Whether you’re new to running or you’re an old hat like me, you’ve probably heard a lot of common sense wisdom thrown your way in the running community. A lot of these actually turn out to be running myths And on today’s episode of Runner’s High, we’re going to get into this.
If you haven’t been here with me on the channel before, I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I like to call Runner’s High. And today we’re going to talk about running myths. Now, you may have heard a lot of things and some of them are well-intentioned things you’ve heard from other runners, but not all of them are actually what you should be listening to.
The problem here is that we like to listen to things, they sound good, we repeat them, but we don’t actually check the veracity of them. So, here’s going to be six running myths that really need to be debunked and just thrown out.
Myth number one, forefoot running is the best. Now, if you’ve been on this channel for any amount of time, and if you haven’t, hit that subscribe button, stick around, check out some other videos. You know, I talk about running form from time to time. I’ve actually done a little bit of analysis on myself where I went out, shot some video, came back, kind of do slo-mo, and talk about what’s going on.
Now, I have moved to a four midfoot kind of strike after I adjusted my running. I had very awkward and injury-prone running tendencies for a long time in my career. So, the switch has been good for me. But that does not necessarily mean that forefoot striking is the best thing for everyone. And it comes in kind of a different variety of, I want to say facts and figures and research. But the large thing here is that it doesn’t matter where you strike so much as that your foot is underneath your body.
There’s a bit of research that shows if you’re not running anywhere near like a five-minute mile then anything less than forefoot striking, midfoot, or heel can be more efficient potentially than that forefoot striking. I think that has to do in part with the extra stabilization and because when you are struggling with mid or heal, then you’re going to have longer ground contact time.
And ground contact time is related to your speed. One of the guests on the Smart Athlete Podcast, my other show on this channel, talked all about ground contact time. He did a whole series of research articles for me. So, I’ll link to the episode with Marco here at the end of this episode. But know that you do not have to forefoot strike.
And I will emphasize that in that running video that I did on my running form here on the channel, that it’s about striking underneath you because what comes along with heel striking and why I try to advocate against it is that there’s often a raised amount of injury or a greater risk of injury because your heel striking. And that is because when you heel strike, often, that means that you’re putting your foot out in front of you and braking.
And this braking motion jars your skeletal system, it jars your muscular system, all these kind of things, it leads to potential injuries. So, that’s myth number one. Forefoot striking is not the best way to go. But it is important to land underneath your body underneath your center of gravity, so that you can not end up with all those injuries that you’re potentially going to get from that heel striking.
Right along those lines, running myth number two, and I guarantee you’ve heard this from a well-intentioned family member. I know I’ve heard it, I don’t know how many times, and that is running destroys your knees. This is not the case in the slightest. Now, let me give you a caveat here because I got my father in running and he was in his late 50s, early 60s when I got him into running.
And he actually did end up kind of messing up his knee from running. Now, that being said, my father has terrible running form and does what I mentioned previously and smashes his heels into the ground very, very, very hard. He’s not even a particularly large guy, but he has a very aggressive running style is what I would describe it as, and ended up having an injury.
Now, that can also be related to age, he’s in his late 70s now. So, you know, those things can be related. But running does not necessarily destroy your knees. A repetitive impact to your skeletal system certainly can. But again, when you have that running form, when you have that kind of forward lean, you have that strike underneath you, under your center of gravity going on, all of those things are not going to lead to destroyed knees.
On the contrary, I’ve actually seen plenty of studies, and this was first prompted by one of my coaches in college, his name was Doc, a retired economics professor. He brought this study to us and basically said, don’t worry about people saying, hey, your knees are going to be destroyed, because there’s evidence, it actually can help your knees be stronger later in life.
And now, let’s think about why is that. If there’s these two outcomes where you can potentially destroy them, or you could potentially end up with better knees, how does that work? Well, as mentioned, with destroying your knees, if you have that bad form, your heel striking out front, you’re jarring that skeletal system and creating this impact over and over and over again, that’s going to lead to potential deterioration in your skeletal system.
