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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. Want to Join the Barefoot Running Club??? Here's all you need to do:

    1. Read the semi-fiction novel "Born to Run" by Chris McDougall that has plenty of mistruths regarding foot and lower extremity function, exercise physiology and running/racing training philosophy and then, after reading the book, get excited to run "naturally" like our ancestors did, while barefoot.

    2. Go onto the internet and read all the fanatistic claims of the one in 10,000 runners who run barefoot and believe all of what they say, all of which is basically regurgitated from the mistruths made in the book, "Born to Run".

    3. Restart your running training back to near zero for about 3-12 months while your feet begin to develop the callouses necessary to run barefoot, or buy the Vibram Fivefinger shoe so you can get an easier ticket into the Barefoot Running Club by looking the part of a barefoot runner, without needing to toughen up your feet and reduce your training mileage drastically initially.

    4. Start spending 3-4 hours a day scouring the internet, posting on internet sites that discuss barefoot running, and posting under your first name with either "barefoot" or "unshod" before your first name. If someone with an advanced degree thinks that barefoot running is not the best thing that has happened to runners in the past few centuries, then be sure not to objectively discuss the valid points that the naysayer makes, but just attack him or her personally.

    5. Run slower than ever in races either barefoot or in the Vibram Fivefinger shoe and, as a result, get increased attention that you are really tougher, smarter and more natural than any of the shod runners ahead of you in the race since you are running like our ancestors did.

    6. Ignore all objectivity regarding how barefoot running could possibly cause more injuries or be less healthy than running in shoes. Be a fanatical zealot and insulate yourself from shod runners who dare to claim that they have run comfortably in shoes and heel striking for the past few decades without injury while they run.

    7. If you get injured while barefoot running, never post to the barefoot runner's websites to report your injury for fear of being told by the other barefoot running zealots that you weren't running with the correct form or that you weren't running "lightly" enough.

    Welcome to the Barefoot Running Club!!
  2. Hello everyone

    Last december i posted an anecdotal report of my recent experience of jogging in a pair of vibram finefingers (flow). It is now approx 2 months later and I thought i would update my anecdote.

    I purchased the shoes with no intention of running/jogging - just for walking. After using for a while I just 'had a desire to go for a jog'...so i did! And I havent stopped. I now frequently jog 45mins or so and have had no signs of any over use injuries of joint pain. I am getting to the point of thinking 'why walk when you can run'?

    My jogging pattern is slow and rhythmical. One of the interesting things for me is to observe the ease with which my breathing coordinates with the pace of my stride. I definitely have developed (quite naturally) a forefoot/midfoot strike. It is a shock absorptive gait that feels like I could just keep going and going. It reminds me of the footage of Cliff Young participating in the sydney-melbourne ultramarathon (minus gumboots :) I thought initially that I would only jog on grass or dirt track but I got tired of collecting paspallum/daisies etc between my toes so starting running of the bitumen and found it equally comfortable.

    So i think i am hooked! Never thought I would ever say that.

    Has anyone else had a go using a similar shoe?

  3. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

  4. JB1973

    JB1973 Active Member

    evening all

    i came across this podcast on Itunes. hope the link works as i've never tried this before. if it doesnt its easy enough to find on itunes

    "In his first article for Running Times, Amby Burfoot describes a fascinating hypothesis by a Harvard scientist--that long-distance running played a key role in human evolution. (9:02)"

    Amby is at pains to say that this is a theory/hypothesis -NOT FACTUAL.
    also this is from november 2008 so Leiberman has been "at it" way befor the nature article.


  5. Griff

    Griff Moderator

  6. Pod on sea

    Pod on sea Active Member

    On the Vibram five fingers website it says:
    Vibram FiveFingers is different than any other footwear on the planet. Not only do they bring you closer to your environment, FiveFingers deliver a number of positive health benefits—by leveraging all of the body’s natural biomechanics, so you can move as nature intended.

    6 Reasons to Wear Vibram FiveFingers:

    1. Strengthens Muscles in the Feet and Lower Legs - wearing FiveFingers will stimulate and strengthen muscles in the feet and lower legs, improving general foot health and reducing the risk of injury.

