I did a Chi Running course!

POSTSCRIPT: This is a bit embarrassing. It turns out the “coach” that run the course I did was NOT a credentialed Chi running coach and was operating outside the framework or umbrella of the Chi running organisation. Please interpret the comments I make below in that context.

I will start by saying that I am glad I did it. I am sure my running technique was improved by doing it and I have some more different drills to add to my running. It was good to get feedback on how I run, as I have never had that before. For that reason I am grateful for the feedback and practical running teaching that I got. I have previously said I have nothing against Chi running, even though I did ridicule the recent Chi Marathon book. So, I did come into the course with some preconceptions: however, boy, was I spun a line.

It was tough going. I am lucky I have a bottom lip left as had to keep biting it not to say something or embarrass the “coach” with a probing question that I knew they could not answer or call them out over what they were making up about the research! I lost count around 50 about how many times they referred to research. Obviously if you are going to refer to research on running related topics around me, you had better get it right as I know it well. In every single case that they used the word ‘research’, they actually got it wrong! I can and do acknowledge professional disagreements with the interpretation of research but this was not the case here. What made it worse is all the other participants on the course lapped it up and obviously had no idea that what they were being told was wrong. They just believed what they were told about the research.

Here are some of the examples:

  • they kept saying that the research shows that 70% of runners get an injury each year. I will have to acknowledge that there is one study that shows that, so they did get it right. My issue is why cherry pick that study? Why not cherry pick another study that showed it was only 20%? Why keep repeating that its 70%? What is the motivation for that? Surely, it should be something like, “the research shows that 20 to 70% get an injury each year”. Interestingly, of the 14 people on the course, only 3 had an injury in the last few years – that is only 21% (or (10% per yr) !
  • several times we were told that the research shows that Chi running was the best way to reduce injury and run economically. There is no research that shows that. I would love to have asked what research they thought shows that. I do not even know what research that they could even have misinterpreted to claim that.
  • they mentioned about the research that shows your running economy improves when using the Chi technique. There is no research shows that. Given that most of the research is either showing heel striking is more economical or that there is no difference between heel striking and midfoot/forefoot in running economy. I would love to know what research that they thought showed that Chi running was more economical!
  • we got told that there is a lot of research that shows you get less injuries using the Chi technique! Wow! There is NONE that shows that. I really question the motivation for making this stuff up.
  • the only research that I think they might be referring to is a study that showed using the Chi techniques, you can reduce impact loads but that is based on the assumption that impacts are really related to injury in the first place (that is debatable) and they conveniently do not mention about the loads that go up in other tissues and increase the risk for injury in those tissues with the Chi technique.
  • of course they referred to the Lieberman et al article that appeared in Nature that looked at impact loads between shoe wearing heel strikers and barefoot runners. The “coach” talked about how Lieberman compared runners in Africa with runners from Harvard University. Not the smartest interpretation of the study which they obviously did not even read. They actually eliminated the runners in Africa from the analysis. The “coach” also claimed that this study showed that midfoot striking was better. No it didn’t. Even Lieberman published a disclaimer on his website to distance himself from those who were making that interpretation of the study! I previously ridiculed this claim in my review of the book, Chi Marathon.

This is just a sampling of what went on when they mentioned research. They got it all wrong. It is really scary that this is how research is being totally misused, misquoted, misrepresented and misinterpreted to try and promote a cause. Why do they do it for? What are they hoping to achieve by doing this? As I said, none of the others on the course had any idea about what they were being spun. I have no idea if this is what they teach at Chi running school or it was just this “coach”, though I suspect they get taught this at Chi running school as many of the same woo is in the Chi running materials I have looked at. I taught my students to never believe me and always go and look at the evidence for themselves.

There were many more things that went on to cause me to roll my eyes. They many times referred to how Chi running uses the body’s “natural bipomechnaics“. WTF is “natural biomechanics“? There is no such thing and they are just using the logical flaw of the natural fallacy. I don’t fall for that (or any other logical fallacies).

Another issue that all this brought up for me was the credentialing of coaches. The Chi running “coaches” are credentialed by a commercial for-profit organisation that makes money promoting Chi running. Does anyone have a problem with that? I do. The reason I do is that one of the participants on the course I was on had a history of injury problems in which changing to the Chi running technique will increase the load on that tissue with the injury. I have absolutely no doubt that based on their injury history that they should be doing nothing other than heel striking, but the “coach” was adamant that all their problems will go away by changing to the midfoot strike of Chi running! How ethical is it for any running technique coach to advise the change in running technique if that technique just increases the load on the tissue that they are having a problem with?

