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Why Barefoot Runners Never Win

Discussion in 'Biomechanics, Sports and Foot orthoses' started by Kevin Kirby, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I am currently taking part in the Brooks Sunset Series of 8km races. At the first race, I pretty much got to see everyone running. There was not a single barefoot or minimalist runner in the race (there may have been one or two, but I did not see them). I got lapped by the faster runners - every single one of them was heel striking as they ran past me ... don't figure. (I also did the race last yr and in that one, there was one in Merrels, that I finished in front of and one in vibrams, that was limping at the end). The next race is this week, I going to wear my NB Minimus to wave the flag for the minimalist camp!

    You only have to look at all the anti-barefoot and minimalism headlines in the mainstream media over the last 3-4 months to sense its fading away. A number of those headlines are reported and discussed in this thread. I just been contacted by a journalist for a major mens health magazine who are featuring an article on what the journalist described as a "backlash against barefoot running".
  2. Andrew Ayres

    Andrew Ayres Active Member

    So the barefoot whirlwind has passed through. Now that the dust is starting to settle what have we learnt?

    1. Running in light shoes is more energy efficient than running in heavey shoes.
    2. Racing flats are better for racing than no shoes or heavier trainers.

    But didnt we already know that?
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2013
  3. SeasonsChange

    SeasonsChange Member

    The facebbok comments below are funny as well as disturbing.
  4. Craig:

    Just did a roundtable discussion for Podiaty Today Magazine on Barefoot/Minimalist running and just got interviewed about a month ago by Outside magazine for a similar article. In regards to the "backlash against barefoot running", just tell them..... "I told you so!";)
  5. Walking1

    Walking1 Member

    Here here to that glad to see we have not been:deadhorse:
  6. drdebrule

    drdebrule Active Member

    I thought the article was nicely written for general public consumption, but there is nothing new under the sun. Are the reporters inventing a barefoot backlash (catchy phrase) to sell magazines and papers? :)
  7. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Indeed. Isn't it scary how a little bit of superficial knowledge thrown in with the usual trope of argumentative fallacies can be dangerous?
    Of course they are! The research that underpins the hyped headline does not support the headline (...and the barefoot community are getting ****** at that!). Just like all the headlines from yrs ago that said how good barefoot running was, when the research they were reporting on did not support that (...don't figure that the barefoot community loved those headlines, but getting p....d at the current headlines!) See: Evidence behind the 'barefoot running' headlines in the media - the Egg on Face Award
  8. Blaise Dubois

    Blaise Dubois Active Member

    The real questions are more
    - Why : more you look to the front of the pack in a race and more the shoes are light and minimalist and more the foot-ground angle is low (less heel striking)?
    - Why the studies and the rhetorics justifying shoes to perform don't tell that you need to have the minimal weight of shoe, just a minimal of cushioning (for those that are not adapted to nothing) http://www.therunningclinic.ca/blog...la-chaussures-moderne-modern-shoes-defenders/
    -Why if you want to perform in a type of shoe... would you like to train with another one heavier, thicker, with more drop and less flexibility.... certainly not to "prevent injury"
  9. SeasonsChange

    SeasonsChange Member

    FOP runners are moving at speeds faster than 4:50min/mi, have a BMI of <20.

    It's clear by your comments you have never run >60mpw consistently, or you wouldn't even ask the question why someone train with a heavier shoe. How many fast runners do you know that train exclusively in a "minimial" shoe?
  10. rosherville

    rosherville Active Member

    Bruce Tulloh ran barefoot, won the European 5,000m Gold in 1962, ran across the USA in 62 days; still running in his 70s. His twin daughter's were exceptional athletes, also barefooted !
  11. OK, weight issues aside just for a minute, lets focus on the "cushioning" itself for now. Ignoring the fact that you've just made up the bit about "you need to have minimal cushioning", Blaise and cannot support that scientifically, I should contend that it is less about the thickness and more about the stiffness of the cushioning within the shoe. Although, ultimately the thickness does have some bearing as will be seen.

    Take two sets of shoes with the same thickness of midsole, one pair of shoes has a midsole stiffness of 75 kN/m and the other has a stiffness of 940 kN/m; assuming both sets of shoes have the same mass, which pair of shoes would most likely result in the lowest metabolic cost within the running wearer? It's the ones with the 75 kN/M midsole by the way (and shoes with even more compliant midsoles might well reduce metabolic cost even more).

