Posts Tagged ‘Physical exercise’

r-JUMP-ROPE-WORKOUTS-403xFBcreditBy A.C. Shilton for Men’s Journal

Forget any association you had with jump ropes and gym class. The jump rope is a powerful workout tool. It builds cardio fitness, balance, agility and bone strength. It’s also one of the best go-anywhere fitness accessories, fitting easily into even a crammed carry-on.

“It requires a lot of coordination and really works your cardiovascular system,” says Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, the women’s 2014 CrossFit Games winner. She likes to train with double unders, a common CrossFit move that requires you to jump explosively and spin the rope faster to pass it beneath your feet twice. This works your muscles harder and pushes your cardiovascular system towards its upper limit.

To get the most from your workout, make sure your rope is the right size. CrossFit HQ trainer Dave Lipson says that when you hold the rope under one foot, the handles should just reach your armpits. To maximize results, practice good form. “Hold your hands at 10 and 2 o’clock and at waist height. Revolve the rope from the wrists, not the shoulders,” says Lipson.

And if you’re shooting for double unders, we recommend buying a speed rope with bearings. Speed ropes start around $20 and spin faster than inexpensive licorice and beaded ropes.

Now here are seven jump rope workouts — most of which can be completed in a half hour or less — that will have you burning calories and building strength.

High-Speed Circuit
Fitness competitor, former ballerina and coach Dom Spain teaches outdoor bootcamp classes in Miami. She calls jump rope workouts the “no excuses” workout because, “if I have clients that say they don’t have time or don’t have the money for a gym membership, they can always do this.”

This workout is designed to give you just enough rest to keep pushing through all of the exercises, but not enough to let things get easy. It can be done in 30 minutes and requires only a jump rope.

  • Warm up by doing 30 seconds of jumping rope, 30 seconds of air squats, then a 1 minute plank hold. Repeat four times.
  • 1 minute of jumping and 30 seconds of push-ups.
  • 1 minute of backward jumping and 30 seconds of tricep bench dips.
  • 1 minute of side to side jumping (imagine your feet are bound together, and jump rope while hopping from side to side) and 30 seconds of lunges.
  • 1 minute of skipping rope (one foot lands as the other takes off) and 30 seconds of jumping squats.
  • 1 minute of single leg jumping (30 seconds on one leg, then switch), and 30 seconds of mountain climbers.
  • 1 minute of alternating high knee jumps (like the skipping rope move, but pull your knees up as high as you can), and 30 seconds of flutter kicks.

Take one minute of rest, then repeat the entire circuit. Cool down and stretch after two rounds.

2015-03-03-1425415599-5776437-gymmachineshealth460

By K. Aleisha Fetters, 

Exercise machines are simple — too simple, in fact. According to metabolic training expert BJ Gaddour, C.S.C.S. owner of StreamFIT.com, “They’ve been dumbed down to the point that they just don’t do your body much good.” Besides parking you on your butt, most machines isolate a single muscle, meaning you’ll burn fewer calories and gain less muscle mass rep for rep.

Most importantly (at least as far as medical bills are concerned), exercise machines can lead to injury. Even with their adjustable seats and pegs, finding the proper position can be close to impossible — and even then the movements just aren’t natural. “Free weights and bodyweight exercises allow your body to move in a natural range of motion,” Gaddour says. “When you fix it, it results in a limited and improper movement pattern that can be dangerous.”

Here, Gaddour shares five exercise machines you should swear off — and all-star alternatives that will give you better, faster fitness gains.

1. The Machine: Lying Leg Press
Your legs are strong (after all, they carry your body around all day), so if you lie down with your legs above your head for a leg press, you have to load more than the equivalent of your bodyweight onto the machine to achieve significant resistance, Gaddour says. Problem is, all that weight goes straight to your lower back, which flexes under the pressure. The risk? A herniated disk. Plus, the move doesn’t even work any of the stabilization muscles in the hips, glutes, shoulders, or lower back. The result: All pain and barely any gain.

Try This Instead: Goblet Squats
Apart from working just about your entire lower body in a single move, this squat variation involves holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your chest to keep your form in check and the weight off of your lower back. Sometimes, a lighter load delivers a better burn.

2. The Machine: Seated Leg Extension
Since the weight is placed so close to your ankles, the machine puts undue torque on the knee joint, which can wear down cartilage and cause knee pain, Gaddour says. Plus, the common gym contraption is built around a motion that has little real-life benefit.