I am more familiar with the situation in Australia: the peak body for running coaching in Australia is Athletics Australia. They are a non-profit body (not like Chi Running Inc) and coaches on their running coaching pathway have a rigorous program to go through and they are not indoctrinated into the one-size-fits-all model (not like the Chi running “coaches”). The Australian Sports Commission (government agency) and the Australian Track and Field Coaches Association (representative body) both have codes of ethics that state among other things that they “Place the safety and welfare of the athletes above all else.” and “Coaches must ensure that practical environments are safe and appropriate“. In other words the well-being and safety of the athlete is of primary importance. Any properly credentialed running technique coach knows that they have a duty-of-care to those that they are coaching and would not be recommending any change in running technique that is potentially injurious. Obviously not so with those indoctrinated into a one-size-fits-all running technique and credentialed by a commercial organisation.

So where does this leave my opinion of Chi Running? Again, I have no problems with the Chi running technique and the change to some of the techniques used in Chi running will help a number of runners, its just the way it is taught and promoted. There is no one-size-fits-all and different running techniques load different tissue differently. They totally misrepresent, misuse, misquote, misunderstand and lie about the research. It was not just on the course I did, but also in the Chi running books. I question the  motivation for doing so. This gives it all the characteristics of pseudoscience and woo marketed by snake oil salespeople.

If you need a running technique coach, there are plenty around who are not indoctrinated into the one-size-fits-all of Chi running or Pose running or {whatever} that will properly advise on improvements to running technique within the context of an ethical environment. I am most familiar with the work of people like Brian Martin (who has come in a couple of times to put my students through a running technique workshop) and James Dunne (whose video running technique course I have done). Coaches like that are not indoctrinated into one particular technique, just the elements that make up a better technique for each individual. No elite level coach identifies themselves as a ‘Chi coach’ or a ‘Pose coach’. There is a reason for that.

As always, I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise, and the evidence does not support Chi running over any other technique. I did appreciate the course I did and feel I run better because of it, I just don’t know why I had to be spun so much nonsensical pseudoscience and woo and be told so many logical fallacies. The course could have been good without that. Chi Running would have more credibility and not be subjected to so much ridicule if they stopped the woo and snake oil.


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51 Responses to I did a Chi Running course!

  1. Craig Payne October 2, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    I just wanted to add this as a postscript, based on a FB exchange. It serves to illustrate the point I was trying to make above:

    Curb Ivanic: Nice one Craig. I don’t believe it’s only this coach that claims that research backs Chi. I bit my tongue on FB today when a Chi coach quoted the Goss & Gross paper and he claimed that research showed Chi decreased loading. Problem was he left out the second half of the sentence (“…but may increase work of the ankle plantarflexors.”)

    Craig Payne: Thats exactly my point! If they want any credibility they have to stop doing that – they only open themselves to ridicule. The Goss & Gross was a self selected web based survey that no one is taking seriously! …do they not see the problem with that study?

    Curb Ivanic: They don’t know how to read research. I stopped debating running form on the internet with Chi, Pose or barefoot “coaches”. I tried to educate by pointing out the flaws in their reasoning but their beliefs are too entrenched. That’s why I decided to say nothing on his post. Have better uses for my time

  2. Craig Payne October 2, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    For those wondering about the Goss and Groos paper, I commented here:

    I wonder why a Chi coach would cherry pick such a flawed study and not quote all those other studies on the same research question that found there was no injury rate differences! Cherry picking, confirmation bias … the usual trope of logical fallcies used by fan boys. …. we seen it all before.

    Here is definition of a fan boy I wrote about elsewhere:

    A fan boy* (or fan boi) is a slang term for someone who is considered very devoted to a single subject, often to the point where it might be considered an obsession. It is a term reserved for when the obsession or passion is beyond what just being a typical fan might be considered as being.
    Traditionally they were a passionate fan of something in geek culture such as a sci-fi genre, comics or specific video games, but more recently it has been expanded to include non-geek niches. It is also considered to be a type of insult or put down and is somewhat derogatory.

    Fan boys* typically go into an outburst or start insulting people with Ad hominem attacks when what they like or are passionate about is questioned; they often resort to many of the logical fallacies to defend their topic, especially in the context of being confronted with scientific evidence of a problem with the topic. They are also well known for a lack of objectivity in relation to the topic or niche. They tune out to facts and other opinions. Usually arguments or debates with them are futile and non-productive because of this lack of objectivity and critical thinking skills.

    Typically, promoters of pseudoscience and snake oil are fan boys*.

    *or fan girl.

  3. Michigan Biomech October 2, 2013 at 7:00 am #

    That’s Craig.

    Your posts are always fun to read. This one is no exception.
    I guess there is no hope that those who really need to read it and change what they say are actually going to read it and change what they say.

    I could have easily written the same post and just changed the word Chi to Pose.