    Now, let's assume that the shoes with the midsole stiffness of 75kN/m are heavier than the shoes with the 940 kN/m midsole stiffness. If we combine data from the literature, we see that moving from a surface with a 940 kN/m stiffness to a surface with a 75 kN/M stiffness during running results in a 12.5% decrease in metabolic cost http://biomech.media.mit.edu/publications/Ground_Stiffness_Metabolism.pdf , whereas increasing the mass of running shoes results in a 1% increase in metabolic cost per hundred grammes http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22367745 . Viz. the shoes with the 75 kN/m midsole could be 1kg heavier and still be more metabolically efficient to the wearer than the shoes with the midsole stiffness of 940 kN/m, all other factors being equal. Here in the UK we call that: "putting things in perspective". Which is nice.

    But, given that you're going to get about 30mm of surface displacement when running on shoes with a midsole stiffness of 75kN/m, I'd say that thin soled shoes are probably not the future in reducing metabolic cost of running. Rather, shoes with a thick midsole made of lightweight materials with a specific stiffness characteristic probably are. When are you going to start paying my consultancy fee: Asics, Nike, anyone?
  12. OK, that was over a half-century ago, as was Abebe Bikila's Rome Olympics Gold Medal. Out of all the track races in the Olympics over the past 50 years, how many were won in shoes, and how many were won barefoot?

    About 700 to 0: Shoes to Barefoot?:cool:
  13. Further thoughts: thicker midsole = a longer leg (effectively). Discuss the implication of this on running performance...
  14. rosherville

    rosherville Active Member


    Probably for the 50 years before Bekila and Tulloh the same could be said, but, they both did succeed barefooted.
    So the statement that barefooted runners never win is true, until they do !

    Never say never.
  15. John:

    If you had read this thread carefully, you would have realized that I didn't say said that barefoot runners never win. "Why Barefoot Runners Never Win" was, however, the title of the article I introduced on this thread.

    Let me ask you this question, John. How many international marathons (marathon =26 miles, 385 yards) have been won by runners who ran the whole race barefoot over the past 50 years?

    I'm eagerly awaiting your answer.
  16. Blaise Dubois

    Blaise Dubois Active Member

    My baby is crying... I need to go.
    But for your info,
    I run more than 90k per week many weeks in my runner's life, including last summer... (all the training in racing flat and minimalist shoes - TRC rating > 75%)
    I know many runners running all their volume in racing flat shoes... Most of the other did it, not by choice but juste because their PT and podiatrist (like KK) tell them to wear the big bulky shoes to prevent injuries... (LOL)
  17. No, I tell them not to listen to physiotherapists who somehow think that running shoes with slightly thicker soles are the cause of all running injuries.:cool::boxing::butcher:
  18. Sicknote

    Sicknote Active Member

    You hit the nail on the head.

    Why Barefoot Runners Never Win?.

    Nobody actually gives barefoot running enough time or puts in the amount of training one does as those who wear shoes.

    Give me the name of any elite athlete today that goes barefoot & puts in the same amount of mileage.

    The study is completely flawed.

    Of course there not going to win, there's nobody out there putting maximum effort/miles into it, like Bikila did.
  19. mr2pod

    mr2pod Active Member

    The study did not say "Why Barefoot Runners Never Win?". This was the title given by the media article - hardly means the study was flawed. The study has been around for about 6 months and was one that was let go quietly - i wonder why? ;)
  20. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Which is the point I keep hammering!
  21. mr2pod

    mr2pod Active Member

    I know Craig, it seems that you're not aloud to cherry pick both ways :confused:
  22. Andrew Ayres

    Andrew Ayres Active Member

  23. rosherville

    rosherville Active Member


    `If you had read this thread carefully, you would have realized that I didn't say said that barefoot runners never win.`

    I did not attribute the statement to you, I simply commented on it.

    `Let me ask you this question, John. How many international marathons (marathon =26 miles, 385 yards) have been won by runners who ran the whole race barefoot over the past 50 years?`

    Very few if any, I imagine.

