Our virtual library at the Natural Running Center is a breeze to use. Plus, there’s no late fees or someone shushing you to keep quiet. Our filing system is quite simple. Articles are divided into the following categories:

1.) General Information

2.) Sports Medicine Journal and Academic Research

3.) Science of  Running

4.) Reading on the Run (Interesting, Of-the-Moment) Blog Posts, Magazine and Newspaper Articles)


General Information

“How Running Made Us Human.” University of Utah Public Relations, 2004.

Humans evolved from ape-like ancestors because they needed to run long distances – perhaps to hunt animals or scavenge carcasses on Africa’s vast savanna – and the ability to run shaped our anatomy, making us look like we do today. That is the conclusion of a study published in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal Nature by University of Utah biologist Dennis Bramble and Harvard University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman. The study is featured on Nature’s cover. Bramble and Lieberman argue that our genus, Homo, evolved from more ape-like human ancestors, Australopithecus, 2 million or more years ago because natural selection favored the survival of australopithecines that could run and, over time, favored the perpetuation of human anatomical features that made long-distance running possible. “We are very confident that strong selection for running – which came at the expense of the historical ability to live in trees – was instrumental in the origin of the modern human body form,” says Bramble, a professor of biology. “Running has substantially shaped human evolution. Running made us human – at least in an anatomical sense. We think running is one of the most transforming events in human history. We are arguing the emergence of humans is tied to the evolution of running.”That conclusion is contrary to the conventional theory that running simply was a byproduct of the human ability to walk.  Read more.

“Efficient Running:A Guide to the Biomechanical Characteristics of Efficient Runners.” by Jack Cady, 2003.

Less bounce, or up-and-down motion. First, let’s take a look at bounce, or up-and-down movement.  Bounce is a direct result of overstriding….Greater knee bend of the support leg.Landing with the knee slightly bent will help in several major ways.  First, it will create the potential for a stronger contraction in the muscles responsible for toeing off.  Just after initial contact, additional knee bend will occur. This will provide a quick stretch to your thigh and calf muscles, which in turn will help produce a stronger contraction as the knee extends and the foot pushes off…Secondly, it the knee is bent at the point of initial contact, the foot will automatically be positioned to contact the ground closer to the center of gravity. This positions both the knee and foot for optimal shock absorption… Read more.

“Close Look at Orthotics Raises a Welter of Doubts.” by Gina Kolata, New York Times, January 17, 2011.

Benno M. Nigg has become a leading researcher on orthotics — those shoe inserts that many athletes use to try to prevent injuries. And what he has found is not very reassuring. For more than 30 years Dr. Nigg, a professor of biomechanics and co-director of the Human Performance Lab at the University of Calgary in Alberta, has asked how orthotics affect motion, stress on joints and muscle activity. Do they help or harm athletes who use them? And is the huge orthotics industry — from customized shoe inserts costing hundreds of dollars to over-the-counter ones sold at every drugstore — based on science or on wishful thinking? His overall conclusion: Shoe inserts or orthotics may be helpful as a short-term solution, preventing injuries in some athletes. But it is not clear how to make inserts that work. The idea that they are supposed to correct mechanical-alignment problems does not hold up. Joseph Hamill, who studies lower-limb biomechanics at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, agrees. “We have found many of the same results,” said Dr. Hamill, professor of kinesiology and the director of the university’s biomechanics laboratory. “I guess the main thing to note is that, as biomechanists, we really do not know how orthotics work.” Read more.

“Good Running Form.” by Danny Abshire, co-founder of Newton Running.

Good running form is the key to efficient running and preventing injuries. When most people take up running for general fitness or to train for a marathon, they don’t think twice about how to do it. They buy a pair of running shoes, lace ’em up and start running. While that simplicity is one of the things that makes running so desirable, if you start running without learning proper form, you could wind up being woefully inefficient, and, worse yet, set yourself up for a variety of debilitating injuries.To run efficiently, you have to understand your body and how it naturally moves across a surface with as little muscular force as possible. Along those lines, the tenents of good running form include running with short strides and a quick cadence, landing lightly on the midfoot/forefoot area (the ball of the foot, but not the toes), and quickly lifting your foot off the ground instead of pushing off with excessive muscle force. A slight forward lean and a relaxed arm swing are also key components. Read more.

