Study: Changing Running Stride Does More Harm Than Good

This article that I’ve now seen posted by three running friends seems to deserve a
response. One was a neutral “hey check this out” post, one was using it as an
excuse to continue running with terrible form and one bashed it in order to
promote Chi running.

See the full article here:

From the article:

Sixteen runners were recruited to participate in the study. They were asked to run at 16 kph (6:02 per mile) and their rate of oxygen consumption was measured to assess their running economy. Their stride rates and vertical displacements (or bouncing) were also measured. The treadmill used for the experiment was tricked out with a visual and auditory feedback system for cadence and vertical displacement.

The researchers gave each runner a target cadence and vertical displacement to aim for in a second go at running at 16 kph with a breathing mask on. The targets were intended to slightly increase each runner’s stride rate and slightly reduce his vertical displacement from current levels. The runners were able to hit these targets with relative ease with the aid of the visual and auditory feedback provided.

“Alterations led to an increase in metabolic cost in most cases, measured as VO2 uptake per minute and kg body mass,” the researchers confessed.

Back to my commentary:

This guy has funny running form

This guy has funny running form

First, the research study was 16 runners and with such a small sample size I’m not sure what conclusions can be made. Next it was a short term study not a longitudinal study over several weeks allowing runners to adjust to a new running form and have the accompanying muscle development that would go with using a different stride. So basically I think the study is junk.

In response to the “Running form doesn’t matter” or “You will naturally arrive at your most efficient running form over time by logging miles and listening to your body.”—I’d say yes, BUT,…. While I agree there is not a single perfect stride or perfect exact movement that can be applied to all runners, there are certain ranges of movement that are like guard rails to keep you on track. For example the whole heel strike vs. forefoot strike debate needs to be moderated with how far in front of your body is the strike happening and the loading rate on the leg. A severe heel striker hitting way out in front of their center of gravity and pounding the pavement with a slap of the foot is not running efficiently. A heel striker hitting just slightly in front of their center of gravity and maintaining a cadence above 170 might not be that bad! Should you force the runner to strike with their forefoot to satisfy that specific element of Chi running, POSE method or whatever other exact specification you’re relying on? No. Should you get the heel pounder, floppy foot runner to adjust some? Yes.

In response to the “One session of Chi Running and you’ll feel it is easier to run and be more relaxed!” — Keep in mind; these changes take practice, patience and many, many miles to accomplish. A single session of adjusting bounce and how hard you strike the treadmill will NOT arrive at a more efficient stride.

My personal anecdote on running form efficiency comes from a study I participated in at the University of Florida Running Medicine Clinic. I ran with shoes on the treadmill at 7:20 pace for a while and they measured my caloric needs by having me wear a mask that measured my breath as I exhaled. Then we repeated the same thing a week later but I ran barefoot. Most people in the study burned more calories and more fat running barefoot. Keep in mind all runners in the study were screened to be forefoot strikers so the transition to barefoot should be fairly easy. The obvious connection in my mind was that even though they were forefoot strikers, doing a different or new thing requires different muscle recruitment, makes you a little nervous and uncomfortable and therefore a slightly higher heart rate and caloric expenditure would be expected. But wait! My results were different. My heart rate was lower running barefoot and my caloric expenditure was LOWER running barefoot. Why? I run in near-minimalist shoes frequently. (Kinvara, Pure Flow, NB 1400, Type A5 racing flats) My body is used to less support and taking the weight off my feet felt fine. I was relaxed, rolling along and comfortable. So maybe over time, the other runners would also become more efficient at barefoot running with practice? I don’t know but it seems logical to me! We are all a research study of ONE.

Two More Shoe Reviews: Trail Workhorse and Road Workhorse

Here are two more quick reviews of shoes in my arsenal. Who is running the Cross Country race at The Rock trails tomorrow?

Brooks Pure Flow

The Brooks Pure Project is one of the best examples of the new “almost minimalist” style being talked about in every running publication. The Flow is neutral, has a 4 mm drop and split outsole feature to let your big toe flex independently. The Pure Flow has plenty of cushioning for a road shoe and has a nice stable feel to it. It’s a good every-day mileage type of workhorse. I’ve had a pair of the Flow I and the Flow II. I actually liked the upper on the first version better but the change to the upper wasn’t enough to scare me off. Much has been said about the split toe design but I can barely tell the difference running in it. Cushioned, neutral, high mileage shoe!

Innov8 Terrafly Trail

Inov8 trail

I bought these because I had a 50K trail race coming up and none of my trail shoes had what I wanted for a 31 mile run. The Terrafly is fairly light at 9.1 oz, has enough cushioning that running on pavement is comfortable and the outsole is stiff enough to offer protection from rocks and roots. I only did a few training runs in them before the Sweet H2O 50K in Georgia but I did get two runs of over 20 miles in them and they worked great. I couldn’t have been happier with them at the race. We were on mountains, through creeks and over very tough terrain and I had no foot soreness or blisters after the race. My hamstrings and quads…..NEVER have they hurt so bad! I still use these for trail runs at San Felasco regularly and I’d bet on these to last at least 500 miles for me.