    My point is that it is unwise to make a sweeping dogmatic statement, unless qualfied by stated parameters. (again, not a reference to you).

  24. Answer?......0......
  25. Is that because the wearing of shoes with cushioning provides an advantage in terms of performance which outweighs the metabolic cost incurred due to the additional mass of the shoes, as per the research quoted by the media in the original post, Professor Kirby?:morning::dizzy::rolleyes:
  26. The coach is wrong.
  27. Andrew Ayres

    Andrew Ayres Active Member

    The way they are running in the video I can see why the risk of injury is low. Everyone should have an underwater treadmill in their garage, right next to a vibrating plate and a pair of worn once VFF.
  28. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    Historically almost all runners do or did some training barefoot - in the late 70's or and early 80's I was doing just that. We all did stride outs/reps barefoot - it was just part of our training. At no stage did we consider it in the context of the 'barefoot running' propaganda or rhetoric or nonsensical use of pseudoscience - it was just something we did as part of a balanced training program.
    Did the second race last night. I lined up in my Minimus's right next to a lady in Vibrams (I bet her!). I had an interesting conversation with her about her Vibrams, not letting on about my interest! Having said that, it was the same as last time, I came across no one else in barefoot or minimalist shoes - all the leaders in the race lapped me and all were heel striking. I just do not see people doing this.
  29. We know that any mass added to the feet will increase the metabolic work of running. However, there is a also research showing that optimizing the return of energy to the body by using spring-like or cushioning materials in the soles of shoes or in a running surface can also improve running efficiency.

    Over the past half century, by trial and error, elite and subelite runners have found, by running thousands upon thousands of races, that the best shoe combination for speed in racing is to wear a lightweight racing flat with a small amount of midsole cushion. The assumption is that if the shoe has less mass, this will not signficantly affect the moment of inertia of the leg and will not increase the work of the forward recovery phase of running. In addition, the other assumption is that if the shoe can provide a slight amount of "cushioning" to the lower extremity, then the muscles of the lower extremity will not need to use so much metabolic energy with each step in order to provide the requiered cushioning. Or, as Franz et al stated, running in shoes with cushioning does not need to include the added metabolic "cost of cushioning" that barefoot running does (Franz JR, Wierzbinski CM, Kram R: Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: Is lighter better? Med Sci Sp Exerc, 44:1519-1525, 2012).

    The idea that running barefoot or running in shoes with the thinnest midsoles make for the fastest racing speeds in distance running has simply not been borne out by the evidence provided by 50 years of race results. Currently nearly all elite distance runners wear ultra lightweight racing flats with some midsole cushioning, presumably to absorb some of the increased magnitudes of ground reaction force that comes with increased running velocities, while, at the same time, not adding signficant mass at the end of the lower extremity that would increase the metabolic cost of the forward recovery phase of running due to the concomitant increase in the lower extremity's moment of inertia.
  30. drdebrule

    drdebrule Active Member

    I also wonder if there is a very small pain response impeding forward motion just a tiny bit. I haven't read anything about that but maybe someone else has more to add on that subject.

    Furthermore, I think we could also restate the obvious. Anyone who has raced or volunteered at any races should agree that there just aren't that many barefoot runners to begin with.
  31. Michael:

    In experienced runners, these trained individuals will be able to almost instantly switch to a more efficient and less painful way of running when going from barefoot to racing flats to more traditional training flats. Barefoot running simply will be more uncomfortable in racing situations, where the ground reaction force magnitudes are higher, when running on asphalt, concrete or on trails, than running at the same speed in a lightweight racing flat.

    As a result, at racing speeds with high ground reaction forces, the barefoot runner will need to slightly modify their footstrike pattern (will land more toward their forefoot to avoid heel strike), their stride length (will shorten their stride length to avoid heel strike) and their muscle firing pattern (will preactivate their gastrocnemius and soleus muscles earlier during the forward recovery phase which increases metabolic cost) just to prevent injury. Therefore, I wouldn't say that barefoot running "impedes forward motion due to a pain response" but rather that barefoot running prevents optimal gait mechanics at racing speeds due to the injury avoidance mechanisms of the central nervous system.

