running Archives - Catalyst Physical Therapy & Wellness Mission Valley San Diego


The Runner’s Rulebook: A Guide from Your Running Coach


What is the Runner’s Rulebook?  Well, it’s a guide from your running coach, that’s me, Coach BW, that teaches you how to keep running fun and pain-free year after year!


First, there’s no doubt that running is one of the world’s most popular sports.  Why?

  • No major equipment is needed to run
  • Running improves both your physical and mental health
  • Through running you build strength, and strong bones, as it’s a weight-bearing exercise
  • The attractiveness of a “high” euphoric feeling that you get running, especially outdoors, as you fall into a balance between your thoughts, effort, and your natural surroundings
  • During times of stress or long workdays, you can turn to running as an outlet.  It can provide you with a ‘reset’ that allows you to become a better version of yourself


A Guide Based on Experience


As a runner, an endurance coach, and a physical therapist for the past 14+ years, I created the Runner’s Rulebook based on my experience coaching running at all levels.  From beginners in the sport to professional runners. 

In addition, I also assess and treat running injuries on a weekly basis, and teach other physical therapists how to do the same.

Now then, the Running Rulebook does not contain hard lines drawn in the sand.  But, more of a template that can be revisited as your body evolves over time.  Let’s jump into my Top 5 Rules for Runners!


running marathon racing


1. Take time each year to understand your body

Taking the time to understand your body as a runner means taking a good look at your physiology and musculoskeletal makeup.  Therefore, a review of medical history, injuries, and, a true assessment of your flexibility and strength in all areas of your body pertinent to running.  


For example, have you taken a medication or been forced to wear dress shoes that have led to losing some of your ankle and toe mobility?  Well, we rely heavily on this mobility for running. 

So, a shortening of a person’s ankle dorsiflexion or change in toe extension can be directly linked to foot pain.  This pain typically does not improve unless you have a specialist identify what needs to be done.  Signing up for our run assessment is a great first step- literally! 


Running injuries are typically not acute.  But, they gradually evolve over time.  Therefore, the impact and stress applied to your joints needs to be balanced with the right exercise. 

For me, it may mean stretching a little more on one side versus the other.  For you, it could be activating a certain muscle set.  Moving through a strength routine.  Something to help you better control the forces applied when landing on one leg and absorbing shock. 


Catalyst run program


2. Manage your energy levels to become your best self

Next, proper energy management is essential when choosing what time of day you plan to run to keep it fun and pain-free.  Each run should complement your energy levels, allowing you to feel a sense of achievement and balance. 

As a runner and running coach, when I’ve gone for a run during a time when my energy levels were exhausted, it’s just junk miles.
  Wondering what I mean by this?  Well, there are mixed reviews on what junk miles actually are, and whether they worth having in your running training plan. 
As a running coach, I’d view junk miles as days when your running on empty.  Where each step feels heavier than the last.  Overall, you feel clunky and out of any sense of natural rhythm.

Therefore, understanding where and when you are naturally inclined to harness energy is extremely beneficial for the success of your run training plan.  How do you determine when and where to fit in your run?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you wake up with energy and need to waste a bit to feel productive?
  • Do you get energized throughout the day interacting with people?
  • Are you someone that feels low on energy regardless of the time of day? Do you always need motivation to get outside and run?

running coast Carlsbad


3. Understand what style of runner you are

Did you know that your running form or technique matters?  Yes, there are direct links to the mechanics of how you run that influences how long your body will last in the sport.  A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise provides robust evidence that technique explains a substantial proportion of the variance in your ‘running economy’ and performance. 


Do you know what type of runner you are?

Ask yourself, do you:

  • Land on the balls of your feet the majority of the time?
  • Have weak ankles or fallen arches?
  • Have a long stride?
  • Land on the heel of your foot every time despite whether you’re going uphill or downhill? 


By identifying and addressing some of these issues, you can actually change your running form.  And a change in your running form could actually save you a lot of time and money- helping to avoid medical expenses from injury and the purchase of unnessary equipment (shoes, braces, orthotics). 


Need help identifying what type of runner you are?  Make an appointment for a run assessment! One of our specialists will identify exactly what style of runner you are, and they can help you identify form issues that could lead to energy leaks costing you efficiency.


Why get a run assessment?  Well, having someone assess your natural style will prove extremely beneficial when it comes to becoming a more efficient runner.  What do I mean by that?  Efficiency equals faster speed, fewer impact forces on your body and less energy leaked that limits your performance.


woman stretching



4. Set goals that make sense for what kind of runner you want to be

As a running coach, I see it all the time. Runners pick their races based on the training partners they’ve chosen. While I’m all about having people alongside you to motivate you towards your goal, don’t become a marathoner because your friends do.  Or, because it’s often seen as the pinnacle of the sport.

