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Should Tactical Athletes Run Barefoot?

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Kevin Kirby, Mar 14, 2013.

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    Guy Leahy, an exercise physiologist in the US Air Force, has written a very nice summary of the available research on barefoot running that I thought others may also enjoy: Should Tactical Athletes Run Barefoot? (see attached)

    Guy is very good at staying on top of the latest research on barefoot/minimalist running and we communicate often privately on the latest research.

    Great article, Guy!!
  2. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Kevin... how can that be? We can't take him seriously. Did you not take any notice of what Chris McDougal was just quoted as saying:
    Obviously Guy Leahy is on the wrong side of that intellectual divide. After all, Chris McDougal is right isn't he?
  3. David Wedemeyer

    David Wedemeyer Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the share Kevin. Mr. Leahy did his homework. Nearly 50 citations and no real support for the barefoot movement's claims and yet his findings mirror a lot of what's been said here on PA. Maybe we were "born to walk" after all....;)
  4. David Wedemeyer

    David Wedemeyer Well-Known Member

    Some brave soul should post McDougall's comments from the Outside article here for all to see. I'd love to ask him what exactly he meant?
  5. Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles Well-Known Member

    No it should be: "Born to Run: Wearing proper shoes"

    Maybe a sequel!
  6. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Here is someone with no agenda; no vested interest in the outcome of the research and no preconceived biases. He pointed out that despite all the yrs of research into barefoot running and after reviewing that research, he clearly concluded:
    For how many yrs has many of us been saying the exact some thing? Where is all this research that those in the barefoot community says supports barefoot running?
    All of the reviews I have seen on the evidence are saying the exact same thing.

    That disturbance in the force that as become apparent in the last 6-9 months is getting stronger...
  7. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Here is another way to spin this.... surely the proof is in the pudding, so to say?

    What are the sales figures?

    This boom in minimalism has been going for how many years now?

    The sales of minimalist running shoes has been steady at around 10-11% market share
    Of those, the Nike Free has got 70% share and most of those are not used for running.
    This means that minimalist running shoes really only have a round 4-5% of the market ... nothing more than a blip on the landscape.

    So who you going to believe: the sales figures or Chris McDougals:"intellectual manpower is dividing up, the doctors and Ph.D.’s are on the side of minimalism"
    No wonder he is lashing out with the name calling! ... you can't argue with the 4% marketshare and NOT growing. No one is listening to or believing the alleged intellectual manpower and greatest minds in the business.

    Have a read of this:
  8. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    The following is the result of shirking some boring cleaning duties planned for this afternoon (Sunday maybe :rolleyes:):

    It's a pretty good article - with some good points raised. I think all points have been discussed at some considerable length on this forum. Although the heel to forefoot midsole pitch wasn't discussed, despite discussing footstrike patterns & its relationship to injuries (I feel the pitch of the midsole is certainly an influencing factor on this issue). The author's "born to walk" reference (putting aside the evolution spin :dizzy:) I feel is rather superficial as we clearly have conducive bipedal (hence not comparing quadrupeds) running traits (particularly for endurance - even when comparing quadrupeds).

    The "cost of cushioning" paragraphs I feel are getting to the crux (putting aside the midsole pitch differential) of the issues - particularly for the barefoot groupies... of which are ignorant of, or don't want to consider the surface/ground element of the equation; in which they inevitably must (particularly when there is no choice i.e. road races) partake on i.e. running surfaces... & the "'stiffness'" thereof [not particularly keen on the "stiffness" terminology in relation to surfaces - surface "flexion" or "hardness" is any better??]... & subsequent variable role cushioning must play on the surface "stiffness/flexion/hardness" in relation to optimal running economy. The "cost of cushioning" hypothesis points out that it's not all about foot attire (debating shod or unshod) & the economical implications thereof (i.e. the higher weight/mass of a shoe)... which most in the barefoot camp like to reference when proclaiming the "barefoot is more economical" come back (putting aside their assumed "muscle wastage" point that apparently occurs in these so called... "foot coffins" :eek:).

    The other interesting point from the author’s article is the discussion on footstrike patterns & its relationship with injury & performance i.e. citing the following research: Forefoot running improves pain and disability associated with chronic exertional compartment syndrome.

    BTW - humans were clearly designed to run, hence to use the cliché... "born to run"... albeit, just not optimally (i.e. efficiently) via the narrow minded, superficial, pseudoscientific & blanket (i.e. all for one) reasoning expressed in McDougall's book. We were all intended to run for enjoyment (that may surprise some), fitness & for getting from A to B a bit faster - yes, it requires a wee bit more effort than walking - hence, the fitness component (i.e. raising muscle, respiration, heart rate/force etc... of which is required for optimal health improvements). That said, being a keen runner (& Podiatrist assessing related issues) I've seen some shocking running form revealing obvious adverse forces which not only affect efficiency/economy but potential overuse related running injuries - which has its roots from various avenues (i.e. poor neuropathway development, poor body conditioning, poor structural integrity... genetic entropy). Hence why taking off the shoes as a solution just doesn't cut it on this exhaustive topic! Yet, we were also intended to think (& think for ourselves), use our minds & approach running in a logical & sensible manner... thus not take on board views by others who don't exercise these attributes &/or want to push an agenda (i.e. for fame & fortune) based on their own (anecdotal) world views of the activity. Hence, educated views which consider the many individual variable factors (as well as environmental factors i.e. running surface 'stiffness') which also don't violate biomechanical/physiological principles are required for controversial topics such as this.

