My first love: Track & Field

1993 Ontario Championships (Canada)

I went to the track tonight. The only one in Perth, Western Australia. I’ve been in and out of the sport for the last 28 years. It has made an incredible impact on my life in every sense. I went tonight, just to observe. It was like going back in time almost 30 years ago.

perth track

WA Athletics Stadium (2016 World Masters T & F Championships)


Seriously, it’s like nothing has changed… from a physical, technical and biomechanics point of view. If only I knew then what I know now I would have been able to take better care of myself in my beloved sport. Sigh.

Today, as you know, I help athletes with their bodies, and adore it to bits, because I don’t want them going through what I had to endure. Unnecessary injury is no fun!

Unfortunately, everything I did when I started running years ago is still being repeated today. It’s crazy!!! It has nothing to do with the athletes, the parents, the coaches (mind you, if you are a coach, it’s your job to look at the latest research!). It has to do with dissemination of information… and the power of marketing. There’s incredible amounts of research that have not reached the majority of the public and the athletic community. It’s sad because a lot of athletes with injuries today could have been 100% avoided.

Here are just a few things I saw when I got there:
*Just remember I understand many people might not know this*

1. Cushioned shoes. And I mean CUSHIONED shoes. All athletes at the track young and older were wearing cushioned shoes.  Now, I understand: cushion, support, comfort, etc. ‘We need these to be able to run without injury’. Hhhmmmmm….. no. Our feet are cushioned A LOT with our very own FAT PADS, our feet provide us with incredible support, and are supposed to be comfortable because we use them everyday and don’t abuse them [well, I’m pushing it here, because we all abuse our feet, malheureusement]! 

Shoe companies do such an incredible job marketing/selling shoes for kids and adults that we don’t see the truth behind the lies. Running shoes only developed a cushioned heel starting in 1963, made by Asics. Before that, all running shoes were flat! It was the slow demise of runner’s health. Today, 60-70% of running shoes are practically high heels.

If running shoes are not flat, meaning the toes are the same height as the heel, many injuries can ensue, over time. Especially, when kids are developing their feet in the first place. A fully formed foot takes about 18 years!

That’s right, it takes their entire childhood to develop their bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons in the feet. The only way to develop a foot properly is to have that foot be able to SENSE things around its environment. Shoe companies do a fine job at telling us all the opposite!

Did you know there have been HUNDREDS of studies on kids feet with several studies including thousands of subjects (yeah! like that’s a lot of kids!)? In ALL cases children whose feet developed mostly unshod (no shoes) had healthier feet. Every time a child wears shoes {especially with bells and whistles} they are compromising the growth and development of their feet. Now, I am not telling kids/athletes not to wear shoes, I’m just saying athletes need to strengthen their feet too.

What about winter, rain, rocks, dangerous glass!!! Yes, shoes are great for protection! We absolutely need them. And And AND AND AND make sure that all of their shoes are super flexible, flat, and roomy so they can wiggle their toes in them. Any other bells and whistles actually compromise the feet. 

“But what about flat feet?” All human beings were born with flat feet! Children develop arches from their muscles NOT bones. Wearing shoes compromises the development of their arches. Allow them to move, move, move, move as much as possible with their feet, up until adulthood and throughout their lives.

“My athlete pronates! The shoes provide the support.” No, the shoes don’t. They further the foot pronation of the athlete. Sure, sometimes a band-aid is needed (using support temporarily); but, rarely. It just requires the athlete to work their feet out more, MORE, and not let their feet be weaken in a thick shoe.

“My athlete suppinates!” Same thing applies. If the athlete wasn’t in such a cushioned and/or ‘supported’ shoe s/he would run differently. Try running suppinated barefoot. It’s hard to do! It hurts! It’s important not to cast/brace athlete’s body parts for the sake of their sport, nor for the sake of their health. *And, we are not talking about performance shoes. When athletes race, they need to race. Appropriate shoes for appropriate conditions. Yet, racing spikes are specific to racing. I urge athletes not to wear them all the time.*

“My athlete runs heel to toe, it would hurt if s/he went in flat shoes.” Well, s/he would have to run differently if s/he ran in flat shoes. It’s always relative.

It’s simple. Changing the environment can change the biomechanics of the runner.

No shoe can fix a foot problem. It will only initially alleviate the symptom… then debilitate the foot further.

2. Sitting around before the practice starts. Some athletes just sit for 30 minutes to an hour before practice waiting… in a very poor position too! It doesn’t take much to sit properly. We need to teach our athletes to do this for the health of their spines, shoulders, neck and more! Let’s all sit on our ischial tuberosities (sit bones) please. Pretty please! 

3. Drills before and/or after practice. Lazy laissez faire attitude. Why Why Why WHY do drills if athletes are going to do them without precision. Do it well…. or don’t bother doing them at all. It’s like washing the dishes with dirty water. It’s not going to do anything. 

4. Overstriding: Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knees, hips, low back…. need I say more. Coaches- just look to see if your athletes are over striding. It doesn’t take much and it will make a MASSIVE difference in injury prevention.

5. Contact time (foot time on ground). Some of the athletes could’ve had tea and cookies at every foot contact it was so long. Athletes are stopping themselves at each and every step. How time consuming. How exhausting. How inefficient. And to think, they could have run many seconds faster per lap! 

6. Arm swing: please please please relax your arms. No need to have the hands at the ears or criss crossing a meter over :) 

7. It’s one thing to run ‘tall’ and quite another to thrust your ribs forward like you are crossing the finish line every stride of the practice. Keep your chest down, relax! You don’t need low back injuries, breathing problems and shoulder issues! 

This is only an excerpt of some notes I took, a tip of the iceberg… my first 5 minutes at the track!!!

terry fox

Terry Fox Athletic Facility. My adolescence was spent at this track!