Think about why you enjoy running.  Then, set at least one or two races on your calendar that are your ‘A’ races.  These races should speak to the very reason you’ve taken up the sport! 


How do you determine what kind of runner you want to be?  Ask yourself if you:

  • Crave the hills?
  • Enjoy the environment found on trails or gravel roads?
  • Love pushing the pace on a track?
  • Need just 30 minutes of solitude to feel recharged?
  • Want to achieve a personal best in a 5k/10k? 


Based on your answers, you’ll be able to sprinkle in some of the motivating stuff you need each week while training and naturally increase your motivation towards your goal race.  This allows you to keep your eye on the prize!

As a running coach, I call these your soul-feeding workouts.  Fit one into each week to recharge. 

For me, this might be intervals on the track.  For you, it may be a walk/run combo in the woods to re-center and focus.


trail running


5. Plan your workouts in advance and have someone hold you accountable

I’m not the most knowledgeable running coach in the world.  However, I see such success with my endurance athletes because I get to know them.  And, I help them to set realistic and fun goals that fuel them as human beings.

So, I love coaching and training runners of all ages and abilities.  In my experience, there are some of you who will need a 5-day adventure running race to feel fulfilled, while others only need a 5k.


How to Become Accountable

Bite-sized goal setting coupled with reality checks on performance is what allows a runner to progress.  Then, it all comes down to accountability. 

For you, accountability may come through writing in a journal or reporting progress over the phone to a running coach each week.  Or, it could be logging miles on Strava, GarminConnect, Suunto, or sharing via a social media post to allow friends and family to cheer you along. 

Either way, track what you do week-to-week.  Set goals for the year and constantly evaluate your progress towards meeting those goals.  This will lead to long-term success.



Final Thoughts from Your Run Coach

Running should never feel as though it’s a chore.  Something that you have to check off the list each day.  Therefore, pay attention to my top 5 rules.  This will allow you to feel fueled and avoid burnout year after year.

It’s a blessing to be able to run!  So, if you place emphasis each year on evolving your body alongside your goals in the sport, you’ll be able to look back with a smile and embrace the infinite amount of small steps it took to get you where you are.

Want to get started with me as your run coach?  Awesome!  The first step is to make an appointment for a run assessment. 

Personally, I want to run into my 90s, and I never lose the euphoria I get while trail running! 
I don’t need the distances to get longer and longer, I just need the views with each route I choose to be worth the challenge.

-Coach BW



How To Select The Best Running Shoes

You may be wondering how to select the best running shoes to fit your running style.  Other questions you may be asking yourself:

  • Which brand of running shoes are best? 
  • Do I need minimalist shoes?
  • What about arch support?  What about custom orthotics? 
  • How about maximum cushioning? 
  • Do I need a run assessment to determine what kind of runner I am?

These are just a few of the questions our Run Specialist Dr. Ellie Nevarez gets asked each week.  In addition, these are undoubtedly some of the most common questions she gets asked by new runners. 
A veteran runner, by comparison, most likely has “their shoe” that works great for them.

However, if you are a new runner that’s training for an upcoming half-marathon, how are you supposed to know what shoe to buy?  So before we go to the research, let’s check in with Dr. Ellie.

runner at sunset

Minimalist vs. Supportive Running Shoes

The first question I hear often?  Do I need a more “minimalist” shoe versus a “supportive” shoe?  To start, running shoes follow a spectrum based on the amount of cushion or thickness of the sole of the shoe.  In addition, there’s also arch support and “drop” or the ratio of sole thickness under the heel compared to sole thickness under the toe.

A minimalist shoe has very little cushion.  Therefore, very little arch support and a “zero drop” sole.  An example of this would be a Nike Free

However, a supportive shoe will have a thick cushion, high arch support, and a relatively big drop.  One of the most common max support shoes are the Hoka One One.

Are you looking for something supportive, but more lightweight for racing?  Well, a carbon-plated running shoe, like Nike’s Vaporfly Next% might be it.  In addition, these have been so popular that they sell out as soon as they launch a new pair!


Catalyst Run Program group run

How Your Unique Running Form Comes Into Play

As a physical therapist and a run specialist, I know that one size does not fit all.  You are unique in your running style and your current or past running injuries will influence this. Furthermore, you might make additional compensations for aches and pains, or based on the course or trails you’ll be running!  Want to come in for a comprehensive run assessment so I can take a better look at your form?  Let’s get you in!

