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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. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    nah! left wing loonies :hammer:
  2. bixy

    bixy Member

    Ah I see, my mistake :)
  3. Griff

    Griff Moderator

  4. If you notice the of one of the sport illustrated mads they have a picture of Herb Elliot one of Australia greatest athletes, running barefoot.

    As part of his training Herb and a group used to do soft sand running and sandune running out the back of where I spent my summers ( I trained on the same area during my athletes career). The sand is soft and was still very clean out there when I was there we always trained barefooted, I´m not sure that you could train with shoes on. It´s just no way near the same thing as running down a road.

    Appart from a great old picture I just don´t see it as a promo for barefoot v´s shod running.
  5. JB1973

    JB1973 Active Member

    from the link Ian kindly put on

    “I can’t prove this, but I believe when my runners train barefoot, they run faster and suffer fewer injuries.”
    — Vin Lananna, Director of Track and Field for the University of Oregon and seven-time NCAA Coach of the Year.

    isnt that the whole point of the debate. no-one is saying barefoot is bad shod is good but simply WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE!


    (ps the red highlight is mine)
  6. Griff

    Griff Moderator


    Spot on. Here's a selection of my favourite quotes from that link:

    It sounds like we have some solid evidence coming our way this year from the varefoot community - look forward to it ;)

    Do you hear that Bartold - you evil fear monger you...

    Surely not dishing out the critique of running shoe research and ignoring a critique of the barefoot research is he??
  7. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Thats exactly the issue. They happy to bag the lack of research on running shoes preventing injury, but the ignore the lack of research on barefoot running. They can't have it both ways.

    They also seem to equate the lack of research on running shoes as meaning that they are bad. When/if the research is done, it may well turn out that running shoes do prevent injury's (but then again it may not).

    As the barefooters equate the lack of research on running shoes means that running shoes are bad, then I think we can also conclude that the lack of research on barefoot running make barefoot running a bad thing.

    Do you think this sort of conclusion is reasonable? The site linked to above is entitled to make the same sort of illogical conclusion about running shoes, so I thing its far that we can also make teh same sort of illogical conclusion about barefoot running.
  8. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    And they wonder why we laugh at them! I read recently on a barefoot runners site that said something like "2009 was the year of the barefoot runner". Now they claiming 2010 as well?
  9. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

  10. What are others experiences when asking their runner-patients about barefoot running?[/QUOTE]

    I think this has been a great thread to read overall. I thought I would respond to Kevin's questions, since I have a lot to deal with the local athletics community here in South Australia, and have the pleasure of treating many of the talented athletes we have here in Adelaide.

    Recently, the Lieberman study also had our local paper interested in Barefoot Running (slow news day?), and the Journalist was somehow put on to me (probably because my clinic is called Barefoot Podiatry - which I chose because all the other names I wanted were already taken), what my opinion was on Barefoot running as opposed to running shod. As a professional track athlete myself, I spoke to this Journalist for my full lunch hour and explained my thoughts on barefoot running etc, and she was very interested in how I structure my training, with what shoes i wore for certain trainings.

    Now, correct me if I am way wrong here, but I thought it was pretty common knowledge that many of the professional/experienced runners would do the following:

    Longer Runs - I wear a normal running flat, sometimes a Nike, sometimes an Asics or even sometimes a Mizuno (the beauty of being a running Podiatrist)

    Faster runs - 800 - 1,500m rep work (road/track) a racing flat (or minimilist shoe), simply because I want to clock a quicker pace

    Track work - a track spike (60 - 150m work without a heel, 150+m a wear a mid/distance spike) - want to even faster, so reduce the weight again and add some spikes for traction on grass

    However, I made the mistake of mentioning, a couple times I've finished work late, and got to training late, and realised I forgot my running flats, and just warmed up barefoot. Sometimes, I am really lazy even when i have my shoes with, I will just go barefoot and do all my warm up plyometric drills with no shoes on. It does actually comfortable doing this on grass (not tartan), as I feel my contact time decreases significantly (not sure if it actually does or not) - but comfort = performance right?

    This is the common pattern i see with athletes who are runners (100 - marathon), obviously with mild variations of shoes depending on their training. I have never had a experience runner come through a do their long 120min run in no shoes, simply because their long is located around national parks or around city parks with all sorts of terrain to deal with that could damage their feet. At the same time, I hardly ever see many athletes do their major track sessions in running flats (unless they're tapering for competition), it's normally a racing flat or spike.