But what we know is that tendons, ligaments, all those kinds of things, they grow stronger with repetitive impact that isn’t, I’ll say concussive, but it isn’t going to be damaging enough to lead to tears. So, you actually have to take time for those things to get stronger, for your muscles to grow stronger, and to not have those be a weak point.
But putting that repetitive impact, a light repetitive impact, which is what running is because we have up to nine times our body weight on every impact during a run cycle every step, that kind of impact forces our body to adapt. And that adaptation can lead to those joints, ligaments, tendons, all those things being stronger and more reliable over time, if we’re not treating them in such a way that they’re going to break. So, that’s what I come back to, running form is important.
Again, with myth number one, not necessarily forefoot running. I know all about that. That’s a story for another day about switching from heel to forefoot and injuries and all that kind of thing. But having that good form where you are landing underneath your body is going to contribute to better knee health over time versus destroying your knees like that well-intentioned family member wants to tell you about.
Myth number three, and I am very susceptible to this as well and that myth is you can eat anything. Now, if you started running like me when you were young, I started when I was 12. And if you want to talk recreational sports
And if you couple that with running, you have this very high caloric intake where you just start trying to pile things in your mouth as much as you can because you need so many calories. So, it seems like you can eat absolutely anything. But now ask early 30s me, that is simply not the case. And I probably could have benefited myself earlier on had I taken more time to try to get a better diet going on, getting more nutrients, all those kind of things.
The thing is that calories in calories out is basically an equation that we can’t overcome. If you eat anything that means the likelihood that you’re eating junk food because you’re saying I can eat anything goes up, right? That’s our tendency. We like sweets, we like treats, I certainly do. And if you eat those things, they’re often more calorie-dense, which means you’re probably going to tend towards taking in at least break even or too many calories, which in turn means you’re going to put on body fat and slow down.
Ask how I know. I’m in the cycle of trying to go the opposite direction right now. The thing is that we can eat more than the average bear. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we can eat absolutely anything, and it’s not optimal to eat absolutely anything because our bodies need a lot of nutrients, need a lot of nutrition, all those kinds of things.
Now, I’m not a registered dietician, but I have spoken to a number of them. Subscribe to the channel if you’re still here with me. On the Smart Athlete Podcast, check those out, Smart Athlete Podcasts season two. The first one that comes to mind is Sarah Schlichter. She specializes in runners specifically and focuses on intuitive eating. Which is kind of a nice listen to your body’s way of figuring out hey, you know, I actually do want the vegetables now. Cake is maybe not the best option. So, know that no, you cannot eat absolutely anything. But we do have a little more latitude because we burn a few more calories than somebody who’s just sitting around all day.
Number four, and this is one of my personal pet peeves. There is a best running shoe. I’m just going to say it straight out, this is bullshit. And anybody who tells you there’s a best running shoe is out of their minds, and they don’t know what they’re talking about.
There simply is not a single best running shoe. Anybody who reviews shoes, and is worth their weight in salt or gold, depending on where you are, and I guess what period of history you’re in, whatever is more valuable, they will know that there’s no single one best running shoe. I actually kind of find it silly in some ways that there are shoe reviewers and there are a single identity person who says I review all shoes. Because my experience with all shoes is going to be different from your experience with the same shoes.
Because we have different bodies, we have different needs with our gaits, we have different mileage requirements, we have different comfort levels. All of these things lead to it being basically impossible to have a single shoe for everyone. Not to mention, our feet are different shapes. That’s why there’s different shaped shoes. It’s called a last, which is basically the foot form they build a shoe on. But that leads to different shapes of those because we have different shaped feet. I worked in a shoe store for a number of years fitting shoes for people who run and people with medical conditions. So, I saw the gamut of needs in the shoe department. And I guarantee you there was not a single one best shoe.
And people will come in, I worked for a particular brand store. And they’d say, tell me why this brand is the best brand. And I would say every single time, it’s not. It’s not. Even when I worked there, right. I’m not sure whether the owners like that or not. But I wanted to be honest. It’s not. It may be the best brand for you but it’s not necessarily the best brand. That’s why there’s so many shoes.
