After much deliberation and certainly no shortage of cajoling from Malcolm Balk I have decided to release the Running article from the forthcoming Active Issue[3.9] prior to publication. Due to my inability to publish the entire issue in the immediate future, Balk asked if I might let one cat out of the bag early. His.
However, this peek inside the new issue comes with a condition.
As the entire world will be able to read an article from a journal that only subscribers normally would, I have created a small hurdle to ensure you are seriously interested. Here's hoping I don't upset the subscribers too much.
Below is the first half of the article.
The second half can be obtained after contributing to the following topic:
Name 3 new initiatives Direction Journal could use to generate income.
Write your answers in the comments section below this post, make sure you include your email address so that I can send you the rest of the article. Or, if you don't want your email made public contact me here.
BALK, BAREFOOT AND BEYOND
by Paul Cook
A revolution is underway in running. Passionate debate fueled by clever marketing and injured runners looking for answers has this billion-dollar industry in turmoil. Malcolm Balk is unflustered. As a running teacher who focuses on the coordination of the whole human form, shoes rate low in his process of getting runners back on the track and enjoying the game more. In this article we bring the current scientific examination of shoe design, load and impact studies into a discussion on the art of running and ask the question: does cold, hard science really have the answer for injury prevention in runners?
From Hip to Knee
For two years Sally endured hip pain in her running. No amount of physiotherapy or weight-bearing exercise changed her situation. Eventually a scan solved the riddle destroying the prior diagnosis of a “torn hip”. A stress fracture in the head of her femur was found to be the culprit sidelining her immediately. But there was no mystery or necessity for this outcome according to Malcolm Balk a running and Alexander technique teacher in Montreal.
Completing five marathons before 30 and sporting the usual annual injury count, Balk knows the runner’s habit well. It wasn’t until looking back after ten years injury-free that he realized his Alexander training had influenced his mentality indirectly and saved him from the plight of millions of runners. Reportedly 37-56% of runners suffer an injury annually  and everything from taping joints to orthotics and expensive shoes are prescribed as the solution. In Sally’s case, being advised to tape a knee that was “bothering her” by a physiotherapist allowed her to continue running, but it seems logical to blame this advice as a contributing factor to the hip injury. According to Balk, runners get signals from their body early, but most often they ignore the signs until a major injury stops them completely. Sally’s story is no different as Balk recounts,
She said, “Well, you know, it’s funny. Just before I got injured, my knee was bothering me.” This is not a high-level athlete, but she’s a competitive person. She’s in management and she’s driven a bit, and she said, “So, what I did was I taped my knee before every practice. Even some physios showed me how to tape it.” I said, “Well, did that change the way that you run a little bit?” She said, “Well, I didn’t really notice.” But she says all of a sudden, out of the blue, boom! “I’ve got this hip pain.” I said, “Well, there’s the example. You had the knowledge. You just didn’t act on it.”
When Sally and other recreational runners visit a physiotherapist with pain, why would they question the advice to support their joints so that they can continue doing what they love? Drawing on his years of running experience and training as an Alexander teacher, Balk approaches these problems from a different angle.
Running at Any Cost
Listening to your body and becoming sensitive to the signs is not something new to an Alexander teacher. For runners wanting to “get back on the track” as soon as possible sold on the technology of shoe design that allegedly supports various forms of foot structure and running technique, there’s little surprise that injuries are the single most discussed topic amongst recreational runners.
In one sentence Balk sums up the mindset needed for longevity, “If you listen to the whispers, you may not have to hear the screams.” He posits that runners can achieve their goals 99% of the time if they run without pain. He’s not talking about the pain that every person has felt in the first few minutes of a workout that is your body adjusting to the exertion, he means the “injury-type pain”, the nagging discomfort that doesn’t go away that every runner knows. As he explains,
There other kinds of pain that are just persistent. They’re like a steady “listen to me, listen to me, listen to me” and a lot of time, runners ignore those. All of a sudden, boom! Now, you’ve got Achilles tendinitis and you’re out. Now, you’ve got plantar fasciitis and you’re out. Now, you’ve got a stress fracture and you’re gone.
The single most important factor a runner needs to consider is that when they’re not training, they’re getting worse and according to Balk,
…if you backed off you might have been able to not go over that tipping point. So, even if you train a little less hard, but you’re more persistent and consistent with it…actually you’ll get there sooner than the person who has to keep taking time out because of injury.
Another client with a niggling groin injury that he had noticed for six weeks looked to Balk for direction. At 61, his normal routine was to run at a heart rate of 140. Balk suggested he reduce this and see what difference it made. The results were telling,
I said, “Okay, you’re going to run 70% of your heart rate or less.” Anyway, we ran 18 kilometers, including some accelerations in the last 15 minutes. And he came and he said, “I didn’t have one problem today with my groin and I think it’s because I didn’t go out as fast as I usually do.”
