The ‘Natural’ Running Fallacy

It is common to see products being marketed as being natural and the implication that because it is natural it has to be better for you. Whole professions are built around the natural being better claims. It is also common to see claims that different running techniques or forms being better for you as they are more natural (even though I can’t work out how they all can be natural!).

This is easily demonstrated as a false argument. Just because something is natural does not mean that it is better for you. There are plenty of natural things (eg arsenic; excessive UV light; snake venom) that are not good for you. There are also plenty of unnatural things (eg pharmaceuticals; flying in airplanes) that can potentially be good for you. So to argue to that something is better because it is natural is a well-known fallacy that is demonstrably false.

This does not mean what is being promoted or marketed as being natural is actually good for you or not, it just means to use the natural claim does not mean it is automatically better. Those running forms that claim to be better for you as they are natural are based on this fallacy. They may or may not be better for you – the use of the term natural, is just marketing hyperbole for the gullible.

To quote the late comedian, George Carlin:

The word ‘natural’ is completely meaningless! Everything is natural! Nature includes everything! It’s not just trees and flowers! It’s everything! A chemical company’s toxic waste is completely natural! It’s part of the nature! We’re all part of nature! Everything is natural! Dog shit is natural! It’s just not real good food!

It is also like the statement that many make often about things like, for example: “use the natural biomechanics of the body to run”. What is natural biomechanics? All biomechanics is natural!

To quote the Rational Wiki:

This explains why marketing managers love the meaningless word “natural” in phrases along the lines of “full of natural goodness” as they assume that customers will believe that anything that is “natural” is good for them

I would go as far as suggest that the more there is an appeal to “natural“, the more likely there is to be less evidence to support what is being marketed as being natural. It has been widely shown that those that promote quack remedies resort to the natural fallacy.

I go where the evidence takes me until convinced otherwise; and to claim something is natural is just woo marketing for the gullible.

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About Craig Payne

University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger, dad. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

One Response to The ‘Natural’ Running Fallacy

  1. Andy Houghton November 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    Ok – I guess this is an invite to leave a comment about zero drop shoes. I started about tree years ago in NB minimus and made the trasition in about two months running a local road Marathon in them after less than two and a half months. Feet felt sore at the end but were fine next day. I’m 68.

    I can run on grass straight out of the house and immediately liked the feel but I can choose to go on an off a surfaced road at will. To start with a could barely run on the road – to painful on the heel but soon I learned to adapt and my overal performance has gradually improved since. Best time this summer was road 5K in 21.47. I’m a UK athletcs coach and I think my technique improved more in six months than it had done in six years – but I was focussed on it. In my youth very cheap canvas plimsols was all there was. This could also be a factor. My instinct told me it was the right way to run.

    Not sure what is meant by heel midfoot or heel striker – I can feel what takes the initial load (the pads of my forefoot) but I’m not at all sure that anyone watching can see this. It probably looks like midfoot but if I was wearing a high heel it might look like a heel strike. I think this is what could lead to a sloppy running style in high heels – It doesn’t hurt if you heel land and this can then lead to a poor posture. I still wear high heels if my feet get sore and I can feel my posture tending to deterorate-appart from the arch support feeling unneccessary. I see more improvement in my pupils when they get their posture right than anything else they do. You can get a good posture in high heels – thousands do – it just comes quicker if bad posture is hurting your heels! My group have also tried running competely barefoot on grass and road and found this easier than we expected – especially those with good posture. Watching kids run around barefoot in India on hard packed earth is also intersting to watch!

    Here is my problem with some of the

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