A reader writes:
I’m glad you brought this up. Chris "Born to Run" McDougall is a solipsistic douche-bag with just enough information and exposure to be dangerous. His running style is great for people with nice high arches and no pronation problems. However, if you do not have both of these blessings, DO NOT FOLLOW HIS ADVICE. You will likely end up injured, unable to run at all, possibly forever (see plantar fasciitis). Running on the balls of your feet for long distances is great if your feet have the appropriate architecture, but there is a lot of variation in this regard. For most people, the engineering of the right running shoe really does correct problems that need correcting, and it only works if you roll from the heel to the toe (like walking rather than sprinting). Unfortunately, this puts more strain on the shins and the knees.
The good news for people without perfect feet: you can always take up cycling, which is a lot more fun. Humans are not uniquely adapted to running. Just ask any horse.
Another is less critical:
In response to Nicholas Thompson, he points out in his post that Mr. McDougal's book is "not the best book on the intricacies of the sport" and then gives two references. I would add a third, Chi Running by Danny Dreyer. I've read Born to Run and never viewed it as a how to. Rather I view it as an inspiration and justification to change my running style. What Mr. McDougal really fails to discuss in his book is what changes need to be made. I tell people that Born to Run is the inspiration and Chi Running is the how to.
Chi Running's premise is you should never be using a stride that puts your foot strike in front of your body. This is for two reasons, physics and mechanics. The physics relates to your leg extending in front of your body and striking in a way the impedes your momentum, essentially stopping you on every stride. The mechanics addresses the stresses this impact has on your body, ankles, shins, knees, and hips. In Chi Running, your foot strike is under your core and fails to stop your momentum and if properly aligned, reduces the stress on your body. Mr. Dreyer refers to Chi Running as injury-free running. The real key is to use gravity to assist you in moving forward, using a lean in your body similar to a ski jumper's lean.
Using Chi Running techniques, I have removed day-to-day injuries (not including doing dumb things like jumping over logs and twisting ankles, etc.). I run easier and enjoy it more.