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Barefoot Running Debate

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Kevin Kirby, Jan 21, 2010.

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  1. The metro did a small peice on barefoot running over here during the week. I good luck to them I say it been minus 10 c average the last 2 weeks.

    How do you treat frost bite again, it wasn´t so well covered in my studies 15 years ago?
  2. What's the running shoe market worth to Asics per annum? Enough to put them out of business if it ceased to be?
  3. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    What's the running shoe market worth to Asics per annum? Enough to put them out of business if it ceased to be?[/QUOTE]

    of course... and Nike, and adidas, and Brooks...running is know within the industry as the core business. It is what we do.. what we are good at I think!!
    The discussion is interesting in that it completely ignores the fact that yes athletic footwear companies are commercial entities, but, and I can only speak for ASICS, we have a real and genuine interest in the safety of the athlete, and we spend huge amounts of money researching athlete safety... note.. not footwear.. athlete safety. ASICS has spent almost 1 million dollars over the past 3 years looking at the effect of oestragen on female athletes, trying to understand the window of opportunity for injury in female athletes that is very real. There is a zero benefit ASICS in terms of shoe sales with this research, but now we know a lot more about a brittle 4-5 day period when female athletes are far more susceptible to injury. And we can share this with clinicians who can make a difefrence.
    Did we get media coverage... nah.. course not, but we did get published in the high impact Journal of Physiology, and we did have the rare distinction of drawing editorial comment which called our paper one of the most important pieces of research into understanding the mechanism of injury to female athletes. So it cna't have been a bad piece of science.
    This whole fulminating pile of crap is like David Beckham being paid a quarter of a billion dollars to go to the LA galaxy while Haiti cannot save its people coz there is not enough medicine. If it is not sexy.. it does not matter, but it makes it no less obscene.
  4. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    yeah.. I ran this one last year... can't beat a good nudin' up I say!
    Which brings me to another point.. how come, if, as the barefooter keep yapping, it is all about getting back to our ancestral roots of doing fine running barefoot, these guys and gals are NOT promotong running completely nude as the ancient Greeks did!
    I had a very sensible patient once who was a prominent Australian politician and dedicated nudist. He LOVED to run naked... but there was no way he would ditch his running shoes. He was always very sad he could not run the Adelaide Festival City Marathon, a feat he performed some 20 years in sucession, nude but shod.
    A gem of a man..
  5. Chill, Brother. Lets take a time out and review what we know: when running barefoot people tend to strike forefoot first, when running shod a far greater proportion heel strike. I see this on a daily basis in my clinic. So let's go back a step, why the difference? is it just an added mass thing or is it a sensory input thing?

    Lets consider mass first- what would happen if we added the mass of an average shoe to the foot, but not in the form of a shoe?

    To me, these are the kind of questions that need to be answered, not what effect oestrogen has, but then I'm male.
  6. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    You see the point is where footwear design is going.. and long before we had all this hype, we were, at every opportunity saying less is more. We already knew that, and 10 years ago it took a lot of courage to break away from the mainstream and say "we dont believe in motion control..we dont believe in cushioning."
    But mate.. but...it is a slow process, and even though ASICS i particular has taken the lead that others have followed.. you still ahve to return a buck at the end of the day.. that is an unfortunate life truth. But we are working really hard to make it happen within the boundaries of what is technically possible. If whilst we do this everyone runs barefoot, the ce la vie.
    Everyone on this discussion, you included, know that this is an alarmist, extemist discussion. Everyone knows and agrees that an element of barefoot is great for a balanced program for some people.. but not everyone...
    not one single person has said absolutely no barefoot running.. unlike the barefooters who have only said absolutely no shod running.
    Iam just saying for goodness sake, lets balance the argument.
    maybe we should now just do what is abvious. Close our eyes, take a deep breathe and wait for it to go back to the cave. Which, no matter what the arguments are on either side, it most surely will do.
    As for me.. I am off to do further study on myOC running cohort whilst having a spot of brunch!
  7. Simon,

    No running shoe manufacturer wants their customers injured- I think that's safe to say. it's pure Hicks - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_69yvFZH9U

