Just for the sake of argument, let’s just talk about running form for a moment. Barefoot or natural running form, that is.
Let’s talk about the rigamarole on correct and incorrect barefoot running form. Because, as it seems, you can’t just slip off your shoes (or slip on a pair of natural running shoes) and go out trotting along the sidewalk however you choose. There are all these rules and guidelines you need to know first. If your foot doesn’t land right under your center of gravity, if you’re pushing off from your toes, if you’re leaning too far forward, if your arms aren’t right….well, then you’re headed right for an injury.
And don’t get me wrong, I believe that for the most part these form regulations are helpful and their implementation has improved my running life.
But just for the sake of argument, why do we have rules for natural running form? Many of us carnal barefoot running beasts do it because we believe in the evolution of the human body (creationists need not apply, I suppose) and look to nourish and utilize it as our ancestors once did. One obvious point to make is that our ancestors didn’t have the interwebz and therefore couldn’t google “correct running form” or watch videos of others gliding along on treadmills and emulate them. Nor did they have certified running trainers or dozens of authors writing volumes on the subject. No, our ancestors just ran after their prey, ran to get to a destination, ran just out of joy and celebration (I can only assume). They didn’t study how they were supposed to run, they just did it. And we, the people of Modern Day Earth, have descended from the very genetic material of those persistence hunters and fruit gatherers. So, besides the one requisite that you run like you’re supposed to, don’t heel strike, etc., why does your modern body need extra help?
Because if you think about it, it makes sense to assume that given two unhindered feet, your back and legs and arms would simply fall into place. And if not right away, then shortly thereafter. And if you were lucky enough to have always run naturally, then by the time you’re an adult there would be really no room for bad form.
But, let’s go back a moment to the person who just shed their shoes last week. She is maybe several inches taller than me (most people are), has longer legs, or perhaps is a man instead. This person is different from me, right? He or she has differently-sized pulleys and levers, different weight distribution, different joint flexibility and muscular strengths. Why should this person run exactly like me? CAN they run like me, even?
Perfect running form, how I understand it, is a balance of optimized energy efficiency with a reduced chance of bone and soft tissue strain. But if my bone and tissue makeup is different from yours, that would stand to reason that my perfect form would also be different. Maybe not by a lot, but likely some. Perhaps I need to lean forward more because I have a lower center of gravity, or something like that. I really think when it comes down to it, “perfect form” is utterly unique to each and every runner.
So how can it be taught?
I dunno. All this talk about certified barefoot running coaches. Why hire one, really, when your bare feet know a heck of a lot more about your personal good form? And they are absolutely free of charge! And besides, I’m pretty sure my legs have a thing or two to say about that 186 bpm cadence rule, and probably none of it is very nice.