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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. Adrian:

    I did not misrepresent the research. The research clearly showed in the male collegiate runners that the use of cushioned heel training shoes caused significantly decreased loading rates, peak vertical impact forces and peak braking forces versus thinner soled racing flats and racing spikes. Chris McDougall and many of the barefoot runners that have criticized running shoes say that there is no evidence that these cushioned shoes have any effect to reduce injuries and they instead are the cause of most running injuries. In fact, McDougall even goes so far to say that the injury rates in running shoes are so bad that "if they were a medicine they would be yanked off the market". Now here is a scientific study that shows that thicker soled, cushioned running shoes decrease the impact forces that McDougall and many of the barefoot runners say are the cause of most injuries. Show me where, Adrian, I am misrepresenting research.

    Adrian, we have known for over 30 years that runners choose to either forefoot strike, midfoot strike or rearfoot strike during the contact phase of running while in shoes and that their ground reaction force pattern over a force plate is distinctly different when choosing these running styles. Without shoes, we know that barefoot runners run with much shorter strides and choose to land more toward their forefoot. What I was saying was that many of the barefoot runners are making claims that simply aren't true about running shoes. I didn't say that you can't run barefoot and I didn't say that you can't run on your forefoot efficiently. I was racing against forefoot strikers and was racing in "minimalist shoes" over 35 years ago, so this isn't something new to me or to the rest of the running community. In fact, what has the barefoot running community done for running other than created a lot of noise? Has anything useful come out of the "barefoot running revolution" that experienced runners didn't already know? I don't think so.

    In fact, I still wonder, if barefoot running is such a great way to go, why are most of the barefoot runners so slow, with hardly any of them winning any races. I would think that if barefoot running was the better way to go, then we would start to see them winning races or maybe see a few coming in the top 10% of finishers. Currently the "barefoot running revolution" seems to be about one in 10,000 runners, at best, who are a very vocal minority, who love to blog on the internet about how great barefoot running is and seem to think shoes are somehow evil. Which brings up the next logical question to ask a barefoot runner, do you also walk and go to work barefoot since you must think that if running shoes are the cause of running injuries, then walking shoes are the cause of walking injuries?

    By the way, I hope you are smart enough to realize that much of what is written in "Born to Run" was written to sell books, not to represent the truth. You need to spend some time reading the scientific biomechanical literature on running shoes and see if you still think I am the one who is misrepresenting research.
  2. Griff

    Griff Moderator

    On which note, here is a cracker of an example from Josh - or to give him his full title 'Barefoot Josh' (remember the community won't accept you if you don't let it fully define you as a person)

    Full blog here

    So now we are akin to abusive husbands. Can of Stella anyone?
  3. efuller

    efuller MVP

    What percentage of runners wear shoes because podiatrists tell them too? What percentage of runners wear shoes because it feels better?

    from an abusive podiatrist???
  4. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Is barefoot running that bad, that the only way the barefoot runners can defend it is by attacking podiatrists and running shoes?

    Why can't barefoot running stand on its own two feet? (excuse the pun).
  5. Because to define ones position based on what one IS requires a defensible position. To define oneself as the antithesis of what one is NOT requires only that someone else take an assailable one.

    You can observe this tendency, if minded to look, in many organisations and "movements". The BNP defines itself by what it is anti. The evangelical right defines itself by being anti abortion and anti Homosexuality. Dennis defines himself by being anti root (or what he sees as root). Much (not all) alternative medicine defines itself as being anti "conventional" medicine.

    In all cases it moves the basis of the argument away from the subject so the critic ends up defending what the subject dislikes.

  6. Okay, yes I have logged in as "Barefoot Chris." But I have not drank the kool-aid of the barefoot debate completely. I am exploring running bf but am a newbie. I am excited about running bf and so far it is going well. But I present myself as a case of one and not crazy enough to present my success (or perhaps eventual failure) as impirical evidence either way.

    BF Debate? I believe extreme passions result in inflexible arguments. The flaw in either side is that even with a "perfect study" or an absolute proof that one is better, it will still not be a 100% solution for every person. For me the downside of the debate is it casts the two sides as opposing demons. So now, if I chose to transition to barefooting I might feel like not doing so in a race due to negative perceptions of the act of barefoot running. You included a quote from Barefoot Josh's site. He does not need me to defend him but I will comment. Yes, it was a rant. But his site is passionate but also loaded with humor. The bulk of his message is that he loves bf and frequently warns it is not for everyone and to cautiously attempt it if you chose to try. He loves his experiences with bf. He has also relayed experiences where he has heard mocking comments from race participants about his running barefoot. It appears that there is a "barefoot running revolution" backlash which is unfortunate.