    While were talking about Satan, and I'm playing his advocate, can I ask a question with regard to the oestrogen research? I think I'm right in saying that this research contributed to the midsole properties of Asics shoes in terms of the space trustic system- right? Did the 1 million dollars include a study of the influence of this technology in terms of performance of female athletes? If so, what did it show?
  8. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    No not the space trusstic system Simon... nothing to do with that.
    The gender research has thrown up a series of papers which have now enabled us to change the configuration of womens footwear. Our second paper "Tibial acceleration variability during consecutive gait cycles is affected by the menstrual cycle" is about to be published in Clinical Biomechanics. On the basis of the first paper, which looked at compliance in the AT in response to oestragen spikes, we experimented with a 3 mmm increase in the pitch of womens shoes. We did this based on the theory that midstance biomechanics would be altered with different muscle recruitment patterns, and a secondary theory that the changed pitch may alter loading of the AT.
    The second paper is the first to examine the influence of the menstrual cycle on cyclicality of accelerations at the knee during constant velocity running. Our findings suggest that mediolateral knee acceleration variability is increased during menstruation in female athletes who do not take the MOCP. This could have important implications for both athletic performance and injury risk, and may be linked to feelings of reduced athletic ability and decreased participation rates in females during menstruation.
    However, we also looked at Subjective comfort, Neuromuscular activation, Force transfer to the tibia and Balance in 4 different configurations of Kayano 16 in a blinded study. The configurations combined high vs low duomax and the 3mm or not.
    Subjective comfort with a VAS N=17..statisical support for the low duomax/3mm pitch..but.. subjective of course.
    There was no change in balance.. ie.. increased pitch does not adversely efect balance.
    Both the neuromuscular activation and the tibial acceleration data were recorded during treadmill running at a constant speed assessed using electromyography on the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus and medial gastrocnemius.
    There were no discernible differences in the timing of neuromuscular activation between the shoes.
    Tibial acceleration is an important measure of the “shock” occurring at the knee during running. To assess this property a tri-axial accelerometer was attached to the head of the tibia, just below the insertion of the patella tendon.
    The results show that the higher heel and the lower duomax result in less shock transfer and mediolateral knee acceleration.
    This potentially provides benefits in terms of running economy and injury prevention.
    So.. we know that shoes categorically effect some of the loading patterns that we suspect may contribute to injury. This is a common finding with lots of studies. But... can we say shoes prevent injury. Because science works in fact and not hyperbole.. no.. we cannot say that.
    Do we think that is likely.. well I do!
  9. Freeman

    Freeman Active Member

    I have done a wee bit of barefoot running over the 35 years I have been a runner. I do like it but it is darn hard to find a place where one can have sober confidence you won't impale your foot with some piece of glass, needle or other piece of unforgiving and sharp object. If you are a smooth runner with reasonable agility you might get by for a while without injury. THe odds are, its going to catch up with you sooner than later.

    My son struck a root (not Jeff) just distal to the met heads while running barefoot a couple of years ago and missed the better part of his soccer season while the jagged wound healed with 7 stitches. Some "research" might claim there may be some benefits to barefoot running, but would be easily outweighed by the risks of having to deal with wounds, trauma and subsequent infections.

    I don't we ever have to apologize to our clients or industry for encouraging them to run with their best health and safety in mind.

    Cheers and happy birthday Kevin.
  10. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    I see that have posted a disclaimer on the website about the research:
    Guess they were getting peeved at the way the media and barefoot runners were using their research!
  11. JB1973

    JB1973 Active Member

    evening all
    i found this reference while i was reading something else. its a bit older than some of the stuff thats been discussed just now (1987) but it shows that this debate has been raging for a long time. and some of the claims are brilliant so it also shows that some things never change:D
    i could only get the abstract but the paper that references it quotes it as saying

    "where barefoot and shod populations co-exist, as in Haiti, injury rates of the lower extremity are substantially higher in the shod poulation"

    the actual paper may explain this statement a bit more fully and let us know how they came to such a conclusion but as i say i could only get the abstract.


  12. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    That was just a statement made that the research did not show!

    The barefoot running community have latched on to this statement as fact, when it actually has no basis in fact (they tend to do that a lot).