“What’s the Best Running Stride to Avoid Injury?” by Alex Hutchinson, Globe and Mail, January 27, 2011

In principle, we’re perfectly capable of learning an efficient stride by just doing it, Blaise Dubois {Canadian running expert} says. The ideal stride is the one each of us would have if we spent our childhood running around barefoot – like many kids do in, say, Kenya. “Just by running a lot, you become more efficient and develop intrinsic protection against injury,” he says.The problem is that few Canadians grow up that way any more. So when we start running as adults, we’re prone to taking long, slow steps instead of short, quick ones, and landing with the foot too far in front of the body. The resulting heel-first crash landing produces higher forces in the knee and hip joints than experienced by lithe Kenyan barefooters. This is where the injury epidemic comes in – by some estimates, 80 per cent of new runners fall victim. Read more.

“Young, Barefoot and Fiercely Competitive: Kenya’s Future Athletes.” by Adharanand Finn, Guardian (U.K.), February, 22, 2011.

Many theories are offered up as the secret to Kenya’s success in long distance running, but one of the most commonly cited, especially by Kenyans themselves, is the hard, active life the children here lead. Most run long distances to school each morning, and when they get home they are sent out to tend to the goats or sheep. There are few televisions, let alone PlayStations or Xboxes. Virtually every top Kenyan runner shares a similar background. I have yet to hear of one who comes from an even moderately wealthy family…So today I’ve taken a break from my own training to come and watch a local inter-schools cross country race, to see if I can learn some more about the grassroots of Kenyan running.Walking into the field is like turning up at a major sporting event. There are at least another ten great Kenyan runners here watching, both retired and current athletes. This is not like the school cross country races I remember competing in. Once the races start, another difference is evident. Every single child runs as though possessed, they charge like mini racehorses around the course. Even the children right at the back are pushing along at a decent pace. Another difference is that virtually all the children are running barefoot.It’s interesting to note that here the only children wearing running shoes are at the very back of the field. Read more.

“How to Choose the Right Minimalist Shoe,” by Jason Robbiliard, Runner’s World Forum, May 11, 2011.

No one shoe will work for everyone, nor will every shoe work for a single person.  All of us have different anatomy, preferences, and physiology.  I will always prefer to be barefoot and only use this method when selecting shoes for conditions that are not favorable to barefoot running.  I view shoes as tools. For me, the following qualities have to be present: Zero-drop or near-zero drop heel: Toe box wide enough to allow toe splay; shoe big enough so toes do not touch front of shoe. Read more.

“Transitioning to Minimalism: Quick Tips and a Range of Shoe Options,” by Brian Metzler, Running Times, April 2010.

You should take caution when transitioning to a more minimalist type of shoe. You’re bound to engage muscles in your feet, lower legs, and core differently than you’re used to, partially because you will be landing less on your heel with a braking angle and more near your midfoot with a more level landing. Should you eventually be running all of your miles in minimalist shoes? Purists will say yes, of course, but contrarians argue that this can lead to injuries for runners who are larger or not optimally fit. As you transition, consider using your minimalist shoes for short and fast workouts and wait until you’re strong enough to crank out that 14-mile negative split marathon simulation run. Read more.

“Minimalist Shoes Are Not Just For Running.” by Vicky Hallet. The Washington Post, September 13. 2011.

For the past few years, minimalism has been the fastest-growing category in running.  It’s become the fastest-growing category in training, too. There is a particular interest in wooing serious gymgoers who are drawn to the idea of working out every muscle in their body, including the ones in their feet. {Before} we’ve been going about building shoes the wrong way — elevating our heels, immobilizing our arches, adding so much cushioning that we can’t feel the ground. Barefoot advocates claim that this has weakened our feet, impaired our proprioception, or body awareness, and generally messed with our posture and alignment, creating a host of injuries. Read more.


Sports Medicine and Academic Research

“Is Your Prescription of Distance Running Shoes Evidence-based?” by Dr. Craig Richards, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2009.

Objectives: To determine whether the current practice of prescribing distance running shoes featuring elevated cushioned heels and pronation control systems tailored to the individual’s foot type is evidence-based. {The author of the study} concluded that it was not and issued an open challenge to the established mainstream running brands to provide any evidence that their shoes reduced injuries or improved performance… he is still waiting for a reply. Read more.

“Achieving Hunter-Gatherer Fitness in the 21(st) Century: Back to the Future.” by James H. O’Keefe, MD, Robert Vogel, MD, Carl J. Lavie, MD,Loren Cordain, PhD, American Journal of Medicine, December 2010.

Humans remain genetically adapted for a very physically active hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Many of the health problems endemic today result from lifestyle that is at odds with this evolutionary milieu. The daily physical activity pattern of the hunter-gatherer is an ideal template from which to design a modern exercise regimen. Characteristics include interval and strength/flexibility training, outdoor exercise on natural surfaces, group exercise, ample time for rest/recovery, and lifelong fitness. On the subject of rest:Hunter-gatherers would have likely alternated difficult days with less demanding days when possible. Read more.

“Barefoot-shod Running Differences: Shoe or Mass Effect?” by Divert C, Mornieux G, Freychat P, Baly L, Mayer F, Belli A.,International Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2008.

The higher oxygen consumption reported when shod running is compared to barefoot running has been attributed to the additional mass of the shoe. However, it has been reported that wearing shoes also modified the running pattern. The aim of this study was to distinguish the mass and shoe effects on the mechanics and energetics when shod running. Twelve trained subjects ran on a 3-D treadmill ergometer at 3.61 m . s (-1) in six conditions: barefoot, using ultra thin diving socks unloaded, loaded with 150 g, loaded with 350 g, and two shoe conditions, one weighing 150 g and another 350 g. The results show that there was a significant mass effect but no shoe effect for oxygen consumption. Stride frequency, anterior-posterior impulse, vertical stiffness, leg stiffness, and mechanical work were significantly higher in barefoot condition compared to shod. Net efficiency, which has metabolic and mechanical components, decreased in the shod condition. The mechanical modifications of running showed that the main role of the shoe was to attenuate the foot-ground impact by adding damping material. However, these changes may lead to a decrease of the storage and restitution of elastic energy capacity which could explain the lower net efficiency reported in shod running. Read more.

“The Effect of Three Different Levels of Footwear Stability on Pain Outcomes in Women Runners.” by Michael B Ryan, Gordon A Valiant, Kymberly McDonald, Jack E Taunton, British Journal of Sports Medicine,  June 2010.

The present study examines the injury status in women runners who are randomised to receive a neutral, stability or motion control running shoe. Methods: 81 female runners were categorised into three different foot posture types (39 neutral, 30 pronated, 12 highly pronated) and randomly assigned a neutral, stability or motion control running shoe. Runners underwent baseline testing to record training history, as well as leg alignment, before commencing a 13-week half marathon training programme.Outcome measures included number of missed training days due to pain Results: 194 missed training days were reported by 32% of the running population with the stability shoe reporting the fewest missed days (51) and the motion control shoe (79) the most. Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that our current approach of prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injuriousRead more.

“Tissue Vibration in Prolonged Running.” by Friesenbichler B, Stirling LM, Federolf P, Nigg BM., Journal of Biomechanics, January 2011.

The impact force in heel-toe running initiates vibrations of soft-tissue compartments of the leg that are heavily dampened by muscle activity. This study investigated if the damping and frequency of these soft-tissue vibrations are affected by fatigue, which was categorized by the time into an exhaustive exercise.Relative to heel-strike, the maximum vibration intensity occurred significantly later in the fatigued condition in all three directions. With fatigue, the soft tissue of the triceps surae oscillated for an extended duration at increased vibration magnitudes, possibly due to the effects of fatigue on type II muscle fibers. Thus, the protective mechanism of muscle tuning seems to be reduced in a fatigued muscle and the risk of potential harm to the tissue may increase. Read more.

“The Effects of Habitual Footwear Use: Foot Shape and Function in Native Barefoot Walkers.” By Auot, Pataky, De Clerq, Aerts, Footwear Science, June 2009.

Understanding the biomechanics of habitually barefoot walkers can provide novel insights both for anthropologist and for applied scientists, yet the necessary data is virtually non-existent.We have studied a population of habitually barefoot walkers from India and compared them with a habitually shod Indian control group and a Western population.We focused on foot metrics and on the analysis of plantar pressure data. Habitually shod Indians wore less often, and less constricting shoes than Western people. Yet, we found significant differences with their habitually barefoot peers, both in foot shape and in pressure distribution. Barefoot walkers had wider feet and more equally distributed peak pressures, i.e. the entire load carrying surface was contributing more uniformly than in habitually shod subjects, where regions of very high or very low peak pressures were more apparent. Western subjects differed strongly from both Indian populations (and most from barefoot Indians), by having relatively short and, especially, slender feet, with more focal and higher peak pressures at the heel, metatarsals and hallux. The evolutionary history of humans shows that barefoot walking is the biologically natural situation. The use of footwear remains necessary, especially on unnatural substrates, in athletics, and in some pathologies, but current data suggests that footwear that fails to respect natural foot shape and function will ultimately alter the morphology and the biomechanical behaviour of the foot. Read more.


Science of  Running

Loading Rate: What Does It Mean for You?” by Jay Dicharry, Center for Endurance Sport, February 7, 2011.