Try This Instead: Step Ups
Besides working your quads far better than any machine, step ups also train your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. By calling up more muscles, your knees are actually strengthened, not worn down.

3. The Machine: Seated Chest Press
While sitting is less than useful, the bigger problem here is that the machine can cause lopsided muscles. How? If one arm is weaker, the stronger one can end up doing all the work — and getting all the benefit, Gaddour says. To make sure both sides of your chest are strengthened equally, you need to load them separately.

Try This Instead: Pushups
An oldie but a goodie, pushups equally engage both sides of your chest. If it didn’t, you’d fall right over onto your side. What’s more, they tap your core for support and balance. After all, hot bodies aren’t built on chests alone.

4. The Machine: Hip Abductor/Adductor
If it looks ridiculous, it probably is, Gaddour says. And squeezing your thighs together — or pushing them apart — over and over definitely counts. Besides actually working very few muscles, it also strains the spine and can make the IT band so tight it pulls your knee cap out of place — not a good look for anybody.

Try This Instead: Single-Leg Squat
When you’re not in the gym, your inner and outer thighs largely work to maintain stability. So they should do the same thing when you’re in the gym, right? Single leg exercises — like the single-leg bodyweight squat — require those muscles to brace your body and keep you upright, all while putting your quads, glutes, and hamstrings to good use.

5. The Machine: Loaded Standing Calf Raise
While the idea here is to lift weight with your calves, the machine’s setup — specifically the shoulder pads — means that all the weight presses down on your spine before it ever reaches your legs. If it doesn’t turn you into a hunchback, it’ll at least cause you some back pain.

Try This Instead: Bodyweight Standing Calf Raise
If regular standing calf raises don’t have the resistance you need, try standing on one foot during your next set. Besides doubling the weight each calf has to lift at a time, it also puts your legs’ smaller, stabilizing muscles to work.

More from DETAILS:

The Only 5 Exercises You’ll Ever Need

How To Get Rock Hard Abs Faster

Shirtless Nick Jonas Explains How He Got His New Body

The Hottest Vanity Muscles–And How To Get Them

 

rsLogoAnthony Darmiento
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach
United States Olympic Committee

As the National Strength and Conditioning Association states in their position statement on youth resistance training, “Strength training youth athletes needs to be safe, effective and enjoyable. In order for strength training to be safe it’s more than the method of strength training, but rather how it is being implemented.”

For example, important factors such as proper form when lifting and moving are overlooked when a coach simply follows a plan on a written document or tries to implement a training program they once performed.  For this reason, Responsible Coaches seek help and guidance from qualified strength coaches to assist in the development of athletes of any level to ensure that strength training is performed in a proper and appropriate manner.  The risks of strength training are similar between youth and adults and strength training is only effective when it is done in a safe environment with proper supervision.

In order for strength training to be effective Responsible Coaches realize that strength training must complement sport training. For example, eliminating practice time to introduce or implement an effective strength program and developing basic movement skills are safe investments. The off-season and preseason are ideal times to implement a strength program. Responsible Coaches recognize athletes need to have the appropriate motor control to perform basic exercises such as a squat, lunge and pushup before progressing to loaded exercises. Although these movements and others may seem rudimentary and common most young athletes lack the ability to execute them with proper form.  Another reason for stressing the importance of such training is that these skills and movements transfer to many different sports and across all levels of sport.

In order for strength training to be enjoyable two very important factors must be considered: Athlete’s must understand and see benefits from the strength program while also training in a fun and enjoyable environment. Any athlete is more likely to continue training when they understand the benefits and see results. This highlights the importance of a sound and effective program. This is especially important considering it may take a few weeks of progressing before performance increases are seen or athletes begin to feel the positive effects of training. Until then it is important to keep training fun and enjoyable by mixing in games or challenges that keep athletes focused. For example, performing walking lunges on a row of printer paper without stepping off could be enjoyable and challenging for younger athletes.

On the other hand older athletes might enjoy keeping a log of their vertical jump height as each athlete attempts to beat their own personal records over time. Setting goals that are both attainable and challenging for the team or each individual is very important when trying to keep athletes motivated and driven. Thus coaches should be prepared with progressions and regressions for different exercises or activities based on ranging abilities of their athletes. If all this is kept in mind it shouldn’t be hard to keep things in enjoyable and fun while still performing strength training in a safe and controlled manner.

References:

Fagenbaum, A. D., Kraemer, W. J., Blimkie, C. J., Jeffreys, I., Micheli, L. J., Nitka, M., et al. (2009). Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper From the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 60-79.


Middle-aged Couple Running on the Beach

From: WEEKLY HEALTH TIPS
By: Lisa Best MBA, Ph.D in Holistic Nutrition, CCN

In addition to a enjoying a nutritious diet, we all know that exercise is important for cardiovascular health, weight maintenance, and lymph movement throughout the body. And the most important part about exercising is picking something you like that fits your style, so you will stick with it. Just like fad diets, there are tons of fad exercise programs out there too, and it’s hard to know which ones to try.

But I must confess, interval training is my personal favorite form of exercise, not just because it’s quick and powerful, but because I can still smile while doing it.

I wrestled with writing generically about several types of exercise, but ultimately decided to turn this topic over to an expert, Dr. Al Sears, the doctor whose protocols I both recommend and have followed myself for more than 10 years.

Dr. Sears is a progressive physician in the forefront of anti-aging medicine, natural cures, and optimal heart health. He has written extensively about his formula for interval training called PACE®, which he developed after studying Olympic athletes. Many other physicians and exercise specialists have copied Dr. Sears’ programs over the years, but his was the original.

I was initially attracted to PACE® because of the short 12 minute time commitment, in contrast to the hours I’ve logged running 2-4 miles 4 or more days a week for 30 years prior to switching to intervals. I started PACE® over 10 years ago because it made sense, but I’ve stuck with it because it works.

I usually do PACE® every other day, alternating with strength training (weights) and flexibility exercises (Yoga) on the days I don’t do interval training. I’ve also encouraged nutrition consulting clients, and my whole family to try it, since the benefits are so great and the time required so minimal.

For those of us who have passed the magical half-century mark, it is especially important to minimize the loss of flexibility and strength that can often accompany aging. So I do push-ups, and squats as part of my PACE® workout in addition to sprinting or swimming to add variety. But the magical part about PACE® is you can do it with any type of movement that gets your heart rate up. The choice is yours.

Plus other major benefits I’ve noticed since I started doing interval training, is I don’t feel exhausted from my workouts anymore, and I don’t get exercise injuries. Focus is on short bursts of intense energy instead of prolonged, repetitive stress.

If you are a marathoner, tri-athlete, or one of those mud wrestlers, I’m not trying to talk you out of your sport if you love it, as long as you stay mindful of the stress you are putting on your system. I think the thrill of competition and personal sense of accomplishment are good reasons to do extreme sports short-term if you enjoy them.

But for heart health, long-term health, and long-term injury prevention, interval training is tops.

Even I was worried in the beginning that I might lose strength or stamina by cutting back my running time. So I test it intermittently by doing a 4-mile run every now and then, just to verify I can still do it.

I’ve been amazed to discover that not only can I still do it, but I also have way more energy when I do. Plus, I’ve noticed I rarely get sick anymore, so my immune system has recovered from the stress of running with interval training too.

To tell you about his plan personally, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Al Sears, and an article he’s written on the heart healthy merits of interval training:

Man Dies after Taking Bad Advice

“Dr. Sears, my internal medicine doctor wants me to exercise for an hour a day. Sometimes I get so tired, I feel like I’m going to collapse. How could this be good for me?”

This patient recently asked me this right after I had read about a man who died while driving back from a 2,400 mile bike ride. I began thinking if that’s not enough cardio to protect your heart what will?

Many of my patients report this bad advice. That’s too bad. Traditional cardio actually makes your heart and lungs smaller. Today I’ll show you why PACE® exercise will energize your heart. You can do it in as little as twelve minutes a day.

The Problem with Long Distance Cardio

This man died of a heart attack shortly after riding his bicycle across the continent.(1) He reportedly undertook this extreme durational cardio to re-strengthen his heart.

Yet I’ve been saying for years, long duration cardio will not protect you from heart disease or heart attack. It actually makes your heart smaller and weaker.

To protect and energize your heart, you need to build your heart’s reserve capacity.