    And even if it was shown to be the case, how do we know it was due to the shoes -- the shoe wearers could walk more than the non-shoe wearers; the shoe wearers could walk more on hard surfaces; there may be age differences between the shoe-wearers and non-shoe wearers --- ie what caused the difference (if it existed?) - was it the shoes; was it the surface; was it the distances; or was it the age?
  13. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    hmmm.. some thought provoking words I just read today..
    "Recent studies have shown that running barefoot is still the fastest way to go. But other studies indicate that the injury rate amongst runner is soaring. Our survey has shown that 2 out of every 3 runners suffers serious injury related to running stress. The reason for the injury epidemic is that the human body was not built for the pounding we are giving it.
    Primitive man may very well have loped barefoot over the veldt in pursuit of his dinner, but he did his loping on soft surfaces with only ocasional high speed bursts.
    Certainly he rarely had to run long distances at a fast steady pace on hard road surfaces, and therefore never evolved the body necesary for that kind of activity. That leaves us, his decendants, ill equiped for our self-appointed tasks.
    There is an obvious gap between what nature gave the runner, and what he wants to do with it. Purhaps that gap can never be filled entirely, but shoes can do much of it. They can help make our somewhat unnatural forms of running more safe and comfortable.
    Since running frequently starts and ends with the feet, the feet have to be wrapped and handled with care. In the modern running environment, bare feet won't do. Any old pair of sneakers won't do. Runners need specialised footwear for their special work...."
    And the date of this piece of wisdom?........... Runners World.. July 1973
    Nothing is new gentle readers
  14. Pre didn't run barefoot!!!

    Attached Files:

  15. Boston Billy Didn't Run Barefoot!!!

    Attached Files:

  16. So Why Should I????

    Attached Files:

  17. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    jeez... those shorts are a bit tight aren't they mate! Bet the ladies loved that!
  18. Personally, I'm loving the beard, hair combo- I'm all over that look.

    What shoes are you sporting there?
  19. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    I am not sure... just let me magnify that and adjust the image... wait.. by george.. it's a pair of Five Fingers!!! Wot the Heck!!!
  20. I just thought he was maybe drifting the upper laterally over the midsole.
  21. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    Hello Craig.. what do you know about www.barefootrunningisbad.com ?

    It has a very familiar ring to it!!
  22. Griff

    Griff Moderator

  23. I like the shop, with all the Newton running shoes for sale on e-bay- subtle, but genius none-the-less.
  24. Griff

    Griff Moderator

  25. Griff

    Griff Moderator

  26. I see misguided puritanism rearing it's ugly head again.

    Making the anthropological assertion that we ran fine before the invention of shoes is like saying, 'I don't brush my teeth because our teeth were fine before Colgate.'

    Perhaps I am part of a conspiracy, like big-pharma and big-oil? Erm... big-shoes!
  27. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    Another brand-to-be: stem footwear

    "minimalist & barefoot shoes"

    Can you please explain me (hey my English is poor) Wat the heck does "barefoot shoes" means. Last time I checked barefoot meaned Without Shoes.
  28. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Oh dear...

    From: http://www.stemfootwear.com/foot-biomechanics.html

    Yet again the barefoot/minimalist running community perpetuate myths and nonsense in order to fuel their own agendas (or more accurately to fill their own pockets).
  29. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

  30. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

  31. bixy

    bixy Member

    Hello all. I found this site when doing some searches on barefooting. I hope I don't inflame anyone with my post, I merely want to give a barefoot runner's perspective on some of the topics I've seen covered in this thread.

    I originally started running 12 months ago in preparation for a half marathon, which I completed in May (prior to running I have played a lot of sports, so my fitness level was reasonable). I was doing this all wearing Adidas running shoes (can't remember the model). While training and racing I experienced tenderness and soreness in my achilles, plantar fascitis (I used to have flat feet, and intermittently used podiatrist issued orthotics to control the pain from the age of 16 to 33), shin splints and a sore ITB. I certainly didn't experience all at once, or any pain that was excruciating, but it was enough to have me looking for solutions, as at times it did force me to reduce my training load.

    After some research, I changed my shoes to vibram five fingers in July last year. Since my very first run all the other aches and pains I listed above disappeared from my very first run. I did however experience very tight calves in the first week! This I likened to going to the gym for the first time after an extended break, and the DOMS that kicks in over the following few days. This disappeared also, and I have since run injury and pain free on a regular basis (every day this year so far), including 2 more half marathons. I have since thrown out my orthotic inserts, and my arches are in my layman's opinion now what I would consider normal.

    My reasons for coming on here and posting what I have so far are as follows:

    Reason 1. There seems to be a lot of genuine anger and hatred directed towards the barefooting community by podiatrists. I am perplexed by this. I understand that the barefoot idea could be seen as contradicting the advice most podiatrists would issue. This I believe elicits one or both of two types of responses in podiatrists:
    - Fear of people causing injuries to themselves
    - Fear of having their profession and studies brought into question
    I think these fears are unfounded and should be overcome. I would have thought that people whose profession it is to help people with their feet would be open to any ideas that may assist, no matter whether it contradicts their studies or agrees with it.

