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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bad Biomechanics?

This topic is from my friend Barefoot Ken's blog and I think it is a brilliant and accurate observation of the deeper truth about barefoot running, biomechanics and how running injuries happen. You can always count on Ken to give you the bare bones truth about barefoot running!

Bad Biomechanics? (2004 September 23) Saxton
September 23rd, 2004
A salesperson said I have bad biomechanics and should not run without special shoes, which cost an arm and a leg?
I am often told, “how lucky you are, that you have perfect biomechanics which allow you to run barefoot.”
My reply is, “I don’t have good enough biomechanics to be able to run well woth shoes blockign my ability to feel the ground beneath my feet, and respond appropriately by correcting my, otherwise, sloppy biomechanics.”
Are our “Biomechanical Problems”, simply mechanical defects in the human design, which cannot be repaired, and can only be patched or corrected by adding cushioning, motion control, support, etc., provided by wearing modern hi-tech running shoes and orthotic devices?
Do we really have “Biomechanical Problems” with our feet, our legs, our hips, etc., or do shoes actually cause it to appear that we have biomechanical issues, by depriving us of an essential component in the design of the human running “machine”, depriving us of the one thing that might help us learn to run “biomechanically” correct?
I believe that actual genetic bad biomechanics are very rare. Most of us are born to run well. It’s in our genes. When someone says we have “bad biomechanics”, they often mean that we run with bad technique. The assumption is that we are born with our running technique, instead of my presumption, that we learn how to run as we grow up.
When we learn to run WITHOUT feedback from the soles of our feet, as they touch the ground, we often learn to run badly, just as a deaf or hard-of-hearing person has trouble learning to pronounce sounds they cannot perceive.
The best runners in the world come from areas of the world where they learn to run barefoot. Good running technique in these areas is taken for granted. In fact, it is in our genes as well. The problem is, shoes often get in the way of the natural advantage a barefooter has, in learning how to run the way we are designed to run.
Even such seemingly severe problems such as seeming leg-length discrepencies, well, I suspect that most, perhaps nearly all, asymmetry issues; leg length, uneven wear on your shoes, etc., are the result of learning, practicing, and adapting unsymmetrical postural habits. The right leg might appear longer than the left leg, if we, for example, spend a lot of time standing with our weight on one leg, with the other leg stretched out to the side. This may not result in bone-length differences, but the asymmetrical posture, when it becomes habitual (you may not even be aware you are standing that way), will result in asymmetrical strengths and weaknesses of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc..
In such cases, the cure is NOT to add a shim to the bottom of the sole, which would only reinforce the leg-length discrepancy by pushing the “short” leg even shorter! The cure is to exercise, and stretch, and practice symmetry in your day-to-day posture, movements, and other physical habits - to, in short, make symmetry a habit, over the long run.
Most of our bad habits are learned because we aren’t aware, either that the practice is bad, or that we are doing something in a particular way. Awareness is key in developing good biomechanical habits. Shoes block awareness.
We can continue to depend on sales people and shoes to control the way we run, with the underlying, and obviously wrong, assumption that humans were designed to run with shoes blocking valuable sensory information about how we are running.
Or we can learn to improve HOW we run - starting by listening to and paying attention to what we learn from our bare feet.Sphere: Related ContentFiled under: Biomechanics
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