Here’s what else comes into play when we talk about your running form:

  • Your foot posture, so flat feet vs. high arches
  • Toe strike vs. heel strike
  • Wide feet vs. Narrow feet
  • Forward lean
  • Stride length
  • Leg/core strength
  • Balance

In addition to all these things that make your running form unique, there may be certain shoe styles you find more comfortable.  Furthermore, you may hear, “humans have run for thousands of years without shoes.”  This statement supports that minimalist shoes are the best.  However, the counterpoint to that argument is that most individuals have worn shoes their entire life.  Therefore, going from a supportive shoe to a shoe with little to no support will increase the chance for injury. 

Then, add in an increase in mileage or running on new terrain, and this further increases your risk!  Not only are you removing support, but you are also significantly increasing stress in the feet from each foot strike on the ground.  In fact, the vertical force distributed through each foot with running is 2-3x your body weight compared to 1.5x your body weight with walking.


running barefoot

Back to Maximum vs. Minimalist Running Shoes

So are maximum support shoes the best?  Well, many of my patients are runners who wear Hoka’s and swear by them.  Clients often tell me they feel as though they are “running on clouds.”  In addition, maximum support running shoes have helped many of my runners who suffer from knee pain.

However, having all of this support of a maximum support running shoe, the foot no longer has to work as hard and can get lazy.  When this happens, I often see problems further up the chain in the hips, knees, IT band, and lower back.


So What Does The Research Say on the Best Running Shoes?

Let’s look at the science behind running.  Here are a few resources that have helped us debunk the myths:


Therefore, after reviewing all the research, and combining that with what we’re seeing in the clinic, we can conclude that your running form matters more than the type of running shoe you are wearing.


Words of Caution When Opting for a Minimalist Running Shoes

So, if you’ve decided you’d like to wear a minimalist running shoe, a slow evolution is absolutely necessary when transitioning.  As an example, running in Vibram’s Five Fingers leads to a greater risk of injury. 

Furthermore, we can assume that your foot and ankle strength isn’t there initially. Slowly develop this over time.  And, through a proper training program with support from a physical therapist. In addition, if you’re prone to injuries or foot pain, the minimalist running shoe route is one you want to use with extreme caution. 

Finally, if you’re in it for the cool factor of progressing like our ancient ancestors, get on the minimalist’s running shoe wagon.  However, remember to build up that ankle/foot strength, slow down your speed, and focus on landing more forefoot!


Things to Keep in Mind with a Maximum Support Running Shoe

As the research shows, a maximum support running shoe does not necessarily protect you from injury either. 

Although there is not a lot of research done on it just yet, some preliminary findings suggest that when runners are given an extra cushion to support their feet, they tend to rely on it more than using their foot/ankle strength.  In addition, maximalist running shoes are being shown to actually increase the vertical loading forces in the body.  This could be good news initially for those of you prone to foot and ankle injuries.  However, redistributing these larger forces to the knees and hips could lead you down another path of destruction.  Therefore, you’re not necessarily decreasing your risk of injury, but rather choosing a different style of injury. 
A better investment might be identifying some running form changes that will allow you success in the new shoe you choose.  In addition, since research shows that a majority of runners may not accurately identify their running form, coming in for an assessment is a great next step.


Ultimately, the goal is to find a running shoe that is comfortable for you and your running style.  This is why I’ve focused on running here at Catalyst PT & Wellness.  Got a quick question for me?  Drop me a message and let’s get you back to doing what you love! 

If you are having pain, or have a history of injuries, come in for a PT appointment, or schedule your run assessment and I will give you a full evaluation of your running form plus tweaks to make running more fun and pain-free!


Catalyst Run Program group run


Final Thoughts

Remember, you are unique!  So googling ‘what are the best running shoes’ will give you results, but perhaps not for your unique running style.  Although some high end running shoe stores might be able to do a run assessment, most have not been educated on proper running mechanics.  In addition, most store clerks have not managed patient care specifically for runners over the years.

My suggestion for the best running shoes?  Find a running shoe that is comfortable to run in.  If you’re new to running, start small.  30 minutes max.  Build up the miles slowly, and change up the terrain. 

Remember, running should not be painful.  Especially not in your joints!  Do you have a history of injuries or are significantly increasing your training to prep for a race?  Then I recommend coming in for a run assessment before logging those big miles. 


Need more running tips?  Read our Runner’s Rulebook, a guide from a running coach on how to create a well-rounded training program that will keep running enjoyable and help prevent injuries.


Thanks for reading and hope to see you out there on the road or trails!


Dr. Ellie

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