    Reason 2. I am willing to offer myself as a research subject to any podiatrist who lives in my area of the world (Melbourne, Australia). If there are any podiatrists here that fit the bill and are interested in looking at my feet / running form / whatever is of interest, please let me know.

    As I have stated, I am not here to inflame more angst, I merely wish to offer an alternate perspective. A lot of the attacks I have seen on here seem to be based around the belief that barefooters are all unintelligent and irrational, and that results of studies are twisted to suit their own arguments. I'm sure there is an element of that, just as there is in any group of people. My hope is that some of you can look past this, and see that there may in fact be some genuine benefits that barefooting can provide.

    I am a convert by virtue of the fact I have experienced it for myself. It seemed nutty to me at first, but sometimes you have to try something new. Anyway, apologies for the length of my first post, and if this causes too many issues I'll slink off quietly with my barefeet :)

  32. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Hi Adrian,

    Thanks for your post. Just wanted to comment on a couple of the points you made.

    Speaking for myself I do not personally have any anger or hatred towards barefoot runners as individuals or as a community. What I do have a hatred for is poor research methodology, inappropriate interpretations of research data and sensationalist marketing hype. Please let it be clear that this is not just done by the barefoot community - some of our own Podiatric community do exactly the same - and if you have a look under the snake oil threads in here you'll see they get treated exactly the same.

    I also don't think we feel threatened by barefoot running. If people want to do it is is completely up to them. As for it 'bringing our profession and studies into question' I would be suprised if you found another profession that is as self-critical of itself than podiatry. We welcome critique (unlike the barefoot community). And as for it making more runners potentially injured - well that would make us busier wouldn't it. ;)

    What would be ideal would be some good quality research studies on barefoot Vs shod running and its relation to injury risk. We do not have this yet (despite what you may have read on barefoot forums).

  33. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator


    Not sure where you get that from. If you read my posts, I have repeeatedly said in this thread and others that I am not opposed to barefoot running. What I think a lot of people are objecting to is the way the barefoot running community (in general) misrepresent and misunderstand and twist research to suit their purposes (see this on how some barefoot websites lied about the kerrigan research).

    When you try to discuss these issues with those in the barefoot running community, it is not possible, they attack you rather than deal with the issues raised (follow the attacks on Kevin Kirby mentioned earlier in this thread -- do you not notice how none ot the issues raised are actually dealt with - they just attack Kevin. If there is some apparent "hatred" towards barefoot runners, it is because of their total failure to involve themselves in discussing the issues raised by the research.

    Not one study has shown orthotics do not work. Not one study has shown barefoot running is beneficial or better than running in shoes. Which studies are you talking about? (I know the barefoot running community think there are studies that show barefoot running is beneficial, but there are not)
    How about the barefoot running community overcoming their fear and sensitivity to criticism and stop misrepresenting research.
    Totally agree. I go where the evidence and studies take me. Why can not the barefoot running community do the same? Can you tell me why they go to such extreme lengths to misquote research and even lie about research?

    I think the real objection to most about barefoot running is the fanatcism and blind faith of barefoot runners in general. Like any religious faith or cult, it is not possible to engage in rational discussion with them. Earlier in this thread we discussed all the problems with the lieberman reseach and in this thread we discussed all the problems with the kerriagn research. Both these studies have been widely touted in the barefoot running community as to showing that barefoot running is better, yet neither study actually showed that - why did the barefoot running community claim that? (lieberman even went as far as posting a disclaimer on his website to distance himself from the way the research was being interpreted and used!). Why is it that you see not critical analysis of the research by the barefoot running community? Why do they blindly accept it?

    I have had abusive emails for things I have written about barefoot running (yet I am not opposed to barefoot running). Funny thing is the abuse just proves me right - they are incapable of rational discussion. Instead of dealing with the issues, they have to get abusive. I even read on a runners forum one criticism of my views because of a typo in what I wrote! (everyone here knows about my ability to spell!). If thats the best criticism that they could come up with, what does that tell you?
  34. bixy

    bixy Member

    Hi Ian and Craig,

    Thanks for your replies. I will try to give a more in depth reply later when I have the time. I do appreciate the time you've taken and want to enter a reasoned discussion with podiatrists regarding barefooting.