  4. dingle October 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    You use a broad brush Craig. Tarring all pose/chi coach’s with the same brush is not entirely fair. Having coached pose method in the past and having been around other techniques not all coach’s are full of what you term “bullshit“.
    Regarding your dismay at a coach having credentials from a profit maker, did you pay for the James Dunne course or did he not profit?

    What was the injury the runner had that chi would have made worse?

    If that runner should be heel striking then could you give tips on how to get some to heel strike.


    • Craig Payne October 2, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      It may be a broad brush, but the claims made by the “coach” are also permeated throughout the Chi running books and websites, so its probably fair. I have yet to see a Chi woo meister admit that there is no scientific research evidence that says Chi is any better than any other way of running….. there is no evidence! Perhaps you could explain why they make up these claims about the research?

      Of course I paid for James’s course and I expect to pay any coach for these kinds of ‘services’. The difference is coaches like James are credentialed through and are members of and are bound by codes of ethics of non-profit representative organisations and not commercial for profit organisations.

      The course participant with the injury history had a very medial STJ axis and an ongoing history of PTT and maybe PTTD – going away from the heel striking that they were doing has potentially serious consequences –. if the PTTD develops beyond stage 2, they will potentially never run again. Midfoot or forefoot striking is a good way to make that happens….hence my concerns with the code of ethics that coaches should be bound to and put the safety of those they are coaching as a priority. They still may want to give it a try, but only after being fully informed of the potential serious consequences.

      It was not a matter of getting them to heel strike; they already were heel striking.

  5. dingle October 2, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    My question wasn’t specific to that heelstriking runner but a more general question.
    Can you also clarify the chi forefoot landing, Is this full weight bearing or initial contact?

    • Craig Payne October 2, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      The way we were being instructed was initial contact was with the “midfoot” (I know the issue you have with that ‘term’) – from what I observed, everyone on the course was pretty much striking more on the forefoot first as a result of that instruction given. Some found it harder than others to do (I was already a ‘midfoot’ or ‘non-heel striker’).

      I just checked the book Chi Marathon and all the advice is something like “land midfoot”

      One quote (pg 73) is “running on your toes increases the workload to your lower legs, and landing on your heel increases the impact to you knees, quads and lower back” – typifies exactly what I cam saying:
      – yes, forefoot striking does increase the workload to legs and ankle (the research supports that) –> increased risk for injury in those tissues
      – yes, landing on the heel does increase the impact to the knees (the research does support that). BUT, what he did not mention is that or midfoot/forefoot striking increases the loads at the ankle –> you just trading one load for another –> which is great depending on which one the injury risk is greatest at. Why do they conveniently leave out the research that shows a problem with what they are advocating?
      – no its wrong that heel striking increases impact to the lower back. There is a study that shows impacts to the lower back are less in heel striking vs non-heel striking. He got that one wrong.

  6. dingle October 2, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Apologies forefoot should have read mid foot.

  7. dingle October 2, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Yep. Mets are forefoot, calcaneous is rearfoot. Landing with equal pressure on both is impossible to see by eye

    What confuses me is that if you watch Danny dreyers chi videos he heelstrikes.


    Would have thought he would be getting his chi right.

    Can you ref the back paper, would like to read that one.

    • Craig Payne October 2, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      I not seen that video! You right.

      The ref was: Effects of Foot Strike on Low Back Posture, Shock Attenuation, and Comfort in Running
      Delgado, Traci L.; Kubera-Shelton, Emilia; Robb, Robert R.; Hickman, Robbin; Wallmann, Harvey W.; Dufek, Janet S.
      Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:15 October 2012

      “Change in foot strike from RFS to FFS decreased overall ROM in the lumbar spine but did not make a difference in flexion or extension in which the lumbar spine is positioned. Shock attenuation was greater in RFS.”

      My interpretation:
      –> theoretically and hypothetically and all other things being equal:
      – if you have a back problem that maybe movement related, then FFS will decrease some movement –> might help
      – if you have a back problem that maybe impact related, then RFS will reduce some impacts –> might help
      ie one-size no fit all

  8. Jamie October 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Just goes to show that Chi running relies on runners gullibility to suck them into their cult.

    • Damian Stoy October 4, 2013 at 4:31 am #

      If that cult means kicking butt at 50 and 100 mile races and staying injury-free for over 9 years because of ChiRunning, then I’m part of that cult.

  9. Damian Stoy October 4, 2013 at 4:28 am #

    I use to suffer from chronic running injuries. I was told by several doctors to never run again. I then learned ChiRunning. Since then, I’ve been injury-free for over 9 years. Did I mention I am also an accomplished ultra runner?

    Feel free to check out my results:

    Does ChiRunning work? YES!