    2. Improves Range of Motion in Ankles, Feet and Toes – no longer ‘cast’ in a shoe, the foot and toes move more naturally.

    3. Stimulates Neural Function Important to Balance and Agility - when wearing Vibram FiveFingers, thousands of neurological receptors in the feet send valuable information to the brain, improving balance and agility.

    4. Improves Proprioception and Body Awareness – those same neurological receptors heighten body awareness, sending messages about body mechanics, form, and movement.

    5. Eliminates Heel Lift to Align the Spine and Improve Posture – By lowering the heel, our bodyweight becomes evenly distributed across the footbed, promoting proper posture and spine alignment

    Does anyone know if their research has been published?
  7. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Of course it hasn't! They making it all up.
  8. Pod on sea

    Pod on sea Active Member

    Could be a good research project for a Pod then...
    I may be naive, but are they allowed to just make it up and advertise such claims these days?
  9. Hmmm

    Might be fodder for a biomechanics column.

    Fancy co writing that one with me ian?
  10. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    That is naive. Same applies to MBTs, Shape Ups, Fit Flops, Reebok Easy Tone... the list goes on. The lines of sales/marketing and science seem to get blurrier and blurrier.

    You're right on one thing though - what we need is well structured (and independant) research on all these various 'fads'.

    I'm game. I've just published a blog inspired by the great minds on here (Bartold, Payne and Kirby) regarding barefoot running - it would just need sexing up a bit by your good self and I reckon it would be ready

  11. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

  12. Griff

    Griff Moderator


    I see you are now doing a talk on barefoot running at the Staffs conference next month - looking forward to it!

  13. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    Should be fun Ian.. I love the title "Bare running: is there enough information fo a scientific debate?".. I reckon so! See you there
  14. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Simon - thats going to be the shortest lecture you have ever given. How long does it take to say "no"?

    Nick Brown and I are doing Chi Running and Pose Running at our state conference in a few weeks. The program was set before the barefoot stuff heated up ...
  15. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    It will be a fair and (un)balanced discussion on the merits or otherwise of running unshod.. nothing more nothing less. I believe I have 30 minutes to make my case..!! I lost the thread to that guy who was singing the praises of barefoot running and calling us all.. especially Kirby.. charletons. Can you direct me to that.. would be interested to see if he ever responded. BTW.. we just had our paper accepted into Clinical Biomechanics. Here is the abstract:
    Background: The relationship between the phases of the menstrual cycle and injury risk remains unclear. Previous studies indicate that neuromuscular function may be compromised during menstruation, which could result in reduced cyclicality of movement patterns. We hypothesize that mediolateral (varus/valgus) knee acceleration patterns during running gait will possess increased variability during menstruation when compared to ≈ovulation in women who do not take the monophasic oral contraceptive pill (MOCP).
    Methods: Thirty-six women (18 MOCP users: MOCP group and 18 non-pill users: NP group) performed six minute treadmill running trials at 10km.hr-1 with a triaxial accelerometer fixed to the proximal tibia. These trials were performed at menstruation and ≈ovulation (for the MOCP group at a similar stage of the cycle) in a randomized order. The cyclicality of gross mediolateral tibial acceleration during 15 consecutive strides was assessed using combined wavelet and autocorrelation analysis. Longitudinal and anteroposterior impact acceleration data was also examined. Repeated measures analysis of variance tests were performed to assess differences at each stage of the menstrual cycle (α = 0.05).
    Findings: Gross mediolateral acceleration in the NP group had significantly (p=0.022) increased variability at the time of menstruation compared to ≈ovulation, and was also significantly (p=0.011) lower than the MOCP group at the corresponding time point. No significant difference was observed for any measure in the MOCP group.
    Interpretation: The increased variability in the NP group at menstruation may be a result of compromised motor control strategies. This study provides further evidence of variability in performance and motor control during menstruation, and may have implications for a female athlete’s risk of injury.

    Key words: biomechanics; menstrual cycle; estrogen; female; athlete
  16. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    My real interest in barefoot running (which actually started with following what was happening with Chi and Pose running) was the way that the non-sceintific nonsense that they were falling for was being used to promote {insert method of running} - they all had themes in common.

    It was also interesting how the "blinkers" made them so biased in what they read and how they interpreted it (kinda like the biomechanical theory debates within podiatry).

    My lecture on Chi running is based on that kind of analysis.
  17. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    It was here: Angry Podiatrist: Kevin Kirby - not to be confused with the thread about who really is the most angriest around here.
  18. toomoon

    toomoon Well-Known Member

    same story mate.. you can't prescribe the same thing for everyone. My barefoot lecture discusses Chi and Pose also briefly, with the comment that it is rediculous to espouse that these techniques will work for everyone.

    can you give me the link that guy was on.. I think his name was Ashash or something along those lines..
  19. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

  20. Here's a short article from Science News on barefoot running with some nice comments from Reed Ferber that shows at least some scientists can view the subject objectively. Please also note that on the photo of the runner, the peak ground reaction force actually appears higher while barefoot than while running in shoes. These photos made me chuckle pretty good after reading the article.
  21. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    You lot will enjoy this (but it will come as no suprise to you either).

    I, like most, dabble with a bit of online marketing and use various secondary web sites to drive traffic to my main website. One of these I use is twitter. I use for various things, amongst them I publicise when I have written an entry to my blog. Given my reading on the arena I published a small blog on barefoot running (nothing more than a brief critical analysis of the research and purposely quite factual and neutral in opinion). It seems a barefoot runner (in Kansas, USA) took exception to it and a debate ensued.

    Now for those not familiar with twitter, it is by far the most frustrating medium through which to debate. Think of it like sending text messages - you get a character limit and by the time you have answered one message there are usually 2-3 more so the discussion is far from having good continuity. So you have to get your point across quickly and concisely - something I struggle with as I like to think before I speak/type. Here for your viewing pleasure is the transcript (verbatum) of our discussion:

    He was arguing and attacking a side of the argument that I puporsely didnt adopt (Not once did I say I thought shoes were better). He refused to discuss the research (and changed his mind about its interpretation when I picked him up on it). He finally agreed there was no research either way, and his summary of that was barefoot: 1, shoes: 0.

    So that speaks for itself really :bang:
  22. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    It’s called the Straw Man argument. ....characterise your opponents position as something it’s not and then go after or refute that characterisation. They never really refute the original proposition. The barefoot runners are really good at that. ...but we can see through them.

    BTW: Are there actually any podiatrists who are opposed to barefoot running? (I have made my views very clear many times). Barefoot runners like to use Podiatrists as the 'bogey man' -- but how many podiatrists actually are against barefoot running?

    If you look at all the threads we have had on the topic, its all been about how the barefoot runners misue, misrepresent and misunderstand the research and how they promote the badly done research.
  23. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member

  24. VernWalther

    VernWalther Member

    To those that claim running injuries are caused by wearing running shoes...

    Suppose you wear a motion-control shoe to reduce over-pronation, but don't use any orthotic support inside the shoe and you develop knee pain. Is the shoe to blame?

    If you drive a car with advanced safety features like crumple zones in the frame and suffer significant injuries in a crash while neglecting to use your seat belt, should you blame the car design for your injuries?
  25. If you expect the barefoot running community to be reasonable and objective then that is your first mistake. Even though there a few within the barefoot running community that are reasonable, the most vocal members of their tribe are zealots who are unable to engage in rational discussion. You will continue to bang your head into the wall if you continue trying to engage them with logic....and for what purpose??? :wacko:

    Let them run barefoot and be happy with their choice since this is what it is all about....what works for one runner doesn't always work for every runner. Barefoot runners are a very, very small minority of runners that are very, very vocal and think they are on some kind of holy mission. They are being led by the likes of non-scientists like Chris McDougall that are out to make a living promoting this "natural running" lifestyle. Certainly no conflict of interest there?!

