When we run, few of us think about the technique we use or how we are doing it. It is one of those things like breathing that we just seem to ‘know’ how to do and that seems not to require any form of formal tuition.
That isn’t necessarily to say that we can’t learn to improve our running technique, and just as many people are now learning the benefit of improving our posture when sitting at a desk or standing upright (things that we might also think came naturally), so too is it becoming clear that there is much to learn in terms of how we run.
It makes sense when you consider that with a sport like golf you dedicate years to perfecting your golf swing and avoiding injury, and yet most people only look at running in terms of how they can go faster and don’t consider how they can run in a way that will be healthier – even people who run regularly. Largely, even for professional athletes, running is practiced and not taught; and perhaps unsurprisingly injury is commonplace.
What Is the Pose Method of Running?
This is where the pose method of running comes in, and this is a biomechanical technique that aims to teach people to run with a more perfect form so as to prevent sports related injuries and reduce wear and tear. At the same time it claims to be a more energy efficient way of running that can help you to run faster for longer and thereby it can benefit athletes directly as well.
The technique was developed by a Russian scientist and triathlon consultant called ‘Nicholas Romanov’ in the 1970s and was released in 1984. During this time he was tasked with helping to improve athletic training in Russia, but noted that as he increased the work load and attempted to improve fitness and running speed, the athletes tended to break down physically. While they were strengthening their muscles and their cardiovascular fitness, they were paying little heed to their underlying biomechanics and technique and this was what resulted in injury. As a result Romanov proposed a universal running technique that would address these issues and attempt to reduce injury while at the same time improving performance.
The technique has since been adopted with success by the British triathletes Tim Don, Andrew Johns and Leanda Cave, and other athletes such as Haile Gebrselassie and Michael Johnson are said to have naturally developed a similar technique. The scientific community is generally supportive of the technique and studies have demonstrated that it appears to reduce impact on the knees by around 50%. Despite this, many health care professionals remain ignorant of the research and technique and continue to teach the more conventional ‘heel-toe’ method of running.
How to Use the Pose Method of Running
The underlying principle of the pose method of running is that you strike the floor with the ball of the foot first. This is not the technique used by most runners today who instead hit the floor with their heel first and as a result run more upright. In the pose method of running, the individual leans forward so that they are practically falling forward, and then put their foot out just in time to stop them hitting the floor with the ball of the foot first.
Not only does this prevent much of the shock that otherwise jolts through the leg, but it also allows the shape of the foot to cushion and absorb some of the impact while also generating more ‘spring’ for the foot when you push off from it. At the same time it also means that you are more aerodynamic as a result of leaning forward, and you have the added force of gravity helping you to increase your speed. The runner is also this way able to avoid the up and down bobbing that ‘normal’ running creates and that wastes energy. This results in the appearance of the runner ‘falling’ forward while changing their support from one foot to the other in a smooth ‘flow’.
The best way to visualize the pose method of running is to look at the foot shape of a wild cat such as a puma or a leopard (which are very fast – not by coincidence). These animals have a much more pronounced ‘joint’ between the ball of their foot and their heel and they use it much more like a spring – only landing on the padding on the ball of their foot (this is also the only padded area of their foot). By running this way they get more power in each step as their legs are coiled like a spring – and that is what you are trying to imitate.
While many studies support the pose running method, the results are not yet conclusive and it is far from universally accepted. One problem with existing research is that although studies have demonstrated positive results, they have only looked at athletes who have undergone rigorous training in the pose technique. This suggests that they might have improved their muscle support and their running technique from the running training alone – not from the change in technique.
At the same time it is debatable whether a single running technique is better for everyone. When you consider that some runners used this type of running without training, it might be possible that your natural intuition is a better indicator of what works for each individual.
However by looking at examples in the wild, and by thinking logically about where we waste energy when we run – and even by looking at how more primitive tribes run – it is possible to conclude that it is likely at least that this form of running is better for the vast majority of people. Practitioners of barefoot running find that they naturally alter their running style to one that is more similar to pose and this suggests that our bodies have even evolved to run in this manner.
Tips: When trying to learn pose running yourself make sure to research carefully and be dedicated to the method – it is not uncommon for injury to result if you don’t get the method completely right. As the technique has much in common with barefoot running, practicing barefoot running or using Five Finger shoes can be a good way to help yourself learn.