Tread Lightly Book Review

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Tread Lightly: Form, Footwear, and the Quest for Injury-Free Running (Skyhorse Publishing, June 2012) by Dr. Peter Larson and Bill Katovsky, is a comprehensive gathering of studies that look at a variety of factors that go into running and running injury. These factors include the evolution of running and our current more sedentary lifestyle, barefoot running, running shoes, running gait, and so on. In the preface, the authors state that “[o]ur goal in writing Tread Lightly was not to provide an exhaustive review of how modern life negatively affects one’s health and running, but rather to examine three specific changes that are of particular importance and relevance: footwear, form, and food.”
This book is full of enjoyable and little known facts. Something I did not know is that humans are not the only animals that sweat — so do horses, camels, and kangaroos. And, while they try to be balanced, it is clear the authors are pro-minimalism and somewhat intent on proving its benefits, and nothing wrong with that. While the authors source many studies to support their various hypotheses, they admit the inherent problems. “Such is the complexity of teasing apart multiple interacting factors in order to try to figure out why runners might be getting hurt–a lot of speculation and guesswork are involved.”
That is the ultimate problem with trying to write this book, especially when supporting a style of running, minimalism, that is not necessarily supported by science, at least as a one-size-fits-all solution. While minimalism might work for some, it does not work for others. While over developed running shoes may cause injury, they also might not — each study is qualified with a “maybe,” and that is the problem. The authors state it best: ” There’s no need to rush change, and no need to emulate a form that might not be ideal for your individual body–experiment and find what works, but don’t force anything.”
Overall an enjoyable and educational book and a recommended read for any runner.

About the Authors (from treadlightlybook.com):

“Bill Katovsky is editor, author, and coauthor of several books, including Embedded: the Media at War in Iraq, which won Harvard’s Goldsmith Book Prize, Bike for Life, and Return to Fitness. Bill is founder of Tri-Athlete Magazine, and has completed the Hawaii Ironman twice. He is editor of 1,001 Pearls of Runners’ Wisdom: Advice and Inspiration for the Open Road, as well as co-founder of the Natural Running Center.

Peter Larson is a biology professor at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH where he teaches Anatomy & Physiology, Exercise Physiology, Comparative Anatomy, and Developmental Biology. He has recently been conducting research on the biomechanics of distance running in road races with his undergraduate students.

Pete is also a fanatical runner with a somewhat unhealthy fascination with running shoes (or at least his wife thinks so!). He began running seriously in 2007 to get himself back in shape after letting his health go following the birth of his first two children. He has since completed 8 marathons, including the 2011 Boston Marathon, which he ran as an official qualifier (though he crashed hard on Heartbreak Hill…).

In addition to his academic pursuits, Pete authors the Runblogger blog where he writes about running science, running gear, and his personal experience as a runner.”

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(Disclaimer: I was sent this book for free to review on my blog, courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing. I did not pay for the item, receive payment for this review, or agree to give a positive review. Aside from information gleaned from the company website, the opinions are my own.)

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