I've said many times
that running faster is safer and causes less injury than running slower. From
the beginning, my rationale has been that slow running, or "jogging,"
is an unnatural gait that, because it is so unnatural, puts strain on the body
while you run. Awkward movements tend to be riskier than intuitive, natural
movements, and thus put the runner at greater risk of injury.
Now, Runner's World magazine summarizes recent physiological research that finds slower running makes stress fractures more
likely. The reason isn't the "unnaturalness" of the gait, per se, but rather the fact that slow running
corresponds to higher ground contact times. Higher ground contact times
correspond to more frequent stress fractures. Here's how the article puts it:
The researchers found that it wasn’t running at fast speeds that causes the most tibial load. In fact, it was the slowest-paced running that resulted in the most strain. That’s because when the runners went easy, they took shorter strides, and thus were on the ground more often than when they were going fast. That meant that there was more opportunity for impact, since the runners were hitting the ground more often.
Running at a normal, or moderate, pace actually caused less cumulative tibia load than running the same distance in fast or slow speeds.
Everywhere I go,
people try to tell me that running is bad for bones, joints, and ligaments. The
research, however, is absolutely clear. High impact exercise, like running,
increases bone density; running strengthens the ligaments and attached muscles,
too, making them more durable and less prone to age-related atrophy. And
runners experience no greater incidence or severity of joint degeneration
compared to non-runners. Every argument against running as a supposedly
"dangerous" or "harmful" form of exercises has been
exploded by science.
researchers consistently find that fast and natural running gaits minimize the
risk of running-related injury for runners of all ability levels. The bottom
line is clear: If you take the time to learn how to run properly, it is an
extremely safe and healthy activity; perhaps even one of the healthiest.
And the great thing
is, running is cheap and accessible to anyone. Unlike other endurance sports
like cycling, would-be runners don't need to invest thousands or even hundreds
of dollars in running before getting started. There is not much in the way of required
equipment. A $25 pair of Payless running shoes and some Wal-Mart workout
clothes can get you going in under $50 of overhead. And if you already own a
smart phone, then you already have all the technology required to enjoy some of
the deeper and geekier aspects of running, such as GPS tracking and social
Now might be a good
time to remind readers that you can access my Strava profile via the
"How's My Pace?" box on the right-hand panel of this blog (add me!);
you can access my SmashRun
profile and get one of your own at this link; you can access my
Garmin profile and join one of my Garmin groups here. I'll
also add these links to the About Me page for ease of future access.