6 Running Myths to Stop Believing

Assuming common running misconceptions are "truths" could keep you from reaching your fitness goals.

woman running outside

Chances are, you’ve heard friends, media, and the medical community spew some running “facts” over the years. Running is great for weight loss. Running will ruin your knees. Running will make you too skinny.

It’s not always easy to determine fact from “common belief” so we’ll dispel these running myths with the researched facts, courtesy of a chapter excerpted from the new book, Run Your Fat Off, by Jason R. Karp, Ph.D. (Reader's Digest, March 2017).

The book also includes calorie-burning runs to help you lose fat, daily running and eating plans for runners of every level, and expert running tips throughout.

Here are some of the most common myths Karp has heard in his career as a running coach, and why they’re wrong.

SEE ALSO: 5 Fat Loss Myths

MYTH: Running is bad for your knees

Perhaps the biggest myth about running is that it messes up your knees for life. If I had a nickel for every person who’s ever asked me about my knees and commented on running being bad for them, I’d have enough nickels to pay the Kenyans’ expensive race appearance fees. Why would an activity humans evolved to do be bad for our bodies? If running were harmful to your knees, evolution would have eliminated the ability to run a long time ago because only traits that confer an advantage survive. People assume that pounding the ground with your legs with so much force must be jarring to your joints. But, if you run correctly, you shouldn’t be pounding the ground. You should be rolling through each step, skimming the ground like a pebble on the water, with your body in perfect alignment and your feet landing underneath your hips. Running shouldn’t be a jarring activity. When done right, it’s smooth and fluid.

Also, the research simply doesn’t support that running is bad for your knees. People who run have no greater incidence of joint problems or osteoarthritis than people who don’t run. If you have a family history of joint degeneration—if both your parents have had knee replacements or if you already have knee problems when you move a certain way or do certain activities—running can bring that genetic predisposition or those latent issues to the forefront. But running, per se, isn’t the underlying cause of your joint problems. As long as you have healthy knees, running isn’t bad for them.

MYTH: Running will make me scrawny

Because running is a lower-body exercise, many people think that they’ll get scrawny arms by running. Although it’s true that running is a much better stimulus for the legs than it is for the arms, your arms are still very active when you run because your upper body must counterbalance the movements of your lower body. Runners typically have defined shoulders because of the repetitive movement of the shoulder to control the arm swing. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. Not every runner looks like a scrawny Kenyan or Ethiopian. In fact, the only runners who look like the Kenyans and Ethiopians are the Kenyans and Ethiopians. You’re not going to become scrawny because you run a few miles every day. Even if you run 50 or more miles per week, you’re not going to look scrawny. If you’re concerned about getting puny arms, include resistance training a couple of times each week for your upper body. Here’s

how to run stronger and longer.

MYTH: More expensive running shoes are better

Never be influenced by a shoe’s price tag. More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. There are plenty of great running shoes for less than $100, especially if you buy them at a general sporting goods store instead of a specialty running store. A higher price can mean that the shoe has more technology, or it can simply mean that it’s a flashy new model with a high markup price. Most runners don’t require all the bells and whistles found in fancy shoe styles. The best shoe for you comes down to what you need for your foot type and running mechanics. Look for a shoe that matches your level of pronation (how much your foot rolls inward when it lands), and feels comfortable right out of the box.

SEE ALSO: The Best Surfaces to Run On