Have you ever noticed that long distance runners look thin, weak and out of shape? Watch any marathon on TV and you’ll see what I mean. To compare, watch a track and field event and see how muscular and fit the sprinters look.

The interval training the sprinters practice boosts your heart’s reserve capacity. This is what your heart needs when it gets stressed. A heart attack will hit you when your heart needs extra energy but has nowhere to go. A small heart, streamlined from years of jogging will not have the extra capacity for stressful situations.

The Secret to Heart Attack Prevention

The good news is that interval training takes as little as twelve minutes a day. You can do it on any machine at the gym. You can even run or bike outdoors. Start at a slow easy pace. Then pick up the intensity for two minutes. Afterwards, go back to a slow, easy speed. Repeat this process and increase the intensity each time you do a faster interval.

As you become better conditioned, you’ll be able to exercise in short bursts of intense intervals. After each interval, you’ll actually feel yourself start to pant. This means you’re doing it right. When you pant, you are asking your lungs for more oxygen than they can provide in the moment. This is an oxygen deficit.

This tells your body to increase your lung volume. It also builds the critical reserve capacity you need to prevent heart attacks.

Here’s an added bonus: PACE® exercise is your most reliable way to burn fat. Not only will you protect your heart and lungs, your fat will melt away.

For more information on PACE®, see Health Alerts 28, 58, 147 and 270.

To your Good Health,


Al Sears, MD


(1)Associated Press. Heart patient dies after 2,400-mile ride. www.cnn.com. May 2, 2005.

The best part about PACE® is you can start it no matter what your current level of fitness, since the idea is to slowly add intensity each time you work out. And since you are always increasing your intensity, those nasty workout plateaus are a thing of the past.

You don’t have to buy Dr. Sears’ books or workout tapes to try this concept at home, but he surely makes exercising easy for you if you want to take advantage of his expertise. 

Until next time .  .  .

Français : Tractions

Français : Tractions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 


Doctor of Physical Therapy,
PhD Candidate at the University of Southern California
May 05, 2013

Death bydeadlift!

Pungent terminology to some, but if you’re a CrossFitter, it’s pure humdrum. There have been endless articles and blogs that have advocated for or against CrossFit. Those for it wax eloquent on its perceived benefits, like improving physical strength, endurance, range of motion and even appearance. So, you’re saying when you combine a strict diet minimizing dairy products and simple carbohydrates and work out harder and with more intensity, it yields results? Shocker (and that, ladies and gentlemen, is sarcasm at its finest).

The drawbacks of CrossFit are not as apparent. Due to a lack of prospective data, there is no definitive information attributing CrossFit to injury; rather, there are simply anecdotal reports associating CrossFit with — amongst other things — shoulder, back and knee pain. However, the associations between injury potential with the particular lifts and exercises performed during a typical class are painstakingly clear. Fortunately, it can all be addressed through improved quality control, but unlike Drake, it starts from the top.

There are currently no guidelines by any nationally-recognized authority (e.g. NSCA, NATA, ACSM, NCSF) that one can use to inform themselves about CrossFit training methods. Furthermore, potentially due to the minimal qualification requirements, the coaches may not always have the skillset or knowledge base to promote (and/or individually tailor) form in order to prevent injury. This is compounded by the fact that there are inadequate guidelines to prepare novice CrossFitters and potentially insufficient individual attention due to large class sizes. As many CrossFit programs are predicated upon competition amongst the class members, performance (e.g., time and/or repetitions) also often supersedes health. In other words, if you want to be first in the WOD (workout of the day), you may have to push through pain, injury and/or fatigue. It may be the essence of competition, but with high-intensity exercise, injury is inevitable if not done with the proper form. Athletes (novice and experts alike) should thus be cognizant of choosing facilities that offer coaches who are accredited by nationally recognized authorities. With that said, here are just a few typical CrossFit exercises to be cautious of:

Deadlift

An effective lift that targets the hamstrings and back extensors. However, if fatigued, or during competition, mechanics can get sloppy, particularly characterized by the back rounding out and the bar moving too far from the body. This can result in excessive strain (and pain) to the hamstrings, as well as the back muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Having the back bent during the loading and unloading phase can potentially lead to a herniated disc. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine, all the while keeping the bar close to the body.

Power Clean

Similar to deadlifts, power cleans are an Olympic lift, yet the complex movement pattern appears to make it even harder to master. Ex-NFL strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley notes that “the inherent dangers unique to this movement can make it a potential hazard … It places the muscles, lower back, tendons and joints in a vulnerable position.” In fact, even with perfect form, the load from the power clean, particularly during the descent phase, may result in excessive forces to the knee joint. If form degrades and the back begins to arch, the body relies more on the hamstrings and back to eccentrically (muscle lengthening contraction) control the weight, potentially leading to excessive strain and injury to these structures. If performing the power clean, be sure to maintain a neutral spine, bend sufficiently at the knees, and progress very slowly until a good technique is mastered. This may help limit excessive force transmission through the body. It is also advised that those with pre-existing knee pain steer clear of this lift.

Kettlebell Swing

The force to propel the kettlebell is supposed to be derived from the hips. If the weight is too great, or one begins to fatigue, they often compensate by overstressing the upper body — neck and shoulders — during the ascent, and the back — just as in the power clean — during the descent. Furthermore, if the stance is too wide and the knees begin to fall inward, it can result in excessive load to the lateral knee joint. If the stance is too narrow, it will minimize the ability to open the hips, likely resulting in a variety of compensatory (and deleterious) movement patterns. Correct selection of stance width, and having the feet slightly externally rotated can help avoid these pitfalls.

Muscle Up

The ring muscle up is the quintessential CrossFit exercise, requiring flexibility and strength of the core and shoulders as well as mental strength and confidence to complete the task. Though it is a combination of a pull up and a dip, many individuals whom are able to perform both exercises seamlessly have great difficulty in transitioning between the two and thus completing a muscle-up. During the pull phase, one requires core strength to complete a kip pull up, else there will be compensation by the shoulders. During the push phase, the elbows have to stay tucked in close to the body, otherwise it places the shoulders in more of an open-packed position, leaving them — and the rotator cuff, in particular — vulnerable to injury. Make sure to master both ring-based pull ups and dips prior to progressing to a muscle up. It is advised that individuals with pre-existing shoulder injury or instability take particular caution.

Death by. An obvious exaggeration that in CrossFit terminology means to add a single repetition each successive minute until failure. However, the term, and this method of exercise, symbolizes the CrossFit mantra of forging elite fitness, seemingly by pushing yourself past your preconceived limit. Adherence to the CrossFit program and performance of its exercises undoubtedly generates results, but if done improperly, even though the chances of actual death may be low, the likelihood of injury appears high. I would thus be amiss to advise against CrossFit exercises and the associated diet, so rather, I take aim at the CrossFit structure that clearly fails in ensuring that their coaches place emphasis on long-term health and wellness, rather than simple performance metrics. Because frankly, it’s hard to be elite with a herniated disc.

youth-sportsby Rick Howard, MEd, CSCS,*D

Providing a safe and effective youth strength and conditioning program is only the foundation of their long-term athletic development.

The Path to Performance

All athletes have one thing in common – they either are, or were, youth. The youth strength and conditioning programs in which these athletes participate have long-term performance implications. So, whether you are a RSCC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, sport scientist, or other allied strength and conditioning professional, here are three important youth strength and conditioning concepts:

  1. Develop physical literacy for youth by promoting a long-term approach to quality daily physical education and daily intermittent moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
  2. Promote positive mental and psychosocial development as well as physical development with a properly designed strength and conditioning program.
  3. The Youth Resistance Training: Updated Position Statement Paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (2009) for guidelines on strength and conditioning programs that emphasize a long-term approach to developing strength and power.

A Model for ALL Youth

At the foundation of training youth is the philosophy that ALL children should be provided the opportunity to develop their physical, mental, and social skills. These physical, mental, and social skills must be considered simultaneously. Coaches must be aware of the nonlinear path of youth development and how this considerable variability of developmental stages has physical, mental, and social implications.

Training strategies for youth must be carefully planned based on the dynamic interrelationships of numerous variables such as number of sports being played throughout the year and during the same season, environment, ethnicity, self-efficacy, focus, etc. Strength coaches need to keep abreast of best practice and research-based program models for promoting the continuum of lifelong physical activity and sports participation for youth.

The Long-Term Athletic Development Model

The long-term athletic development (LTAD) model is a generic guide that can be used to plan the sport/activity specific plan. LTAD heightens coaches’ awareness that the focus should not be on early sport specialization but that a plan should be implemented to meet the individual needs of young athletes as they develop. LTAD is based predominantly on biological (physical) development and suggests training and competition strategies based on developmental and chronological age.

