Running Smart

Running Smart

How Science Can Improve Your Endurance and Performance

By Mariska van Sprundel

Translated by Danny Guinan

A science writer and recreational runner explores the science behind popularly held beliefs about shoes, injuries, nutrition, “runner's high,” and more.





A science writer and recreational runner explores the science behind popularly held beliefs about shoes, injuries, nutrition, “runner's high,” and more.

Conventional wisdom about running is passed down like folklore (and sometimes contradicts itself): the right kind of shoe prevents injury—or running barefoot, like our prehistoric ancestors, is best; eat a high-fat diet—and also carbo load before a race; running cures depression—but it might be addictive; running can save your life—although it can also destroy your knee cartilage. Often it's hard to know what to believe. In Running Smart, Mariska van Sprundel, a science journalist and recreational runner who has had her fair share of injuries, sets out to explore the science behind such claims.

In her quest, van Sprundel reviews the latest developments in sports science, consults with a variety of experts, and visits a sports lab to have her running technique analyzed. She learns, among other things, that according to evolutionary biology, humans are perfectly adapted to running long distances (even if our hunter-gatherer forebears suffered plenty of injuries); that running sets off a shockwave that spreads from foot to head, which may or may not be absorbed by cushioned shoes; and that a good sports bra controls the ping pong–like movements of a female runner's breasts. She explains how the body burns fuel, the best foods to eat before and after running, and what might cause “runner's high.” More than fifty million Americans are runners (and a slight majority of them are women). This engaging and enlightening book will help both novice and seasoned runners run their smartest.


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262542449 304 pp. | 5.25 in x 8 in 2 b&w illus.


Danny Guinan.


  • "...a well-researched discussion...wannabes and runners of all levels should be engaged by this expert investigation of their favorite activity.”



  • Running Smart is a fascinating exploration of the science of running. Van Sprudel separates facts from folklore on everything from training to nutrition and gear. She explains what convinced her to stop buying anti-pronation shoes, why a good sports bra is a better investment than a DNA test for performance genes, and why running injuries remain an 'unsolvable puzzle' despite so much research on them. The book will interest any runner who's wondered how much of the conventional wisdom around running is backed by rigorous science.”

    Christie Aschwanden

    author of Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery and cohost of the podcast Emerging Form

  • “Even if you don't enjoy running, you'll be enlightened and entertained by this fast-paced, informative, and comprehensive tour of the science of running and its effects on the body. You might also run farther and faster.”

    Daniel E. Lieberman

    author of Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding

  • “Instead of recycling the same old myths about running, van Sprundel goes looking for actual scientific evidence, with surprising and entertaining results.”

    Alex Hutchinson

    author of New York Times bestseller Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance