Why Should I Care About Running Economy?

Running is a popular recreational and fitness activity enjoyed by hundreds of millions or people around the world. Its accessibility is arguably only surpassed by walking in terms of financial investment, equipment and skill required to reap its rewards. The rewards of cardio vascular exercise are many, and well documented. As in life, were there is reward there is risk, and the most common risk from running participation is the development of an overuse injury.

The adage that prevention is better than cure comes to mind. As a clinician that treats running related injury (RRI), our patients are generally seeking advice for a specific concern that is causing pain or discomfort that may be preventing them from running.

“But it’s so easy” and “I’ve been running since I was a child”, I can hear you say. This may be accurate, however the reality is more complicated. Running is a complex motor skill that requires observation, feedback, practice and repetition to master, just like any other skill. Most people have no problem with the repetition, and this is a major contributing factor to most RRI. To add extra complexity to the issue (which is outside the scope of these articles), there are other important factors; strength, flexibility, alignment and nutrition to name just a few!

Imagine going to see a health professional for injury prevention rather than treatment! If you have a car, then you probably take it for an annual inspection to minimize costly repairs, why not do the same for yourself? Hopefully these articles will empower you to be proactive, and motivate you to schedule appointment with a health profession or running coach that can help you become a more efficient runner, or in other words, improve your Running Economy (RE).

What is RE? Put simply, RE equates to being able to run a specified distance, at sub maximal pace with less effort. Obviously, this is important if you are a competitive runner, but why should recreational runners be concerned with their RE? If your RE is improved, it may reduce the mechanical load on (certain) tissues, improve the function of the cardiovascular system and delay central nervous system (CNS) fatigue associated with prolonged running.

Now, to be transparent, I am not advocating that if you improve your RE that you will never have a RRI, there are way too many individual variables for anyone to make that claim. The most important benefit that I can make is, in a word – enjoyment.

There has been a lot of research conducted to ascertain if there is one economical running technique that may be applied to every runner. Whilst, at least for now, this is not supported by the current literature, there are modifiable variables that are common in efficient runners.


In the next article, we will take a closer look at the intrinsic and extrinsic modifiable variables that have an impact on RE.

Written by Resonance Podiatrist Darren Barclay.

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