    Recently a competitive female marathon runner was quoted in the NY Times complaining about the marathon being ruined by non-competitive people who would even dare to walk the race. I run the marathon albeit so slowly that she might feel the need to mock me. But I "JUST DO IT" (shoe slogan I believe).

    Bottom line. If running in shoes or bare feet gets a 53 year old too sedentary man out and working out to marathon level in a year, isn't that enough?

    C'mon, if it's only 10,000 bf zealots are they really going to ruin the shoe or podiatry industry about raving about their love for barefoot running? :deadhorse:
  7. That's it. From this day forth I wish to be known as "Shod Bob".
  8. Welcome "Shod Bob" to Shod-Anon!
    My name is "Barefoot Chris" and I used to be addicted to shoes. Now I have found my feet and am almost finished with the "12 Steps." :drinks
    Okay, this could go on forever. Thank you for your humor. We can always use a bit of levity.

    Someone earlier asked how come there are no competitive barefoot athletes?
    What Olympic athlete won the Olympic Marathon in bare feet?
    That was Ethiopian Abebe Bikila at the 1960 Games in Rome. He set an Olympic record time of 2:15:16.2 and became the first African to win an Olympic gold medal. Bikila also won the marathon at the 1964 Games but wore shoes in that race. (wiki.answers.com) (FYI: Vibrams new line is called "Bikila", clever!)

    My desire to run bf is not to be competitive, nor would I be competitive shod. I believe the vast number of bf runners are just runners, slow fast otherwise. There are those who say they have dropped their times (Josh is one) and others who have found more comfort doing so. For me? I had adapted my (slow) stride to more of a forefoot stride before bf. Having done so the transition has been wonderfully easy. I can't match my shod distances but I am loving the feeling of the pavement and my posture and legs feel much improved.

    So There! I have proven that BF can cure all that ails you. Now you can remove your podiatry credentials from the wall and run crying into the streets...
  9. I tried, but a cruel impact from my heel stike pattern in my asics caused an injury before I'd taken a dozen steps into the street causing me to drop my credentials ;).

    There are certainly debates in Podiatry which come under this catagory. Thing is, I'm not sure this is one of them!

    I see barefoot running as a curiosity, like the nutters who go swimming in the sea when its -4 degrees on boxing day in Eastbourne. I don't feel the urge to join in myself but I have no particular problem with the idea and certainly no desire to talk people out of it. If it floats your boat then you go nuts (I would say fill your boots but....).

    The reason for me that this debate is remarkable is that everywhere I look at barefoot running it is slagging off "conventional wisdom". Podiatrists seem to be vilified at every turn as being part of a huge conspiracy to cripple the nation and research is misquoted to generate spurious headlines.

    Its not the barefoot running I have issue with. Its the actions and words of so many of it's followers.

    Shod Bob
  10. Okay, I guess I just deleted my reply...Let's try this again.

    You lose me when you say "nutters." If you have no problem with an activity then perhaps a more moderate adjective would do.

    Anyway, I would argue that for every over dramatic bf article or website there are equal voices warning of the "bf threat" with as much evidence as you could step on a piece of glass. REALLY! I am 53 years old, ran 26.2 miles only to get where I started from. I could have had an heart attack, a stroke, been impaled by a stray deer antler. Where was the shoe industry to warn me that wearing their shoes might kill me?

    BF is not a theat to an individual if they want to try it, experiment with moderation, and then decide if it is pleasurable or not. And for some it might allow them to continue running when they could not do so otherwise. Running bf so might be a curiosity to some but it does not equate to being a "nutter."

    Anecdotal Evidence? I was out of shape and knealt down to put air in a tire and popped my knee out. I limped for several days until I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who (here's the shocker) recommended surgery. I said I would think about it, realized excercising might be a better first course of action and, VOLIA!, I can run a marathon. And now I am trying to run barefoot. And somehow I am the "nutter".... Again, an experiement of one.
  11. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Care to explain how he could only run fast enough to break the world record when he was wearing shoes?
  12. Barefoot Chris:

    You seem like a reasonable fellow. I am sure that many that run barefoot are reasonable people who can make logical arguments. That is a welcome relief for many of us who have debated other barefoot runners.

    I was very impressed with Barefoot Ken Bob who I debated with in the Runner's World article from the February 2010. Here is a guy who loves barefoot running, tries to teach others how to do it, isn't out to make money in doing so and only seems to do it because he believes strongly in it since it works so well for himself. I have no problems with Ken Bob and that type of individual.

