Gentle Running and Living

by Dr Patrick Salmon, PharmD, PhD

Member of the Barefoot Runners Society

Founding Member of the Tarahumara Spirit   

Be gentle

to yourself

and others!

“Life is hard enough to add extra suffering to it”. We propose here a way to build a stronger, healthier and happier self through gentle running. Then, this “ascetic hedonism” can be translated into several aspects of life, to humbly contribute to a better world.

Wumping is a “running” style that appeared recently (late 70’ - early 80’)

It is all about Gentleness !!!

Unlike Running, Wumping is brutal, and thus, causes injuries and decreases efficiency. Here is why.

Wumping is a mixture of movements that belong to either walking, running or jumping: (1) landing on the heel (walking); (2) having a phase with both legs in the air (running); and (3) pushing with the back leg to jump ahead (jumping).

Walking is a gait with a pendular movement of the legs. Although the front leg lands on the heel, one leg stays in contact with the ground and the speed is low. Therefore, the thumping is minimal and the stability is maximal.

Running is a dynamic gait in which the legs are used to store energy as they land right below the center of mass. The front leg touches the ground just long enough to prevent the runner to fall forward. Then, the hip pulls the leg up to prepare it for another landing. Since all the energy of the landing is stored in the muscles and tendons of the leg, the thumping is minimal (or even absent, the good runner makes no sound!) and the efficiency is maximal since this stored energy is used to bounce forward. If you want to learn more about the science of running, go to the Science Page.

Wumping has sadly become the “default” “running” gait in developed countries. Like obesity and Type 2 diabetes which are mostly the results of sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits, wumping has reached epidemic proportions due to the combination of improper footware and faulty running technique. Wumping is associated with injuries and drop in running efficiency because it is a nonsense in terms of simple physics and human biomechanics.

If you land on your heel, that is because you are over-striding, which means that your front foot is landing in front of your center of mass. And, if you land in front of your center of mass, inevitably, you decelerate (like pushing on the brake pedal), and inevitably your running economy drops. This is simple physics.

Now, here comes the Gentle Running argument. Whatever your speed, if you jump, you thump, and you lose energy (hence the thumping sound). This energy is lost for moving forward but it is not totally lost. It is spread in the whole body, and all the structures that cannot be trained to absorb shocks (bones and joints, mainly) take it really hard. You cannot train these body parts to resist shocks, they will just wear out eventually (hence the injuries). Some wumpers/heel-strikers will never have joints problems. Same for smokers who die of old age without cancer or heart attack. The good news is that, contrary to bones and cartilages, you can train your muscles and tendons to absorb and store and return the energy of the forefoot/midfoot landing. If you train gently and progressively, without thumping, you can become a real runner.

Now, if you feel ready to quit wumping and become an injury-free gentle runner, go to the Guide Page.