They are one of the most frustrating things our customers tell us about when they start running. For some they can be off-putting and make you question who is right; worse still sometimes the mis-information can come from people in a position of authority on the subject; which can be even more confusing!
Never take any advice at face value without at least the reasoning to back it up. If the source of the information can’t explain or justify the advice then take it with a large pinch of salt!
So with that in mind here are the most common running myths we hear about:
1. Barefoot Running Will Fix Your Injuries
Barefoot running started as a trend quite recently and of course as with many new trends you get some militant believers, who assume that because it worked for them it’ll work for everyone! So from this emerged the running myth that barefoot running is the silver bullet that will fix any injury; this simply isn’t the case. Will it work for you? Possibly, but it depends on many factors, in the same way as using biomechanical analysis to ascertain what shoes (either traditional runners or barefoot) may help; but depends on many factors.
In summary, barefoot may or may not help with your injury (statistically it’s unlikely), but this can only be determined with a non-biased opinion, looking at your running biomechanics and taking all other factors into account.
2. Wearing Cotton is Good for Exercising
Another running myth that we hear all of the time is that Cotton must be the best fabric to wear for exercising, because it absorbs sweat. This overlooks the fact that there are two crucial steps in good moisture management. First absorption, secondly evaporation; this is where Cotton almost always falls down.
Cotton is a natural fibre that soaks up moisture and it actually gets into the individual fibres themselves (like a sponge), this makes it very hard for the moisture to evaporate effectively. This is why manufacturers have worked hard for years developing polyesters such as Coolmax® and many others that absorb moisture as well as cotton, but allow it to evaporate very quickly; this encourages sweating and as sweating keeps you cool, that’s a good thing when you’re exercising.
3. You Should Stretch Before Running
Whilst stretching is very important for better running and injury prevention, if you do standard static stretching before running (when not warmed up) you are more likely to cause an injury! Think of muscles like Blu-Tack, if you pull it cold it snaps, if you warm it up slowly it’ll stretch wonderfully. So start with something that will raise your heart rate & blood pressure; then move onto dynamic stretching (stretching whilst moving). Ideal dynamic stretches for running are: walking lunges, kickbacks (jog whilst trying to kick your bum with your heels), walking leg lifts (walk and lift each of your knees up to your chest with each step), crossovers/grapevines (jog sideways whilst alternatively crossing each foot over the other). Save your static stretching for after running, when it will have the most benefit and your body will be sufficiently warm.
4. I wear the outside of my heel so I am a supinator
We meet so many runners that believe that they must be a “Supinator”, because their shoes wear down on the lateral side (outside edge) of their heel; the opposite is normally true! Most people wear the outside of their heel, because that’s the angle at which they initially strike the ground. It’s a combination of this initial contact and what happens after that determines your gait style. Most typical runners strike on the lateral heel and then subsequently pronate (foot falls inwards) due the fact that the foot is at such an angle when it touches down; so it can normally only fall inwards.
Again only a proper biomechanical assessment can establish your actual running gait and therefore the style of shoe that will suit you best.
5. Running Shoes are Expensive
Now this running myth is close to my heart and of course I will be biased, but hear me out! Your average running shoe should give you at least 600-800 reliable running miles; after which time it can still be used as a casual or “kickaround” trainer. During its life it will take somewhere between 850,000 to a million impacts all at 2-3 times your bodyweight. Millions of pounds of R&D go into running shoes every year and most people forget that running shoes are still made by hand; and contrary to popular belief they cost a lot more than “a few quid” to make. So for all this comfort, happiness, health and reliability you pay somewhere in the region of £100.
Lots of people happily spend £3.00 on a cup of coffee twice a week that literally costs pence to make and is gone in minutes; 4 months of this expensive habit and they could have bought a running shoe that’ll last them a year! I know others that happily spend £50 for a nice meal out; which again costs very little to make and lasts an evening. Finally something we see all too often, so many people start out with a very cheap running shoe that they pick up online or from a big sports retailer. They subsequently get an injury that they then have to pay a healthcare professional to treat; they often end up spending a lot more than the cost of a good running shoe just on treatment!
