The 12 Standards for Runners: Part 1

I’m re-reading Kelly Starret’s ‘Ready to Run’ at the moment and there’s so much great stuff here that I’m going to share some of it.

Starret teaches a performance-based running system built around restoring muscular balance, natural motion and daily self maintenance. The book is his practical guide to life-long, injury-free running.

There’s 12 standards that need to be meet before someone is ‘Ready to Run’. Over the next few days I’ll summarise them. So get ready for a series of posts that absolutely nobody has asked for (except me!).

Today: Neutral Feet & Flat Shoes

Standard #1: Neutral Feet

A neutral foot position means your foot is straight.

Running with a neutral foot allows for better stability and efficiency of motion. Running with feet in unnatural positions puts more load on joints and connective tissues, causing problems over time. For most people, achieving this standard will take some adjustment. Getting there is made easier in combination with the second standard — the right shoes.

Standard #2 Flat Shoes

Billions of dollars of running shoes are sold every year. For all the marketing and hype there’s scant research to suggest that they help runners in any way. Instead, the cushioned running shoe with a raised heel that was developed in the 80s encouraged a generation of runners to land on the back of their feet (heels) instead of the front —shortening the achilles and reducing natural movement in the process. To test how unnatural that is, try 100 meters barefoot on hard ground and see how quickly your front foot strike returns.

Starret recommends ‘zero-drop’ shoes. No raised heels. And definitely no ‘flip-flops’ (jandals if you’re a kiwi). There are more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in each foot — the most comprehensive motion-control stabilisation system you will find.

There’s a growing number of brands selling zero-drop running shoes but you need to hunt for them. Altra, Merrel, Inov-8 and Zero are some of the better known companies. I’ve tried several. Some, like Vivobarefoot, mimic barefoot running. Merrel seems to be the easiest to find where I am.

Transitioning to zero-drop shoes takes a little time but once you get used to zero-drop runners/shoes going back to standard runners feel unnatural and weird.

This is perhaps the easiest standard to tackle. Go to a shop buy some flat shoes and you’re on the way.

6 thoughts on “The 12 Standards for Runners: Part 1

  1. I had a conversation about this with a friend this week. He went into a store a while ago, and they sold him forest/trail running shoes, but since he runs on sport grounds and/or sandy paths near the river, his feet got problems because his shoes are made for running on soft underground like on forest trails with foliage. He then researched on his own, purchased the right shoes and his problems disappeared.

    You will laugh, but the first year I ran with sneakers. That was when I still wasn’t sure if running would be something for me. And it worked. Beginners don’t have a nice outfit… I didn’t want to pay as I didn’t know if I would continue. So, no matter what clothes, if “running with what you have” can get you interested to continue, it’s a good idea to do so. But then people should really get some gear. The second year I was sure that I liked it and I bought running shoes, shorts, trackies, a belt for smartphone or keys, a belt for a water bottle and so on. That’s when running became even more fun.

    I now have nice equipment but my running shoes are still not perfect. I don’t get problems with them, at least not now. But they feel chunky. I sadly bought Puma running shoes, and I think they’re just advertised as running shoes but like a friend said “Well, they look like shoes you’d wear when going into a club but running?” and he is not wrong lol. I can run very well on them, it’s just that I think they’re still no real running shoes and a bit chunky for that.

    The friend I mentioned has now Asics and he sent me a photo and they look pretty flat too, at least almost… there is still a bit of heel. Another friend suggested me to go to the city and avoid the big stores with brand names… he said none of them are real running shoes. He runs marathons and said there is a tiny niche store in the city where every marathon runner he knows buys their shoes. I always wondered where they get them when I see the marathon in our district, they either have completely blue, yellow or green shoes, with no brand name on it… can’t explain,… no leather, only fabric, also pretty flat with a minimum heel. That friend told me “Yeah, these are those, go to this shop, they are specialized only on running shoes, you can’t find fashion shoes there marketed as running shoes”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those pumas look mighty fine to me mate! I think with anything like this there’s a tendency to get lost in the weeds. If you’ve got shoes that don’t give you blisters you’re golden. The flat shoe idea is more of a long-term strategy that might suit if you’re interested in moving to a front-foot strike. There seems to be anecdotal evidence to suggest that a flat shoe would be better in terms of injury prevention but you’d would have a hard time proving this amongst the countless injuries people get after reading ‘Born to run’ (a great book!) and going to minimalist shoes straight away. I think from an evolutionary point of view at least a flat shoe makes sense and most of them still come with cushioning so maybe they’ll be worth a look when your pumas come to the end of the road. Cheers Dennis

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I am not stressed about this imo. The Puma’s have nice cushioning and I don’t really feel the ground while running. Also no blisters or other trouble. But they definitely have a bit of weight, but I got used to it. Like you said, I will continue to use them and get new ones when they’re run out, probably next year. 🙂

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