    Anyway, back to the article . . . after talking her her for an hour, the only thing she took from it all was that 'when I train, I will normally wear a track spike or no shoes at all :bash: . So I guess it's a case of media grabbing what they feel is fit for the article.

    Which brings me to my next point.....On tuesday night, I had the pleasure of sitting in on an Asics Footwear science presentation to hear Simon speak, which was a great night. He brought up a good point, in that the media has really grabbed this Barefoot idea to build it up. If it continues, how much will this influence footwear sales? Or will this Barefoot idea disappear, and will we forget it even happened a couple months down the track. All I know, is that i have many clients come through since the article, ask my opinion on Barefoot running, and are normally shocked to find out, that I don't run Barefoot myself(unless I forgot my shoes for training). These clients have been easily influenced by the media?

    I'm sure there are those who can Barefoot run quite well, it's not big here in Adelaide from what I can see. I know I would struggle doing my 15km long run through the national park without shoes, and even in the VFF (which i tried out for about 2km in this national park) i still can feel the discomfort of sharp rocks etc.

    In saying that however, I definately prefer all my shoes lighter? Infact, even on my long runs, I do prefer to run in a shoe not too much more than 300g, and when asking my running cliental about the comfort of the shoes they wear. The one consistent thing I notice, is that my runners who are between 55 - 75kg, all tend to feel more comfortable (mechanically) in lighter shoes, whereas a few of my heavier runners 80+ kg, don't really have an issue with 350g+ footwear.

    Has anyone looked at running footwear mass for different athlete builds (i.e. athletes mass)? Does carrying a heavier shoe around change kinematics proximal to the foot? Do these kinematics change less if the runner is heavier (and possibly stronger)? If someone has already looked at this, could the article be placed on the forum?

    Until someone publishes an article that Barefoot running (over shod running) will reduce my injuries, increase my performance and help me drop my half mile below 1min50, it is not practical for myself to run barefoot. It is also not practical to advise to some of my clients to take Barefoot Running as gospel, however, I have no issue with them performing drills and run throughs (on their softer/safer training tracks) - infact this change may be useful for their training regimes.

    Warm Regards,

  11. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    Here it is in a nutshell..

    I have been observing the minimalist and barefoot running trend over the last two years and I feel it might be time to clarify some issues relating to barefoot and minimalist footwear. The mere fact alone that ninety five percent of runners train and race on asphalt, pavement, concrete, and trails; could close the debate over barefoot running. However, listed below are the obvious and relevant facts about barefoot and minimalist running.

    1. Running barefoot/minimalist strengthens the intrinsic or postural muscles in the feet and lower leg.... probably, but not absolutely established.. seems sensible though
    2. Running barefoot/minimalist increases proprioceptive awareness and balance.
    3. Running barefoot/minimalist forces a change in mechanics to adapt to the forces of on the feet.
    4. There are no clinical trials that show an effect of barefoot/minimalist running for a prolonged period of time.
    5. There are no research studies that prove that wearing traditional running shoes increases injuries or that barefoot/minimalist running reduces injuries.

    No one, including myself, contest the above facts. If a runner has exclusive training on soft trails and/or grass, then by all means eschew running shoes as long as mechanics and gait allow for it.

    There is also the issue of gait and the best way to run. The majority of people walk and run by landing on the heel and toeing off on the big toe. The anatomy of the foot reinforces this technique because the calcaneus is the largest bone in the foot with the largest fat pad in the foot underneath it. The metatarsals are small bones and have much less fat pad protection when compared to the calcaneus. These small bones are not designed to accept three times the weight of the body. The real issue we have to address is mechanics. Far too many people over stride and land with their center of gravity behind the foot strike, which leads to a braking effect and impact up the chain of the body. This type of running is also commonly mislabeled as heel-strike running. Correct heel strike running occurs by shortening the stride, increasing the cadence, and landing with the center of gravity over the feet. This greatly reduces the impact forces and enhances forward propulsion. This type of running is heel-strike running, but the contact point is not at the back of the heel but rather directly underneath the fat pad. Many people are trying to achieve this type of gait by modifying footwear instead of teaching runners the proper mechanics.
    cheers to to all

    Dr. Evil
  12. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I think you are wrong there. Just check the running forums, the barefoot running websites, etc and they will contest those facts. They think that there is plenty of research that proves barefoot running is better. ....but its obvious they are not very good at reading and interpreting research. They very misguided in the way they interepret research and twist it to support their cause.

