I met my physical therapist for coffee today and our conversation turned to POSE running and Vibram 5 Finger shoes. I mentioned to Elie that I did some research on this topic last year when my local Crossfit brought in Dr. Romanov, one of the pioneers of the technique and thought now might be a good time to revisit the topic. POSE running is built on the idea that most people strike the ground with the heel when running (and lose energy in the form of friction) and that altering one’s stride can prevent this loss. Backers of the POSE method also claim that reducing “heel strike” can lower the stress on the knees and reduce injury rates for runners. Products such as Vibram’s 5 finger shoes (and just running barefoot) build on the concept of POSE running since traditional running shoes have built in arch support which increases the prevalence of “heal strike” (so removing the moden shoe should make POSE running more come more “naturally”.
A few of the reasons why I have and remain skeptical about POSE running:
– Almost all of the major studies in support of POSE running are authored by Dr.Nicholas Romanov or those associated with his clinics. Thus, they have a financial interest in promoting the science and supporting their own position.
– One of the few studies in support of POSE not authored by Romanov (Graham Fletcher, Ph.D) had a sample size of 4. That is much to small to draw conclusions from.
– The main academic study used by Vibram promoting their 5 fingers shoes (and natural barefoot running) as a more economical (running economy) alternative to traditional running shoes was, in fact, funded by the company themselves. This is a clear conflict of interest. If you go to the Harvard website linked above you will see that disclaimer on the bottom of the page in small text.
– Published findings by Stephen McGregor who has a Ph.D in Biomechanics and runs a research facility at Eastern Michigan University conclude that both the POSE and CHI (another running technique similar to POSE) techniques not only decrease running economy but also increase injury rates. Info on McGregor’s findings can be found here.
-Another study published by Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas, both PH.D’s from Cape Town came to similar conclusions as McGregor. On the injury front, they noted that while POSE running did reduce stress on the knee, eccentric work on the ankle was increased. One note, these guys are trying to sell a book so there might be some bias here.
I’m a runner and would be happy and willing to try anything (excluding illegal performance enhancements of course) that might make me faster. Unfortunately, objective science backing up POSE running just isn’t there yet. This is not to say Romanov might not be right, but, he could also be wrong.