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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barefoot running and shoes Q & A

Barefoot running and shoes - the Q & A Part I

Greetings from Adelaide, where jetlag sees me writing at 3am. At least I have time on my hands! I’m currently on the road again – this time it’s Australia and then Hong Kong, a two week long trip that takes me right up to the Easter weekend in April. For Jonathan, there is also travel on the horizon – a conference in South Africa on heat stroke, and I’m sure we can look forward to some interesting conclusions and discussion from that meeting, with a few posts the outcome for the site!

Running shoes vs barefoot – a Q & A 

For now though, I have decided to tackle an issue that, with the exception of the Caster Semenya controversy, usually generates the most chat on this site – running shoes vs barefoot running. We’ve covered this issue before, but there is so much to it that, both theoretically and practically, that we can return to it over and over without ever finding resolution. And when the debate starts on running shoes, it quickly switches to running technique. Here, I’m speaking specifically about the foot strike. There is of course a lot more to running style than how the foot hits the ground – the head, shoulders, arms, hips, knee drive etc are all part of it, and I certainly don’t mean to dismiss their importance. But, the huge debate in running circles exists around how the foot lands and whether we should run in shoes – these two questions have become controversies and are inter-linked thanks to the philosophy of how one affects the other, and the advent of commercialized running techniques based on this link.

So the series of posts starting today will address these issues. I’m going to look at it slightly differently, and that’s partly because of my travels which have in the past prevented any posts. So what this series will consist of is a question and answer session, a total of 16 questions that were recently put to me by Run 2 Day, a Dutch-based running website (Run 2 Day for our Dutch readers). Thank you to Erno for the questions and for allowing my modified and translated answers to be republished here.

So it should be a four, perhaps 5 part series, looking at four or five questions per day. Obviously, this format means that there will be topics not covered in each post, but possibly addressed in future posts. Bear with me on that aspects – a single post on such a diverse topic is not possible!

Also, as always, we aim to have the first word in the debate, not the last. And so your feedback is most welcome (usually, you don’t have to invite runners to discuss this issue. Perhaps because the shoe is really the only equipment we need, runners don’t hesitate to throw their hat into the ring!). I’m going to apologize right now if I can’t respond to all your questions – I’ll do my best, but time is limited (except at 3am in the morning, it seems). Here goes:

Interview 1: Introduction, terms and concepts

What do you think about the term ‘natural running’? Clearly this term by itself is already marketing. It positions running with shoes with little cushioning as ‘natural’ vs ‘un natural running’.

Simple question, very complex answer! Perhaps over the course of the next 16 questions, my thoughts will become clearer, but the short answer is that “natural” seems to be whatever you wish to define it as.  Those who start from the point of believing that we need to change our technique will define natural running in a way that is similar to barefoot running. On the other hand, if you start out of the opinion that our default technique is better, then natural means ‘without intervention’.

It also depends on context – since this particular debate is about shoes vs barefoot, and the resultant changes in running technique, I’ll limit my definition to that.

To some, the concept of teaching running form is already unnatural. If someone goes out for a run and without any intellectual input, falls into a particular stride and footstrike, that is “natural” in that it is the default option. Taught technique would thus be unnatural.

However, the argument is a little more complex that that – we look at the Kenyan running champions as “natural” because they run without the technical analysis that we subject ourselves to, and they also run without shoes. And I guess this forms the basis for what is defined as “natural” within the context of the current argument. Here, people are looking at these athletes who often learn to run without shoes, and they observe a number of things:

1. Fewer injuries
2. Faster running
3. Apparently “smoother” running

Note that all three are somewhat subjective. There is no causal link between their being barefoot and running faster, and while I suspect it’s probably true, I haven’t seen evidence of fewer injuries, let alone the association with how they run.

In any event, people then create in this picture the definition of the term “natural” running. In the hands of marketers, natural becomes better (perhaps given added fuel by the current global trend towards going “green”), and the concept is born.