    I do agree with you. I think the evidence is very clear and and is as you state.
  13. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Actually on this one, I do agree that this is what the research is tending to show, but is that actually a good thing? If those muscles get stronger, then I assume that means the muscles are having to work harder when running. Surely, increased muscle activity during running is a sign of an inefficient gait?

    And don't forget that the MBT shoes have also been shown to increase the strength of those muscles, but at what cost to gait efficiency?
  14. Thanks for the quick reply Simon,

    Enjoyed your presentation Tuesday evening, looking forward to your presentation at our state conference.

    Warm Regards,

  15. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    And don't forget that the MBT shoes have also been shown to increase the strength of those muscles, but at what cost to gait efficiency?[/QUOTE]

    Ohhhh dear.. not the MBT shoe... !!
    I view all research elated to this product with the gravest of suspicion. Every single published article has been underwritten by MBT itself. In fact they came to us the other day (MU) and said.. "we would like you to prove blah blah aout our shoes.. here is the cash. We declined.
    We have performed our own research on unstable shoes.. not MBT, but a similar concept. We found no... zero effect on EMG signal suggesting a strengthening effect of any of the 7 muscles we tested.

    makes ya wonder really
  16. Michael:

    Enjoyed your posting above. :drinks

    Since the early 1970's, experienced runners have been using lightweight shoes to train and race in. Half the barefoot running community says it is better to run without any shoes on, then the other half says they are "barefootin" when they wear "minimalist shoes". Minimalist shoes are nothing new. They are just a rehash of what we were all wearing over 35 years ago. We called them racing flats and racing spikes. So now, if the barefoot runners say you can run "barefoot" with "minimalist shoes", what have they done for us? Nothing new that I can see.

    What I do know is that only the slower runners are running barefoot, not the faster runners. Just look at any road race or track race.....what do you see?.....all the elite runners have shoes on. Are the barefoot runners making such a big deal about being barefoot because it brings them the attention they crave by being in the back half of the pack of hundreds or thousands of shod runners when they can't get the attention they desire by simply training harder and being faster with shoes on? Sometimes I think so.
  17. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    More guff from the resident barefoot blog on how running barefoot prevents injury (dont look for references or proof though - you wont find any)


    And within this also more perpetuation of the myth that shoes/orthoses weaken our feet.... swing and a miss....

  18. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Why do they continue to make such unsupported nonsense claims for? They wonder why we have such little respect for them. We are really brutal on Podiatrists that make such nonsense claims.
  19. All you have to do is read Chris McDougall's book, "Born to Run", to see where this all comes from....it's full of conjecture and hyperbole, but otherwise is an entertaining bit of semi-fiction.
  20. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Interesting you say this. I was looking at this book on Amazon and one of the one star reviews called the book a piece of fiction. The responses and comments on this one star review were very critical of the review and criticised the reviewer. Not one the comments actually addressed the issue that led the reviewer to call it a work of fiction. Why is it that the barefoot running community are so incapable of actually addressing the issues and attack the person. Kevin - I did follow the link earlier in the thread where you were attacked and not one of them actually addressed the issues that you raised. This has become very typical of the barefoot running community.
  21. JB1973

    JB1973 Active Member

    evening all,
    i think to call 'Born to Run' a work of fiction is a bit OTT. i viewed it as two books in one really. the one story of the tarahumara indians, the races with scott Jurek and all that went along with that was actually quite good and i enjoyed that bit.
    But then there was the sensationalist blatant agenda against footwear companies (especially Nike) which was unsubstansiated, unproven and soured the book. at the end i came to the conclusion that the whole story of the indians was just a vehicle to peddle the nonsense that we have come to know and expect from Chris mcdougall, barefoot ted and eric orton (who manages a website called 'Run with Eric' - http://www.runningwitheric.com/)

    i mean take a look at this utter garbage . "Can your running shoes do this - mine can"

    A- yes
    B- SO WHAT

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
  22. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    I have not read the book. I did pick it up in store and looked at a couple of pages and it was really silly with many comments similiar to what you made above, so I put it down.