Sweet H2O

Jim Burgasser, Me and Steve Wilcox at the Sweet H2O 50K in Lithia Georgia.

The Top 8 Races in Gainesville

LGAA start

Everyone loves a countdown or top rating list. So to provide that for you as we head into a new racing season here is a list of the best races in town! A few weeks ago, I did a survey of 115 local runners and asked a number of questions about local races. What surface do you like to run on? What type of awards do you like? Do you want a tech fabric shirt or cotton? Or a no-shirt option for $5 less? We also asked runners to rate 19 local races on a scale of 1-5 stars. The runners were asked to rate the race only if they had run it in the last two years. So here’s the top 8 ranked by a blended %. That just means 5 stars =100%, 4 stars = 80% and so on. Therefore, if everyone who ran the race, gave it 5 stars, the score would be 100%.

Race Score
Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon (Hawthorne Trail) 91.2%
Flatwoods 5K (Austin Carey Memorial Forest) 88.6%
Five Points of Life Half Marathon 88.0%
Newnan’s Lake 15K (Earl Powers Park) 87.6%
Trail of Payne 10K (Payne’s Prairie trail run) 87.6%
Race the Tortoise 5K (O’Leno State Park) 86.8%
LGAA 5K (Ironwood Golf Course) 85.6%
Turkey Trot 10K (Tacachale) 85.1%

So what makes a highly rated race better? Looking at other survey factors, it is easy to see why the Tom Walker Half Marathon scores so well.

Most popular distance? Half Marathon.

Most popular surface to race on? Paved bike path.

Price? It is in line with what people expect to pay for a Half Marathon.

Is it a scenic course? Yes. (According to the survey, a scenic course is one of the top 5 most important factors when chosing a race!)

So on many of the most important factors that runners value, the Tom Walker Half Marathon hits the mark. No wonder it is #1!

Also worth noting, there are many races in town that scored really well (over 70%) that I would certainly recommend. This list is just the ones that scored over 85%. So find a race, train hard and run fast! See you at the races.

Fastest 8 Races – A Non-Scientific Completely Biased List.

I gave you a nice, scientific, survey driven Top 8 list for local races in my last post. So now for the completely biased, non-scientific Top 8 PR races! Why 8? Because I feel like that’s a good number! No logic or science involved! If you want to run your fastest race at a given distance, check out one of these options. Some are local, some are not but they are all FAST.

I included a little information about each event and what my results were at each one to give you an idea of why I think the races are a good opportunity for you to run your best race there too. What races should I have on the list? Tell us! Add your favorite fast races in the comments. I’d love to hear about other fast events.

Fastest 5Ks-

  1. Race the Tortoise- O’Leno State Park, High Springs, FL.

2. Run for the Pies- Jacksonville Landing

  • June 14th 2014
  • Flat, lots of competition. It will be warm but the flat course, speedy runners to race with and beer at the end of the race motivating you to bring it in fast compensate.
  • Ran 16:38 Masters PR there in 2012
  • Ran in Saucony Type A5 this year. Ran in Brooks T7 last year.

Fastest 10Ks

  1. Charles Harris Run for Lukemia- Tucker GA

2.  Crescent City Classic 10K, New Orleans, LA

Fastest 15K

  1. Newnan’s Lake 15K- Gainesville, FL

Mohawk Hudson pic

[View of the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. Fast and scenic.]

Fastest Marathons

  1. Chicago Marathon
  • October 13th 2013
  • Flat, well organized, great weather and a fantastic opportunity to run with over 30,000 other marathoners
  • Masters PR of 2:42:22 in 2013
  • Ran in Saucony Kinvara 3

2.  Mohawk Hudson River Marathon

  • October 13th 2013
  • Point to point, net downhill course. The course follows the river and is very scenic. Smaller race with limited entries. Known as a great one to get a Boston Qualifier.
  • Ran 2:44:02 in 2011
  • Saucony Kinvara 1 or 2 – Can’t remember!

Fastest Half Marathon

  1. Naples Daily News Half Marathon
  • January 19th, 2014
  • Flat, fast. Most of the “Florida’s Fastest” times for Half Marathon are run at this race. Good competition and typically good weather.
  • Running it this year to get a PR!

The BEST Running Shoes

What shoes are the best to run in? Has anyone ever asked you that? My answer is usually, “Lloyd Clarke shoes.”