So the issue has been simplified right down to a very basic level, as you say – natural means running barefoot (or in lightweight shoes), whereas unnatural means following conventional wisdom and believing that shoes do have a role to play in preventing injury. Those are the two extreme positions – which is correct? Hard to say, and the middle ground may be the ultimately safe destination.

Is there ‘a natural way to run’? And if so, how would you describe ‘the natural way to run’?

If I were pushed to commit to a definition of “natural running”, I would (rather conservatively and certainly more literally) say that natural running form is the form you adopt without any external input, or any conscious thoughts about how to run. It is the way you run when you simply run, no cognitive thoughts of how to position your arms, how to land, how to lift the heel versus driving the knee forward – in the absence of all those instructions, we run ‘naturally’.

Note that I am not saying that this is better. I am not one who prescribes to the view that natural is best, and for this reason, there are a number of very important and effective adjustments that can be made to the running technique. Time and space don’t allow me to go into all of them right now, but some will emerge later in this series, others are not relevant right now anyway.

But I believe the natural way to run is the unadjusted one, but the best way to run is the modified natural form. And of course, equipment will influence this.

While on that point, there is a significant logic problem in play here. If we define “natural” as how we run without shoes (refer to Q1), then the change in mechanics that occurs when we run with shoes has been deemed to be ‘unnatural’. Yet the natural response to wearing shoes is to shift the landing to the heel. Now, this is defined as bad, according to the argument. However, one must explain why the body, which is clever enough to ‘naturally’ force us to land on the front of the foot when we take shoes off, is suddenly “fooled” into landing badly (on the heel) when we wear the shoe. We could quite easily land on the forefoot when in shoes – plantar flex at the ankle, bend the knee, make the same kinematic changes as when we are barefoot (see Q4). But we don’t, we are either “fooled” into landing on the shoe’s elevated heel, or we allow the heel-strike because we know that forcing a forefoot landing may be equally bad (or a combination of the two).

This is why the argument that “natural is better” is flawed – either natural is not always better, or running in shoes combined with the change in mechanics is still optimal. So I think upfront, we must put behind us the marketing message that has convinced us that barefoot is better, and actually evaluate the evidence objectively.

I believe the term ‘natural gait’ was used in the 80’s already related to running. Are we talking here about the same thing?

I’m not sure – the people who used the term in the 1980s would have done so in a very specific context, and not knowing that, it would be dangerous to say yes or no with any certainty. I suspect, based on my reading of some books from that era, that their definition of ‘natural’ was a more global one, referring to the arms, the position of the head, the hips, the stride. Part of it would have overlapped, but I think this is a slightly different argument. It’s certainly much more specific, because the debate now revolves around the footstrike and the influence of shoes, which will have been rather minor back then.

Next up: changes in mechanics and shoes

Tomorrow we'll move onto changes in running technique caused by the shift from shoes to barefoot running, and whether it prevents injury and makes you a faster runner.

Ross

25 Comments:

ac said...

Yes, you are right, "natural" is a useless argument. If you put a blind fold on someone, they might "naturally" walk into a wall.
Just like if you put on cushioned shoes to mask the feedback of the ground, some people might "naturally" over-stride and hurt themselves.
Like I did, for many years.

Steven Sashen said...

One of the (comical) arguments against barefoot running is "You'll step on -- or in -- something and hurt yourself!" as if people take off their shoes and cover their eyes with them.

Besides (shameless self-promotion alert), you can protect your feet with something as simple as huaraches... and I set up www.InvisibleShoe.com with free "how to make huaraches" videos, as well as huaraches kits and custom-made running sandals.

Can't wait for the rest of your comments on this topic!

Tuck said...