    What I do have problems with are the barefoot runners who make all sort of unfounded claims (i.e. simply read the semi-fiction book that Chris McDougall wrote, "Born to Run"), make sweeping comments about "abusive podiatrists" (Barefoot Josh), and try to claim that barefoot running produces less injuries and is somehow better than running in shoes. If barefoot runners want to run barefoot, then that is great for them. But for the barefoot running community to suggest that barefoot running is better or produces less injuries than running in shoes, and before they will be taken seriously by the worldwide running community, they will need to be more objective and pay more close attention to the evidence around them that most runners are heel strikers, most runners run in shoes, and that nearly no competetive runners run barefoot in races.

    Therefore, Chris, I hope you have a good time running barefoot since that is your right and pleasure to do so. I am your age, and I have been running competetively since the age of 12, in shoes, so I have a very different viewpoint than you do. My advice is that, if anyone wants to make broad, reaching statements about the medical and scientific benefits of barefoot running, they should have some scientific evidence, and not anecdote, to back up their claims.
  13. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Chris :welcome:

    Where are you getting the impression from that Podiatrists are opposed to barefoot running? I do not see that. I have made my view clear in this and other threads. I have asked several times who is opposed to barefoot running. No one here is. That podiatrists are opposed to barefoot running is something the barefoot running community has made up.

    If you read carefully, all I and most of us object to is the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of research. We are brutal on other podiatrists here at Podiatry Arena when they do the same thing. I think the barefoot running community have a lot to answer for in what they claim - that does not mean I have any objection to barefoot running.

    At the end of the day:
    1. There in NO evidence that running shoes do any harm (there was a ok study published last week that points to running shoes reducing fatigue and potentially reducing injuries)
    2. There is no eivdence that barefoot or shod running is better (there is evidence of the differences between the two, but why have the barefoot community intrepreted that evidence as barefoot being better?)
    3. There is no epidemic of running injuires and it has not increased (why are the barefoot coumminity claiming it has increased?)
    4. There is no evidence that higher impacts even casue injury. If you look at all the risk factor studies for all the overuse injuries in runners, then higher impact is not an issue (yet the barefoot running community claim that impacts are the greatest source of evil)
    5. etc etc

    I could go on more; for eg, what about the barefoot running websites that claimed running shoes cause more osteoarthritis based on the Kerrigan study, when it was not a study on oesteoarthritis; what about the way the barefoot running community interpreted the Leibermann reseash - Leiberman had to publish a disclaimer on his website to distance himself from what they were falsely claiming he showed!; what about the claims about the injury rates between shod and non-shod runners in Haiti you see mentioned often - that study does not even exist, it was made up! etc etc

    This is what we are objecting to. I always go where the evidence takes me.

    It is just that the barefoot community are somehow so passioned about it, it blinds them to this misintrepretation. It is almost impoosible to have any sort of rational discussion about the above research evidence and the barefoot community resort to attacking Podiatrists and not address the above points. I even had one barefoot runner criticise my position due to my 'physique' --- what in earth has my phsique got to do with what I think about barefoot running or not? I call that a low blow and as Robert said earlier:
    Admittingly I am not the finest of human specimens, but I am running and pushing the Arena'ettes in tomorrows Run 4 The Kids - there will be 30 000 there, so will be eagerly looking out for anyone running barefoot.

    (Obviously, when I say 'barefoot community' I am speaking generically. There are indivudual exceptions within the barefoot community and a few of them have posted here at Podiatry Arena and agree with the concerns)
  14. Okay, re-read the quote.
    What Olympic athlete won the Olympic Marathon in bare feet?
    That was Ethiopian Abebe Bikila at the 1960 Games in Rome. He set an Olympic record time of 2:15:16.2 and became the first African to win an Olympic gold medal.
    Then they add: Bikila also won the marathon at the 1964 Games but wore shoes in that race. (wiki.answers.com) (FYI: Vibrams new line is called "Bikila", clever!)
    Two GOLDS, first barefoot, second wearing shoes.
    Just providing an example that someone has been competitive in barefeet.
  15. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    He was more competitive when wearing the shoes. He broke the world record when he started wearing shoes. He broke the world record in the 1964 games wearing shoes. He could run faster when wearing shoes!

    Why do elite athletes choose not to go barefoot?
    Why to all those african elite runners who start out running barefoot and grow up barefoot choose to run in shoes?
  16. Yeah, Chris. You are providing the only example of an individual who has won an international marathon event in the last 50 years while running barefoot, while there have been literally hundreds of other runners who have won international marathons over the past 50 years while wearing shoes.

