Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I'd pretty much wrapped up my discussion of barefoot running a while back, ending on an it-works-for-some-but-not-for-me coda. 

Saw this in today's Oregonian, and thought I'd stir the embers a little ...

As part of the story, a local foot doctor was interviewed, and he allowed as how he measured the popularity of barefoot running by the number of patients in his waiting room ...

Yep, it can be beneficial. But it can also be harmful. 

Something to consider before you shed your shoes and hit the track.

Me, I believe that this is like a lot of other exercise waves that have washed ashore. When it recedes–and it will–there will be a hardcore group that stays with it, but there will also be a lot of folks who tried it and found it less than satisfactory.

Like I did. 


Todd Erven said...

I'm not sold on the barefoot thing but I did buy a pair of the Nike Free Run shoes a couple of months ago. They're supposed to be flexible enough and designed in a way that you get a lot of the benefits of the "barefoot" shoes but with more protection and less funny looks.

I've worn them almost everyday for 2 months and they are probably the most comfortable shoe I've ever owned. My feet feel great in them, my back hurts a bit less, and my gait seems to be more natural.

Overall, I'm very happy with them. I'm not sure if it's the "barefoot" features or the fact that they weigh a quarter of my old shoes, they're very airy, and they feel like slippers. We'll see how I feel in a few more months, especially once it gets more wet and cold outside, but I'm remaining hopeful.

Brad said...

My wife bought me a pair of V5F last month and I've worn them every chance I can since. I don't run, though I do walk a lot instead. My bad knee hasn't been bothering me as much or as painfully when it does. My hip feels better and my back hasn't ached. They are one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn, but they do take an adjustment period.

If I ever decide to start running, I may give them a shot, but in the meantime I'll wear them as much as I can.

Anonymous said...

Check this one for a pretty good discussion of the issue.

Seems typical in most areas, if somebody is REALLLLLLY hot about something (the new martial art flavor(KravMaSilatTaoJutsu!), the new workout flavor (Kettlebells!!!!), the new diet flavor (Carbs are the DEVIL!) that person is unlikely to know very much and can safely be ignored.

Also Merril makes some minimalist type shoes which have the exactly same Vibram (tm) sole but not individual toesies. They seem pretty much the same to me as the VFF (Vibram Five Fingers) for general usage (tho nobody stops me on the street to ask about them, unlike the VFF).

And then of course. Walking isn't running. 3-5 1-3 mile runs a week isn't 10-12 hours of triathlon\marathon training in a week and so forth.

The above article series seems to cover the issue pretty well.

Some stats suggest 70% of folks who are "runners" get themselves injured every year. 70%!?!?! I don't think the shoes, or lack of shoes, are the big culprit here as that stat seems to have been the same since prior to them existing and prior to the super-stabilizing shoes the barefoot folks love to hate on as well.

Figure if you go to the gym, and do 5 sets of 5, or 5 sets of 10, 25 or 50 reps. 25 or 50 chances to botch your form and injure yourself.

Figure you run for a mile, which takes you 10 minutes (or 8 or 6 or whatever) and you take 60 steps a minute. 600 reps, 600 chances for you to botch your form and injure yourself.

Considering your stabilizing muscles\etc will become more fatigued from running 'cause you use them over and over, and that's where your longer term chronic injuries start to sneak in, eh?

And then like martial arts dudes that injure themselves and LOOOOVE to train so much they come back prior to full recovery...and injure themselves, and rinse\repeat...same\same.

If you take a couch potato who wants to get in shape and give 'em a pair of these and have 'em start running...welcome to Injury City.

If you take a serious runner who's been using 'regular' shoes and is used to them and give him these...injury city, like a pro-boxer fighting w.o. gloves and handwraps, just not the same stresses as have been trained for.

It's not really the shoes, lack of shoes, it's just people being dumb. ; )

Ian Sadler said...


Dr. Eric Cobb from z-health has a cool quote.
"the smarter the shoe, the dumber the foot"
Which may account for the barefoot shoes doing good things for some people

Master Plan said...

This series of articles was pretty good.

The basics being....40-70% of runners are injured every year.

So when folks who barefoot run get injured...maybe it's just the running.

Similarly if I go to the gym and do 5 sets of 5 reps, or 5 sets of 10 reps, that's 25 or 50 reps where I can botch my form and hurt myself. There's also no *impact* to the joints.

If I go running for a mile, and hit the ground 60 times a minute, that's 600 chances for me to botch my form and hurt myself.

If you've been running for years and switch to barefoot running what are the odds your habits don't shift right away? And if runners are used to running through pain anyway......

Steve Perry said...

Back when I was training to try the Boston Marathon, and at my skinniest since I was maybe fifteen, doing six miles a day, I had a guy pull up next to me in his car one afternoon: You need to get somewhere in a hurry, or are you, just ... runnin'?

It made me smile.

Not a lot of people jogging in Baton Rouge back in about 1975 or so, and he thought I might have some kind of emergency and was offering to help.

I liked that.

These days, if you see me running, it'll be what that guy thought: I need to get somewhere in a hurry, and maybe my car wouldn't start ....

I'm all for doing things that are good for you, and if barefootin' is making you feel better, more power to you. Having tried it, it doesn't do it for me. And since I haven't seen overwhelming evidence yea or nay, I'm not convinced that it's the best thing since soap and hot water.

Jim said...

I spend a lot of time barefoot at home. At work... shoe design is rather strongly specified.

Not a fan of the idea of spending time around free weights in something like Five Fingers. Seems an invitation to serious toe pain, no?

I'm considering getting a similar concept shoe for some of my martial arts training (New Balance). Haven't decided; it's a fair chunk of money. But I don't like training barefoot anymore; too many less than clean floors over the years, and my wife ain't always fond of my calloused feet...

Dan Gambiera said...

I don't do barefoot running, but I have a pair of V5F and the Filla knockoffs. They're very comfortable for walking, martial arts and general exercise. And for the first time in my life I have something that looks like an arch. A puny arch, but a real one.

A.C. Parry said...

For me, traditional running (heel-to-toe stride) inevitably left me with crippling shin splints for days after the run- not great encouragement to keep up on the activity.

Now, for the most part, I'll only wear shoes when legally required to do so (the term 'hobbit feet' has been tossed at me more than a few times). So when these shoes came out, I picked up a pair just for every day use, and loved them.

Then I tried running in them.

Once I acclimated myself to the stride and footfall, it was more comfortable and enjoyable than I thought possible. Running went from an activity masochists and the mentally deranged, to something I now do every (or almost every) day. Just some food for thought for anyone who may have the same issues with shin splints.