Barefoot Running?


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 Humans have been running since the dawn of their creation. Running has been a means of survival, whether it be hunting down prey or running from a predator. Cavemen didn't lace up their running shoes to hunt down dinner. They simply walked out of their housing and ran, barefoot.

         Walking around campus, one might see students wearing 'minimalist' shoes. They're typically lightly padded and have space to fit toes. Minimalist running is a craze that has hit the United States. Barefoot running advocates draw attention to Mexico's Tarahumara tribe, who are considered to be 'superathletes' as they invented ultramarathons (100 miles) while only wearing laced sandals. Minimalist running shoes are believed to offer a way to run naturally as humans have for centuries and lessen the chance of impact related injuries. A scientist named Daniel Lieberman wrote an article in Nature researching the effects of barefoot and minimalist running. He concluded that barefoot running offers a way to get back to a natural running gait. Since running shoes have been popularized around the 1970s, running gaits have changed to a heel-to-toe strike rather than a mid-foot strike due to the elevated and cushioned heel of running shoes. Heel-to-toe strikes are more likely to lead to impact injuries in the joints and knees.

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         Pro-running shoe advocates argue that minimalist running shoes take a long time to adapt into. If a runner has been using running shoes all their life, it takes time to build strength in tendons of the foot that have never been used. They also argue that running shoes offer more protection from debri on the roads and may increase risk of plantar fasciitis due to the hard impact on the pads of the feet.

         Would you be willing to try minimalist running shoes? Would the long adaptation period deter you from trying them if you're currently an injury-free runner?     

5 Comments

I have seen these shoes become more popular here at Penn State. After looking further into this topic, I found out that research three decades ago showed people with injury related issues that put strain on the heel and the forefoot. Therefore, companies came out with more heel elevation and thicker arch supports. This was with the idea that adding more cushioning would reduce injuries related to the heel and forefoot. Big running shoe companies like Nike have been manufacturing shoes for thirty years now based on this model. I wonder if the reason why this development is just coming out is because big companies have produced studies in favor of their products. (Somewhat like the paper towel and tobacco companies.) I found an interesting article that talks more about the evolution of running from without padded shoes to highly cushioned shoes. http://runningtimes.com/print.aspx?articleid=19196

I worked at an outdoor adventure type company this summer and saw these minimalist shoes everywhere. I always thought it was mostly because of the "hippie" outdoorsy stigma but now it makes sense that maybe it really is better for your feet. I hadn't heard of the marathons wearing these shoes though. I can't imagine running basically barefoot. I don't think I would switch to these minimalist shoes. I guess I'm stuck in my ways but I don't run too often, just for exercise and I have never experienced any injuries. Sometimes I get shin splints from running so maybe I should give them a try and see how it goes. Interesting topic that applies to pretty much every active person in this class!

I was shocked to see that 30% of runners get inured each year due to heel striking, but those who forefoot strike (most who do barefoot running) are less prone to injury (http://barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/1WhyConsiderFootStrike.html)

In addition, barefoot running seems to cause less foot to ground collision, even with lack of padding. The impacts that shoe-bearing runners experience is equal to 2 or 3 times more than their body weight. This seemed slightly contradictory to me, but evolution is surprising sometimes. However, since we've grown up with running shoes for so long, experts suggest that we slowly transition to barefoot shoes by building strength in our calves and feet first. (http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20100127/barefoot-running-laced-with-health-benefits)

This is a really cool blog to read. Every one who goes to the gym now a days seems to be obsessed with these new types of running shoes and some sort. What they don't know is it does nothing for them, it's all about you. Funny you wrote about this because I know a few men back at a local gym of mine that actually work out shoeless. I mean they obviously don't walk around town with no shoes on but when I see them in the gym, they are shoeless. It's just truly amazing how times can change and how groups of people can influence a lifestyle in an entire different direction.

This minimalist shoe reminds me of "racing flats." In cross country in high school, a bunch of girls had 2 separate pairs of shoes- one pair of sneakers and one pair of racing flats. Sneakers were worn during all practices and casual runs, and then they would wear their racing flats for all the races. Apparently, if you practice in regular sneakers, you will be faster on the day of the race in your racing flats because they are lighter. According to this website, "shaving 3.5 ounces off a pair of shoes is equivalent to increasing your run fitness by 1 percent." Racing flats look a lot more like sneakers and have a lot more support than minimalist shoes do. They seem to work very well though, because the girls on my team who wore racing flats always ran faster in the races than in practice. Which works better though? Racing flats or minimalist shoes?

http://triathlon.competitor.com/2012/09/gear-tech/flat-out-12-racing-flats-reviewed_62270

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