Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Evolution Running (Ken Mierke)

Evolution Running, a method developed by Ken Mierke, looks at the optimal biomechanics for the generation of horizontal propulsion,;the placement and foot position of foot-strike, as well as the timing of the propulsive movements, follow through and leg recovery.

10 Commandments of Evolution Running:
1st Commandment: Land with your foot directly beneath your center of mass.
2nd Commandment: Never let your foot extend forward beyond the knee.
3rd Commandment: Land on the balls of your feet and keep the heel unweighted throughout footstrike.
4th Commandment: Minimize contact time between your feet and the ground.
5th Commandment: At any running speed, maintain the same high turnover rate (180 – 182 steps per minute or higher).
6th Commandment: Maintain a straight line from the toes, through the hips, to the shoulders, but lean slightly forward with the hips and ribcage.
7th Commandment: Maintain a constant, slightly-bent, knee angle from just before to just after footstrike. Do not bend or straighten knee for propulsion.
8th Commandment: Begin to pull leg back, from the hip with a constant knee angle, before footstrike.
9th Commandment: Use quick, light movements, not forceful ones, to propel forward
10th Commandment: Immediately after the follow-through is completed, begin to drive the knee forward powerfully. As the knee drives forward, allow the foot to lag well behind during leg-recovery, using momentum, not muscular contractions, to raise the heel.
Like the other methods, Evolution Running teaches runners that the foot should land directly beneath the hips, not out in front. Evolution Running teaches a similar foot-strike to the Pose method, but focuses more heavily on placing the weight on the forefoot at foot-strike, without as much concern with heel contact. Many runners experience severe muscle soreness and injuries when adopting a foot-strike which keeps the heel entirely off the ground. Ken feels that the real issue is where the weight lands. He agrees that the perfect stride has the heel slightly off the ground, but he is not sure that every runner should strive for that perfection, especially immediately upon adjusting technique. He believes that adjusting the technique of a heel striker to a heels-off runner should be a gradual, two-step process. Ken teaches that a runner first needs to learn to land with almost all his weight on the forefoot with very little weight on the heel. After mastering this foot-strike, some may work toward keeping the heel entirely off the ground.
Evolution Running directly addresses propulsion - how and when which muscles contract to move the runner forward. Ken says “Minimizing braking by positioning the foot-strike and the torso optimally is critical to sustained fast running, but ultimately the muscles of the hips and thighs propel a runner forward. Except running downhill, gravity does not propel. The muscles contract to move us forward and there are more efficient ways and less efficient ways to accomplish this movement.
The Pose method's teaching is all in the vertical plane. Ken does not assume, as Romanov does, that if a runner gets everything right in the vertical plane that he/she will automatically generate horizontal propulsion correctly. “The Pose Method provides some excellent insights, but it never instructs how to develop propulsion. The Pose Method simply teaches us to run in place and then lean forward. That, by itself, won’t produce sustained fast running.”
While Ken agrees that the most efficient position from which to generate propulsion is forward leaning, the legs do have to propel us. Evolution Running specifically analyzes the biomechanics of the leg and hip, describes the two incorrect paradigms most runners use, and explains how to correct them. Most runners use knee extension or knee flexion as primary propulsion producers. Ken believes that knee extension produces mostly vertical displacement, with the amount of horizontal propulsion generated not worth the quadriceps fatigue or the time wasted moving up and down. He has found that knee flexion produces efficient horizontal propulsion, but places most of the workload on a relatively small muscle group which fatigues relatively quickly.
Evolution Running teaches that hip extension, rotating the leg backward around the hip, provides horizontal propulsion with minimal vertical displacement and uses larger muscle groups (the gluteus maximus along with the hamstring muscles) to accomplish it. This hip extension keeps the energy cost of generating propulsion lower and spreads the work among greater muscle mass, improving energy efficiency and reducing peripheral fatigue.
Efficient runners begin the propulsive movements before foot-strike, pulling the leg and foot backward before they are weight bearing. This minimizes braking and pre-stretches the elastic tissues to generate propulsion in a forward, rather than just in an upward direction. Pose and Chi runners wait for gravity to pull them down to the ground; Evolution runners proactively pull the foot and leg backward into the ground.
While other methods emphasize a bent-knee leg recovery, Evolution Running teaches runners to use the angular momentum of the leg to “swing” the heel up, rather than hamstring contractions. By overlapping the follow through of the lower leg with recovery of the upper leg, the hamstring muscles can relax, increasing their endurance and reducing fatigue. Evolution Running teaches that the hamstring muscles are propulsive, so runners should relax them during leg recovery, using the hip flexor muscles instead, to initiate leg recovery and relying on momentum to swing the heel up.
Maintain turnover up hills, using extremely short strides. When running uphill, runners will extend the knee, using this movement for the necessary vertical displacement and hip extension for forward propulsion. He also teaches runners to lean exaggeratedly downhill, coasting and allowing gravity to propel.
More information is available at www.EvolutionRunning.com.

4 comments:

Jeehye said...

Doc,

Thanks for the description on the differences between pose, chi and evolution. Its the best I've found on the web so far! I've been running in Vibrams on trails for the last 3 months; 40 minutes for an average run and 90 for the long run. I feel great on the 40 min runs but the area above my hip is sore all of a sudden after 90 min runs. I haven't been following a technique and am trying to figure out which one is appropriate. I never had pains running as a heel-striker but I would roll my ankle and deal with sprains. Running "barefoot", I haven't sprained anything and my feet feel great because I can feel the ground. I'm wondering if its bad form causing a lateral hip pain above the hip bone. The pain goes away after 2 or 3 days of rest. Any thoughts on runners who have switched to barefooting who have similar hip pains?

Mr. Guillaume said...

Just watched some intro videos to evolution running ( http://www.5min.com/Video/An-Introduction-to-Evolution-Running-5-29683894) and found your post helpful. Your comment about injury in the calves couldn't be more true. I've been working to adjust my running to more barefoot-style for the past 6 months and twice have lost several weeks due to extremely sore calves. Thanks!

JTuller said...

I've tried to reach Ken Mierke - Called every number and used eery email I could ever find online. Seems the company no longer exists, or they are very secretive -

Any idea how to get in touch??

tpferri@gmail.com

DrLala007 said...

Ken Mierke is still writing, coaching and testing. He can be reached at info@evolutionrunning.com. His website is www.evolutionrunning.com