    Until the barefoot runners start winning more races, no accomplished runner will take them seriously. Barefoot running is just another fad, practiced by a very small minority of very vocal runners, that will gradually fade away like all the other fads in running that I have seen come and go over my last 40 years of running and racing.
  17. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Zola Bud came close, but she now runs in shoes.
  18. Zola Bud wasn't a marathoner.
  19. Oh.....and by the way......all you people that have names starting with "Barefoot" or "Unshod".......running in Vibram Fivefingers does not mean you are running barefoot......you are still running in shoes. Thin soled running shoes are at least a half century old......so unless you are running without shoes, you are not, by definition, running barefoot.

    I ask the question again.....what has the "barefoot running revolution" brought to the greater running community other than a lot of noise, hype and unsubstantiated claims?? Nothing!
  20. Wow, calm down dudes.
    My response was only that someone had mentioned NO ONE ever being competitive bf. Clearly I was not arguing that a win in 1960 supported a need to burn shoes. And somehow the threads argument leapt to "Until the barefoot runners start winning more races, no accomplished runner will take them seriously."

    Okay, I get it. Mellow podiatrist dudes who have nothing but concern over over zealous bf runners exagerated claims now argue that unless we can chase down every shod runner on the planet we should fade into history with the pet rock. Did I miss the bf community saying anywhere that bf will lead to the fastest human on the planet?

    Okay I get it, your thread your way.
    I will return to the "nutters' now. Thanks for the scary ride.
  21. DaVinci

    DaVinci Well-Known Member

    Obviously you did. I have seen many barefoot runners claim that. I have seen them claim that elite runners should be doing it. Even earlier in this thread (or maybe another thread) we had a barefoot runner blaming scare tactics by Podiatrists being one of the reasons elite runners do not run barefoot! All the nonsense claims by barefoot runners about how barefoot running biomechanics is better etc (when all the evidence says that its just different, not better) and all the claims about how they can run further and faster barefoot.

    BTW, love the way you have started attacking podiatrists and NOT addressed the issues that were raised above. You have only confirmed what has been repeatedly said.
  22. My "attack" was based on the fact that the thread went from "you sound like a reasonable guy" to until you can be the fastest or improve the greater running community you should be ashamed to speak. And was I the first to use a negative word in this blog. No, I believe the reference to "nutter" in regard to artic swimmers being just like bf runners was the first. Isn't it interesting that when you have an issue with something I say the argument runs that "well many have said that" but when I generalize I am attacking all podiatrists. Sounds like a Monty Python skit to me.
    Anyway, we began with agreeing that there is no solid evidence that either is superior. I claim only to enjoy running bf and even agreed that the wider bf claims are overdone. You seem to have agreed earlier.
    Let's make a deal. Your fastest podiatrist against the fastest barefoot runner. First to cure cancer and improve the greater world community wins.

    Finally, I distinguish between bf and any kind of shoe. I count bf miles when bf and train with shoes as well. Vibram miles are not bf.

    And REALLY, "love the way you have started attacking podiatrists?" I called you Mellow Podiatrist Dudes. Is that really an attack? Have some humor, have a backbone.
  23. Chris:

    If you run in shoes and run barefoot, then why call yourself "Barefoot Chris"? Why not call yourself "Shod Chris"? I don't see why someone who runs only some of their miles barefoot, but the rest in shoes, would go onto an academic podiatric website and call themselves "Barefoot Joe" or "Unshod Dick". Is the use of "Barefoot" or "Unshod" before your name a new type of title that people who run only sometimes barefoot are allowed to use? Or, in order to use that moniker, is there a certain percentage of miles that you need to run barefoot to be an official "Barefoot Joe" or "Unshod Dick".

    Using that reasoning, since I ran quite a few miles barefoot in college, running mile repeats at about 5:05 pace, and, also, since I walk around the house sometimes while barefoot, then maybe I should call myself "Barefoot Kevin". Please describe to all of us what qualifications someone needs to have in order to officially use the title "Barefoot" or "Unshod" before their names?:confused:
  24. Fair enough. No qualifications I am aware of. I have returned to running over the past year. Worked up to a marathon last Novemebr and will do my second next Saturday. I am 53 and proud of this late life effort. I decided to explore bf running and have scoured websites for incite. Many seasoned bf folks call themselves Barefoot ---. I am a newbie, but never blogged until this new interest. So I decided to represent my "new" self with the Barefoot Chris moniker. I am less than a month into what I mentioned was an experiment of one. Barefoot Ted, probably the most famous bf runner speaks frequently of running in Vibrams when he does trail runs like Leadville.
    You have plenty of right to the moniker with your experience, feel free. But I expect you might lose some credibility on this blog if you do. : )
  25. Okay, last time:
    "Adidas had few shoes left when Bikila went to try out shoes and he ended up with a pair that didn’t fit comfortably, so he couldn't use them. A couple of hours before the race the decision was taken by Abebe to run barefoot, the way he'd trained for the race. Bikila won in a record time of 2:15:16.2, becoming the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal.
    After the race, when Bikila was asked why he had run barefoot, he replied, “I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism." Yes, he won a SECOND Gold with shoes.
    Again, just one person who was competitive. Not suggesting he was the tip of the iceberg.
  26. The facts are, Chris, that Abebe Bikila bested his barefoot time in 1960 at the Rome Olympics of 2:15:16.4 by 3 minutes and 4.8 seconds with a New World Record Time of 2:12:11.4 while running in shoes in his second Olympic marathon in 1964 in Tokyo.