    That being said, at training speeds, where slower paced running speeds occur, barefoot running certainly can be more metabolically efficient on certain surfaces than running in any shoe since barefoot running minimizes the moment of inertia of the lower extremity during forward recovery phase.

    Here is an illustration showing the phases of running from a lecture I gave on running biomechanics three years ago in Rome, Italy:
  32. If we take the data from the Franz study http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22367745 They noted that when weight is normalised, the cushioning in the shoes reduced the V˙O(2) and metabolic power demand by ∼3%-4% when compared to barefoot running. They also reported that V˙O(2) increased by approximately 1% for each 100 g added per foot. So, barefoot training only really has a metabolic advantage over shod running if the runner is wearing shoes which weigh in excess of 300-400 g per shoe. Runners World in their "performance Shoes" category list 58 different shoes and state that these shoes are "Recommended either for racing or, if you’re biomechanically efficient [spot the problem with that statement?], for training. They have varying degrees of support and cushioning but they’re generally lighter (most weigh around 250-300g) and fit like a glove." http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/reviews/shoes/1.html So, despite the added mass of these shoes, the benefits of their cushioning should likely outweigh the negative impact of their mass, while at the same time affording the wearer greater environmental protection than barefoot running.

    But, here's the caveat: if the shoes soles are stiffer than the environmental surface stiffness, the net "shoe + surface stiffness" will increase, this will decrease metabolic efficiency and could reduce some of the metabolic gain of the cushioning versus mass ratio. You then also have to start to consider the ability of the surfaces (shoe & environmental) to store and return energy... it get's complex.
  33. Agreed. Like I said, on certain surfaces, barefoot probably doesn't make sense in a race situation on hard surfaces since the shoe sole can certainly return more energy on these hard surfaces than the bare foot can. However, on softer surfaces, such as grass or an all weather track, barefoot racing may make more sense.
  34. Ricko

    Ricko Member

    Perhaps Nike have a cheque for you, thats precisely what they have done with the lunar eclipse/glide and now converted the structure triax. The eclipse (which i have used for ironman and ALL my long miles alternating with a DS Trainer and Kayano 19...the 18 was disappointing) is still at 10mm gradient, still has a small posterior midsole flair and does not 'discourage' heel strike. I run 33min for 10km, heel strike, and in ironman (marathon run 2.54), cannot go any lighter than a DS Trainer due to what i call 'road pain' from the hardness....maybe i should run up on my toes....try that for a marathon after 180km bike ride...

    Here is a nice snap of the best runner in ironman history Craig Alexander (Newtons with shaved off lugs) and NZ legend Cam Brown (Nike) at Melbourne Ironman last year at the 32km mark. If only they didnt heel strike....

    Attached Files:

  35. drdebrule

    drdebrule Active Member

    THanks for the cool pics everyone. I have that Subotnik book around somewhere...:dizzy:
  36. Blaise Dubois

    Blaise Dubois Active Member

    I'm intrigue about your evidence.
  37. I'm not sure that is precisely what they have done. What is the stiffness of the lunar midsole?
  38. Craig Payne

    Craig Payne Moderator

    I wish Nike would get my address right. They must be sending the cheques to the wrong address. I would hate to think how many times I have been accused of working for Nike! ..... but I guess its easier for nutters to believe that I am part of a big conspiracy rather than address and debate the actual issues being raised ... kinda shows the weakness of what they are arguing when they accuse me of that (...unless the cheques were really lost in the mail).
  39. Andrew Ayres

    Andrew Ayres Active Member

    I'm scratching my head a bit here. Please tell me if I've got this right.

    Are you (Kirby, Spooner) saying that as shoe weight increases metabolic demand increases, due to the moment of inertia during forward recovery increasing, therefore the lightest shoe possible or no shoe would be most energy efficient.

    But an athletes gait will change when running on a hard surface and this change will produce a less energy efficient gait. So to produce the most energy efficient gait, midsole stiffness/weight ratio needs to be adjusted to suit ground stiffness.

    Which means running on a hard road surface a less stiff but heavier mid-sole would be beneficial. For as long as the mass does not increase the moment of inertia during forward recovery too much. On a soft track a lighter, stiffer mid-sole or barefoot would be beneficial, for as long as the overall ground+midsole stiffness does not produce inefficient changes to gait.

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