    But hey, when all is said & done (as Nike says) - "just do it"... & one's own body will inevitably let them know what's best for itself (I guarantee it). Exercising some wisdom & listening to one’s own biofeedback pathways is a start in the right direction i.e. short term soreness is good, pain is a warning sign... long term soreness/pain should serve as a reminder of a problem existing or a potential problem brewing... as well as poor performance (i.e. running training/racing times).

    Hence in a nut shell - it's all about reducing adverse forces (i.e. eccentric loading) from a biomechanical perspective but also (excess) accumulative forces based on one's body conditioning/fitness perspective (i.e. don't increase mileage too much too soon from a couch warming lifestyle) - it is acquiring the optimal footstrike pattern for the individual which would also require reducing the impact of influencing factors i.e. reducing higher midsole heel to forefoot pitch (controversial in itself) as well as running on a surface that doesn't invoke too much of one's own (physiological i.e. increase muscle activation) compensatory cushioning mechanisms for optimal economy (i.e. allow the shoe/running surface to help offload this stress). Hence be aware of the shoe mass – shoe cushioning - surface "stiffness/flexion/hardness" equation for optimal economy. Thus light weight cushioning shoes (a variable factor based on the runner's mass i.e. different shoe choice between a 60kg & 100kg runner) with a lower midsole heel to forefoot pitch (there may need to be transitional models/stages here i.e. 8mm to 4mm to 0mm) may be the safer route to take to reduce the population's running related injuries.
  9. David Smith

    David Smith Well-Known Member

    Any one read 'The Shack'? There's a great quote in it that says:

    Paradigm powers perception and Perception powers emotion

    Regards Dave
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  10. David Smith

    David Smith Well-Known Member

    Here's the full quote:

    “Paradigms power perception and perceptions power emotions. Most emotions are responses to perception - what you think is true about a given situation. If your perception is false, then your emotional response to it will be false too. So check your perceptions, and beyond that check the truthfulness of your paradigms - what you believe. Just because you believe something firmly doesn't make it true. Be willing to reexamine what you believe.”

    Paul Young 'The Shack'

  11. David Wedemeyer

    David Wedemeyer Well-Known Member

    Quote of the year nomination please!

    And even at that how many of those 4% actually run in them? I know a few people who own them and wear them to the beach but aren't runners and I bet 50% of these shoes have never met the road running.

    Minimalism is not barefoot IMO; you're either shod, minimalist or barefoot and maybe I'm wrong did McDougall ever mention shoes like the Vibram until they became trendy? He's all over the map..
  12. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Vibram sales are down 50% on what they were a yr or so ago!
  13. GLeahy-643

    GLeahy-643 Welcome New Poster

    Thanks for all the comments about my article. :D Thanks also to Kevin Kirby for the invite to participate! I think the question of the evolution of human bipedalism is a fascinating one. At the moment, there's no consensus as to what the stimulus was that brought it about. A nice review of the question is here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/a...e-able-piece-together-humanitys-early-origins
    It wouldn't surprise me to find the evolution of bipedalism and the evolution of running adaptations are separate events. As I touched on in the article, humans are very efficient walkers, but we're average when it comes to running efficiency. Some animals are far more efficient runners than we are, and at least some of this likely has to do with how much elastic strain energy is recovered and stored during locomotion: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21030429
    One of the primary reasons I wrote the article was to take an evidence-based look at what the science actually says about barefoot running, as well as other "alternative" running styles, such as Chi/Pose/Evolution, etc. Many of my colleagues have taken at face value the arguments of those proponents of barefoot/Chi/Pose, without critically looking at what the research actually says. What I think the evidence says is that barefoot/Chi/Pose are not more efficient running styles, and that we don't have enough info yet on injuries to come to firm conclusions. What I suspect we will see is that the overall injury rates in barefoot runners will be about the same as those who run shod, but there may be differences in the types of injuries seen (metatarsal stress fractures, Achilles tendon injuries, blisters.) I attended a T-Con last week where the guest speaker was a proponent of Chi/Pose. His "evidence" consisted entirely of anecdotes and opinion surveys :rolleyes: He did touch on a couple of research papers, but dismissed the results. These were two of those articles: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23326341 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439417
    Speaking of barefoot running injuries, hot off the press ;)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23481865
    There have been no published studies of Chi running. There have been three which have examined the efficiency of Pose running. Two found it to be the same as "regular" running, and one found Pose running led to decreased running efficiency: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16195026
    I think anecdotes have their place, and sometimes they can lead to interesting observations. For example, I attended the U.S. Olympic track & field trials last year, and could not help but note that not a single Trials runner stepped to the starting line barefoot ;) Anecdotes should not be considered on the same level as peer-reviewed, scientific research. and the fact many people do consider them equal, is to me very troubling. :bang:

    Guy Leahy
  14. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    whihc is exactly what most of us here have been harping on about for years!
    I ranted about Chi running here: http://www.podiatry-arena.com/podiatry-forum/showthread.php?t=79295
  15. Guy:

    Thanks for the great posting. It is nice to have an exercise physiologist here on Podiatry Arena. I studied exercise physiology at UC Davis as an undergraduate and I believe the basic principles of exercise physiology are not common knowledge among most podiatrists. Any help you could provide us on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

    By the way, Guy, you may be interested in this thread, Plantar Fasciitis and the Anti-Orthosis, Minimalist Shoe Message, since you recently stated you heard Mark Cucuzzella speak at a seminar.

    Mark made a comment in his article on plantar fasciitis....Plantar Fasciitis by Dr. Mark Cucuzzella....that was very interesting....

    Is this belief held by Cucuzzella, that plantar fasciitis can only be treated effectively by strengthening "weak" foot muscles, common among the medical professionals that you know, Guy??

    Thanks again for joining us here on Podiatry Arena. I'm looking forward to your future comments.
  16. BEN-HUR

    BEN-HUR Well-Known Member

    Welcome Guy & thanks for sharing your views (of that from another profession) on this fascinating yet controversial topic.

    I think the question of the "evolution of human bipedalism" is a bankrupt one. There has been no evidence what so ever as to the bipedalism of some distant primate kind which is speculated to have ancestral linkage to humans. Thanks for the link of... Will Scientists Ever Be Able to Piece Together Humanity's Early Origins? [Preview] - ("This article was originally published with the title Shattered Ancestry.") I think the title is quite revealing ("Shattered Ancestry") as the evidence (or lack thereof) has suggested it has been "shattered" for a while now - yet the premise still gets used in discussions such as this. Frankly it is bordering on pseudoscience at it shouldn't be associated with a science based topic such as this (where empirical science must reign supreme). Australopithecus afarensis (AKA Lucy) is often cited as a human ancestor & being "bipedal" - & there is no evidence for either assumptions. Latest research is continuing to ascribe further arboreal/knuckle walking traits to this extinct primate i.e. shoulder joint/scapular morphology as well as wrist, hip & Talus reveal evidence that afarensis was not bipedal (certainly not habitually bipedal... hence let alone “running” as Prof. Lieberman continually recites). This primate was a well adapted tree climber (arboreal) with unique bone/joint structures not found in humans (with no subsequent transitional evidence). Hence for these topics we should leave out the fragile historical assumptions & focus/study the observable evidence at hand - the empirical science (which is proving difficult as it is without further muddying the waters with ancestry tales) i.e. optimal parameters of running economy for the (running) population.

    This is the better approach (i.e. "evidence-based look at what the science actually says ..."). Also, the article cited by Craig Payne is actually a very good one (Minimalism in The Long Run - What is the future for shoes?) as it touches on the possible psyche behind the trends we see pop up from time to time. It brings up an interesting point at the end (ironically paraphrasing Dr Dawkins sentiments related to another topic - which will likely turn out to be a double edge sword for the guy)...

    The above trend does appear to be occurring... where both sides (& the rest) would have learnt from the experience.

    Quite true... whilst "anecdotes should not be considered on the same level as peer-reviewed, scientific research"... neither should non-evidence based historical assumptions (i.e. pseudoscience) masquerading as science & belittling the integrity of the research topic... let alone science in general :bang: . There needs to be consensus where hypotheses lacking in foundational evidence (i.e. bankrupt driving mechanisms) are relegated to their rightful place & put out to pasture... or to be naturally selected into the realm of the philosophy class.
  17. Charles Tully

    Charles Tully Welcome New Poster

    I would have thought shoes/no shoes is not a goal in itself. More attention needs to be placed upon the whole person and the 'how' of running. If proper attention is not given to the relationship of the head-neck-back and maintaining good use while running more weight will go into the feet and 'correct' footware is irrelevant, it is more a solution for a symptom than a cure.
  18. Dr. Steven King

    Dr. Steven King Well-Known Member


    I enjoyed your synoptic article Guy.

    As a prior US Army podiatrist i would answer NO to your question "Should Tactical Athletes Run Barefoot ?"

    Military endurance training should reflect operational situations such as using footwear simular to what is required in the field.

    Although the stress fracture rates are very high for the Special Forces units and those in boot camps and the RRI's are higher in the standard combat boots.

    Thank you for taking the time to write a great synopsis.


    Dr. Steven King
    Podiatrist Maui Hawaii
    Co-Principle Investigator SBIR-A11-109 "Advanced Composite Insoles for the Reduction of Stress Fractures." US Department of Defense and Army's Medical Research and Materials Command
    Managing Member Kingetics LLC

    Please review our results and technology at www.kingetics.com under the Medical Advancement Research Educational Nexus "MAREN" tab.
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