Saturday, November 5, 2011


As Patton Gleason recently explained at the Flow Running Seminar I attended, putting on minimalist footwear doesn't automatically fix bad running form. This point is echoed in Christopher McDougall's recent New York Times Magazine piece on barefoot running:
“Barefoot-style” shoes are now a $1.7 billion industry. But simply putting something different on your feet doesn’t make you a gliding Tarahumara. The “one best way” isn’t about footwear. It’s about form. Learn to run gently, and you can wear anything. Fail to do so, and no shoe -- or lack of shoe -- will make a difference. 
That’s what Peter Larson discovered when he reviewed his footage after the New York City Barefoot Run. “It amazed me how many people in FiveFingers were still landing on their heels,” he says. They wanted to land lightly on their forefeet, or they wouldn’t be in FiveFingers, but there was a disconnect between their intentions and their actual movements. “Once we develop motor patterns, they’re very difficult to unlearn,” Larson explains. “Especially if you’re not sure what it’s supposed to feel like.”
So how can runners relearn how to run properly? According to McDougall, something called the "100-Up Exercise" -- invented in 1874 by W.S. George -- could be the key. To practice, start by setting 2 targets on the ground about 8 inches apart.
The 100-Up consists of two parts. For the “Minor,” you stand with both feet on the targets and your arms cocked in running position. “Now raise one knee to the height of the hip,” George writes, “bring the foot back and down again to its original position, touching the line lightly with the ball of the foot, and repeat with the other leg.” 
That’s all there is to it. But it’s not so easy to hit your marks 100 times in a row while maintaining balance and proper knee height. Once you can, it’s on to the Major: “The body must be balanced on the ball of the foot, the heels being clear of the ground and the head and body being tilted very slightly forward.... Now, spring from the toe, bringing the knee to the level of the hip.... Repeat with the other leg and continue raising and lowering the legs alternately. This action is exactly that of running.”
Interesting stuff. Check out the Times' video of the 100-Up here: