February 23, 2023

Warning! Super shoes could cause foot injuries

This new paper raises a question of major interest to today’s runners and coaches: If someone wears super shoes in training and racing, are they more likely to get injured? Since the paper is authored by some of the top running injury experts in the U.S., it’s important.

But first, let’s be careful about what the experts are presenting here.They’re not offering any data at all, and they’re not claiming that super shoes increase injury risk. Instead they’re discussing “a possible association between bone stress injuries and carbon fiber plate footwear.” This isn’t much different from discussing the fact that running of any kind in any footwear (or without) causes injuries.

Basically the paper presents a handful of case studies of “highly competitive” junior-age track runners and older road runners who “developed acute pain during or after running in carbon fiber plate” shoes. The pain came from navicular stress injuries the runners developed. (The navicular bone is located in the midfoot area.) The authors also argue that “it is plausible that shoes with compressive foam midsoles” could lead to such injuries.

They conclude by noting that special “strategies may be required to reduce risk of injury due to altered foot and ankle mechanics” of those wearing super shoes. They wish to “raise awareness on possible health concerns around the use of carbon fiber plate footwear” and “to suggest a slow gradual transition from habitual to CFP footwear.” More at Sports Medicine (free full text).

How to perform your best under pressure

The ability to perform optimally under pressure is critical across many occupations, including the military, first responders, and competitive sport. It’s kinda the name of the game, after all. Whether you're aiming for the Olympics, a Boston Marathon qualifier, or your first 5K finish, you gotta pull your game together on race day. 

To learn how successful athletes do this, a research team gathered together 68 experts from four main fields: the defense industry, competitive sports, high-stakes civilian life, and performance neuroscience. The experts then began discussing their top beliefs, eliminating those that did not have broad support, and holding onto those that did.

Eventually, they whittled things down to 10 major factors: (1) Attention; (2) Cognitive Control—Performance Monitoring; (3) Arousal and Regulatory Systems—Arousal; (4) Cognitive Control—Goal Selection, Updating, Representation, and Maintenance; (5) Cognitive Control—Response Selection and Inhibition/Suppression; (6) Working memory—Flexible Updating; (7) Working memory—Active Maintenance; (8) Perception and Understanding of Self—Self-knowledge; (9) Working memory—Interference Control, and (10) Expert-suggested—Shifting.

They seemed particularly intrigued by (8) Self-knowledge, because nearly everyone agreed about its importance, but it has been little studied by researchers. This means there’s potential for future research on self-knowledge that “could change the landscape of the performance field.” More at Frontiers in Psychology.

Should women train different than men?

It’s a good and important question, and one for which a good answer does not exist at present. The paper published below makes a modest first step. It looks specifically at female vs male ultra runners, but the main points could be extended to any endurance training.

First point: Women are not men, and most training studies have investigated male response to training. Second, women are known to be different from men in a number of key areas: size, strength/muscle, menstrual cycles, bone stress and athlete triad, oxidative response, and perhaps superior fatigue resistance.

Thus: “When considered as a whole, the body of research currently suggests that sex-specific recommendations and guidelines could improve performance and health outcomes in female ultramarathon runners.” Unfortunately, there’s not enough evidence to actually formulate different training guidelines. That will depend on future research. However, the evidence base is currently insufficient to formulate such guidelines, and further research that recognizes sex as an important bivariate measure is required. More at Sports Medicine-Open (free full text).

If you’re interested, here’s a deep review of male vs female differences in strength, endurance, and much more. It concludes that men become “notably stronger than female subjects around age 15,” that the biggest differences are in the upper body, but women “experience greater relative strength improvements” and lower muscle injury rates. More at Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (free full text). 

Also, an Australian woman, Erchana Murray-Bartlett, ran a marathon a day for 150 days. That’s real endurance. More at Canadian Running.

Largest study ever concludes exercise good for depression

We all know that we feel better and more energized after running, and we have all read that vigorous exercise can reduce the effects of depression--a major mental health issue affecting 300 million people worldwide. But is this really true? And how strong is the effect of exercise on depression?

A new paper presents itself as the most thorough to date, consisting of a “systematic review and meta-analysis with meta-regression.” It reviewed the effect of exercise in depression from 41 studies that included 2,264 adults suffering from “major depressive disorder.”

The main finding: Exercise had “a large effect favoring exercise over control conditions.” It was roughly as good as psychotherapy, helping one out of every 2 individuals. Also important: Exercise works for those who refuse or can not tolerate medication and/or therapy. Both light exercise and more vigorous exercise seem to work. More at British J of Sports Medicine (free full text).

SHORT STUFF you don’t want to miss

>>> How runners can adopt a plant-based diet and avoid some potential bumpy spots like under-fueling, or not consuming enough Omega-3s.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. See you again on March 2.

Until then, stay well. Run strong and healthy. Amby

NOTE: If you were a subscriber to the complete, full-text version of RLRH for $4/month, you would also have received new articles about:

# Staying injury free by avoiding 7 common mistakes

# A big breakthrough in low-carb eating for high-intensity running

# An ultimate training guide to help you achieve your race goals

# How Camille Herron sets ultra records without long runs

# A simple step to “immediate reduction” in knee pain

# The best time to exercise to reduce blood glucose spikes

# An inspirational hill running quote from Shakespeare

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