How the World's best runners strike the ground

I've spent a lot of time talking about footstrike and where it occurs on this blog.  If you recall from previous posts, there has been a large debate about where foot strike should occur.  I don't have to go through all the details again, but the general consesus is that many scientific researchers have favored the heel strike as the correct way to run for the past two decades or so. Frequently the recent Japanese Half Marathon study is cited as proof that even good runners heel strike. 

Today, I recieved a video from Niell Elvin, a professor at the City College of NY, of the 5th avenue mile elite women's race.  So, I'd like to thank Niell for taking the time to set this up and take the video, and I hope it spurs more of you who now have access to high speed video camera's to take initiative and film some of the top runners at races around the world.  (Take note of how Niell had the camera set up so that the runners were perpendicular to the camera too!)

The Running Shoe Industry Part 2: Contest winners announced + Where do we go from here and the problems with Running Form research.

First, I'd like to announce the winner of the Brooks shoes and shorts contest.  Thanks for all who entered!  There were really a bunch of wonderful comments and your comments helped me in this two part series on the running shoe industry immensely. I really do appreciate all the feedback and hopefully shoe companies take notice of the wide range of opinions out there.  For your information, an oustide source read all the comments and chose the top few that represented a diverse collection of different opinions on the shoe industry/best shoe.  Out of those 5, I chose the winner based on gut reaction on what made me think.

Winner: Janine -unfortunately you didn't leave an email address, so send me an email within the next few days or else we'll go to our runner up.  Let's strive for honesty here, as you'll have to provide me your address so I'll be able figure out if you weren't the real "janine"  As to why this post was chosen, I liked it because it took a different approach.  I like the idea of having a more open view of why shoes are made the way they are, instead of just because a shoe company designer felt like they should be designed that way.

The Running Shoe Industry Part 2: Where do we go from here and the problems with Running Form research.

It’s easy to point out problems. It’s harder to come up with solutions. In this post, I’ll give my take on what to do with all of the information discussed in the last post and then end with a topic that needs to be covered: understanding the limitations of running form and shoe research.

Running Shoes:
It’s obvious that form and shoes are connected. One of the problems in the running shoe research is that it’s based on heel striking, which we now know is partially caused by the raised heels of many of today’s modern shoes. So we get results that say cushioning improves economy and retards impact forces. That sounds great, but it only does that when heel striking. If you strike midfoot, then all those things improve even more. This is but one example. Here are the pertinent questions that need to be asked and answered:

Running form and the Shoe Industry: where do we go from here?

Running form and shoes are the biggest topics in the running industry right now. I’ve written about each substantially and while I enjoy the topic, I sometimes get tired of focusing so much time on them. I try and balance the topics out with that of my real love, how to train, but can’t quite pull away from the form/shoe topic as the demand for such information is high and the amount of misinformation out there is incredible. So, given that last week I asked you all what direction the shoe industry should go, I wanted to do a post analyzing our present state in terms of form and shoes.

At the same time, there has been a backlash against both minimalist shoes and more importantly running form that is demonstrated in such articles as Matt Fitzgerald’s latest one (here). First, let me say that I think disagreement is a good thing and I actually appreciate the back lash. As you may know, one of my central guiding principles is that we tend to overemphasize “new” discoveries until they settle down and find their rightful place. Secondly, Pete Larson posted a long but entertaining video of the Newton running shoe conference ( that also touched a nerve and needed a response.

I want to use this post to address the major issues in the running form and running shoe industry, and see where we are going and what mistakes are likely to occur.

Win a Free pair of shoes! Peaking, and running form podcast

Lots of exciting developments going on lately.  We've got free shoes to give away, a new article on Peaking I wrote for Running Times, and a great podcast on Running Form and shoes I participated in last night.

First off, thanks to Brooks shoes, we're having our first real give away on the site.  They've offered to give a free pair of any Brooks running shoes and shorts to the winner of the contest.  So how do you win the shoes? 

Simple. Leave a comment.  I want to know what your ideal running shoe is and where you see the running shoe industry going.  For decades we saw little change in the running shoe, but now we're seeing several radical new approaches and technologies.  For example, you have many companies addressing minimalist shoes while at the same time Brooks has switched from a standard cushioning to an adjustable cushioning system, which can be seen in the video at the end of this post.  It doesn't matter how simple or complex your answer is, it will enter you in the contest with a chance to win.  I just want to hear opinions, no right or wrong answers.

