Danny Abshire is well versed on the in and outs of running, especially what has become know as “natural” running. Hence the title of his book, Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger, Healthier Running. The book’s coauthor is Brian Metzler, the senior editor of Running Times.
Abshire is the cofounder of Newton Running, the maker of the line of Newton running shoes. He has worked with thousands of runners, from beginners to the Olympic elite, helping them improve their form and technique. Metzler has written about endurance sports for Running Times and other well-known magazines. Both are well versed on running.
The book, starts with a look at the evolution to a running revolution, describes ‘natural running,’ takes the reader through the evolution of our running shoes. From there we go to the lab, where the authors examine running form, the science of motion and gait, the biomechanics of the foot, and the whole-body kinematics of running. Then we look at common running injuries, and what they term ‘natural running in an unnatural world. Then Natural Running gives techniques, drills, and an 8-week transition plan for “… faster, better, healthier running.”
In his Introduction, Abshire says his goal of “Natural Running is about teaching people how to run better, more efficiently, and with fewer injuries. Natural running, for him means running the way your body was meant to run.
I found the book to be informative from cover to cover. I loved the chapter on the evolution of running shoes and how their design over time included more support and cushioning, and how studies on impact forces changed shoes. Abshire tracks the evolution of the shoes from the highly supportive and cushioned shoes to the newer shoes aimed at midfoot or natural running gaits.
The Into the Lab chapter gives a self-analysis check that athletes can use to check for alignment problems, and talks about form flaws.
The Science of Motion chapter describes in-depth the three gaits, walking, running, and sprinting, and how understanding this will help in our transition to natural running.
In Foot Biomechanics, we are given valuable information on the foot, its forefoot, midfoot, and rear foot regions. This then helps us understand the different foot types and imbalances, which in turn helps us understand overuse injuries.
In the Physics of Running, the authors explain the whole-body movement connection. Included is what happens when the foot is level, or the heel or toes are elevated, and how this affects our running as we brake, push off, and bounce through the running process. The chapter ends with a look at how footwear affects form-an important point many have not understood.
The chapter, A New Way to Look at Running Injuries, takes us through six simple steps for injury prevention. This is followed by a discussion of impact, rotational and propulsive forces as we move through the body’s forward motion. Common overuse injuries are described in relation to which of the three aforementioned forces are part of their cause.
Natural Running, Unnatural World takes us through an explanation of our form and awkward deficiencies, and how to correct these faults. Then the last two chapters give us Dynamic Strength and Form Drills and a Natural Running 8-week transition plan.
This is one of the best books on natural running I have seen. Many books have been released on barefoot running and similar topics, but Natural Running is my favorite. I’d start here and read this if you are unsure whether barefoot, forefoot, or midfoot or minimalist running is for you. You will come away with the information you need to make a safe and educated transition to a form of running that can return the fun to running.
Over my years, I have run marathons and ultramarathons. All have been run in the common heavily cushioned shoes that as a 200-pound runner, I believed I needed. Six years ago, I stopped running due to a health condition. I am now able to get back into running and I want to. When I do, I will use this book to run more natural. It makes sense.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of Natural Running at your local running store of book store or Amazon.
As a disclaimer, Abshire is the founder of Newton Running and I own a pair of Newton shoes. When I get back into running, these are the shoes I will use. You’ll be the first to know how I do. The link to Amazon contains my link and if you buy the book there, I earn a few pennies.