    Therefore, what was the result of Abebe Bikila's wise decision to wear shoes instead of running barefoot in his second Olympic marathon?

    1. A new world record.
    2. A personal best by 3:04.8 (he ran 7 seconds faster per mile while in shoes than when running barefoot!)

    Based on this account alone of Abebe Bikila's Olympic Marathon performances, then racing marathons in shoes should give you a significant speed advantage over running barefoot. The thing I find quite amusing is that many barefoot running advocates, including Chris McDougall, use Abebe Bikila's example as to why everyone should run barefoot, instead of running in shoes.

    The reality is, however, when you look at Abebe Bikila's Olympic performances, the most logical conclusion that a non-biased individual would make was that running in shoes made Abebe Bikila faster and made him break the World Record! In other words, it is obvious that Abebe Bikila must have been slowed down by 7 seconds per mile by running barefoot!:drinks

    By the way, Chris, thanks for hanging in there....I'm having too much fun.
  27. I absolutely agree that an argument COULD be made that he was faster because of shoes. But considering the debate that has run through this thread about studies that fail in their sampling and ignore other factors I have to say that you cannot ignore other variables such as 4 years additonal Olympic level training and a host of other experiences he may have experienced. Do not use a "logical" argument as a solid conclusion. Just because shoes are a likely variable THIS experiment of one cannot be used as impirical evidence to prove either point.
  28. I agree. However, it's empirical, not "impirical".
  29. When I read Born To Run (TWICE, I guess I HAVE drank the kool-Aid) I was entertained and impressed with many of the points. But while a barefoot running argument is made throughout the conclusion, in my view, was more for the minamilist approach. Barefoot Ken uses Vibrams in the big race with the T-Indians, McDougall himself leans toward shoes, and even the T-Indians wore sandals. I know his book has created a bf interest but I took away from it that maybe less is better.

    My experiences: I absolutely have less pain with a forefoot landing (Chi-Running). I have been successful in the Vibrams and might be more likely to be "Vibram-Foot Chris" over the long run.and my bf running has been wonderfully freeing. I do not see a "mission" in my effort.

    I do not tell my peers that they should run bf. But I do mention the minimalist approach to my best running friend who has reduced her running due to knee pain. I also suggest she consider biking to reduce the impact.

    I do not need to KNOW that one is better than the other. And anyone who believes that a quality study proving bf or shod is better in x or y ways will end the argument is crazy. There are too many variables, too much passion. Just look at every new diet. Yes, some are "fads" and some actually do harm. But many become supported in the literature and result in changes to the Food Pyramid. So bf may fade or grow. It should be accepted as one option, not a cure-all, not a hazard.

    Okay….now I am sounding like “Can’t we all just get along.”

    I better ‘run.”
  30. Barefoot Chris:

    Now you are sounding very reasonable again. Lets look at what I said in my barefoot running debate with Amby Burfoot and Barefoot Ken Bob:

    My experiences: I have been running for at least 40 years. I ran my first marathon at age 17, ran a 2:39 at age 18, ran my PR of 2:28 at age 23 in 1980 and have continued to still run now at age 53 and always as a heel striker, unless I was sprinting. I have tried altering my stride from my natural heel striking fashion over the years to experiment, but it causes too much pain and is inefficient. I have trained and raced against some of the best distance runners in the United States in my younger days and about 2/3rds of them are heel strikers during their distance races and 1/3rd of them are midfoot/forefoot strikers. I have treated literally thousands of runners over the past 25 years of practice, many of them some of the better runners in California, and they all run in shoes and are relatively uninjured as a whole. Most of their injuries are caused by training errors, not by what shoe they wear.

    However, as far as barefoot running not being a hazard, you can, Chris, recommend to anyone to try barefoot running and if they step on some glass, or a nail and get a deep space infection, develop osteomyelitis, etc. and can't ever walk, let alone run again without pain because of this injury, then you couldn't be held liable since you are just a lay person. But if one of us were to recommend barefoot running to a patient and they had the same injury, we could be sued quite easily by the patient in a court of law. We are taught as physicians, "do no harm". Therefore, we have much more responsibility in our running recommendations than you ever will.

