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#5 Debate: Running Biomechanics

Here is our fifth publication of a series of six on a debate on running shoes held at Université de Lausanne in Switzerland. See our first publication of this series for the rules of the debate.

 

Panel members (counterarguments): Boris Gojanovic, Eric Haefelin, Davide Malatesta, Grégoire Millet, Laurent Paonessa.

 

Question 5 of 6: Running biomechanics: What is the basis for our recommendations?

 

TRC Position: We do not believe in complex teachings that go into too many details. Interventions should be made at the unconscious level as much as possible (reflex mechanism before voluntary movements). Based on individual response, various corrections may be taught in order to improve impact-moderating behaviors and running efficiency. The types of interventions most used in our practice are as follows: integrating more minimalist running shoes, cadence between 170 and 190, making less noise,... and, only where necessary, specific interventions such as midfoot striking, a straighter stance, etc.  

 

Highlights

  • Grégoire (PhD): I still haven’t been convinced that minimalism is the way to go (except for weight and performance)… basically, what we’re being told is “if you switch to minimalism, you will have to take several risks, including that of injuring yourself…”
  • Blaise: Should we wear maximalist shoes only then? Because I still haven’t been convinced to go back to maximalist shoes (I’ve been running with minimalist shoes for 13 years now.)
  • Grégoire: The reality is that most runners use maximalist shoes (except for children who, I agree, should start off with minimalist shoes). Is the transition worth the risk…? Aren’t the risks involved greater than the benefits that can be reaped?
  • Blaise: Don’t go out of your way to change habits if you are used to running with maximalist shoes, not injured, or not looking to improve performance… BUT, in the case of someone starting a new training program: should we leave that person in the hands of retailers and biased corporations for shoe recommendation purposes? (Based on their recommendations, 95 percent of the European market runs with maximalist shoes.)
  • Blaise: I repeat: “Which type of shoe will you recommend for beginners?”
  • (No clear answer from the five panel members J.)
  • Laurent (retailer): I would tend to agree… but it’s hard to change bad habits from more than 30 years ago (speaking of traditional/maximalist shoes)… avoid extremes… I prefer the “in-between” approach.
  • Boris (MD): Either way, get a coach to help you with stress quantification… Minimalism for beginners does make sense.
 
  • Question from the audience: I think this debate will be irrelevant a few years down the road… everybody agrees that children must wear minimalist shoes… When should they be told to switch to maximalist shoes?
  • Eric (ASICS): Everybody agrees. Children should run with shoes that are as minimalist as possible.
  • Blaise: Then, big bulky shoes for children should be removed from the market. ASICS is a company that promotes maximalist running shoes for children… and which only sells these types of shoes!!!
  • Question from the audience: Parents who don’t know what’s best for their children should be better informed.
  • Eric (ASICS): Blah blah blah (unfounded marketing concepts thrown in the mix to confuse the audience and make them forget the question).
  • Blaise: Education is key. Grégoire and Davide, scientists, nobody listens to them; Boris and Blaise, clinical practitioners, only see a few cases per year; Eric from ASICS, he is biased… THE most important person in the education of runners and parents is Laurent, the retailer!
 
  • Davide (PhD): Minimalism reduces the period of contact with the ground and heel striking… and is allegedly more economical… On the other hand, we know that the longer the contact with the ground, the more economical we are… Even by controlling cadence.
  • Blaise: … at a loss for words…
  • Grégoire (PhD): A recent study has shown that heel strikers were 5 percent to 6 percent more economic than forefoot strikers.

 

My opinion (in hindsight)

I am disappointed with how panel members tried to stall the conversation with unclear answers when asked: “Which type of shoe would you recommend for beginners?” The incoherence of ASICS’ practices (only sells maximalist shoes to children, but alleges that minimalism should be the way to go) comes as no surprise to me…

 

I am more concerned though about the fact that retailers sell these types of shoes… which is yet another example of biased marketing. I repeat: THE most important person in the education of runners is Laurent, the retailer. What is the basis for Laurent’s recommendations? Will he be part of our list of specialized shoe stores with an evidence-based practice? With respect to the contact time with the ground and economy (Davide Malatesta), study results seem to go both ways (with a tendency to show that shorter contact is more economical: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, only to name a few)… the debate is still on! Would the correct answer be as follows: a shorter time of contact with the ground, but with a higher contact time/flight time ratio… up to a cadence of 190?

 

Next week, the conclusions reached by our panel members, their final recommendations, and our trick questions to each of them.