    • Craig Payne October 4, 2013 at 4:30 am #

      Where did I say Chi running doesn’t work? As you appear to be such a fan boy perhaps you could explain why those who promote Chi running lie about the research so much? Why do they do that? What is their motivation?

      • Damian Stoy October 4, 2013 at 4:33 am #

        I’ll only speak about the results I see in myself and so many other people that are gained from learning ChiRunning.

        Real life results are much more interesting than research!

        • Craig Payne October 4, 2013 at 4:42 am #

          No they are not! Just because it worked for you does not mean it will work for everyone else. All you are relating is an anecdote. There are plenty of anecdotes where Chi running has been a disaster. Anecdotes are not data. The plural of anecdotes is not data or evidence.

          Do you think clinicians treating running injuries should get everyone to use the Chi running technique because it worked for you?

          BTW, how do you even know it was the “Chi” running that fixed you? how do you know that you were not about to come right anyway? (ie natural history). How do you know that you did not come right because of the placebo effect? How do you know that you did not come right just because of the change in cadence and it had nothing to do with “Chi running”? How do you know that you did not come right just because of a change from heel striking to midfoot striking and it had nothing to do with the “Chi running” technique? (and we do know for the evidence that this change hurts as many people as it helps? Can yo use why we need to rely on the research rather than anecdotes?

          So I ask again why do those who promote chi running lie so much about the research.

          • Damian Stoy October 4, 2013 at 4:51 am #

            I am 100% confident that ChiRunning was the #1 reason why I overcame chronic running injuries and can now run, let alone 100 mile races injury-free.

            Over 11 years ago I suffered from chronic running injuries (ITBS, runner’s knee, shin splints, patellar tendonitis). Doctors told me to give up running so for two years I did, I didn’t run for 2.5 years. The couple times I tried running, it was incredibly painful. I then picked up the ChiRunning book, and tried it right away. Almost pain-free, I ran 45 minutes. A year later, I ran my first ultra. For me, it was obviously ChiRunning (the whole package about what ChiRunning is including engaging the core, the lean, high cadence, pelvic rotation etc.)

            But I’m just one guy right? I’ve now taught over 100 people the technique. Does it work for everyone? No! But I estimate it works for over 75% of the people I teach it to. That is significant. I get emails literally everyday from people thanking me for changing their lives. Thanking me for sharing ChiRunning.

            Is that more important than research? YES!

            I’d rather have my job of truly helping people out and getting people to do what they love than your job of arguing about research.

            Why am I so passionate about ChiRunning? It works. I’ve seen it work for so many people I can honestly say that.

  10. Craig Payne October 4, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    And I have seen it hurt people and help people. I just not gullible to fall for the one size fits all cult mentality.

    The problems you are describing that you had could have easily been fixed with an increase in cadence and nothing to do with “Chi running”!

    Why do those that promote Chi running have to lie about the research to convince people to do it?

    • Damian Stoy October 4, 2013 at 5:03 am #

      That proves to me that you know very little about ChiRunning, let alone running. Engaging the core and the lean fixed my injuries. I didn’t practice cadence till 2 years into learning ChiRunning.

      Where I live, I don’t advertise. People come to me ALL because of word of mouth and the results I get.

      If you ever want to learn how to run efficiently, let me know. I’d love to show you some things. Otherwise quit wasting people’s time.

      • Michigan Biomech October 4, 2013 at 5:09 am #

        I think you have totally missed the point of what Craig was writing about. You are the very embodiment of why so many ridicule Chi running.

        • Damian Stoy October 4, 2013 at 5:59 am #

          I don’t believe I missed his point. I understand that research gets misinterpreted and used incorrectly. It’s unfortunate and happens in every field. I use to be a research biologist and much of the science was flawed and the results used in a poor manner. I’m all for the most accurate information being shared. At least science is now studying how running technique influences impact and possibly injuries.

          However, I personally speak up for ChiRunning because I believe real life results are more important than research. That is my opinion. Many people do ridicule ChiRunning but many people also rave about how it has changed their lives. It has changed my life and that is why I’m so passionate about it. 9 years with NO injuries and over 25 ultra marathons, I’d say that is results. It’s unfortunate that many people bash ChiRunning without even trying it. Without practicing it and really giving it a shot. Taking one lesson is not enough. Again, I’d rather have my job and truly help runners every day. I love what I do and the results I get for people. Their testimonials speak louder than any research can ever do.

  11. Ian Griffiths October 4, 2013 at 6:02 am #


    Firstly let me say I’m delighted for you in regard to finding a way to move that appears to ‘work’ for you and allow you to both enjoy your running and seemingly feel as if you are less prone to tissue injury. That is indeed the goal for everyone I’m sure you would agree.

