Calgary International Running Symposium

Over the past week, Marc See (Front Runner Physiotherapist) and I were privileged to head across the globe to hear from the world’s preeminent running and biomechanics experts at the 2014 International Running Symposium.

Typically held every 2 years, this symposium in particular was loaded with running experts due to the retirement of one of their own, Dr. Benno Nigg from Calgary. As Benno has spent the better part of the past 30 years researching the biomechanics of running and running footwear, this was to be the focus of the symposium – an exciting prospect for Marc and I who are both running and footwear junkies!


The conference proceedings were broken into two themes, with speakers either invited to present a lecture on recent research they had produced as well as specialist “Panel Discussions”, where experts were grouped together to discuss controversial topics that included; Running Injuries, Running Performance, Industry and Barefoot Running. As you would expect, we learnt a lot from these two days. It was both reassuring to hear themes of research that either consolidated or refreshed what you have learned before or have been presenting currently, as well as having your mind opened up to new themes that will allow us to continue to ensure you are in the best position possible to give advice to our fellow runners and clients.

Both Marc and I will be writing some more detailed blogs over the coming days on some particular topics of interest, but please see below for a general feel of what we took away from the symposium. • Injury prevention is as much about indexing your recovery as well as your training loads

• Genetics does play a large role in whether you will get injured when commencing your running training – pick your parents wisely! 😉

• The number one cause of running injuries is and always will be, training errors! To quote one of the speakers, if you get injured the three things that would have caused that injury are training errors, training errors and you guessed it – training errors! Other factors will come into play to determine when the threshold for injury occurs (some runners will be able to take more load than others) but the injury will only surface when something in your load was altered or increased at a rate that the body could not sustain.

• Your threshold for injury is time dependent and WILL change over time. • Variability is the key! Injury risk will be lowered if you increase the subtle variance in which load enters your body by allowing more movement patterns to be accounted for. Think multiple shoes, change in running surface, change in training volume and intensity and spread these changes out so you’re not changing all these as once. • Fine changes in footwear conditions (e.g. midsole hardness) can alter some biomechanical variables on your technique, however this will not affect your injury potential

• Gross changes in footwear conditions (e.g. from a volume trainer to either minimal or maximal footwear options) will not change the amount of load entering your body but will load different tissues in different ways in different people • Runners have a large disconnect with how they think they are moving and how they actually are moving! Do you know how you strike the ground?

• Females are by far the dominant recreational runners worldwide

• Footwear selection for performance is very individual: factors such as shoe comfort and cushioning properties (0.7%), bending stiffness (1%) and actuator lugs (1%) can all individually increase your running performance if the shoe matches your running characteristics

• The Cushioning effect of shoes is very real. Shoes are cushioned for a reason and allow a subsequent increase in running performance (2-4%) to be realized – if your shoes are too old you will lose this subsequent effect.

I could go on at length here but there is one point that I think summed up the talks quite well and ironically it did not come from a running biomechanics researcher, rather a controversial Evolutionary Biologist from Harvard. “Everything in life (including running) involves trade-offs from an evolutionary perspective”. Running is a skill, thus people will learn and adapt to this skill better than others but we will always have trade-offs where developing the skill of running will reduce other skills reaching their capacity. This is the same as within the facets of running as well.

We look forward to sharing more detailed thoughts in the days to come.

Running Regards,

Ben Green B.Sc (Hons)

Exercise & Health Level 3 AA Distance Coach