    I understand some of the research (Lieberman for example) has been taken out of context. I have read the articles and watched the interview and I am aware he takes measures to highlight that he is not suggesting shoes cause injuries, and that further research is required. I also understand that some have jumped on this study and extrapolated conclusions for themselves. I don't condone this at all.

    I am in agreement with you both that more research is necessary. I notice Craig that you are based at Latrobe Uni - are you at the city or Bundoora campus? I would be happy to meet with you if you like - I work in South Melbourne. I have a genuine interest in both viewpoints - I am currently studying a certificate 3 in fitness and have an open mind to both sides of the argument. I am aiming to become a personal trainer, and I know I am going to get questions about my footwear or lack of!. I want to be armed with all the knowledge I can find.

    In any case, I will try to give my points of view to some of the questions you have both raised later when I have more time.


  35. JB1973

    JB1973 Active Member

    hiya Bixy
    craig an ian seem to have pretty much covered what i was going to say. there is no agenda here (or anywhere by podiatrists) against barefoot running/runners, unlike the blatant agenda from chris mcdougall in 'born to run' against Nike and running shoe companies in general.
    i am a podiatrist and have tried barefoot running. wasnt for me so i wear trainers. i always wear asics because thats what suits me best. now i cant come on and say "asics are the best trainers bar none for running 'cause i use them and i am injury free " because the first thing anyone should and would say would be " prove it" and of course i cant.
    the basics of the barefoot community argument ( and you alluded to it in your post) is exactly the same. " i got injured with shoes on and i dont without therefor trainers are the spawn of the devil and we should all run barefoot. and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot"
    this doesnt make for a rational reasonable discussion about a really interesting topic as craig has already said

    so to suggest there is a hatred and anger towards the barefoot community is way off the mark and actually a bit insulting.

    cheers JB
  36. Adrian:

    Thanks for joining us here on Podiatry Arena to give us your "barefoot perspective". Certainly, in the 40 years I have been involved in distance running, I have seen a lot of interesting things happen regarding the running shoewear industry and the trends that have occurred. I would tend to agree with Ian and Craig that many of the barefoot runners are so excited about their own personal experience with barefoot running that they are blinded by their enthusiam and can't seem to be objective about arguments which don't show barefoot running to be the best thing for runners.

    I have nothing against barefoot running or against barefoot runners. I have run barefoot a number of times in my 40 years of running. However, as a medical professional, I can't tell one of my patient's try barefoot running without first having them sign a disclaimer, since, if they then injured themselves,such as stepping on a nail and developing pseudomonas ostemyelitis, I could be held responsible for that recommendation in a court of law. Most podiatrists will err on the side of patient safety rather than what the most popular shoe or non-shoe fad is at the time since they know that people will do stupid things with their feet which then injures them. They simply don't want to be legally responsible for these stupid things that people do. You may want to consider this if, as a personal trainer, you recommend barefoot running to a client and then that person develops a serious foot infection from running barefoot....do you think you could be held legally responsible for such a recommendation? I do.

    There is simply no research that shows barefoot running produces less injuries than running in shoes and there is simply no research that shows that running in shoes produces less injuries than running barefoot. What we do have are a few scientific studies that have compared the biomechanics of barefoot running versus shod running and these have produced somewhat mixed results. What we do know is that barefoot running decreases oxygen consumption, shortens stride length, increases stride frequency, causes more a midfoot/forefoot striking pattern, and reduces the impact (passive) peak of the ground reaction force vs time curve. Basically, people self-select to run barefoot differently than they run in shoes and this can either be a good thing or a bad thing for each individual. We simply can't say what is best running style with 100% accuracy at this point in time.

    What I do have a problem with is the barefoot running community seems to totally ignore the glaring fact that even though there are virtually no barefoot runners who are in the elite class, they still say that barefoot running is the best way to run. Wouldn't it make sense that if barefoot running was so great, we would see more runners competing and winning races while barefoot? As a former 2:28 marathoner and having competed in distance running from the time I was 13 years old in 1970, I just have to laugh at the barefoot runners saying things barefoot running is faster when no one is winning races while barefoot. Another favorite line of the barefoot runners is they seem to think that their "minimalist shoes" are somehow a "new idea" and they somehow "simulate barefoot running". Well, if this were the case, we were "simulating barefoot running" frequently in the early 1970s with our thinly cushioned training and racing flats from over 35 years ago!! In fact, a few of the shoes I raced in during high school (in 1971-1975) were lighter and as thinly cushioned as the Vibram FiveFinger shoe. What then has the barefoot runners introduced as being new?....nothing that I can see.