What you need to do: Leave a comment about what your ideal shoe consists of and what direction you see running shoes going in the future.  Be as creative and off the wall as you want. Comment on both questions or just one, and don't worry about the length. Just give me your opinions!  Also, since there are other topics included in this post, you can respond to them too in your comments.

What you win: One lucky winner will be chosen and will recieve a free pair of any Brooks running shoes they want and a pair of Brooks shorts.
Deadline to enter:  Get your entry in by Friday 9/24

Writing and Talking
Secondly, I'd like to point you guys towards an article I wrote for Running Times. In the article I discuss the science and practical approach to peaking.  Scientists and coaches seem to be on the opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to the best approach to peak and I try and look at why this is and what is right.  I think you'll find the article informative and thought provoking.  I'd like to thank coaches Greg McMillan and Chris Puppione for taking the time to answer some of my questions and help me sort the peaking problem out.
You can find the article below:

While we are talking about shoes, I took part in a great podcast roundtable in which we focused on running form and shoes.  In the hour long talk we covered a whole slew of topics including, how to change form, what keys to focus on, minimalist running, and barefoot running.  It was a great panel with Pete of RunBlogger Joe Garland of the Run Westchester blog, Jason Kehl of the Geeks in Running Shoes podcast, and Mark Ulrich of the Run In America .  It was a great experience and there was a large amount of knowledge passed along by all the contributers.  I highly recommend you taking a listen.  It can be accessed below or on iTunes.

Listen online:

Download the mp3 file for the show by right-clicking and saving the file here:
Download it fromTunes here:

Brooks DNA cushioning
What do you think of this technology?

Epigenetics in Athletics Part 2: African dominance explained?

Epigenetics in Athletics Part 2: African dominance explained?

In Part 1 on Epigenetics, we looked at some of the science behind the new field. This we’ll take more of a theoretical look and try and explore some of the possible implications.

As I said in Part 1, the major finding is that these epigenetic changes can potentially impact subsequent generations. Your behavior can essentially be imprinted on your DNA and passed down to subsequent generations.

There seem to be certain windows of time in which transgenerational epigenetic changes occur. For women, there’s a distinct time window while the baby is in the womb that changes are more likely to occur. Similarly, the prepuberty period in men seems to have a significant window. This should make sense if we think of how genetic material is passed on to subsequent generations, but what about other windows? At the present time, we’re unsure, but in theory, Sharp (2009) offered the idea that training could impact these windows. In animal studies, a dramatic stress has been shown to create transgenerational changes outside of the known/accepted windows.

Epigenetics in Athletics Part 1: What the heck is epigenetics?

Epigenetics in Athletics- Part 1: What the heck is epigenetics?

The study of epigenetics has exploded in the last few years and the amount of new research dedicated to the field is staggering. But what exactly is it in laymen’s terms?

As you are probably aware, traditionally we all thought the sequence of the actual DNA was the be all end all. Depending on what genes you got, you were stuck with them and they defined you as a person. Once you got your sequence of genes, you were stuck with them. Although an oversimplification, people took this to mean you either had an innate trait or you didn’t.

However, epigenetics comes in and offers another piece to the puzzle. Epigenetics is the study of what goes on around the gene. We’ve discovered that it isn’t just the DNA sequence you have or whether or not you have a gene, but it’s how that gene is functioning. This is where epigenetics comes into play. It refers to processes that affect the way a gene works, or in scientific terms its expression. As most of you know, genes work by transcription and translation, which is essentially the process of copying and then translating that gene into a usable protein. Epigenetics comes into play here in that substances can come interact with the gene affecting when it’s turned on or off, the timing of the gene being turned on or off, and the amount of total protein end product that’s produced.

My unlikely journey through running- Runner's World Article

I recently got the opportunity to do an article for Runner's World online thanks to Peter Vigneron.  While I normally cover training or science related topics, Peter suggested I take a different approach and reflext on my life in running.  As most of you know I've had a number of different roles in this sport.  My own role, as well as what other runners know me as, has seen some dramatic shifts along the way.  In the blog post, I try and grasp my role in the sport, and where I'm headed. I hope you enjoy.
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