Gretchen Reynolds, Phys Ed editor for The New York Times, explains in her new book, The First Twenty Minutes, many truths and myths of running and exercise. I haven’t personally read the book, but I did enjoy thearticle and interview.
What I gleaned from the article so far is that what we runners know based on experience, is indeed confirmed by scientific research. First off, heavy running shoes are not good for you. For years now I’ve been telling my runner patients to wear a comfortable shoe with a neutral platform that weighs less than 12 ounces (10 ounces for women – sorry ladies, it’s just nature). Some may benefit from a clunky motion control shoe, and high arches do great in a stability shoe, but these are exceptional cases. Contemporary research also indicates that runners don’t need foot-specific shoes, but they should be changed every 250-500 miles, as worn out shoes increase the risk of injury. And no, you don’t need to jump on the treadmill in a running store to determine what type of shoe you need. All that can be determined in my NYC podiatry office with our computerized gait analysis.
Reynolds also talks about the knees. This is a topic I wondered about myself as an orthopedic surgeon at the hospital tried to dissuade me from running the Long Island Marathon, citing the 10-15 times body weight in pressure that is exerted on a runner’s knees in each step. Still, my follow up question to that factoid is: does that matter? Maybe not, as research demonstrated that runners’ knees remain healthy in the long term, perhaps more than non-runners.
Next, Reynolds discusses the importance of stretching. Almost every patient that comes into my NYC podiatry office has a tight Achilles tendon. It’s not likely that even the most consistent and forceful stretch will affect much change, but there is a real tangible benefit, especially in treatment of conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.
Just can’t talk about barefoot running again, as it’s been covered before in this blog, except to say that, as Gretchen discovered, it’s not for everyone, it’s not a miracle, and it must be adopted slowly and gradually. Perhaps that is a more natural gait pattern but our feet are quite accustomed to shoes.
Now get out there and have some fun this Memorial Day weekend.
See you in the office.
Ernest L. Isaacson, DPM