"4 Common Running Myths Debunked"

You’ve been lied to! All runners listen up! The amount of myths swirling around the running community is mind boggling. Have you ever been told running is bad for your joints, you need a long mileage training program to succeed in a marathon, or stability shoes & orthotics are the only way to “fix” your fallen arches? Or my all-time favorite, don’t strength train because you’ll “bulk up” and lose all of your running gains.

Today’s blog is all about debunking the most common myths in the running world. Let’s begin!

Myth #1 : “Running is bad for your joints”

Let me save you a lot of time and hard work. There is no definitive research that demonstrates running is bad for your joints, and on the contrary many studies have shown that good old fashioned weight bearing exercise (running/walking) promotes joint health. That knee pain or hip pain you have isn’t caused by running on pavement. Running with inefficient technique and limited hip strength is often the source of your aches & pains. It’s all about how you make contact with the ground & your ability to maintain strong hip control while running.

Myth #2: “Running in ultra cushioned shoes will reduce my injury risk”

Perhaps the biggest myth of all. Running in ultra-cushioned shoes, stability shoes, and using shoe inserts will not protect you. This aligns with Myth #1 in that it’s all about the way you make contact with the ground. If you over-stride, have limited hip strength, or a slow cadence you’re going to be more susceptible to injury. That pillow you have strapped to your foot isn’t going to save you! Running in ultra-cushioned shoes limits proprioception (sensation) to the foot, which limits feedback up the kinetic chain for adequate hip control. Don’t believe me? Try this. Go barefoot to start. First stand on one leg on a flat surface for 30 seconds, then place a pillow or foam pad on the ground and hold for 30 seconds. So which one is easier? That pillow or foam pad represents the thick foam padding you have between you and the ground while running, which allows your foot, ankles, & hips to be lazy leading to potential injury.

I think the most unfortunate part of this myth is that shoe companies have cashed in on it! They’ll have you believe you need to change running shoes every 500 miles since cushioning can break down, or the new state of the art cushioned/stability shoe is what you need. Why do you think they make these recommendations? It’s so you’ll go out and buy more shoes! I ran 3 years and logged over 1,500 miles in one pair of shoes. The only reason I bought new shoes is because the tread was literally falling off. Don’t fall prey to the nonsense and hype. Focus on strength training and technique to become a more resilient runner. Understand that I’m not a complete minimalist footwear fanatic, there’s a time and place for everything. In further posts we’ll educate you on how to safely transition to minimalist footwear.

Myth #3: “Running high mileage will make me a better runner”

The truth is running slow, plodding, “junk” miles often leads to regret. Most recreational runners find themselves burnt out and injured with this methodology. Unfortunately this leads them to feed into the myth that running is inherently bad for you and leads many to giving up on it entirely. The lack of strength training in the running community, especially among novice runners has led to an epidemic, with injury rates cited to be as high as 90%! That’s 9/10 runners that will get injured this season! We need to consider lifestyle and current running level when it comes to programming.

Elite runners devote their entire life to running. They have adequate time to train, recover, and continue performing at peak performance. The stay at home mom with three kids usually doesn’t have that luxury. A traditional long mileage program won’t work for them. Many of the novice runners I work with say they don’t even have time to warm-up before they run, let alone devote time to strength training. My best advice, cut your total weekly mileage down. Use that extra time to warm-up/cool down appropriately and devote at least 1-2 days/week to strength training!

Myth #4: “Lifting weights will cause me to bulk-up & run slower”

In fact multiple research articles have cited heavy strength training increases VO2 max output (maximum amount of O2 a person can utilize during intense exercise) for improved aerobic capacity. This means improved endurance for running! Strength training sets that utilize 5-8 repetitions with heavy weight have been shown to improve stride length, power output, & improved running economy. Many runners incorporate light weight or body weight strength movements with high repetition ranges (10-15 reps) into their regimen to avoid “bulking up”. Ironically this rep scheme is actually considered “hypertrophy” (muscle growth) training and typically leads to increased muscle bulk.

Utilize heavy strength training, performing foundational movements like the squat, hip hinge, & lunge to enjoy the benefits of strong, injury free running. We’ll have much more related to strength training for runners in future posts!

There you have it! I hope you don’t feed into the many myths that plague our running community. Start implementing these concepts and enjoy a long career of strong, injury free running!

-Ryan Godfrey, PT, DPT