Tread Lightly [Book Review]

Tread Lightly book cover
Tread Lightly: Form, Footwear, and the Quest for Injury-Free Running
by Peter Larson and Bill Katovsky

I was sent the book Tread Lightly for perusal and review and I found it very interesting, as well as surprising. Based on the title, I assumed that the book would have a really heavy-handed “minimalism, minimalism, minimalism” agenda. And I wouldn’t mind if it did, since I do tend to lean toward that direction myself. But the book presented multiple facets of running that were all very balanced and thoughtfully presented.

Chapters go through the evolution of running in early ancestors (along the lines of perpetual hunting), why injuries occur, how shoes have evolved over time, the rise of the recreational runner, facts on pronation, information on foot strike, how stride differs from your strike and nutrition’s role in running health.

There are copious amounts of info to takeaway from this book and I imagine everyone would finding different elements poignant. I also imagine different portions would have varying significance to someone on multiple reads through the book. But I want to share some excerpts that I found particularly interesting this read through.

Tread Lightly excerpts

  • Running with the single-minded purpose of a PR is bound to contribute to injury since runners start to ignore warning signs from their bodies.
  • Exercise is one of the best things we can do for our health, yet too many people are reluctant to adopt that… yet if the benefits were presented in a pill format, people would clamor for that drug.
  • Four main factors contribute to injury: previous injury, lack of experience, running only to compete, excessive distance (in terms of what your  body can handle at that given time)
  • Shoes fundamentally change feet from an early age.

Tread Lightly excerpts

  • There is no one footstrike to rule them all… most people do all different strikes depending on conditions. Yet there are definite ways that work better for an individual’s anatomy.
  • If you are experiencing problems… don’t keep doing the same old thing expecting something to change.
  • You have a foot size… find your shoes based on that not purely on “This is what I’m supposed to wear, regardless of how it feels.”
  • Kids should be active and allowed to be barefoot as much as possible so their feet and gait develop naturally.

Tread Lightly excerpts

  • Early days of recreational running was almost an “underground” thing, it would have been embarrassing to be seen doing it.
  • Bowerman started a group in the 60’s to help people learn to run. (It had a bunch of housewives with their hairs in curlers and plastic caps!) They took the program really easy, a simple progression of 20 steps running, 20 steps walking. And I love Arthur Lydiard’s advice applied to the group: Train, don’t strain.
  • Some people are way too invested in the “diagnosis” given to them by the running store. They cling to this prescription, even if it’s detrimental to their health. So while a specialty running store can help guide you, listening to your body and your own intuition is key as well!
  • A poor diet can cause injuries, regardless of how much you tweak your form. Some foods cause inflammation in the body which can manifest as running injuries. The book kind of advocates the Paleo approach a little, but really it’s about finding what works best for you… and sticking to real foods!

I definitely enjoyed this book. Check it out if you get the chance!

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4 comments

  1. Interesting! I will have to check it out. I’m one of those with chronic injuries, so these topics are on my mind quite a bit, unfortunately.

  2. Your article has literally saved me lol. Ill give you a summary of my story.

    I played soccer most of my life so ive always been an avid runner. Ive never been too crazy into distance but i used to be able to do 2-3 miles regularly, no problems at all. About a year or so ago i switched to the vibram fivefingers. Mind you before this i was wearing your typical big heeled nike shoe. Its literally been about a year and ive never gotten even close to back to where i was. The vibrams have brought me chronic calf pain that’s never gone away. My best with the vibrams is maybe a mile and that would be accompanied by a week of stiff calves. I always figured maybe i just jumped into it too quickly, but your article made me realize that maybe these shoes and fore-foot running just arent for me. I think ill try to go back to the standard running shoe using the heel-strike method and see how it goes.

    • Who knows… maybe the Vibrams are way too minimal for you, but something in the 4-8mm drop category would work better. Or if you had zero issues at all in the traditional built-up Nikes, then that works best! I do like that the book pointed out essentially the same thing I point out to runners I coach, you are your own experiment! Good luck, the calf pain for that long is no fun!

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