    So, Barefoot Chris, please don't try to tell us what we should recommend or not recommend because you have no clue of what we have all seen people do to themselves while barefoot. And these injuries simply would never have occurred if they had had proper shoes on. It is amazing how actually having some responsibility and liability for your recommendations to others will change the type of recommendations you make.
  31. Barefoot Chris:

    Since Chris McDougall has called me the "angry podiatrist" on his blog, let's look at that book you read twice.

    One of the most amazing things about "Born to Run" is that McDougall complains throughout his book about how bad and terrible and greedy Nike is, and says how bad it is to run in cushioned thick heeled shoes since they cause injuries. This really is a major part of his book, his rant about Nike. However, he does not even once mention some to the earliest running shoe companies that existed before Nike, Onitsuka-Tiger (now Asics), Adidas, Puma, and the many other well-known running shoe companies such as Saucony, New Balance, Reebok, Mizuno etc.

    With all this time spent on criticiazing Nike's shoes and their company, and with such a large selection of other running shoes to choose from, what shoe does Chris McDougall elect to run in to train for his race with the Tarahumara Indians?....Nike Pegasus.....one of the most cushioned, thickest heeled running shoes made!!

    This fact alone from "Born to Run" told me that Chris McDougall was much more interested in creating a story, complaining about Nike (for some unknown reason) and selling books rather than objectively analyzing "why he couldn't run without injury".

    Please explain how someone who preaches how great barefoot running and "minimalist running shoes" are throughout his book then gets, for himself, a pair of thick soled Nike running shoes to run in and never gives those running shoes any credit for allowing him to run a 50 mile race can keep any credibility throughout his book?
  32. isdavis

    isdavis Member


    With all due respect, we have published a number of articles that document the relationship between variables associated with the impact peak of a rearfoot strike (ie. tibial shock, impact peak and average and instantaneous loadrates) and injury (refs below). Injuries include tibial stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, and we are presenting an abstract at the American College of Sports Medicine Mtg in May (paper in preparation) on loadrates and patellofemoral pain syndrome. In general, the body does not do well with high rates of loading.

    Admittedly, there are individuals who run with a rearfoot strike pattern without problems. You are clearly one of these. However, up to 75% (depending on who you read) of runners experience a running-related injury in a given year. And 75% of runners are rearfoot strikers. This does not mean that all rearfoot strikers get injured....but these numbers are interesting.

    So where does barefooting come in? When you run barefoot, you do not land on your heels.....it hurts if you do. This suggests that the heel was not designed to accommodate the loads of landing during running. If no one lands on their heels when running barefoot (even those who have never worn shoes, like the Kenyans), one has to conclude that shoes have encouraged a heel strike pattern.

    I totally agree with you about Chi and Pose running. However, these techniques encourage an on-the-ball-of-your-foot forefoot strike. Our work has shown that a forefoot strike does significantly increase the work done by the plantarflexors and increases the dorsiflexion velocity - thereby increasing the strainrate of the achilles tendon. This is why we sometimes see these patients in our offices. A natural barefoot strike is accomplished with a fairly horizontal foot landing at the anterior-lateral border of the arch. When you land in this way, there is no impact peak - and no high load rates. It is hard not to conclude that this is how we were meant to run.

    I believe we were naturally provided everything we need to run (arch support, ankle stability, etc) and that footwear, at most, should simply protect the bottom of our feet. Recent studies have shown that running with minimal footwear increases the strength of the foot muscles. It makes sense that this is protective against injury. Keeping our feet encased in shoes that support our arches and control our rearfoot is exactly analogous to keeping our neck in a neck brace. I find it fascinating that my profession of physical therapy, treats the foot so differently than any other part of the body.

    The foot is a very sensate organ. At the last American Society of Biomechanics meeting, a study was presented that demonstrated a significant increase in postural sway when standing in socks compared to barefoot. So you can imagine what a cushioned running shoe does to the input from the foot. It is the reason my 80 yr old mom walks barefoot in the house - she feels much more stable than when in shoes.

    I am not proposing that everyone run barefoot (although I love it). However, I would really like to see a paradigm shift in the the area of footwear and how we treat the foot.

    a biomechanist,

    Irene Davis, PhD, PT, FACSM
    American Society of Biomechanics

    Pohl, MB, Hamill, J and Davis, IS. (2009). Biomechanical and anatomical factors associated with a history of plantar fasciitis in female runners. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 19(5):372-376.

    Pohl, M, Mullineaux, D, Milner, C, Hamill, J and Davis, I (2008). Biomechanical predictors of retrospective tibial stress fractures in runners. Journal of Biomechanics 41:1160-1165.

