Anna Evans

Science of Running by Chris Napier, PhD

Discover how the intricate dance between biomechanics and physiology transforms runners into efficient and injury-resistant athletes.

Science of Running

The book has gotten 4.26⭐️ on GoodReads.

Regular running offers numerous health benefits, improves physical and mental well-being, and reduces the risk of diseases. Despite its advantages, running carries some risks, but knowing the science can help mitigate them.

Believe it, small adjustments in form and incorporating targeted strength training can lead to significant improvements. Optimising data and race-day strategies also make a difference. That’s why the ‘Science of Running’ authors’ knowledge aims to enrich readers’ running experiences and promote a lifetime of pain-free running.

Author’s background

Chris Napier, PhD is a clinician, a researcher specialising in running injury prevention, and a keen runner.

Chris Napier (r)

He is co-owner of Restore Physiotherapy, a private practice in Vancouver, Canada, and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is a physiotherapist with Athletics Canada, and has worked with Commonwealth, Pan Am, Olympic, and World Championship teams.

As a runner, he earned a silver medal at the Canadian Junior Track & Field Championships in 1996 and a bronze medal at the Canadian University Track & Field Championships in 1997 in the middle distances. Having moved up to the marathon in 2010, he has enjoyed chipping away at his personal best over the years, with the help of his coach and co-author, Jerry Ziak.

Co-creator’s background

Jerry Ziak has been a competitive distance runner since 1986, a coach since 2005, and co-owner of the running speciality store Forerunners North Shore, Vancouver, since 2013.

Jerry Ziak (r)

His competitive running career began over cross country and on the track, where he specialised in middle distances ranging from 800m to 10,000m. He ran for Auburn University in Alabama, Boise State University in Idaho, and the University of Victoria in British Columbia before settling down at the University of British Columbia. He used this varied experience to self-coach himself over longer distances, ultimately achieving a time of 2:17:24 for the marathon.

What is the book about?

This book offers insights into the science of running, regardless of the reader’s ability, motivations, or goals.

Chapter One, titled ‘Running Anatomy,’ explores the physiology of running, helping readers understand the body’s processes and requirements for optimal running.

Chapter Two, ‘Preventing Injury,’ discusses running-related injuries and suggests measures to reduce the risk of injury or recover quickly if injured.

Chapter Three presents Strength Exercises, targeting crucial muscle groups in running, aiming to improve form and running experience for all runners and assisting in the rehabilitation of injured runners.

Chapter Four, ‘How to Train,’ provides comprehensive guidance for effective and safe training, catering to readers’ needs, whether it’s designing personalised plans, preparing for specific events, or following a walk-run program to progress from zero to 5K.

Key takeaways from ‘Science of Running’

1Understanding the physiological aspects

The book delves into the science behind running, including the physiological processes that occur during training and racing. It explains how the body responds to different types of workouts, such as endurance runs, interval training, and tempo runs.

2Injury prevention tactics

The book discusses various aspects of injury prevention, including proper form, strength training, flexibility, and listening to your body. It also explains common running injuries and how to avoid them.

3Running helps to prevent osteoarthritis

Recreational running may have protective effects against the development of knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, research indicates that individuals with existing osteoarthritis may not experience worsened symptoms through running and, in fact, may find improvements in associated symptoms.

4You should do dynamic stretching instead of static stretching

According to research findings, static stretching does not effectively reduce the risk of injury and, in some cases, can even lead to decreased performance. It is not beneficial for post-workout recovery but may enhance joint flexibility and promote relaxation. As an alternative, incorporating dynamic stretching, which involves movement, into a general warm-up routine is recommended.

5High-resistance training is best

Running actually enhances muscular endurance, so there is no need to prioritise endurance exercises in resistance training. Research indicates that implementing a twice-weekly, heavy resistance-training program for six weeks or more can effectively boost running performance and decrease the risk of injuries.

6Neither footstrike pattern is better

The belief that adopting a forefoot strike reduces injury risk and enhances running economy is not supported by evidence. While the type of injury might differ based on the foot strike pattern, the overall occurrence of injuries remains comparable between rearfoot and forefoot strikers.

7It’s doesn’t matter what shoes you wear. Just run!

There is no strong evidence to support the idea that any particular type of running shoe can prevent injuries. However, it’s essential for runners to avoid sudden changes in shoe type and monitor their training load to reduce the risk of injury.

Table of contents

  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Terminology guide
  • How we run/Mechanics of movement/Powering movement/Controlling movement/External factors
  • Injury risks
  • Patellofemoral pain/Achilles tendinopathy/Medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS)/Plantar heel pain/Iliotibial band pain/Deep gluteal syndrome/Gluteal tendinopathy/Stress fracture/Avoiding injury/Running cycle/Individual gait/Running form/Running routine
  • Forward leg swing/Side leg swing/Calf stretch
  • Running As/Running Bs/Running Cs/Strides/Bounding/Carioca
  • Modified pigeon/TFL ball release/Piriformis ball release
  • Planning your drills
  • Foot doming/Resisted toe/Heel drop/Ankle turn out/Ankle turn in
  • Hip hike/Step down/Step up/Standing hip rotation/Hip extension/Traditional deadlift/Single leg ball squat/Hamstring ball roll-in/Lunge
  • CORE
  • Front plank with rotation /Side plank with rotation/Box jump/Single leg hop
  • Why train?/Your training goals/Assessing your fitness/Tracking your training/Training tips/Choosing and using a training plan/Easy continuous running/Fast continuous running/Interval training/Hill training/Cross training
  • Beginner 5km/Beginner 10km/Advanced 10km/Beginner half marathon/Advanced half marathon/Beginner marathon/Advanced marathon/Racing tips/Glossary/Index/Bibliography About the authors and acknowledgements

Strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews


  • Offers great scientific overview of the biomechanics of running.

  • Good source of various strength exercises, stretches, and techniques.

  • Contains a lot of colourful and detailed illustrations.

  • Provides a lot of practical advice.

  • Very easy to read.


  • The training plans only focus on three sessions per week which seems to be too few for intermediate/advanced runners, according to some readers.

  • One of the readers stated that the book lacked information about running during different weather conditions.

Best quotes from the ‘Science of Running’

“The quality and quantity of sleep is the most important recovery factor for any runner – sleep deprivation can impact the performance of distance runners more than some other athletes.”
“Runners are known for having an obsession with numbers, from tracking mileage to recording personal bests, but knowing how to use the data to maximize performance is what makes the difference. Similarly, knowing how your body works allows you to work with it optimally.”
“Running motion requires the body to work like a complex machine, with many functions taking place simultaneously in order to achieve this dynamic action. An understanding of the biomechanics and physiology involved can help you improve your performance and keep yourself safe and injury-free.”

Final takeaway

‘Science of Running’ by Chris Napier offers insights into the physiology of running, injury prevention, strength exercises, and effective training methods. The book highlights how running can help prevent diseases and debunks some common myths about running. Though the training plans may not suit everyone, the book is praised for its scientific approach, practical advice, and visual illustrations.

Where to buy

You can buy ‘Science of Running: Analyse your Technique, Prevent Injury, Revolutionize your Training’ on Amazon, where it’s available in paperback, flexibound and Kindle formats.

Healthypedia FAQ

The book delves into the science behind running, including the physiological processes that occur during training and racing.

According to the book ‘Science of Running', it’s best to use dynamic stretching, which involves movement, as an alternative to static stretching for a general warm-up routine.

There is no strong evidence to support the idea that any particular type of running shoe can prevent injuries. However, runners should avoid sudden changes in shoe type and monitor their training load to reduce the risk of injury.

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