    However, the answer or solution to successfully achieve that goal will not be Chi running for everyone. End of story. That just isn’t the way that our species was made, with variation being high (and this being considered ‘normal’). This may be difficult to accept given that it sounds like you may have a financial interest in everyone learning Chi running, buts it’s scientific fact I’m afraid.

    Have you heard of a form of reactivity called the ‘subject expectancy effect’? If someone sells something convincingly enough then the end user may convince themselves that it works. Be clear that I am not saying this is happening – but I’m acknowledging that it might be (and you should too). This is why we have the scientific method and don’t rely on anecdote or n=1 case reports. There are many other effects and issues potentially at play here but I wont go on as I suspect you are not interested and have made your mind up about me and my opinions already.

    I feel the whole point of Craigs post was not to ‘bash’ Chi running but instead highlight how proponents of it either misuse or ignore research and inappropriately apply blanket theories to everyone they meet. Sadly your comments trying to defend it have beautifully reinforced his point.

    Happy running.

    • Damian Stoy October 4, 2013 at 6:53 am #

      Ian, you’re response is right on. I agree with pretty much everything you say. I do not believe ChiRunning is for everyone. I have acknowledged it works for about 75% of my students (from the testimonials I get). I do have a financial interest in CR but it is more my passion than anything. I do believe in science, research and the scientific method. But I also believe in anecdotal evidence especially when I have witnessed so many life transforming benefits from ChiRunning. My comments may defend Craig’s point however I’m ok with that. I have stated that misusing or ignoring research is not ideal but it happens. I appreciate folks keeping the science honest and making sure it is interpreted correctly. But I don’t think any ChiRunning folks are lying to further their agenda. However, some folks just may be wrong or ignorant. That’s life, it happens, move on.

      I’m all for truth and better science, why I actually appreciate this website. But I’m hear to share with Craig and others that it’s not just about the research. It’s not even about the research being misused (although that’s unfortunate). It’s about helping others do what they love. Getting real results for people who need it. And that’s what I do…for 75% of my students. Nothing is perfect in life, but some things are pretty darn good.

  12. Stuart Hardie October 4, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    I am disappointed that you had a challenging experience with the presumably recent ChiRunning Workshop that you attended. As one with such experience and obvious wealth of knowledge I wonder if you empathised with the instructor and were able to have a quite word to correct misquoted or misunderstood data. Once they understood that you were trying to be helpful I am sure they would have been receptive to your input … I know I would.
    I am a Certified ChiRunning Instructor. Certification isn’t straight forward. The subject is gone into in considerable depth and the concern for our “students” paramount. Despite all the preparation I have no doubt that the ChiRunning workshops that I run will be less than perfect, that I’ll miss essential points and other things I’ll get wrong.
    For 25 years I was a rugby coach … grade 2 with the RFU I think. Qualification wasn’t easy with the subject covered in depth and with player safety a pre requisite. I have no doubt that there will have been sessions where I overdid things and got things wrong.
    But with the rugby coaching then and my ChiRunning coaching now I have done the best that I could for the folk with whom I am working.
    So I try to work with honesty and integrity and of the Certified ChiRunning Instructors I know I believe they do too. I don’t believe that we are liers. I don’t believe that we make “intentional false statements”. My understanding from ChiRunning/ChiWalking management is that such deliberate action would result in the ultimate sanction of losing our Certified status.
    So I wonder if you were able to empathise with the ChiRunning Instructor with whom you were working and have a word … or whether, as I suspect, you thanked the them for an informative and useful session before sneaking away to write your negative blog. After all good news doesn’t sell papers does it?
    Do I take offence at your slander of me and the other instructors? No I don’t. I am simply disappointed that your article concentrates on research issues with which you could have helped rather than on the major positives that you gained.
    Final point … I became a ChiRunning Instructor at the insistence of the sports therapists that were part of my back up team when, aged 65 and with no real distance running experience, I ran the best part of 40 marathons in 40 days through the UK. They and others in their profession locally now refer runners with running related injuries to me.
    Good running

    • Craig Payne October 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

      I focus on the research side of what happened as that is what this blog is about.

      Why was I lied to about the research?

    • Michigan Biomech October 4, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

      Stuart, your website is littered with the exact type of unsupported pseudoscientific statements that Craig is talking about. You are proving him right.

      • Stuart Hardie October 5, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

        Thanks for pointing that out.
        I will go back through content and re-read with a more critical eye!
        Currently away from base and it may take a week or so to complete.
        Be happy, if you have the time, for you to review and comment again.


  13. Whitney Cooper October 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Also, the Goss study was funded by UNC Chapel Hill- a much respected research university, and the study was in person- not online.

    • Craig Payne October 4, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Do you have no comprehension of why no one is taking this study seriously?
      It was online!!!!!!

      • Michigan Biomech October 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

        Anyone using that study is not going to be doing their cause any credit. The fact that you appear to be using it, confirms exactly what Craig was saying.