    As those from Oz say, "Good on ya" for finding that barefoot running works for you. However, until the barefoot running community starts to produce some research that shows that barefoot running produces fewer injuries or until the barefoot runners start winning some signfiicant races, then most of the shod running community will simply look at the barefoot runners as more of an oddity rather than a serious threat to the runners who choose to improver their performance and prevent injury by running in shoes. Good day.:drinks
  37. CraigT

    CraigT Well-Known Member

    Nicely said Kevin.
    I think
    probabaly sums it all up.

    There are clearly a significant group of people who derive some benefit from runnning barefoot- Adrian seems to be an example of this judging from his experience.
    So what is it about barefoot running that works so well for some people?
    The whole 'it's more natural' doesn't cut it for me- there is nothing natural about running barefoot on concrete or asphalt.
    I suspect that there may be real problems with running technique for these people. They can manage to run in running shoes despite poor technique and they can sustain injuries. Without running shoes they MUST modify their technique which for them is a good thing.
    There are also a huge number of people who cannot run without running shoes and possibly as orthosis designed to modify how the ground reaction forces are applied to them. Does this mean that they don't have good technique? No- not at all.
  38. bixy

    bixy Member

    Thanks all for your replies. Some of what you've all said has basically summed up some of the responses I was going to give. Apologies if my first post came off seeming to attack podiatrists - that wasn't my intent and my reason for being here and posting is to gain alternate points of view. I read in a book recently that you should challenge your own assumptions by finding out as much as you can to either affirm them or disprove them - this is my starting point I guess.

    I agree with some points made above in that I believe the main benefits from barefooting are that change of technique is probably the most important thing. I have friends who run fine in shoes who have quizzed me about how I run - I've said if you don't get injured, why change? I agree that I think a lot of barefooters posting online miss that point.

    Having said that, I do believe that running barefoot greatly improves your technique in a way I don't believe is possible with heel cushioned shoes, and I think everyone could benefit, even if only on the occasional run to improve their shod performance. I have noticed a significant difference even between the vibrams and going completely barefoot - barefooting has taught me how to run without getting blisters, which requires a slight change from how I run in the vff's, and in turn has made my running that little bit more efficient. I've since applied that to when running in the vibrams.

    Kevin, you have made some excellent points. In regards to your point re me recommending barefooting if I become a personal trainer - that is precisely what started me doing more research. I think at this time my recommendation would be - if you want to do it, do it, but I wouldn't personally give the seal of approval due to legal concerns. My recommendation if someone says that they are going to try it would be to run in a minimalist shoe first, to eliminate or reduce the possibility of puncture wounds as they discover the difference in technique required.

    Regarding performance - I use a gps watch and heart rate monitor, and when I went from shod to non-shod in the middle of last year, I found my pace immediately improved from 5:00 at 147 bpm, to 4:45 at the same heart rate (2 runs in the same week). I put this down to both improvement in technique, and the fact that there was less weight on my feet.

    Regarding the vibrams and there being similar shoes in the 70s - I would be happy to see a return of shoes that match what you describe! I think a portion of the barefooting community that isn't so radical even promotes this idea. I would say (or hope) that most of the angst coming from barefooters surrounds the excessive cushioning in the modern shoe, not the shoe itself.

    Regarding elite level performance, and a distinct lack of barefooters at the elite level - I am not surprised by this. I can most definitely run faster in the vibrams than barefoot. I attribute this to not having to be concerned with blisters, stepping on rocks / acorns, and sharp bitumen etc (this is the killer in some places). From my understanding, many elite performers race in flats which do not have the big heel, and I most certainly would not run barefoot where I am concerned by my speed (eg a race). However, I still run barefoot in most of my training runs to improve my technique, so that when I am racing the benefits transfer, the only exceptions being when doing interval / speed training.

    Thanks all for humouring me and the expressing your views in the gracious manner you have - I guess when I first read through and saw some of the comments directed towards barefooters, I felt like I unwittingly belonged to some sort of right wing fascist group! I can see where the real divide lies, and it is in the misuse of studies and research (as mentioned by Ian, by both sides of the debate) rather than against barefooting per se.


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