These are interesting times for runners. With that said, these are even more interesting times for scientists, like me, who study them every day in the Saucony Human Performance and Innovation Lab.
Runners have more choices to make than ever before: what type of footwear to wear; what training plan to follow; what core exercises to do. Even the most basic matter of how to put one foot in front of the other is up for debate.
Every runner who searches the web for guidance in making these choices quickly encounters a Sargasso Sea of information, with a few jewels of well thought-out, informed and informative sites, and many more less informed but fervently presented postings.
The goal of this blog is to help cut through the morass to help runners make more informed decisions about all the choices they face. We will strive to find the useful balance between the simple and complex, between the individual response and the group average, and between the lab and the road.
Is It Really That Complicated?
So, how did our simple sport get so complicated? How can an activity that is so natural require you to wade through so much information? Is it all just overwrought marketing?
It seems to me that this complexity has always been there, because the human body is such a deeply complex system to begin with. Scientists try to make sense of biological complexity by identifying patterns which create useful groupings or categories.
The most well-known methods for classifying runners are the Under/Normal/Over pronation scheme and the supposedly related High/Medium/Low arch scheme. Many scientists, runners and health professionals are now questioning the value of these categories, proposing new ways of classifying runners based not just on foot function and shape, but on running form: e.g. over-strider, heel-striker or midfoot-striker. This latest approach is opening up new fields of research−and nothing is more exciting for us scientists.
Here in our lab, and in many other research labs around the world, the question we are now trying to answer is this: Can we create new classification schemes that are more useful in predicting the response of groups of runners to new footwear constructions, new running forms, and new training methods?
Yes It Is!
I’m going to explore the answer to this question using some basic guiding principles:
- We are all unique and we are all constantly changing.
- The optimal running form, or shoe for that matter, is the one that encourages you to get out the door and keeps you running.
- Science can help us make sense of the complex interactions within the runner’s body, and between the runner and the world. But … we’re still just scratching the surface of real understanding.
- We can all learn from each other’s experience as long as we remember that what works for you may not work for me.
So, if you’re interested, stay tuned. We’ll be sharing what we’ve learned in our lab, through our expert colleagues, and from the runners who use our shoes and gear. And we hope to hear your thoughts and experiences as well.
- Spencer White
Head of Saucony Human Performance and Innovation Lab