        Whitney, where did you get the impression that it was “in person- not online”?

  14. Whitney Cooper October 4, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Also as a side note- we are in works with credentialing organizations in the US, currently- it is long process, and also requires managers to receive post- graduate degrees in biomechanics for Certification.

  15. Kevin A. Kirby, DPM October 4, 2013 at 11:20 pm #

    I don’t think that either Craig or I have any problems with people teaching a different running technique in an attempt to improve their metabolic economy of running, decrease their running injury rate and/or increase their running speed. However, the problem I have with Chi Running and Pose Running is that both Chi and Pose Running coaches make claims about their running technique that simply are not true. Their claims are not supported by scientific research and their claims seem to be, at best, made in order to coerce people to “buy into” the erroneous concept that running as a midfoot striker is a more metabolically efficient, less injurious or better way to run. This simply is not true.

    Chi Running reminds me of the cult-like following that developed by the Chris McDougall-led barefoot runners, where people, for a few years, became so infatuated with the lies being spread about barefoot running that they simply could not listen to and/or comprehend the scientific reasoning which questioned the beliefs of their fellow barefoot running zealots.

    And for you, Damian, I could care less if you have anecdotally “kicked butt” in an ultramarathon by taking a Chi Running course. Anecdote. Believe me, your butt has been kicked many times over by heel-striking runners who don’t even know what Chi Running is. Another anecdote. How do you explain that if Chi Running is the “best way to run” why so many heel-striking runners are kicking your butt in these ultra-marathon races??

    Wait, I know the answer. You can’t explain it since you are not a scientist and you have a financial interest in promoting Chi Running to as many runners as you can. End of story.

    Kevin A. Kirby, DPM
    Adjunct Associate Professor
    Department of Applied Biomechanics
    California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt College

  16. dingle October 5, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    Has there been any long term study on any technique? ie 6 month follow up of efficiency, injury rates etc?

    • Craig Payne October 5, 2013 at 2:58 am #

      No. That is the problem. We have no prospective studies. You see so many claims made by Chi, Pose, minimalist, etc etc that “there” technique is better and supported by the evidence when there is none.

      All we have are retrospective studies on injury rates comparing different foot strike patterns (heel strike vs non-heel strike) and traditional shod vs barefoot/minimalists – and the preponderance of those are showing no differences. I commented on them here:

      Retrospective studies are one ring lower on the hierarchy ladder of evidence than prospective studies.

      So NO ONE can claim bragging rights that *their* technique has lower injury rates. Do you see why I rant against them when they start making those claims?

      • blaise Dubois October 13, 2013 at 2:48 am #

        If you have the chance to tell tree tips to a beginner (start a running program), what will be your 3 tips to “maybe”, “hopefully” decrease his risk of injury (evidence based or not). Is it to wear Asics nimbus shoe category (BBS) + heel striking + having a cadence of 155 (that’s more that 80% of the population of runners do)

        Me, I will tell to wear a minimalist shoe (TRC rating 75% approx) + having a cadence of 180 + not hearing to much noise. Like you say : meet the criteria of biological plausibility (impact moderating behaviour), theoretical coherence and consistent with the available evidence…

  17. dingle October 5, 2013 at 3:54 am #

    Yes I can see you get aggitated Craig. Footstrike patterns and shoe type have a small to do with technique. I previously used pose as a framework for teaching. It has many merits as it gives 3 positions to go through and a standard.( How can you evaluate without a standard? ) Can or should everyone reach this standard? No. I had no problem with heel striking or with telling people to forget form coaching and go get strong and revisit me in 6 months. Technique is not yet understood and I believe that Romanov has at least got things started by sticking his head in the lions mouth.
    I find it tiring that the debate continues to be polarized by ffs vs rfs (mfs is impossible to detect without forceplate) and the generalizations from both sides. Veiwing coach’s methods who aren’t pose or chi you would find it amazing how many use descriptions and methods which are clearly the same. Semantics? Or insulation from being pigeon holed/vilified?
    I’ve gone off on a tangent but my point is that you want hard facts and less bs but without studies this won’t happen. Not many are studying technique and none long term. Meanwhile the punter carries on having his gait analysed and buying new shoes, spending out on physio and more shoes, having dots drawn in their legs and being filmed etc….it’s big business. But then I’m a cynical old sod…..