Lloyd Clarke Sports has their own BRAND of shoes now? No, but as my very small bit of research shows, there is a reason Lloyd Clarke Sports carries so many brands and styles of shoes. I took a quick survey of the runners at our Sunday Run Day training run yesterday. I asked them what shoes they were wearing for the run, why they like them and how many pairs of running shoes they wear during the week.

Altra pic saucony pic

Runners at the Sunday Run Day Group run=             14  [6 women and 8 men]

Most popular Brands:

Saucony                              5

Brooks                                3

Altra                                    1

Asics                                    1

Inov8                                   1

Mizuno                                1

Nike                                     1

Topos                                  1


Most popular style:

Saucony Kinvara               3

Brooks Ghost                     2

Most common reasons they like their shoes

Light                     4

Good Fit               2

Cushioning          2

Color                    2 (notably the 2 who said color was an important factor were both men)

Total pairs of running shoes owned by the group:                39

Average pairs per person:                                                           2.78

Most pairs used by one runner:                                                 5

So what does this tell you as a runner hunting for the best running shoe for your foot? We had 14 runners, 8 different brands and 10 different styles. I think that means your best bet for finding your perfect shoe is a place where they offer a large variety of brands and styles. Try them on. Get professional help in fitting them. Run on a treadmill for a while in them.


Closing notes

I am one of two people with 5 pairs of shoes in my weekly rotation. Partly because I want different shoes for different surfaces or types of training and partly because my shoes are always wet and it is hard to have a dry pair unless I cycle through a few.

My shoes:

Saucony Kinvara               Used for daily mileage, tempo runs or a Marathon race

Inov8 Terrafly                    Trail shoe for long runs in San Felasco

NewBalance 1400            Daily mileage or tempo runs. Very light shoe.

Saucony A5                        Racing flat used for track work or racing

Newton Momentum        Trail shoe for shorter trail runs

Other shoes I’ve owned recently but that are not in my current rotation:

Brooks Pure Flow

Brooks T7 Racer

Saucony Viratta

All stats in case you’re a real geek!

Gender Brand Style Reason

# of pairs

F Altra Torin Comfort, zero drop


M Asics 1160 color


F Brooks Ghost heel support, wide toe box


F Brooks Ghost wide toe box


F Brooks Pure Flow light, comfort


M Inov8 x233 color


M Mizuno Wave Rider good fit, cushioning


F Nike Structure supportive & flexible


F Saucony Kinvara light


M Saucony Kinvara light


M Saucony Triumph Cushion


M Saucony Kinvara light, neutral


M Saucony Ride good fit


M Topos RR Recommended by LC staff


Taking the Mystery out of Running Calculators

Finding the right pace for training runs, track work and tempo runs sometimes seems to be a mystery only known to expert runners and high dollar coaches. Or if you could find the formula, it was in the back of a book by Dr. Jack Daniels and while it all made sense (sort of) you still had to read mice type charts and do some math. I’ll be your trail guide to help simplify and sort of the training pace calculator craziness, twists and turns.

Does it all really matter?

That’s a fair question. It could all be gobbly gook made up by people with PhDs trying to sound smart and make a buck! Just go out and run, run, run, and you’ll eventually get faster- right? Without engaging in PhD gobbly gook, there is a scientific basis for running at certain speeds or effort levels for specified distances or amounts of time to get maximal results from your training. There is more than one way to zero in on the right pace /effort. Heart rate monitor training is great for beginning runners and those with a fetish for statistics. Running by feel works for experienced runners and those who are tuned in to their bodies. Pace calculators are essential for track workouts, race strategy and goal setting. The best system is some combination of these methods that fits your training plan and personality.

Reason #1 to use a running calculator- Measure race performance

Was that 5K when you won your age group your best performance? Or was it that 10K the month before? Or your awesome marathon? Use one of these calculators to compare your performances. According to the McMillan calculator and the USA Track and Field (USATF) Age Graded calculator, my best races have been my 10Ks. My Half Marathon time should be almost a minute faster but my 5K and 15K times are fairly comparable. I can also plug in my times from college and get an age graded score. My college PRs score about 4% higher than my current Masters PRs. So by that measure, I’m getting close to being as good an athlete as I was in college. I’m not running anywhere near the same times but on the age graded scale I can still race my former self! The other major benefit is that it moderates your expectations for a new distance or a race you have not run before. You can plug in your current 5K time and get an idea of a reasonable Half Marathon goal. You should moderate the calculator prediction with what you know about yourself, your training and the race conditions you’ll face (hills, heat etc.) but you won’t go out way too fast for the Half Marathon if you stick with the guidance of the calculator.

[Click on the images below for a larger view]

McMillan page1

USATF page

Reason #2 to use a running calculator- Run the most beneficial training paces

Most runners log regular training runs too fast and do their tempo runs too slow. The track interval paces are all over the map with some going way too fast and some afraid to push the pace. The McMillan calculator and Runworks calculator will give you training paces for various interval distances and types of runs. For me, those paces match up really well with what my coach recommends and with my goal times for various distances.