I was at a conference recently where someone asked me: ‘With all the fancy equipment and data you’ve got access to, what it the biggest thing you’ve noticed and how has it made you change your personal running style?’ Easy! I’ve learned through the years, that it’s critical to minimize loading rate. Loading rate is the speed at which you apply forces to the body. While running, you aren’t going to change your body mass during a run. Your total mass stays relatively the same. However, how you move your body’s mass forward when running does play a major role in the way your body is affected by the forces we see in running…If you want to try to decrease your loading rate, you need to get your foot to land closer to the body. Barefoot running is a good drill for this since it “forces” you to avoid over-striding.  There is evidence that a properly constructed minimal shoe should also lead to minimal loading rates (although no one can say all minimal shoes since the definition of this market sector is so vague). Keep your torso centered over your lower body and avoid the temptation to run in the “back seat”, especially as you fatigue. Run Tall! Run Soft! Read more.

“Phys Ed: Do Certain Types of Sneakers Prevent Injuries?”, by Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, July 21, 2010.

A few years ago, the military began analyzing the shapes of recruits’ feet. Injuries during basic training were rampant, and military authorities hoped that by fitting soldiers with running shoes designed for their foot types, injury rates would drop.Many of us have had a similar experience. For decades, coaches and shoe salesmen have visually assessed runners’ foot types to recommend footwear. Runners with high arches have been directed toward soft, well-cushioned shoes, since it’s thought that high arches prevent adequate pronation, or the inward motion of your foot and ankle as you run. Pronation dissipates some of the forces generated by each stride. Flat-footed, low-arched runners, who tend to over-pronate, have typically been told to try sturdy “motion control” shoes with firm midsoles and Teutonic support features, while runners with normal arches are offered neutral shoes (often called “stability” shoes by the companies that make and categorize them)…Over the course of three large studies, the most recent of which was published last month in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, the researchers found almost no correlation at all between wearing the proper running shoes and avoiding injury. Injury rates were high among all the runners, but they were highest among the soldiers who had received shoes designed specifically for their foot types. If anything, wearing the “right” shoes for their particular foot shape had increased trainees’ chances of being hurt. Scientific rumblings about whether running shoes deliver on their promises have been growing louder in recent years. Read more.

“Why Running Shoes Do Not Work: Looking at Pronation, Cushioning, Motion Control and Barefoot Running.” by Steve Mangess,The Science of Running, January 2010.

The running shoe model needs to be fixed. Pronation, Motion Control, Cushioning, and Stability shoes? Get rid of them all. It’s not just barefoot running and minimalism versus running shoes, the either/or situation many portray it to be. It’s much deeper than that. It’s not even that running shoe companies are evil and out to make a profit. Shoe companies may be accomplishing the goals they set out for, but maybe the goals their aiming for are not what need to be done. The paradigm that running shoes are built upon is the problem.Running shoes are built upon two central premises, impact forces and pronation. Their goals are simple, limit impact forces and prevent overpronation. This has led to a classification system based on cushioning, stability, and motion control. The problem is that this system may not have any ground to stand on. Have we been focused on the wrong things for 40+ years? I’ll start with the customary statistic of 33-56% of runners get injured every year (Bruggerman, 2007). That is kind of mind blowing when you think about it. Since there are a ton of injuries going on, let’s look at what shoes are supposed to do. Read more.

“Forefoot Striking and Pronation: What Science Tells Us.” by Phil Shaw, Guest Columnist on Runblogger, January 12, 2011

It doesn’t take much time on the internet to realize that when it comes to minimalist and barefoot running, scientific evidence is spotty at best. Instead, one finds an abundance of anecdotes and an occasional citation. In an effort to parse the strong evidence from the weak, a few fellow doctoral students and I recently wrote a literature review of barefoot running biomechanics,Our goal was to formulate a complete and evidence-based biomechanical model of barefoot gait and describe its potential implications for overuse injuries. Ultimately, we reviewed 39 papers that met our inclusion and exclusion criteria. One of the most frequent claims of barefoot and minimalist running advocates is that a forefoot strike reduces impact forces. Read more.

“Does Form Matter?” by Peter Vigneron, Runner’s World, June 2011

Peter Larson, an evolutionary biologist and marathoner, turned his attention to running form and stride mechanics two years ago. As a runner, he was naturally interested in what science understood about the activity—which, at that point, was limited. In the scientific literature there are two published papers on observed footstrike patterns, and one focuses exclusively on elites.”The only other study in a race situation is from 1980,” Larson says. “It’s old data, and it’s a slow camera, so I’m a little suspicious about it.” Larson had experience with high-speed cameras, so he decided to begin recording runners on his own. Read more.


Reading on the Run

“Interview with Chris McDougall.” Zero Drop, December 2010.