    Milner, CE, Davis, IS, Ferber, R, Pollard, CD & Hamill, J (2006). Biomechanical factors associated with tibial stress fractures in female runners. Med Sci Sport and Ex. 38, 323-328.
  33. Irene:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I would tend to agree with you that possibly running shoes may not be a perfect solution for everyone. However, as a podiatrist that has successfully treated thousands of running injuries with custom foot orthoses and/or modified shoe insoles in relatively thick-soled running shoes, I can't even begin to agree with you that "Keeping our feet encased in shoes that support our arches and control our rearfoot is exactly analogous to keeping our neck in a neck brace."

    So you are now saying that no one should use foot orthoses for their running injuries because they weaken the foot? I have been using foot orthoses continuously for the last 34 years and my feet aren't weak.

    Looking forward to a stimulating discussion....and I'm still up for running barefoot with you at our next meeting.:drinks
  34. isdavis

    isdavis Member


    I was responding to your post of 1/28/10 asking a biomechanist to provide evidence that impacts are related to injury. I wanted to make it clear that there was evidence regarding this.

    I would never tell you how to treat your patients - you have obviously been very successful. All I am saying is that I have changed my own thoughts about treating the foot - and running injuries in general, based upon our own research and that of others. I, myself, am not so quick to prescribe foot orthoses as I used to be. As clinicians and scientists, I believe we should evolve in our thinking, based upon new information. Clearly, more evidence is needed - and this is my passion - so we will continue to contribute to this research in our own small way....and hopefully, my clinical and scientific approach will continue to evolve.

  35. Irene:

    Like you, my thoughts are also constantly evolving over my last quarter century of treating running injuries. Here are a few of my current beliefs:

    1. Many runners may benefit from barefoot running, versus running in shoes. However, since most runners run in shoes with relatively few injuries, and since the risk of foot injury is considerably greater when running barefoot in all environments and surfaces than running in shoes for the vast majority of the population, then my job as a podiatrist is to help my runner-patients find the best shoe for them that prevents injury.

    2. As runners become more experienced, they will generally self-select the most efficient running stride, running form and foot striking position for their bodies over time. In less-experienced runners, the tendency for over-striding is the most common running form problem. Most less-experienced runners can benefit greatly simply by decreasing their stride length and increasing their stride frequency during their training.

    3. Running shoe companies, as a whole, tend to make shoes that are too complex and too expensive and with too many useless gimmicks. In addition, once a really good shoe is made, these will only be replaced by the shoe company in a year or two by a "new and improved" models of running shoes by the same company that are not as good as the "older and not-improved" running shoe that was less expensive and worked better.

    4. Thinner soled running shoes have been around for at least 50 years. We called them racing flats back in the early 1970s. Runners have always had the option of running in these "minimalist shoes" for the last 50 years but seem to have selected predominantly to run in more cushioned, thicker-soled shoes, such as Chris McDougall did in deciding to run in the Nike Pegasus. I find it hard to argue with a successful product such as the modern running shoe especially since millions of runners tend to prefer to run on these shoes and gravitate toward them.

    5. The current barefoot running fad is a part of the pendulum swing toward a more "natural" running style that will lead to thinner soled shoes with less weight and more flexibility. This will help some people, but hurt other people. Running shoe companies need to have a wider selection of different styles of shoes so that each runner may trial and error a wider range of shoes so that they can better be able to find the best shoe, or no shoe, for their own peculiar running biomechanics and running injury patterns.
  36. isdavis

    isdavis Member


    I find it very interesting that leg stiffness (which is related to loadrates) is higher in cushioned shoes compared to low cost sneakers and barefoot (Bishop et al, 2006). We are led to believe that people who need cushioning should use cushioned shoes, but they actually 'stiffen' their leg when in cushioned shoes - the direct opposite of what you would want. When you aren't given a soft cushioned surface to land on (such as highly cushioned shoes), you 'soften' your landing with your own muscles. This further conditions the muscles of your lower extremity. I not only felt muscle soreness in my ankle and feet when I started barefoot running, I also felt it in my gluts and quads! But my landings (on pavement) are soft and easy.

    If taking support away strengthens the foot, then I would hypothesize that adding support weakens it....Just like adding a neck collar for a long period of time will weaken the neck muscles.