    My comment about the 'fiction' was how the barefoot runners reacted to it being called that. They were incapable of addressing the actual issues raised by the reviewer that led them to call it that. They just attacked the reviewer.

    It was like something that CP said in this or another thread that one of his comments on barefoot running was attacked on a barefoot site because of a spelling mistake in it! Is that the best critique they could do? Why could they not address the actual issue he raised?
  23. JB:

    I would tend to agree with you regarding McDougall's book. McDougall, for some unknown reason, didn't want to debate me for Runner's World even though it is my understanding the Amby Burfoot asked him to be on the "pro-barefoot" side of the debate with me. Too bad. I felt McDougall certainly had an agenda in being "anti-mega-running-shoe-company" in only telling the half the story regarding running shoe technology, running shoe history and the minimum health benefits of barefoot running in his book, "Born to Run". McDougall obviously didn't want be objective in his book since the book then wouldn't have been nearly so sensational and romantic....that is why I called it a "semi-fiction" book.

    That being said, McDougall is obviously a very talented writer and knows how to manipulate the facts to weave an interesting and compelling story to meet his "anti-mega-running-shoe-company" agenda. I'll bet that McDougall could just as easily have woven an interesting and compelling story in another book called "Born to Run in Shoes" which would detail why mankind has used shoes over the centuries to increase their running performance, decrease running injury rates, prevent severe disabling foot injuries, win major historic battles throughout history, continue to set new world records in nearly all sporting events, etc. etc. Of course, since, for some reason, McDougall doensn't seem to like Nike, this "pro-running shoe" book probably didn't seem to be the one he "needed to write".
  24. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    No matter where I turn I can't escape this.

    I just opened this months Mens Health magazine and was browsing through the 'AskMH' feature on page 26. Basically a panel of 3-4 experts who answer questions on a monthly basis. There right at the top of the first page:

    The expert panelist? Roy Wallack, author of this book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/reader/1602393443/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-page where on page 31 you can read about the 'barefoot revolution'...
  25. Barefoot revolution?? My a**!!

    They must all be running barefoot in secret here in Sacramento since most of the runners I speak to haven't seen anyone running barefoot. Additionally, they think the barefoot runners must all be a little bit nutty.

    The only barefoot revolution occurring, from what I can see, is in the minds of the very, very small number of barefoot runners who spend half of their waking hours blogging the internet with their sensational and magical emotional experiences of how they finally found peace and harmony with themselves by running barefoot. The rest of the runners seem to be quite happy running in shoes, running without injury and wondering why anyone would risk serious foot injury by running barefoot. In my 40 years of running, I have never seen anything like all this. Many of these barefoot zealots remind me a little of the Kool-Aid sipping converts from Jonestown. Maybe if their Kool-Aid allowed one of them to win a major race, or even place in a major race, then maybe the rest of the 99.999% of the running community that sensibly wear shoes to run, including Vibram Five-fingers (which, by the way, is a shoe) would also start considering drinking from the same potion?:confused:
  26. Griff

    Griff Moderator


    Couldn't agree with you more. I have never had a patient who runs barefoot. I have never spoken to a runner who has seen a barefoot runner. I have never seen a barefoot runner myself whilst I have been out running. I have never seen a barefoot runner at any half marathon or full marathon I have worked at. Where are all these barefoot runners??

  27. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    You read that a lot on barefoot running websites and book about these "impact" injuires being reduced.

    Can someone actually tell me what an impact injury is? There is no injury that I know of that is caused by high impacts during running and there is no evidence that high impacts cause or increase the risk for an injury - I just do not get what they going on about.

    Its just another fiction perpetuated by the barefoot community.
  28. CraigT

    CraigT Well-Known Member

    Funny you say that- the first paragraph after the intro of Lieberman's paper in nature-
    'Running can be most injurious at the moment the foot collides with the ground'
    No reference.
  29. CraigT

    CraigT Well-Known Member

    Interestingly I was out riding my bike here with my daughter and passed a guy wearing Vibram 5 fingers. He was walking. Limping actually.
    As I continued I passed another couple of guys, one of which was also wearing the Vibrams.