  18. Ed C October 5, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Thanks for the article it was certainly challenging for a ChiRunning instructor to read and appreciate. I did both. However, now after 1 class and a book review you are able to chide a system that has helped lots of folks with running, walking and making healthy lifestyle changes in a gentle and attentive manner, for not being consistent with research and/or overgeneralizing the paucity of research that exists. Your premise seems to be that ChiRunning is comprised of liars who deliberately manipulate scientific study outcomes for the sake of financial gain. I think you are wrong and uniformed about ChiRunning instructor training. You also use the same over-generalization you accuse the CR folks of using.
    I am not sure whose class you were attending but something is fishy here. These comments about the research are not what we are taught as instructors, to focus on or present during our instructor training. There are several scientist, Physicians, and researchers (myself included) who are certified instructors that bring a scientific method background/mindset to ChiRunning. (Please refer to the medical panel at the CR website, for starters.)
    Like most pundits you make lots of contrarian comments while providing little or no scientific proof to back their claims and ignoring their own inconsistencies.
    For example:
    1 – In responding to Damian you said “…using the logical flaw of the natural fallacy.” Natural fallacy is bad in this case but good here- “BTW, how do you even know it was the “Chi” running that fixed you? How do you know that you were not about to come right anyway? (ie natural history).” BTW I agree with you about the natural fallacy flaw and I am pretty sure that natural history exists but your use of natural history here appears to be an example of a natural fallacy argument.
    2- The remainder of the questions you pose in the response to Damian are impossible to prove. Nobody can know or prove any of the following questions you pose. These questions are examples of straw dog and ad hominem arguments.
    You asked “How do you know that you did not come right because of the placebo effect? How do you know that you did not come right just because of the change in cadence and it had nothing to do with “Chi running”? How do you know that you did not come right just because of a change from heel striking to midfoot striking and it had nothing to do with the “Chi running” technique?” —
    Given that CR technique is mostly about a midfoot landing and has definite opinions about cadence that are taught in introductory class; then in this case one plausible explanation of Damian’s running form change to midfoot landing and cadence is that it is the direct result of training in the CR technique. I suspect if you ask Damien, he will tell you he did not wake up one day after having discovered midfoot landing and cadence changes in a dream but was introduced to the these concepts via CR instruction. (And yes, we do understand the need for heel strike in certain situations, e.g., running down steep hills and varying cadence).
    2 – You said “It may be a broad brush, but the claims made by the “coach” are also permeated throughout the Chi running books and websites, so it’s probably fair” – Please provide a probability coefficient that supports your probability statement about fairness.
    3. – Re: James Dunne course – Please provide the double-blind RCT study that supports the scientific basis for all running form related aspects of this course that you like. Of course you cannot, nobody can. And I am quite familiar with Kaptchuk TJ, J Clin Epidemiol. 2001 Jun;54(6):541-9 and others regarding DBRCT.
    4- You said, “The Australian Sports Commission (government agency) and the Australian Track and Field Coaches Association (representative body) both have codes of ethics… “ I think we can agree having a code of ethics is a good thing (I am subject to my professional code of ethics and glad of it), but it is not a guarantee of professional competence. IMO that only comes with time, practice and motivation as well as ongoing research and board certification with continuing education. Let’s face it; there is a code of ethics among thieves and in congress. So much for codes of ethics being predictors of scientific or behavioral rigor.
    Overall, I do agree that we need questioning and research but you seem to have slid into being a research fan boi, making the similar overgeneralizations that you point out others are making. E.g. “They totally misrepresent, misuse, misquote, misunderstand and lie about the research.” You really believe ChiRunning instructors are liars or somehow hypnotized into becoming liars? Your own statements indicate you acknowledge they sometimes get it right.
    I could be wrong, and correct me if I am, but it seems this whole running research field is relatively new with mostly small N studies, many with methodological flaws and few replications. What a great place to be, lots of room for improvement.
    Once someone can prove (p< .01) that heel striking won’t make my knee hurt again then I’ll go back to it. For now I will gladly tradeoff the increased efficiency (you seem to assume happens with every runner who heel strikes until a certain speed) and lots of recovery time due to injury, for more pain free inefficient miles with no recovery time due to injury, on the trails.
    Thanks for your article.

    • Craig Payne October 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      Thanks for proving me right.

      • Craig Payne October 5, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

        I have now got a bit of time. I will address one point now.

        You demand that I produce evidence for James Dunne’s running course, but you find it acceptable that you can make claims abut Chi running that is contradicted the evidence? .. go figure: Logical fallacy.

        I never made any claims about James Dunne’s running course,so why do I need to produce some evidence?. As far I I know, James Dunne has never made any claims that are not supported by the evidence and has not made claims that are contradicted by the evidence. He makes no claims re injury prevention; he make no claims about running economy; as he knows what the evidence says. If he does, I will call him on it … yet you find it acceptable to make such claims that are even contradicted by the evidence! Do you not see that? Are you that blinded by your ‘religion’?

        In contrast your post is fill of claims that are actually contradicted by the evidence. Why do you think it is acceptable for you to do that, yet demand evidence of other who make no such claims? Do you not see this logical flaw?