    For me, it is all very entertaining, amusing and enjoyable since it is finally something new to talk about in a sport that generally has had little new to discuss over the past three decades. Personally, I just laugh out loud when they change what they say to explain new research findings that disprove their original contentions. I say, "Bring it on barefooters! I am enjoying every second of it!!"
  26. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I just reread this. Of the whole critique that you did of the Lieberman article, probably the least important or irrelevant was that it was partially funded by Vibram. I notice that he was not able to refute any of the other parts of your analysis of the paper, just picked on that one and attacked you for making a living of injuires! Why did they do that for?

    Why do they have to attack the messenger and not deal with the message? ... well we actually do know...as Robert said in another thread:

  27. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    You're absolutely right Kevin. Despite reading about your own (and Craig's) experiences I had never actually engaged in discussion with a barefoot zealot first hand so figured 'what the hell lets see what its all about'. I guess I thought it would be cathartic and maybe a bit fun. It certainly was fun, but ultimately pointless. He's sent me a few messages since but he's not going to get another bite.

  28. Here are some previous postings I made from other threads here on Podiatry Arena that may be helpful in these discussions with the barefoot running tribe:

  29. JB1973

    JB1973 Active Member

    Ian regarding your twitter debate, there is an old chinese proverb that translates something like " never argue with a fool as others may not be able to tell the difference"
    sometimes i feel as if i've wandered into a monty python sketch when arguing with barefoot fundamentalists.:bang:
  30. Here is a recently published paper out of Brigham Young University where male collegiate runners ran at a 4 minute mile pace over a force plate embedded in a track while in training shoes, racing flats and distance spikes. For the male runners, loading rate, peak vertical impact force and peak braking forces where significantly greater in flats and spikes compared to running shoes.

    The barefoot runners won't like this one a bit.:boohoo:

  31. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Kevin, I just had a look around some of the barefoot running sites and not a mention of this research or the one in this thread http://www.podiatry-arena.com/podiatry-forum/showthread.php?t=45432

    They complain about there being no research that show running shoes actually have any benefit and now that there are two recent ones, they do not even mention them! Why is that?
  32. My explanation?....Ignorance is bliss. :drinks
  33. And do you think any of the news or science magazines will report or interview the authors of this latest research that shows that cushioned running shoes decrease loading rates, peak vertical impact forces and peak braking forces???? No, of course not. It's not sensational enough!!:bang:
  34. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    I imagine they don't even know they exist yet - because these studies won't make the national news (they just ain't exciting enough!).

    The Cheung paper showed that motion control shoes (Adidas Supernova) may delay fatigue of Tibialis Anterior and Peroneus Longus in females with a 'pronated' foot type when treadmill running. (And Eric pointed out some of the faults with the methodology in the other thread).

    I have not had a chance to fully read the article Kevin attached but from a cursory glance it seemed to look at the kinetic differences between Nike spikes, Nike flats and a Nike Pegasus road shoe in an athletic cohort in their early 20's; and found GRF was significantly greater in flats and spikes but for males only.

    In fairness neither of these papers investigate injury any more than the Lieberman paper did.
  35. For those of you unfamiliar with the latest non-heel striking running technique, here is a video on ChiRunning. This one is the best since you "it's possible to run without using your legs for propulsion!":bash:

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 22, 2016
  36. Paulo Silva

    Paulo Silva Active Member


    PS: Admin if I'm pushing it please erase it.
  37. Admin please don't! I just pmsl. :D
  38. Here is another

    cast not your pearls (of wisdom) before swine lest they trample them in the mud and turn again and rend thee.

    Here is a fun thought. The primary argument of the barefoot brigade seems to be "we were designed that way". That being the case it goes for walking as well. That being the case those horrific ballet pumps teenage girls wear, being minimalist, should prevent injuries right? :pigs:
  39. bixy

    bixy Member

    I have been reading through some of the posts in this thread since I originally posted a little while ago, and Kevin I need to ask you about your post.

    If the study is not including forefoot strikers, and the majority of barefooters tend to forefoot strike, isn't it a bit of a stretch to say that this study casts a bad light on running barefoot? Where is the correlation between the results of this report, and barefoot running? Were any barefoot runners included in the study?

    Aren't you doing exactly what you hate about a lot of barefooters that you have had issues with in the past, that is, misrepresenting research?
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