    Has the revolution come to the desert?
    No. As I came around the loop again I found all of these runners together-
    So we stopped and had a chat...

    Although 2 of the 3 were wearing the barefoot shoes, the third one also had a pair but 'needed a break from them'...

    The thing about barefoot shoes is that you can get a bit of an idea about someone's foot posture without them taking off their shoe. The 2 who were struggling appeared to have pretty unstable feet (I could tell that about the guy in normal shoes even thogh he has normal running shoes on -enough said?), and the guys who was fine has a pretty good structure.
    So the guy that was going well never really had any injury problem before. The other 2 had a long history of problems, but had never tried orthoses or anything like that (!).
    They had read MacDougall's book and were planning a 20 mile desert run in their barefoot shoes. In fairness it is this type of terrain that these shoes are least likely to cause a problem.

    I explain it to people this way-
    If you had an unstable back, would your physio suggest you lie in a beanbag to strengthen yourself up?
    No- you would do stability exercises and encourage good posture.
    An appropriate orthosis combined with the correct shoe encourages good foot posture and function. This is akin to having your office chair adjusted to encourage good posture- you can still make your self have bad posture, but your awareness is enhanced.
  30. Griff

    Griff Moderator


    Apparently we are wrong: according to this site: http://www.bodyinmotion.co.uk/home/?p=646
    The disappointing thing here is that this isn't a barefoot site (if it were we would expect these sort of comments) - this is a Physiotherapy clinic here in the UK. So we also have health professionals spreading nonsense like this. They also say:

    Not sure which research they are reading but not only is barefoot running going to result in fewer injuries according to them, but it 'allows you to run faster'. How the devil did they conclude that from the Kerrigan/Lieberman papers??
  31. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    Impact injury.... hmmm.. I agree Craig, no such thing. This is in fact one of the things the Athletic Footwear community needs to 'fess up over, and a fair criticism of "cushioning" etc in footwear. Benno published in 1981 showing pretty conclusively that cushioning had no effect on Fz peaks and no correlation to injury. Mario La Fortune followed that up in 1989 with his seminal human pendulum experiments. Yet the myth of cushioning having an effect on "impact" continues to this day.
    In fact the only effect of impact is most likely positive.. ie, it stresses bone, helps to build the bone bank in pre and pubertal individuals and maintains bone health in the rest of us during "impact exercise' There is a reason elite swimmers MUST have high impact load bearing training as a part of their regime.
    But the take home message is.. if the nutters are intent on saying that barefoot running is great becasue it alters footstrike such that impact is reduced... they have no understanding of the research.. impact just don't matter.. except to build the bone bank. So on the basis that barefoot running reduces impact, it follows that this is neccessarily a bad thing, because, just like contact phase pronation.. impact is good.. I am a fan!

    cheers.. anyone interested in building a minimalist shoe with me?.. we could do some research,, get the paper published , get some media interest... then....bingo!!
  32. Why bother with the research, think marketing.....
    If it was good enough for the Roman Empire and they travels 1000 of km´s its good enough for the modern man.

    Here our off road version, just got to find somewhere for the logo.

    Attached Files:

  33. Ella Hurrell

    Ella Hurrell Active Member

    I see the Liebermann article has been quoted in the march edition of Podiatry Now in the UK :craig:
  34. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Yep, and with a distinct lack of critical analysis...
  35. Ella Hurrell

    Ella Hurrell Active Member

    Indeed - that's what I thought. Had to check if I'd picked up the Daily Mail instead!!
  36. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    Here's yet another web article on barefoot running - not much more to say on the matter than any other one has had, but this one jumped out at me for this classic:

    Many shoeless victories in Olympic endurance events... brilliant. Abebe Bikila aside (50 years ago) I can't think of one.

    Full article
  37. Griff

    Griff Moderator

  38. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

    Just occurred me; Lets label "Natural" in every commercial product hard to sell, its a hype and probably will sell a lot:

    what about:

    Natural engineered running shoes

    Natural Processed Hamburgers

    Natural Biological Tobacco

    Natural **** you named, it will sell
  39. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    and they wonder why we laugh at them. Wasn't Bikila able to run faster and break the world record when he started wearing running shoes?
  40. Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles Well-Known Member

    At the end of the video he states he is "now" a forefoot striker but the posterior camera angle clearly shows his initial heel strike......

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
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