Running injuries are common but in most cases, they can easily be avoided. Barefoot running expert and founder of Natural Running Canada, Jeff Stapleton shares his running technique for injury prevention.
Squat-Scoot Running Technique
I developed the Squat-Scoot method of mid-foot running in an attempt to counter the epidemic of running injuries that plagued virtually every runner who came to train with me.
As I researched the type of injuries that presented themselves, they always took the form of what I called ‘avoidable itis’ issues (Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis etc).
At the same time (about 20 years ago), I set up my company – Team Over The Top – and started running full-on barefoot in an effort to end not just my cycle of running injuries but those of my clients.
The foundation of the process became the Squat-Scoot method – a safe, efficient running technique that led to injury prevention by practicing injury-free movement. It was a gradual process for me that took years of understanding the application of basic physics to the running action. To those I then taught the technique to, it was an instant revelation.
Related: Ask the Barefoot Running Coach
Principles of the Squat-Scoot Running Technique
The cornerstones of the Squat-Scoot method are tight, light, compact and forward where you actually caress (or make LOVE TO) the running surface. This reads as fundamental BUT is actually quite complex in practice.
Having said that, anyone can learn it and, once mastered, you will NEVER develop an avoidable ‘running itis’ injury again.
Let me simply explain that you will understand the basics of the Squat-Scoot if you understand a few basic laws of physics:
- For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction
- Power = work done/time
- What goes up must come down
All 3 laws above imply what all of us intrinsically know – GRAVITY is the enemy of runners!
Even though it’s what keeps us on the planet, it’s also what drives us into Mother Earth with unforgiving force when we become airborne (i.e. running).
How many of you actually think about your method of running? Do any of you actually LISTEN to your running action? How many of you actually FEEL what happens to your body when running?
I would hazard a guess that not many of you do so!! If you DID, then there would be NO ‘running itis’ injuries.
Related: Anterior Knee Pain & How to Solve It
Bracing Against Gravity for Injury Prevention
This brings me to the crux of my Squat-Scoot running technique:
1) Keep Tight
You should activate every muscle group in your body EXCEPT the head and neck muscles and the hands.
By doing so, you will automatically be braced against the downward pull of gravity with each running stride.
2) Stay Light
Staying light means landing in perfect SILENCE with every stride.
By doing so, you eliminate the bone-jarring effect of ground impact. You also keep the running motion muscular in nature as opposed to skeletal.
3) Be Compact
This is the Squat part of my Squat-Scoot running technique. To ensure safe running, you MUST get low to the ground.
You can do this by keeping your knees bent at all times during the running action, dropping your shoulders toward the hips and firing aggressively from all of the gluteal muscles.
4) Move Forward
Running is a FORWARD (NOT up and down) action. I guarantee that MOST of you run in an up and down fashion, pounding into the ground and shocking your skeletal system from the feet up to the shoulders. And you wonder WHY there are so many ‘itis’ running injuries???
The forward motion of my technique simply means the practice of actually falling forward and catching yourself with quick, short strides from a mid-foot landing.
This is precipitated by a slight lift of the knee and a quick flick of the heel. Thus, the contact time with the ground is brief and the energy transfer forward is complete. There is no noise on impact, no loss of energy and no reverberating pain through the skeletal system
Is this an easy process? Hell no BUT it is essential for injury prevention and injury-free running over the long term. The key to this is perfecting the act of BRACING most of your body’s musculature throughout the full Squat-Scoot running action.
If you can master this, gravity will no longer be your enemy.
About Jeff Stapleton
Jeff Stapleton is a barefoot running expert who has 10 years personal experience running barefoot and in minimalist footwear.
Jeff has extensive experience in coaching and has a special interest in injury prevention. He uses his Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and 35+ years experience competing in elite-level athletics and teaching sports specific conditioning, to help his clients achieve their goals.
During his 30 year coaching career he has successfully coached many of his clients to qualify for high profile events such as the Boston Marathon. He has also coached numerous elite level sports teams and individuals.
Jeff is the founder ofwho specialize in forming proper runing technique, strengthening running-specific muscles, increasing speed and distance, and safely incorporating the transition to a more efficient, barefoot running style. Jeff develops programmes for multiple age groups and has trained children as young as age 5 in his popular Youth Training Programme, which covers how to move safely and efficiently barefoot.
To find out more about Jeff Stapleton, visit Natural Running Canada
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