  37. Irene:

    I believe that one of the first researchers to look at leg stiffness during running was the late Thomas McMahon who developed the "tuned track" at Harvard that significantly improved performances for runners back in the 1970s (McMahon TA, Greene PR: Fast running tracks. Scientific American. 239:148-163, 1978;McMahon TA, Greene PR: The influence of track compliance on running. J Biomech, 12:893-904, 1979). McMahon likened the lower extremity to a rack-and-pinion adjustable spring and that "the runner's rebound from the ground would be determined by the resonant motion of his mass against the damped spring (McMahon, T.A.: Muscles, Reflexes and Locomotion. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1984, p. 220). He compared running mechanics over surfaces of different stiffnesses, including very hard surfaces and soft pillows, and found that foot contact times could be reduced and runner's speeds could be increased if the track stiffness matched the leg stiffness of the runner. Again, this research was done over 30 years ago, so the concept that leg stiffness may be adjusted by the central nervous system of the individual depending on the surface being run on is nothing new.

    The question of whether higher leg stiffness during running is a good thing or a bad thing for runners still remains unanswered. If the addition of a running shoe that matches the stiffness of the runners limb can be achieved, similar to the fast tuned track at Harvard designed by McMahon, then the running shoe can certainly improve performance over barefoot running. Since we see that all of today's world records for running and track and field are set while in shoes, but no records have been set while barefoot, then certainly the evidence leans toward shoes making the athlete faster than running barefoot. Even Abebe Bikila, history's most famous barefoot runner, found that racing the marathon in shoes while in the Olymptics could lower his time per mile for the marathon by 7 seconds per mile. In fact, the Spira shoe, with an actual spring in its sole, has been determined to be so effective at increasing running speed that this shoe was banned from many running events by the USATF in 2005. By the way, running barefoot is allowed in races, but almost no one races barefoot. Hmmmm, very interesting.

    We all know that runners can run barefoot, that is a given. There is also a considerable research that shows that barefoot running forces the athlete to run differently than when they do in shoes, which may help prevent running injuries in select individuals.

    However, the main question that interests me, due to my many years of being a competetive long distance runner, is why are so many runners faster when running in shoes than when running barefoot since there are virtually no barefoot runners that are winning any races around the world. From a purely performance standpoint, maybe few elite runners elect to run their races barefoot because they know that ever since the modern running shoe has been developed and improved over the past 35 years that racing times have continued to improve.
  38. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I tried hard and looked everywhere, but of the 30 000, there was NOT ONE barefoot runner that I could see and trust me I looked hard. I assume there might have been someone somewhere, but I could not see any!.
  39. Part of the problem with a lively debate is it often takes a life of it's own. I belive the debate is about the barefoot community making crazy claims about running bf and including podiatrists as part of the problem? Certainly a legitimate context for a debate in this forum. But somehow the threads unravel to unrelated issues.
    Does the number of bf runner equate somehow to proving or disproving the promise of running bf?

    Okay, lets assume it does.

    Anecdotal Evidence 1: Somewhere someone posted that there are 10.000 bf runners worldwide. I will accept that number as a premise. I do not know how many runners there are in the world but we can say it is several more than 10,000. A race of 30,000 produces no direct observations of someone running bf by someone running in the race. (And I know...you "looked hard.") Now either you are strategically running back and forth throughout the field or we have to assume you may have missed the percentage of runners worldwide who may have participated, maybe WORLDWIDE TOTAL/10,000 = 0? But I will accept there were none.

    But had you seen 3 or 4 or even 10 would you have chosen not to post because the race was overrun with bf enthusiasts? And since their legs had not fallen off duirng the race or their feet throbing like a Road Runner cartoon they would finally prove that bf running is safe AND you can race effectively?

    Now, Anecdotal Evidence 2: I ran a marthon last fall, was out there a very long time due to my strategically forcing myself to run really slowly to observe more bf runners (okay, I am just really slow). I saw NONE! But, funny how this works, my wife who arrived at the finish line 4 hours into the race (because it was rainy and cold and I told her any earlier would be a waste of her time) saw THREE barefoot runners. The field was around 3,000. WORLDWIDE TOTAL/10,000 = 3 is clearly a revolution!!!

    Now I can only conclude that there is a revolution of bf runners in North Carolina but none whatsoever in Australia.

    Before you post that I failed to note the possibility of bf runners being cheaters and driving to mile 23 and piling out of a car like crazy circus midgets I am only arguing that your sample, and point have no bearing on the argument.

    Oh yes...I saw a guy running bf locally about 9 months ago! Oh No...my town has gone crazy-mad (nutters) with bf running!!!! Time to board up the shoe store windows. Podiatrists everywhere are leaping out office windows! Christopher McDougal for President! :eek:
  40. Kevin,
    Your points were well made and it was refreshing to see a balance in this argument. Your exchange with Irene is just where this thread should focus. Layment like myself are only here for a single opinion (and maybe a bit of humor).

    I also agree that if I, or anyone were to be liable for their recommendations our opinions would likely be more tempered. But I think I only stated I suggested my friend consider exploring the minimalist approach.
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