Barefoot running ... genius or stupid?

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26/03/2012 at 10:50
seren nos wrote (see
)
i wish they wouldn't use the word barefoot.........if you want to run barefoot then do.........but they are charging you high amounts of money to mimic barefoot.......that seems to me to be the marketing fad in it all...... i'm also not convinced by the fact that we are told we have to learn to run correctly as if there is a correct way....I think running is such a natural thing and the correct way for everyone to run to limit injuries is to run the way that comes naturally to themselves.........which is different in different people...... a one way fits all isn't the way forward to me.......we are all individuals....


I agree - 'barefoot shoes' is a contradiction in terms. The term 'minimalist shoes' was coined to get around this, but it doesn't have the same impact for marketing. But who cares - the point is that you can actually go running without shelling out a penny on shoes! That has to be liberating!

I also agree that everyone should run in the way that comes naturally to them. Or rather, the way that WOULD have come naturally, if they hadn't spent years wearing shoes that have altered their gait and posture. People in countries where barefoot is the norm all tend to run in a very similar way. There's some natural variation, but certain traits (midfoot/forefoot landing, fast cadence, landing below your centre of gravity) are universal. If you run in a way that differs from this, you're almost certainly doing so because external factors have distorted your natural style. 

I am a natural forefoot striker, yet for years I ran on my heels in padded shoes. It felt right at the time, but it caused me all sorts of injuries. As soon as I ran barefoot, I naturally changed to forefoot striking - and the injuries went away.

Our feet are incredibly complex and delicate pieces of engineering, designed by millions of years of evolution to operate in a certain way. If we interfere with the delicate balance by introducing the wrong shoes, the effects are profound. It can take quite some time to 'un-learn' the bad habits they cause, because we believe they feel natural.

I can vouch for the fact that when you do discover your TRUE natural running style, the sensation is amazing. You feel light, smooth, nimble and free. You think, 'why didn't I always run like this?'

If you still need convincing, take a look at this awesome form from a medical and anatomical expert who is also a superb barefoot runner, Dr Mark Cucuzella: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSIDRHUWlVo

seren nos    pirate
26/03/2012 at 10:58
Anne.yes you can go running barefoot without paying a penny........but lets be honest...i have done it and so have you........but how many people out there do......

I think the whole thing is just another way to charge a fortune to get people to buy their products........and they use the free from injury hype to get them to part from their cash.....but if they were not listening to their bodies before then the majority will not listen to their bodies now and will still get injured......they want a magic cure

because the majority of us are not meant to run.....we are overweight and have not run continuously outdoors since we are kids.we have not developed over our life time to run and from years of lounging around and working at computers we are biomechanical nightmares..........and so we have not got the bodies to run but we still want to...so whichever shoe and whichever style enables us to do that has to be good........
26/03/2012 at 11:22
AnneV wrote (see)

I also agree that everyone should run in the way that comes naturally to them. Or rather, the way that WOULD have come naturally, if they hadn't spent years wearing shoes that have altered their gait and posture. People in countries where barefoot is the norm all tend to run in a very similar way. There's some natural variation, but certain traits (midfoot/forefoot landing, fast cadence, landing below your centre of gravity) are universal. If you run in a way that differs from this, you're almost certainly doing so because external factors have distorted your natural style. 


Out of interest, years of running barefoot or years of walking around in shoes? Lots of people start running all the time, are you saying if you begin barefoot (or in minimalist shoes) you'll automatically have good form?

26/03/2012 at 11:42

I agree with Seren about the idea that there is a "correct" way to run.  The POSE etc literature is littered with terms like this - how do you know what is correct?  It's not the only phrase, there's others like "properly" and "how we were designed to run",  all of these are basically saying there is a right way and a wrong way. It's questionnable at a variety of levels - unless you believe in a higher power, we evolved rather than were designed, for a start.  It's interesting how one of those papers you posted AnneV (thanks for those btw) says that it's actually more efficient to heel strike in minimalist shoes, whereas POSE always sells itself as maximising efficiency.

There's another thread on this a month or two back, there's some interesting links in there showing how forefoot striking can increase risk of injury - it basically concludes that the evidence is still mixed.

I still think it's an interesting idea, but I think it's over-hyped.

26/03/2012 at 11:58
True believers cannot be disuaded to a neutral position in general. They will take anecdotes, hearsay and conjecture as a " kind" of evidence. Lordy, the loony christian ones show each other reams of "scientific evidence" which "Prove" the earth is around 5,000 years old. So the shoe ones are quite tame by comparison!
26/03/2012 at 12:02

That's a good question, and I haven't seen an answer to it yet.

My feeling is that any kind of shoes with raised heels are likely to affect your posture and gait. And there are other lifestyle factors that come into play: for example, if you have a sedentary job which involves a lot of sitting down, you may have weak glutes. Plus you may have suffered an injury (I had an accident where I fell down a deep hole, and the physio told me this had unbalanced my pelvis and caused a weakness on one side of my body. I wasn't aware of it, but it affected my gait. He taught me how to correct it.).

So my guess is that if you start running as an adult, and you haven't grown up barefoot, you will probably have to work on getting your form right.

However, I think somebody new to running is ideally placed to try barefoot/minimal running. It's important for all barefoot runners to build up distance and speed slowly, and this can be difficult for experienced runners who don't want to cut their mileage and slow down. New runners will naturally build up gradually.

Anyone new to barefoot running should be careful and read up on correct form before they start, though.  The key is to listen to your body, and be aware that if something hurts, it may mean you're doing something wrong. If you were taking up any other sport, such as tennis or swimming, you'd probably study the correct way to do it - maybe even take lessons from a qualified coach. Running shouldn't be any different - and that's the case whether you're doing it barefoot or in traditional shoes.

27/03/2012 at 14:16
Last april i decided to start running. After going to a shop and getting my gait analysed and sold a pair of shoes that were "right" for me i spent the next 2 weeks struggling every time i ran with a few different niggling pains. Then after a drunken chat with a friend they put the idea of barefoot running forward so i investigated. Now nearly a year on and i haven't had a single injury and am training for my 1st marathon in October which i will be running in my Vibrams. I truly believe i wouldn't have kept going if it wasn't for that drunken chat!

I can understand its not for everyone but i think its mainly that people truly believe they need a pair of trainers to run in now-a-days. This is proved when you get all sort of odd looks when out running barefoot, people struggle to believe it can be worth it. Yet 40 years ago everyone who ran did so in a flat soled shoe but years of clever marketing have led us to believe we need a built up all singing all dancing shoe!

I find it interesting that people question that our ancestors ran barefoot but didn't have to run on tarmac. For anyone that's ran barefoot off road (not just on nice grass) will tell you that running on stony ground is far more uncomfortable than the smooth tarmac!

Leonardo Di Vinci said "The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art." but we then wrap them up and don't let them do the job they have evolved to do.
27/03/2012 at 16:30

As far as I can tell, it seems that almost everyone who tries barefoot or minimal shoe running loves it. It's normal to experience some teething problems (calf pain being the major one) but generally people appear to find they are able to run in a way that's more natural and more fun, and they report fewer injuries.

This seems logical to me, and it's the same as my own experience. But I was brought up in a family of scientists, so I learned to always question everything and stay a little bit sceptical! So I'd be genuinely interested to hear if anyone on this forum has tried barefoot running and it didn't work out for you?

27/03/2012 at 18:44
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPdb7ZDJKS4
27/03/2012 at 19:50

Any discussion of barefoot/minimalist running tends to get bogged down in the arguments about whether you can prove it's better for you. Personally I don't think it's correct to say, as some do, that you can run "injury free" by adopting this style. As far as I am aware there have been no studies which have shown this, and any evidence is purely anectdotal.

However of more interest, for me at least, is the fact that all the billions of dollars spent on developing and marketing new running shoes has produced no evidence that these are any better for you either.  None.  You would think that companies like Nike would be keen to show how much better it is to run in their shoes, in fact they can't say that because the last 40 years has shown that they are not, in fact, any use.

AnneV had it exactly right in my opinion. There is such a thing as good and bad running form. Why is that so hard to believe? Why would running be the only sport where no-one needed to learn good technique and just did 'what feels right'?

Learning good form is hard work. It takes time, it's frustrating and you will need to go back almost to the beginning to do it, which is why it's so much easier to just go to a running shop and have them sell you something you both hope will 'fix' whatever problem you have. 

Barefoot/minimalist running is not a fad about which designer flat shoes you want to be seen in. It's about admitting that the modern running shoe is actually not any good. Run in barefeet, run in VFF's, run in old school plimsoles for all I care, just learn to run better. 

28/03/2012 at 07:48

stupid....

junless its in the sahara desert or somewhere ...

28/03/2012 at 11:04
is it possible a reason the barefoot converts like it so much is because it advocates training in a correct manner.  For example start with very small mileage, and build up slowly.  Also the average pace is probably slower.  Of course injuries would be less likely under these conditions. but because barefoot needs you to think correctly you are more "bought" into this training process than perhaps if you bought a pair of cushioned traininers.
28/03/2012 at 11:59

Ian - a few points on the right/wrong thing:

1) Who's to say there's one right/wrong way for all people, perhaps different things are right for different people?

2) There's a basic assumption that POSE/chi/another forefoot strike method is right/good form - my question is what that is based on?

Edited: 28/03/2012 at 12:05
28/03/2012 at 12:05
Ian Knowles wrote (see)

AnneV had it exactly right in my opinion. There is such a thing as good and bad running form. Why is that so hard to believe? Why would running be the only sport where no-one needed to learn good technique and just did 'what feels right'?


I'm just not sure about this. Why shouldn't we do what feels right? we all learnt to walk by doing this, all ran around as children by doing what felt natural and other animals manage to run by doing what comes naturally to them rather than learning good form. As for other sports, they're somewhat different -  they use other impliments such as rackets, bats and balls or have specific ways of doing them, such as high jump.
28/03/2012 at 12:27
Catalin Bond wrote (see)
I'm just not sure about this. Why shouldn't we do what feels right? we all learnt to walk by doing this, all ran around as children by doing what felt natural and other animals manage to run by doing what comes naturally to them rather than learning good form. As for other sports, they're somewhat different -  they use other impliments such as rackets, bats and balls or have specific ways of doing them, such as high jump.

Barefootist evangelists will tell you that the evil chunky trainers have taught us to run with bad form ... and by becoming more natural we will automatically beging to readopt correct form. There's some truth in this - my form improved when I spent 6 months in VFFs. However, there are alternative ways to improve form and run more safely that don't involve throwing your shoes away.

Edited: 28/03/2012 at 12:28
29/03/2012 at 10:13
Catalin Bond wrote (see
)
Why shouldn't we do what feels right? we all learnt to walk by doing this, all ran around as children by doing what felt natural and other animals manage to run by doing what comes naturally to them rather than learning good form.


Other animals don't wear shoes, or spend their days sitting at a computer, or do any other things that affect their natural posture and biomechanics. They learn to run when young, and they never stop. Nature is tough, and if they don't learn to run correctly they won't last long.

If you watch children running around, they generally have amazing natural form. I watched a mum and daughter finish Park Run recently: mum looked terrible - landing on her heels, limbs flailing all over the place. Her daughter, aged maybe 9 or 10, looked wonderful skipping along next to her, landing nimbly on her toes with a smooth, easy style.

If the little girl keeps on running into her adult life, hopefully she'll retain that great form. I think the danger comes when we stop running then take up the sport again in later life. In between, all kinds of factors have changed us, and we may have 'forgotten' how to run correctly.

30/05/2012 at 11:52

I've been running for 3 or 4 years now, and am a die hard chunky shoe wearer, i like the way they feel, i like the style and don't plan on changing to anything else. 

I think that, if you are tempted by the whole bear foot thing, then go for it, give it a try, if it's that good then you have nothing to lose.

I'm happy with my running style, i'm a heel planter, and to be perfectly honest, i've had plenty of injury's and pains, but nothing that has ever stopped me running. 

Perhaps this is naive of me, but surley the manufactures have spent countless amounts on research of there shoe ranges, and have the large heels for good reason. at the end of the day, the cost of the likes of the VFF's and normal type running shoes are pretty much the same to the consumer, but i would imagine a lot cheaper for the manufacture to produce, and then keep higher profits. 

30/05/2012 at 12:46
Super Gibo wrote (see)

Perhaps this is naive of me, but surley the manufactures have spent countless amounts on research of there shoe ranges, and have the large heels for good reason. at the end of the day, the cost of the likes of the VFF's and normal type running shoes are pretty much the same to the consumer, but i would imagine a lot cheaper for the manufacture to produce, and then keep higher profits. 

Are you saying it's cheaper for companies to make trailgloves or VFFs compared to Nike Air's (for example)???  Pretty sure that won't be true.  I find it's best to think about whatever is on your foot when running as footwear for running (not how much material is in it) and base my assessment on price vs how I run in them.  So for example I am a minimalist footwear runner and have a pair of luna sandals and when they first arrived in the post I though WTF have I bought, but actually now in terms of value for money for how well I run in them it's worth it - much better than if I bought some big heeled Nikes or similar.  (plus Nike will have huge economies of scale, and in answer to the research I'm not sure that's true and quite well documented in Nike's case).

I always look on it as what works for one person might not for another - so diets, footwear, training regimes etc so I'm now a front foot striker and it works for me in minimalist shoes but if heel planting works for you then good luck.

30/05/2012 at 12:58

I see what your saying, and Like i said, Naive

Most of the post on this thread seem to be pointing at Nike as a big offender with the fashion in large cushioned heels, but don't the likes of Asic's, New Blance, Brookes and alike all have similar designs?

I'm sure they must do some research in to what makes a good running or sports shoe. I use Asic's, and love them.

 

30/05/2012 at 13:10

MY New Balance Minimuses are rather on the dear side, £70.00 for a very thin sole and sides. They are just like a glove for your foot but in the modern world I would rather pay that than stumble upon debris that could damage my foot or worse step in something rather smelly. All today is about money, everything revolves round it unfortunately and it will for ever after so no surprise shoe companies want their share. I am a barefoot runner now, most my runs are now done in 0mm shoes and some in 3mm differential, I used to have so many injuries and now I have been able to run half a year with absolutely nothing. I am all for it but it does mean a lot of hard work to get technique right.


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