Running, Running Shoes & Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey will be staring in “Born to Run”, a movie based on the book Born to Run; A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen.

After 6 years and 178 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list Born to Run is still selling 10,000 copies a month! What is it about this book?

Born to Run is the authors’ own account of tracking down the Tarahumara Indian Tribe who are known for their ability to run long distances, very fast, without the injuries we see in North American runners. As a chronically injured runner himself, Christopher MacDougall overcame his injuries while with the Tarahumaras and concludes it is the traditional running shoe that accounts for many of the injuries we see today.

So, what is “wrong” with the traditional big-bulky-shoe 90% of us wear today?

– the heel-to-toe drop is too large,
– too much cushioning,
– not enough flexibility,
– there is no evidence that motion control and cushioning prevent injury,
– many shoes are designed to be awesomely fashionable rather than awesomely (and simply) only-what-we-need.


This is a great image to explain heel-to-toe drop. The forefoot of this shoe is 10mm from the ground, the heel is 16mm. This equates to a heel-to-toe drop of 6mm. (photo source:

Are you one of the 90% that wears a big-bulky-shoe? If so, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you have a running related injury?
2. Do you want to increase your performance?

If you answered “yes” to one or both of these a change from a big-bulky-shoe to something more minimalistic can help.

Changing into a less traditional shoe may take a period of trial and error. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Heel-to-Toe Drop: Moving too fast into a much lesser heel-to-toe drop than you are used to may be too much for the body to adapt to right away. Be smart. If your current drop is 10-12mm, try 8mm to start.

Cushioning: The amount of cushioning, or “stack height” is another important consideration. Too much cushion can be detrimental to your body and performance. When choosing a new shoe, lower the cushioning factor by as much that is comfortable for you. Once your body adapts to this change you can try even less cushioning.

Flexibility: Big-bulky-shoes are typically more rigid. The heel counter is very stiff and often times the only place the shoe will bend is where the toes need to bend. It’s ok for shoes to be really flexible. A flexible shoe allows your foot to move and perform the way it should.

Fit & Comfort: Comfort is the most important factor when changing shoes. If a shoe isn’t comfortable you won’t like it. Be sure the toe-box is roomy and allows your toes to move individually. The last thing your toes want is to be squished into a narrow toe-box!

Visit a specialized shoe store and try on many different shoes. Great examples in the Calgary area are Gord’s Running Store, Strides Running Store and The Tech Shop.

There are many more components to running like the Tarahumara in Born to Run. Items like:

– foot strike,
– cadence (steps per minute),
– biomechanical angles of your limbs

These and more are all factors involved that can, if optimal, will  improve your performance and decrease your risk of running related injury.

A Functional Gait Analysis is your best way to tackle all of these dimensions if you truly want to increase your running performance, decrease risk of injury and recover from current injuries. Find out how your body is functioning and how it can function better to allow you to run like the Tarahumara!

By: Dr. Angela Pucci, Specialist* in the Assessment & Treatment of Running Related Injuries

*specialist as per The Running Clinictm

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