So when thinking about relative value, running shoes offer incredible value for something you’ll hopefully get so much use out of and are an investment in your health and wellbeing.
6. Pronation is Bad
Pronation of the foot is now pretty well known, incase you hadn’t heard, it’s the inwards and downwards roll of the foot that occurs when you walk and run. There are a huge range of anti-pronation shoes on the market and it has been connected to many running injuries; so it’s bad right? Not so fast. Pronation is a natural movement that is present in most people’s walking and running gait, as it allows the bones of the foot to unlock and adapt to the ground below. Excessive pronation can be a cause of injuries, but not always; so before you start the blind quest of eliminating all pronation from your running gait; speak to someone who can analyse your gait and see if you need to.
7. You have to be skinny to run/Running will make you skinny
One barrier to starting running can be that people feel that they aren’t a “runner” or don’t have a “runner’s physique”; this is a misconception. All of the top endurance runners have a very slim frame, that’s because they are at the peak of their game and their body has had to adapt to the consistent extreme running stimulus so it gets lighter and only the necessary muscle groups are developed; fat is almost eliminated and their entire physiology is geared towards running. That is the extreme end of the scale, most runners come in all shapes and sizes, and as we like to say “if you run, then you’re a runner” try telling Usain Bolt that he’s not a runner!! Obviously the heavier you are then the more weight you have to carry and therefore the more effort you’ll expend; but we all have to start somewhere. If you’re worried about getting too skinny, then bare in mind that as long as you consume more calories than you burn you won’t lose weight.
8. Wearing two bras or two pairs of socks is necessary
Both of these running myths emerged from a time when running kit wasn’t as good as it is today; luckily this is now a myth thanks to great developments in running products. So whilst you used to need two bras as old sports bras were not supportive enough and runners used to wear two pairs of socks to help reduce blisters; both of these problems have been solved. Modern running bras have been developed to cater for virtually every size of woman and will provide adequate support for all shapes and sizes. Running socks have actually been selling for over 15 years now that feature two layers to replicate the outdated two pairs rule. The principle remains, but without the risk of the problems associated with wearing two pairs of socks (making shoes too tight, rubbing toes, causing pins and needles, general discomfort).
9. Running ruins your knees
It appears that the common belief that running ruins your knees may actually be a running myth! Researchers from the John Hopkins School of Medicine, USA stated in a recent paper “it appears that long-distance running does not increase the risk of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips for healthy people”, they even went on to say that “Long-distance running might even have a protective effect against joint degeneration” Another study found that the relative load for running isn’t any worse than for walking, because although the peak forces are higher, you take less steps when running. We see a lot of anecdotal evidence on a day to day basis that supports these theories, as we see so many more fit, healthy runners over 60 than ever before and they all run without complaint as long as they have the right shoes and train sensibly.
10. If your shins hurt you have shin splints
Shin pain and shin splints are not the same thing, although many people seem to regard them as the same. Shin pain is one of the most common running injuries, it is most often caused by overuse of the muscles in the lower leg, either through overtraining or due to poor gait function; or a combination of both. This inflammatory condition will eventually go away with adequate rest; it is generally referred to as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS). Shin splints are microfractures to the Tibia bone; normally caused by a development of the above where runners continue to run on painful shins and as a result the muscles start to put further pressure on the periosteum surrounding the bones which in turn causes microfractures to the bone. This can only be correctly diagnosed with X-ray. Sometimes shin splints can be following or followed by compartment syndrome. Shin Splints and compartment syndrome of the lower leg are far more serious conditions and are a lot more debilitating than simple shin pain or MTSS.
So that’s our 10 most common running myths exposed, there are far more going around, but hopefully this will help to clear up the most popular and if you think of any more, why not let us know in the comments by leaving your reply below.