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Triathlon Running Styles & Footwear

Triathlon Event  Running Styles & Footwear: running barefoot vs. properly-fitting sneakers geared towards the way you run

There has been a new tread in running in recent years regarding barefoot running and forefoot running. Likewise, many shoe manufacturers have followed in making shoes that cater to this trend. In fact there seems to be an entirely “new industry” that has formed to accommodate this trend. Lets face it…most of this hype is more about injury prevention and run economy than anything else. Is it true that forefoot runners have less running injuries than heal strikers? Is it true that forefoot runners have better run economy than heel strikers? Yes to both, but this does not mean that you need to go out buy minimalist shoes or the fashionable barefoot shoes. If you have poor running form in your regular running shoes you are going to have bad form in the new barefoot/forefoot running shoes. If you want to make the transition…fine. Do it slowly. Focus on form and the basics of running before making the switch because you will only cause an injury to yourself if you do not.

As far as the footwear, the transition should be from a heel strike/cushioned shoe (most running shoes) to a mid-foot strike shoe (Newtons, Zoot) and then to the barefoot shoe if you desire to change. This transition should be a very long and slow process of at least a year for each transition to prevent injury. But before making any change I suggest changing the way you run first so that you will already run in the “proper” form before taking on a mid-foot style of running shoe.

Below are some of the things a runner should focus on to gain better running form. Remember, your running gait is something that has to be practiced over time much like a swim stroke if you expect to see positive results and even then some of us will still not be able to achieve perfect form due to our physical makeup.

  • Feet – The feet should be straight ahead and land directly under the hips. Initial contact with the ground should be on your mid-foot. Cadence should be 90-95 for most adults. Elite endurance runners show a run cadence of 90-95. This is an unnatural cadence for most of us and we must practice to achieve it. Most runners are comfortable at a cadence of 70-80.
    Transitioning from a slow to a faster cadence may take as much as a year or two of practice. Use your watch and count how many times your right foot hits the ground in one minute. That is your cadence.

  • Legs – The leg action should be relaxed and rather quick, with minimal to moderate knee lift. You should focus on beginning the push to the rear with your foot before your foot strikes the ground. On push-off, your body should go forward, not up.

  • Hips – The hips should be square and level with no sideways movement

  • Torso – The torso should be erect or just slightly forward with chest up. This allows plenty of room for proper breathing action. The center of your chest should be over the balls of your feet.

  • Hands – Hands are held in a relaxed manner. Don’t waste energy making a fist.
  • Arms – Arms should be swinging freely but in a general forwards and backwards motion, never crossing the body. Elbows are bent at 90 degrees with forearms remaining parallel to the ground

  • Shoulders – The shoulders should be level and square with your chest pointed forward. Do not round your shoulders or swing them forwards or backwards.

  • Head – The head should be upright, with eyes focused forward to a point on the ground about 45-70 feet in front of you.

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