No one product works for everybody. That’s something I experienced here with Solpri. The products we make, we do our best to make them great for as many people as we can. But we know no matter what we make, no matter what category we’re in, no one solution is perfect for everybody, and that is shoes included. So, I’ve got plenty of videos on shoes. If you want to know more about shoes, hit that subscribe button, do a little search on the channel, I’ve got lots of shoe videos talking about how they fit and all that kind of stuff to help you find the right shoe for you. But let’s get on to our next running myth.
Myth number five, good runners or fast runners are skinny. Now, this is pervasive, right? Because typically, fast runners are going to be lean, right? And then we often see very skinny thin runners because there’s this idea that if you’re lighter then you’re faster, this is largely the case, but it is not absolute. And there are very notable exceptions to this rule.
Now, I am not a world-class runner. I never have been. But I was in the top 1%, which is, you know, I think it’s even sub 17 is the top 1%. But I was going sub 16 in college towards the end of my career, weighing mid 150s. And then even I hit my PR in the low to mid 160s for my height. I’m 5”10. Whereas the “ideal body weight” for that height is somewhere around 140, like 20 pounds less. Now, how could I do this? Why is it possible? In part because it’s a power to weight ratio configuration.
Some people are going to have that naturally leaner body type and be fast at that body type. But there’s more of the kind of medium build that exists and is going to be fast as well. If you want a great example of this, some of you probably know who is maybe a US running legend. Let’s think about this. Steve Prefontaine, right? He was not a skinny, skinny guy.
He was pretty muscular compared to his competitors. And he dominated. Now it is an N equals one case study kind of situation just to say hey, Steve, or in my case, hey, me. Although we’re in very, very different games. Just like we’re not even playing the same game. He’s so much faster than I’ve ever been. But there are more and more people coming out that are saying hey, this game of trying to be absolutely as small as possible is just not working. It’s just not healthy. And it leads to breakdowns.
Another US running legend, Ryan Hall kind of went through this. He kept his weight down for so long it threw his testosterone into the toilet. And he ended up just basically destroying himself trying to be as light as possible to be as fast as possible. Was there another path for him? I don’t know. You know, I don’t know that I’m a coach enough to say for sure. I don’t know
Ryan well enough and the whole situation well enough to say, absolutely, there was a better way. I’d love to talk to him sometime. Maybe I can get him on the podcast, and talk to him about that situation. But it’s a good example of how focusing solely on being skinny can lead to devastating results. And it does not necessarily mean that you end up faster. because he ended up with a series of injuries that led to him just being unable to continue the mileage he was at.
So, let’s go on to our last running myth for the day. This last running myth is probably the most pervasive and especially among young new runners and that’s carbo-loading the night before a race is a must-do. It is absolutely not a must-do. And actually can potentially lead to negative consequences for the next day if you’ve eaten too much, and you can digest it all. The go-to here really is going to be if you want to carbo-load, which isn’t necessary if you have a good diet all the time.
You’re eating while you’re eating enough, which was my problem for a long time, I wasn’t eating enough. And that’s a problem that many, many people who run experience. That’s like the number one problem that as I mentioned earlier, Sara Schlichter, that Registered Dietitian who focuses on runners, she notices that so much if you’re not eating enough.
So, if you’re eating enough during the week, you’re eating a variety of nutrients, you probably do not need to carbo-load the night before a race to get the best out of you. What you’re going to do is taper to try to get the best because then your body’s going to be rested. But you already have all the nutrients you need. When you carbo-load, you probably don’t have the time to really digest all of those carbs and turn them into glycogen. It’s really the days leading up to it.
So, I recommend personally, if you’re going to carbo-load, and I don’t suggest eating more than you normally would. Don’t stuff yourself. But if you want to have pasta or something, do it two, three days before. That way your body has time to digest, absorb and put that glycogen stores into your muscles to be used for race day, instead of carbo-loading the night before giving yourself eight hours to try to convert that all into usable energy and not feel sick the day of the race.
So, are there any other running myths you can think of? Or pervasive ideas people have told you that you’re just not sure are true? Leave them in the comments below. I’d love to see them. I’ll link to that episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast I mentioned earlier here on the screen coming up shortly. And as always, I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.