Q: So how does it feel to be the “father” of the barefoot/minimalist running shoe modern-day movement? CM: Thanks, but I’m not the father. I’m the showboat son who arrives late to the party and pretends he threw it.  The minimalist movement has been gathering steam for quite some time. I was fortunate to come across a story that was a nice vehicle for combining the information about biomechanics and running form that has been accumulating over the last few years…I couldn’t care less what people wear; I’m more concerned about what they do. For too long, all we’ve heard about is what to buy; what’s been missing from the conversation has been how to run properly. I’m convinced that the next big wave in running won’t be footwear, but a surge in running coaches who teach proper, gentle, barefoot-style form. Read more.

“You’re Crazy.” by David Abel, Boston Globe, January 9, 2011

There I was, just as the {Vibram FiveFinger} promotional literature promised, effortlessly gliding along the wooded path. It really did feel liberating to run with next to nothing between my feet and the ground. After three marathons and decades of running in weightier shoes, each of which seemed to yield a different injury, I had decided to give “minimal” shoes, the latest running fad, a try. After all, researchers at Harvard University had shown that running barefoot could reduce injury rates by encouraging runners to strike the ground with a more natural gait…On my first run, the FiveFingers sounded odd as my feet slapped the pavement in the thin rubber soles. But they weigh only ounces, and I felt an almost giddy lightness…I was recovering from a knee injury, and it was nice to feel the stress on a different part of my body after a litany of other nattering hurts, from plantar fasciitis to hip pain.But as I left paved road for dirt trail, I got my first lesson in the limits of minimal running. I landed on an angular rock concealed in the dirt.  Read more.

“Not Really Running.” by Anton Krupicka. AntonKrupicka,blogspot, April 27, 2011

Over the past couple of years I’ve realized that maintaining a blog isn’t such a personal thing as one might first think and that it is actually a very rewarding means by which to connect with others, share, and hopefully inspire and impact the community in a positive manner…If there is a lack of posting it is most likely because either A) I’m injured and not running much, or B) I’m running plenty but other responsibilities in my life have temporarily consumed the time…On the bright side, running-wise, things have been looking slightly up over the last couple of weeks.  I’m up to a daily whopping 5mi run with a ~1000′ climb and am even feeling confident that tomorrow I might be able to bump that up to the 1500’/1hr outing that Flagstaff Mountain here in Boulder offers.  While certainly better than not running at all, I hardly find these skimpy daily doses of dirt blog-worthy, so the content here will probably continue to be thin until my shin allows something more interesting. I think the biggest reason that I’m injured this time is because back in January I let my ego take over and prod me to cram in too much training in too short of a period of time leading up to Rocky Raccoon.  I am currently determined not to make that mistake again–instead, I hope to stick to the principles of gradual progression of mileage and reasonable overall training volume that facilitated my consistency for most of 2010–so there won’t be a rush back to racing. Read more…

“Theresa Withee, Possibly First Woman to Run Boston Barefoot – An interview.” by TJ, Barefoot Runners Society, April 22, 2011

I got injuries in college from over training, IT Band and Patella Injury called Runner’s knee.  I found it harder and harder to run…I have always loved to run.  It got to a point where I couldn’t even run 1 mile without  pain.  My current running shoes needed to be replaced, but I just didn’t want to buy another pair of running shoes.  That did not seem to be the answer.  I did a lot of research on the internet about barefoot running (a big thank you to Barefoot Ted and Barefoot Ken Bob for their websites).  One day, I said to my husband, “What would you think if I ran barefoot?”  He said, “Go for it!  Give it a try.”  I did.  It worked.  I started a little at a time every other day.  Slowly built up my mileage.  That was 3 years ago. My longest barefoot training run for Boston was 10 miles.  I ran a 20 mile training run in my VFFs because it was about 28 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like 10 degrees.  And I did the Hyannis Marathon on February 27, 2011, as a training run, in VFFs, because again, the weather was cold, wet, snowing, and sleeting for most of the race, and I got a 3:50:49. Read more.

“The Hopi’s–America’s First Great Long-Distance Runners–Grew Up Running Barefoot or in Moccasins.” Zero Drop, November 2010.

The Hopi Tribe of Northeastern Arizona produced some of the greatest long-distance runners in American history. But you need to turn the clock back to the late 1800s and early 1900s for well-supported documentation. Just like with the Tarahumaras who lived much father south in the secluded canyons of the Sierra Madres, running was an important part of Hopi culture– a social bonding mechanism that linked clans and villages together. The Hopis would have kick-ball races over long-distances that would often last all day. Read more.