The way I approach interval work is usually race pace. I’ll run 800s at 5K goal pace for example. Mile repeats would be at 10K goal pace. This is more of a mental exercise but also gets me targeted physically on the right effort level for a race performance. The training principle of specificity! The calculators help me target those paces and get the specific training I need to reach my goals.

McMillan page2

Final Thoughts

Pace calculator tools are useful for planning your training, setting race goals and setting correct effort levels during all types of runs. The four below are some common and well respected ones that I’ve used. They don’t all use the same methodology so the results will be slightly different depending on which one you use. Think of them as guard rails to keep you on track, not exact targets.

Runworks Calculator:

McMillan Running Calculator:

USATF Age Graded Calculator:

Score My Run App for iPhone:

Run for the Pies, Jacksonville, June 16th, 2012


(skip to the summary at the bottom for the important stuff)

The Run for the Pies is a long standing tradition in Jacksonville and despite the warm temperatures usually encountered on a June evening, this is one of the fastest 5K events in the state. Offering free pie to fast runners and free running shoes to really fast runners helps generate a good pack of speedsters up front. The party atmosphere at The Landing draws in the rest of the crowd.

Gainesville runners were well represented. Look down the results in both the “Elite” race and the “Open” race and you’ll see many of our local runners went home with pie! This was my second trip to this race. Last year I ran my best 5K of the year there and I wanted to improve on that performance.

Entering in the Elite race meant that I said I can run sub 17:00 for the 5K. There was no checking up on credentials like a Boston Qualifying standard but running way over the time would mean an embarrassing race. The elite race loops around a few blocks downtown 4 times so the runners getting ready for the Open 5K, all 1,500 of them, can watch and cheer for the racers. Being DAL (ask a runner if you don’t know what that means) in front of a big crowd would not be fun. The Elite women get a head start of 2:30 followed by the men.

The starting cannon gets the race moving and the fast guys wanting free shoes took off at a hard pace. There was a U turn 200 meters into the race and even with a field of 30 runners; you don’t want to be in a thick pack running a U turn. I settled in at the back deciding to avoid the danger. Even at the back the pace was fast. Running in next to last place was not really my plan but there I was, holding onto the back of the group. Just before the 1 milemark several of the lead runners went straight where they should have turned left. I could see the confusion as they swept a big turn to get back into the race. (side note: Run the course before the race you bone heads!)

Mile 1 brought us right by the start / finish area where the crowd was. 5:10 and still in 29th place- next to last. Then it happened. Everyone started to fade. I faded too but not like everyone else. I spent the rest of the race passing runners. Just before Mile 2, I passed a friend who I really wanted to beat. I went by a pack of 6 runners and tried to surge ahead enough to get a cushion.

My focus shifted to the green singlet 10 meters ahead of me. As the gap closed, I heard cheers along the course, “Shawn! Run hard!” and “Go Shawn!” With about 500 meters to go, I finally passed Shawn on a turn. I surged and accelerated off the turn. I didn’t want to be in a sprint with 100 to go. He came back and passed me anyway. I settled in 2 yards back and geared up for another surge. I passed him and thought I had settled it. Nope. On the final turn with 200 to go he pulled even. It is a good thing we pushed each other because what we didn’t see behind us was a younger runner blasting a sprint and gaining ground. I beat Shawn by :02 and the other guy by just :03. Why is it that a 5K hurts more than a half marathon? I was glad to be done!

I found Meredith De Franco in the finish area and a photographer got our picture holding our pies. Meredith also appears with Betsy Suda, (4th woman overall). With a pie in hand and a new Masters PR, I was pleased with the race.

For the Open 5K I jumped in and paced an old friend. He was hoping for a sub 20:00 but ran 20:22. Considering his training is about 25 miles a month, I think he will get it next time with just a bit more preparation. He ran hard and held on even when it hurt so despite missing the time, it was a good step towards him getting fast again.

The post-race party is the main attraction at this event. Complete with live music, a pie eating contest, beer and pizza. There was a big group of Gainesvillians both at the band area and at McCool’s Irish Pub after the race. I also got a chance to lift a beer with my new friend Shawn.

In summary….Race course, Elite Race : 4 stars. How can I give anything less to a course where I ran fast 2 years in a row. I don’t like all the turns but the crowd cheering and the competitive field more than make up for it.

Awards: 5 Stars. PIE! Or shoes if you’re speedy like Meredith, Betsy, Josh, Phil, Mike Hensley, Mike Rosato, Brian, and some other Gainesville fast folks. The Open race also had nice medals. Ask Barry Murphy or Dan Monteau if you want to see one.

Post-Race Party: 5 Stars. One of the best. Get a hotel room with some runner friends rather than driving back to Gainesville after the race.




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