        If you can not see the claims that you are making that are contradicted by the evidence, then there is the problem. That is why Chi running opens itself to all the ridicule that it gets.

  19. dingle October 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

    Some good points there Ed.

  20. Alex Webb October 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    When comparing different runners, for instance the Harvard group vs. the African runners, do they take in any other variables besides just techniques ? I am thinking that a number of different things can result in shin and back injuries other than technique. Overall I am kind of on the fence with Chi running and not sure if it will help or hurt in the long haul.

    • Craig Payne October 5, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

      Despite what it said in the book, Chi Marathon, the Harvard study left the African runners out of the analysis. The study just showed that shoe wearers heel strike and barefoot runners forefoot strike. That is all the study investigated and showed.

      • Kevin A. Kirby, DPM October 6, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

        The latest research also shows that barefoot runners don’t always forefoot strike. The recently published research by Kevin Hatala et al clearly shows that the Kenyan barefoot runners they studied preferred to heel strike while running barefoot (Hatala KG. Dingwall HL Wunderlich RE. Richmond BG. Variation in foot strike patterns during running among habitually barefoot populations. PLoS ONE,8( 1 ):e52548).


        The big difference between Lieberman et al’s study and Hatala et al’s Kenyan runners? Lieberman had his Kenyan runners run at a 4:52 mile pace and Hatala had his Kenyan runners run at a 8:08 pace. Now, which of these two running velocities are more representative of recreational runners in distance running events….I hope everyone reading along knows that answer.

        If Lieberman wanted everyone to believe his theory that forefoot striking is a more “natural way” to run then he certainly chose the correct running velocity to make sure that his barefoot Kenyan runners were mostly forefoot striking. The problem is that most recreational runners don’t even run come close to a 4:52 mile pace at any point of their training or racing distances. An 8:08 mile pace is much more characteristic of the pace run by recreational distance runners. Of course, Lieberman wouldn’t have gotten as much publicity for his Vibram FiveFinger funded research if his Kenyan runners had been rearfoot strikers….now would he? 😉

        For anyone who is interested, I just had a paper on this subject published where I review these points in more detail:

        Kirby KA: Footstrike and Running Form Controversies: What Does the Scientific Evidence Tell Us? Foot and Ankle Quarterly, 24(3):109-118, 2013.

        • blaise Dubois October 13, 2013 at 2:35 am #

          The paper is very interesting but I will just put forward 3 comments.
          * 15 meters to analyze a running pattern (including 8 meters to accelerate is not enough)
          * The heel strike pattern can be of different types (I would have liked to know the angle between the foot and the ground at first contact… I am convinced that these runners use “proprioceptive/sensitive heel strikes” that bring them to adequately lower the impact force and to adopt efficient running biomechanics. It would have been interesting as well to compare their type of heel strike with that of Caucasian recreational runners wearing 1.5 inch-thick modern running shoes, often striking the ground with an angle between the foot and the ground of up to 45 degrees.)
          * I would have liked the authors to submit more appropriate pictures representing a heel strike pattern (not as high as 2 inches from the ground… did they submit these frames because the heel strike was so subtle that it was getting very close to a midfoot strike?)

  21. dingle October 7, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    Can only seem to get abstract. Does this paper address anything more than the tedious footstrike or shoe debate.

    • Kevin A. Kirby, DPM October 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

      Send me a private e-mail and I will send you the paper.


      • Brian Hazard October 9, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

        Just read the paper, and it is fantastic! A thorough and well-reasoned overview of where the science currently stands on how foot strike relates to injury and efficiency.

      • Hans October 11, 2013 at 6:35 am #

        Hi Kevin,

        Can you send me a copy as well? I send you an email on the address posted.



  22. Billy Dean March 28, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

    Probably too late to join this conversation but I’m hosting a workshop next month (April 2014) for runners on stride length, cadence, running form and so forth and would like to offer the participants something beyond mere anecdotal evidence. My running form at most training paces is a mid-foot “landing” rather than a heel-first “strike” but I tend to land heel first going downhill because it lessens the impact. As a long-time trail runner, my technique naturally evolved over the years to include more than one way to move along the trail. Sometimes, a fore-foot landing is better than either a mid or a heel-first landing. Like crossing a stream using the rocks as stepping stones or sprinting to the finish of a race. As Jay Bronowski wrote, “Diversity is the breathe of life. We must not abandon it for any single form that happens to catch our fancy.”

  23. Danny Dreyer April 27, 2017 at 6:24 am #

    I thought I couldn’t run again after my injury from playing volleyball but when I did the chi running I was even surprise I did it. it really helps and work. I think you will love this podcast http://learntruehealth.com/danny-dreyer-chirunning-chiwalking/ this was motivation.

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