Friday, January 8, 2010

Cold Feet

Winter’s icy grip hasn’t loosened this past week. I’m still running inside, except for a 6 mile outing yesterday that felt surprisingly challenging. I say “surprisingly” because it wasn’t any different from the route I usually take but it felt like I was running through molasses. I thought I might have been experiencing the effects of overtraining, but today I got on the treadmill and flew through four miles while barely breaking a sweat. I was probably just tired. Erin and I bought a latex mattress about a year ago that totally collapsed in the center, so every night it’s a battle to find a comfortable position. Sleep has been elusive, both due to the bed situation and the kids coming in during the wee hours. I bought a new bed the other day and it arrives on Saturday. Hopefully that will alleviate some on the sleepiness.

I had an email exchange with Amby Burfoot from Runner’s World the other day. His most recent blog posting took a look at the questionable science (and motives) of some recent studies that concluded that running shoes might contribute to running injuries rather than prevent them. Anyone who has been following the recent trends in the running community have no doubt encountered an article or two by proponents of barefoot or minimalist shoe running.

The book Born to Run by author Chris McDougal has ignited considerable controversy on the issue of whether running shoes do more harm than good. I read Born to Run when my running and training were at a particularly low ebb. The idea that man was evolutionarily developed for distance running resonated so strongly with me that I changed my running stride and shoe selection and really started enjoying running again. While many of my lower mileage training runs for the Philadelphia Marathon were in Nike Frees (a so-called minimalist running shoe), my distance runs were all in my trustworthy Sauconys. Man may have been Born to Run, but he wasn't born to run on pavement. The barefoot proponants may have a point, (my intermittant knee and back problems disappeared once I changed my form and started using minimalist shoes) but their unecessarily strident tone can be off-putting. However, I think the editor of a magazine who’s principal revenue source comes from shoe companies advertisements should exercise a little more care when questioning the motives of a particular study’s author: “Richards has a stake in a minimalist shoe company. I'm not calling Kerrigan and Richards liars. Far from it, I agree with Richards's conclusion. But we should understand the motivation behind their writing and their research projects.” Yes, of course, but publishing your own article without a similar disclaimer about Runner’s World’s own pecuniary interests is at least as disingenuous. Amby responded to my comment in a personal email and argued that RW stands to earn even more advertising dollars that it would lose: “a decrease in running injuries, if this occurred through barefootin (sic), could possibly increase RW circulation, profits, etc. Since fewer injuries would presumably mean more runners and RW readers.” Well, I don’t buy it, but I appreciate the fact that he responded. I think the science on shoes could go either way at this point. Time will tell.

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