The LTAD-type program should contain developmentally-appropriate strength and conditioning as well as important elements of positive conditioning, active play, and unstructured play. Proper ratios of conditioning-to-practice and practice-to-competition are suggested and have been customized by national governing bodies to meet the needs of their sport (youth hockey and soccer, for example). Youth should participate in a wide variety of sports and activities that develop their physical, mental, and psychosocial skills– early sport specialization is discouraged.

Looking at the Individual Needs of Youth

Within a quality youth long term developmental program, differences in biological and developmental age of youth must be considered. Key measures of developmental maturation must be incorporated into the strength and conditioning program. This requires a cooperative team effort among coaches, parents, youth, physical educators, and strength and conditioning professionals to safely and efficaciously train youth along the developmental continuum.

Children will be at various points along the developmental continuum, even children of the same biological age, and those that excel at an early age need to be diversified to minimize overuse and burnout and those are considered “late bloomers” must be encouraged to continually improve. This will maximize the number of youth that are proficient in movement skills and can make their own choice to be active in sports and physical activity.

The environment in which training occurs needs to be proactive: fundamental motor skill development must be taught, coached, and assessed; positive feedback must continually and honestly be provided to youth so that skill acquisition and the positive benefits of strength and conditioning are always reinforced, and never should children be given exercise as punishment.

Strength coaches must focus on developing coaching cues for excellent lifting technique (and never sacrifice technique for increased resistance). Youth athletes must not be trained past the point of physiological benefit (e.g., making athletes vomit is not an appropriate measure of intensity).  The optimal balance of challenge and success leads to youth embracing the benefits of strength and conditioning programs (and sports programs too).

Resistance Training and LTAD

Resistance training for youth is safe and efficacious so long as important NSCA guidelines are followed. For example, participants must be able to listen to and follow directions, there must be quality supervision at all times, and exercise progressions must be developmentally appropriate. The focus of the prepubescent resistance training program is on the development of healthy habits of safe resistance training and the focus on technical performance (technique) over amount of resistance lifted.

Exercise technique is developed through body weight exercise, dowels, and light (2-3kg) medicine balls. Some youngsters that are very overweight or obese will need to use light weights before body weight, as their body weight is a significant challenge. Developmental progressions for a variety of strength and power exercises should be taught. Beginning resistance training is not sport-specific, but designed to develop health-fitness and skills-fitness attributes, which matches the philosophy of the long term development model.

What Can You Do?

NSCA-certified strength and conditioning professionals are uniquely qualified to provide properly supervised, developmentally appropriate strength and conditioning programs for youth of all ages and abilities. By following the guidelines listed in the NSCA Position Statement on youth resistance training and adapting an LTAD-type model to the specific youngster or team, you will provide a healthy, positive strength and conditioning experience that will benefit youth dually as exercise enthusiasts and athletes.

Multidisciplinary, longitudinal research is needed on LTAD, physical literacy, windows of opportunity, assessments, and dose response of strength and conditioning programs at various developmental stages. Furthermore, strength and conditioning programs should be evaluated based on whether they enhance performance for only the short-term or whether they promote long-term elite athletic development. Remember, the work you do to promote quality strength and conditioning programs for youth will have long-term performance implications.

About the Author

Rick Howard is a founding member of the NSCA Youth SIG, Immediate-Past Chair of the NSCA Youth SIG, and the Mid-Atlantic Region Coordinator for the NSCA State Provincial Director Program. Howard also serves on the NSCA Membership Committee.

A pair of ASICS stability running shoes, model...


Doctor of Physical Therapy and current PhD Candidate,
University of Southern California
Posted: 10/08/2012 11:30 am

“Yo, what type of shoes should I run in?”

Whether in a medical conference, academic setting or bar, once people know my line of research, that’s typically the first question that pops up. Often times I feel my response is a bit coy, mostly because it would take longer to answer than what people have time for. Although there’s no hard and fast answer for everyone, I personally believe it comes down to the Three Ps.

Three Ps

We’re all different — in the way we speak, the way we think, and, unsurprisingly, the way we run. Thus, when determining the optimal running shoe, it’s imperative to consider your Three Ps: pattern, passion and purpose.

(Foot) Pattern

There are three basic foot patterns: normal, overly pronated (i.e., flat-footed) and overly supinated (i.e., high-arched). Most individuals present with a normal foot type and during traditional heel-to-toe running demonstrate rapid pronation upon heel-strike. In order to slow the rate of pronation, these individuals would be best served by a stability shoe, which is characterized by a heel counter (i.e., a stiff cup around the heel), a medial wedge and a dual-density midsole.

Relative to a stability shoe, a motion control shoe is less flexible due to an increase in dual density foam and a more rigid heel counter. This type of shoe is ideal for people with flat feet, as it’s designed to help compensate for the over-pronation.

The arch of the foot is supported by a thick band of connective tissue called the plantar fascia, which becomes taught — and thus helps to absorb shock — when the foot bears weight. In people with high arches, the foot doesn’t pronate sufficiently, negating some of the shock absorption. A neutral cushioned shoe compensates for this through encouraging foot movement by maximizing flexibility (via lacking a medial wedge and presenting with a softer midsole and heel counter).

Passion

There are a multitude of different running styles that people are passionate about: heel-to-toe, pose, chi, barefoot or minimalistic, and alterations in cadence. The common denominator in all of these running forms is a manipulation in the method of foot strike. Teachers of pose, chi, and barefoot running promote forefoot strikes, while an increase in running cadence typically results in an inherent change from a heel-strike, to a mid or forefoot strike for controlled running velocities.

The method to impacting the ground is influenced by footwear. In fact, relative to traditional running shoes, when people run barefoot, or in minimalistic shoes, they naturally shift to a more anterior strike pattern (likely in order to prevent collision of the heel with the ground). It appears that shoes with reduced heel-to-toe drops may help promote this. The heel-to-toe drop is a measure of the difference in the height of the shoe from the heel to the forefoot. Traditional running shoes have drops between 8-12 mm, whereas minimalistic shoes can be as low as 0 mm.

In order to determine the optimal drop, it’s important to recognize how you impact the ground when running. Although many people believe they are forefoot strikers, it’s been shown that approximately 75 percent of runners run heel to toe, whereas 24 percent are mid-foot strikers, meaning that they strike the ground with the middle of their sole. A negligible portion of runners run forefoot. In order to prevent excessive strain to the calf and Achilles tendon, it’s recommended that heel-strike runners who yearn to run in shoes with smaller heel-to-toe drops transition to them over a period of time (with shoes with increasingly smaller drops).

Purpose

With technological advancements in the footwear industry and an associated increase in the amount of scientific research concerning footwear, we now have a greater understanding regarding the attributes of shoes that can help runners address their specific purposes. For example, a bowing-out of the knees may potentially lead to degradation of the medial meniscus (cartilage within the knee), whereas a falling in of the knees may result in lateral meniscus degradation. A lateral or medial wedge, respectively, may help to compensate for these mal-alignments. Similarly, shoes with a heel flare — an outward projection on the lateral (and sometimes posterior) aspect of the shoe — may result in an increase in pronation during the initial stance phase of running. Although it will add weight or width to the shoe, it may limit the potential of developing anteromedial compartment syndrome. Relatedly, increased cushioning under the heel may also add weight to the shoe, however, it likely will take pressure off the plantar fascia, and is thus often recommended for those with plantar fasciitis.

A recent introduction to the running market is minimalistic footwear. The Nike Free has a foam based outsole that can splay. As a result of its minimal structural support, it may help in developing the intrinsic muscles of the foot. In contrast, the Vibram FiveFingers and New Balance Minimus have rubber outsoles and appear designed to optimize the barefoot running experience. Similarly, and as mentioned above, relative to heel-strike running, shoes with reduced heel-to-toe drops that theoretically promote mid or forefoot strikes will likely result in an increased demand to the ankle and a reduced demand to the knee (and their supporting structures, respectively). The caveat of all of these shoes, however, is that they may require training to the foot and calf and/or a transitional period prior to using them exclusively for running.

So I was recently having dinner with a friend of mine at this Chinese restaurant, and his fortune read “There should only be one thing coy in the room, and that’s the fish.” So while I hope I provided a sufficient running shoe guideline, when you asked me at the bar last Friday about what type of shoes you should run in, aren’t you glad there were no fish around?

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