But for people who don’t have the ears to listen so-to-speak, what do they do? Perhaps they drop into their physio for the bad news or some advice. Perhaps they pay a visit to their local shoe shop, hoping that some new technology under the hoof might help. It is here that the story becomes even more complicated, not to mention clouded by marketing and recent passion for the natural running argument. Otherwise known as barefoot running, the past five years has seen many questions being asked of the billion dollar shoe industry—their science and perhaps their negligence of the human foot.
Proving the Unproveable
Biomechanical science has been funded with an open cheque-book by shoe manufacturers over the past few decades in an effort to understand the dynamics of gait, and therefore gain an advantage in the marketplace. A randomized control trial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in June 2010, co-authored by Nike’s head of biomechanical research, Gordon Valiant, uncovered the fallacy of much information in the shoe industry. Apart from the unforgiving conclusion to the study that stated “prescribing in-shoe pronation control systems on the basis of foot type is overly simplistic and potentially injurious”,  the general advice from lead author Michael Ryan was,
If a salesperson says you need robust motion-control shoes, ask to try on a few pairs of neutral or stability shoes, too. Go outside and run around the block in each pair. If you feel any pain or discomfort, that’s your first veto. Hand back those shoes. Try several more pairs. There really are only a few pairs that will fit and feel right for any individual runner. My best advice is, turn on your sensors and listen to your body, not to what the salespeople might tell you. 
Best selling author of Born to Run—harbinger of the barefoot movement—Chris McDougall makes no secret of his disrespect for the shoe manufacturing machine and his July 2010 blog post entitled, “Breaking news from Nike: We’ve been talking a lot of crap, and selling it” twists the knife a bit further.
Putting conspiracy theories aside for the sake of science, there is a revolution afoot and within an industry that generates such huge dollar sums it seems that the motivation to get to the truth is being fueled by a passionate band of runners that are helping to redesign the humble shoe. While the majority of our past as humans was spent unshod, in the past century our appetite for devices that “interface” between foot and ground continues to grow.
Despite the investment being made by the shoe industry, one biomechanical scientist says that the entire paradigm is faulty. Benno M. Nigg has been employed by many large shoe manufacturers in his 40-year career but it’s his recent self-published book Biomechanics of Sport Shoes that blows all the myth and marketing apart. Wherever the runner lands—heel or forefoot, wears inserts or specially prescribed shoes for their particular gait pattern or runs barefoot there are no correlations to injury.  According to Nigg the assumption that padding is beneficial between feet and earth for runners is simply that, an assumption.
Without evidence that higher impact forces cause greater injury rates, studies such as those published by the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2009 of eight experienced barefoot runners appear aimless. Their findings that “compared to the standard shod condition when running barefoot, the athletes landed in more plantarflexion at the ankle. This caused reduced impact forces and changes in stride kinematics.” 
Will this hot new debate kill the standard sport shoe? Pete Larson, industry writer probably puts it best,
Your body evolved to run long distances, and it evolved to do so barefoot. The realist in me knows that most people will likely never run barefoot, so if that's not your thing, look for as little shoe as you can handle and still run comfortably. Your body will let you know if it's happy, be mindful and listen. 
Nike while sitting on the cutting edge, curiously, are drawing blood from their very own health claims. For now, the rush is on to be the better progenitor of foot health solutions and there is little more than anecdotal evidence to support even the latest fad of running with a thin layer of Kevlar under your feet. The best advice resides in a borrowed coinage; if the shoe fits wear it.
From rocker soles to Vibram Five Fingers[R] runners are now faced with an even more diverse choice at the shoe store if 10 brands and 25 derivative pairs of conventional runners wasn’t enough already. So where does the confusion leave a runner who notices that their body just isn’t performing the way they want it to on the track?
The Balk Ease Solution
Balk talks in terms of ease. It seems the world’s most respected biomedical scientist agrees. Nigg’s reply to questions about his suggested new paradigms are succinct, “There is no study that documents that impact forces are the reason for short and/or long term injuries/problems.” On the efficacy of shoe and orthotic technology he is even more direct, “we know that the running program and the time for recovery are much more important.”
If particular shoe prescriptions have no effect on pain or injury prevention outcomes then Balk is not only in the sweet spot of providing an answer and immune from the shoe debate. He’s also able to avoid all manner of controversy that rages within the barefoot revolution and therefore stands to capitalize. His teaching stands on the foundation of decades of injury-free running and a hefty contribution from two-time Olympic coach, Nicholas Romanov, the inventor of Pose Method. He recalls his first introduction,
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