love them.


wrote …

For further discussion on this, I found an article about a harvard study on barefoot running. Copy and paste this for the video. This man manufactures shoes at Shoes designed to be barefoot, great to do crossfit in, they market some models as such. You'll see what I'm talking about when you see them.


wrote …

Started with Nike Free's, now I've got a pair of VFF's and love them. You can feel the difference immediatly.


wrote …

Dr. Kilgore has done a great job with this article! I have been studying about barefoot/minimal shoe running for several months now while making a gradual but steady transition into more correct running. It definately takes some skill work on the side but has been very worth it. If anyone is interested in great additional reading reagarding the Harvard study check out:

This videos included in this study are really great and you can see how a "shockwave" is sent through the leg of a heel striker. Between the study and this article you could convinced to think again about learning to become a more skilled runner/racer.


wrote …

A company called Terra Plana has a line of shoes named VivoBarefoot. They have a variety of "shoes" with no heel and a minimal sole thickness. They are also coming out with a running shoe called the EVO. A web search will turn up quite a bit about them.


replied to comment from Nate Alexander

If you are looking for good flats, go to any online footwear store that had a large selection of RACING shoes and look for Racing Flats. They are designed with a minimal, if any heal. Nike sells some as Zoom Waffle Racers. Primarily found as Cross Country racing shoes. The have very little cushion on the heal. Plus, with Cross Country racers, it is assumed you will be running on a dirt / grass course and do not need the heal cushion. Go to a website like, look up cross country shoes, and then spikeless. The list 23 pairs. sells similar shoes as racing flats. Either would be much better than the most popular "Training" shoes because they are all coming with larger and more heal cushion, more or less forcing you to run heal / toe out of necessity... Just my two cents...


wrote …

Those who like this article should read Born to Run, Chris McDougall.


wrote …

ive been an avid runner now for about 12 years. ive been eyeing this pose running buisness here on the site and im willing to consider it. my first question is, are there any elite runners who run this way? Triathletes, marathoners or ultra runners? ive been competeing in said events off and on for about 10 years and i never see people running any other way than "regular" style. im wondering if its possible to run at this level using the pose style?


wrote …

I'm not sure about POSE itself but you can see some pretty good examples of non heel strike running in many Kenyan marathoners or run a google image search for Emil Zatopek. Predates Romanov but there's some good figure 4 action going on! Rumour has it he used to train in boots, complete absence of cushioning would lend itself to not heel striking! Incidentally, he also used interval training extensively, so I imagine should find some friends in Crossfit-world.

Good luck with it


wrote …

this is insignificant to todays post but I just had my own AHA! moment about pose running and I have to write it down.

Think of a ball. A lacrosse ball or a basketball ball. When it is thrust into the ground there is a action/reaction effect that sends it up again. That action/reaction is what I had the AHA about. The ball spends the minimum amount of time it has to on the floor before shooting up. Just as in the snatch or clean, the pull under the bar cant linger at all. It's aggressive "like a junkyard down" (Coach B). If you lollygag, you will fail. The same with running (pose) is true. The longer you take to get your foot up off the ground and into the next pose, even if all else is right, will cause you to fail. Maybe not mechanically, but in a duration of contact sense. If you drop a fully inflated basketball on the floor it will rebound with minimal contact with the ground that enables maximum elevation without MORE force being applied. Take a mildly deflated ball for instance. The contact with the ground is much longer becase of the simple fact that it has a bigger surface to contact the ground with. Also, because of that longer contact, the ball is wasting energy just sitting on the ground, which turns in to less elevation on the bounce. The only way to get the same elevation from the mildly deflated ball as you did from the fully inflated ball is to apply significantly more force. The same is true for the snatch and clean. Get your self under that bar and you will more efficiently utilize your efforts instead of having to muscle the weight up. The faster you move into proper position, the safer, more efficient and more effective the movement is. AHA!


Brian MacKenzie wrote …

Dr. Kilgore is a great researcher, and I've had the opportunity to work with him a tad. I hope he is still working on some of the stuff he was going to do on the ACSM's protocol debacle.

At any rate... Barefoot running is a start. BUT, you better make a quick note right now if you havent already heard it. Just because you take your shoes off, you are not going to run "naturally" well. Not in the slightest. Most, not all, Barefoot runners (and I've had hung out with some of the Godfathers of Barefoot running)still run incorrectly. They "naturally" tend to run with their hip flexors instead of their hamstrings. This has been indicative of almost every person we've seen at the CFE Certs who shows up in Vibram Five Fingers. Im not saying get rid of the shoes, but here this, as this was passed on form Copper Canyon, Mexico this year (we had two runners there)...

The top 3 winners (all Rarumari; the native Indians of this region of Mexico) were all in shoes this year. It was the talk of the race, as everyone thought these people were bare footers or minimalists as they usually where a sandal to run in. I was so tired of hearing about it, as it was all anyone could talk about after the race. Caballo Blanco (the race director) spoke of contacting MCDougal about a re-write/follow up of Born to Run (the book mentioned above) as shoes look to actually allow good runners to run faster. From what I was told they ran in relatively low profile shoes. Needless to say, these Rarumari run very well already, as they run much like the Kenyans/Ethiopians/African Natives do... With their hamstrings! ;)

So the point is, careful that you dont go causing a new issue when trying to fix another, and you should probably have someone help you learn to run correctly first!

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