"There is no causal link between their being barefoot and running faster..." Here's a causal link: Every study I've seen (going back 100 years) to compare barefoot with shod has noted that shoes "deform" the feet. You don't think that having deformed feet might slow you down compared to a habitually barefoot runner with undeformed feet? Here's a a quote from the latest study (I'd be happy to provide more):

"A relevant question therefore is: is the Western foot, used in most studies, not ‘natural’ any more, and is our current knowledge of foot biomechanics clouded by the
effects of footwear – in other words, are we studying ‘deformed’, but not biologically ‘normal’ feet?"

http://webh01.ua.ac.be/funmorph/kris/pubs/D%27Aout_et_al_2009b.pdf

(This paper was given an award by Nike, of all organizations, and presented in South Africa in 2009.)

Your definition of "natural" is tendentious at best. Until you can show me some folks who grow Nikes at the end of their legs, barefoot is going to be "natural", and shod is going to be "unnatural". Yes, the term unnatural has pejorative overtones, but in this case it happens to be accurate. (And how you would define a shoe as something other than a "external input" into the system of running mystifies me.)

You gentlemen do a great job in this blog, and in The Runner's Body, which I own and am a fan of. But if you're going to "evaluate the evidence objectively.", you might want to start again. You're not off to a good start.

Your lack of objectivity calls into question your other conclusions. And the start of this series leaves me in serious doubt that the rest of the series is going to be worthy of your blog.

You should also examine whether folks running in shoes without heels heelstrike! Not all shoes have heels, after all, although nearly all sneakers do.

I would also suggest you do a little first-hand research, as Prof. Lieberman has done. Buy some Vibrams, or go barefoot, and do some running in them. See if the claims made are accurate.

In the meanwhile, please put your preconceptions aside...

Adam said...

Natural does not simply mean "not coached". The Kenyans have a "natural" technique because they grow up living and running barefoot. When you run barefoot you very quickly learn to adopt a ball-heel-ball footstrike - the "natural" technique that our body was designed for.

Americans grow up wearing shoes, which alter the shape of our feet, weaken them, and weaken the associated ligaments and tendons. We can't "quite easily land on the forefoot when in shoes". While it's possible to run with a ball-heel-ball technique in shoes, it's actually quite difficult - the significantly elevated heels cancel out several degrees of ankle flex, and prevent the achilles from loading - thus canceling the energy return.

You say there is no evidence of fewer injuries with barefoot running. Well, there's no evidence of fewer injuries with shoes. The evidence that exists is that lots of people (a majority?) who run in shoes get injured, and that the rate of injuries haven't improved with technological advances in running shoes. The evidence also shows that shod runners have higher impact forces and put more torque on the joints. While studies haven't yet shown a direct link between these forces and injury, they certainly can't help.

Phil said...

So you are starting a new series of posts which is great, but what happened to the series on Exercise and Weight Loss??

That series only got up to Part 3 on 20 Jan with the promise of more to come: “Next time, we'll look a little more at energy use during exercise and the role of diet.” but there hasn’t been anything further.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried walking or running barefoot? (More than a mile, 2KM)

Or is all this just your opinion?

Thanks

Blog Of Sport said...

Very interesting article.. Keep up!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi all

Thanks for the comments. As expected, a fiery response from some!

I can't reply to all, but there are a few that warrant a response...

To Tuck:

Just slow down a little bit there. You're very hostile very early. I'm only introducing the topic here.

You might be surprised to know that I do own Vibrams (two pairs), that I have a very good, personal relationship with Dan Lieberman, who I speak to on this topic regularly and believe has done great work (which I've given a lot of coverage to, as you may recall, but memories are short, clearly. Just as a reminder: http://www.sportsscientists.com/2010/01/running-barefoot-vs-shoes.html).

So you probably have valid points, but to accuse me, this early on in the series, of failing to adhere to standards is a little harsh. Let's see how the series unfolds. I'd like to think I have objectivity here - the tone of your comment suggests the opposite.

The same goes to anonymous - I've run a great deal barefoot, and like I said, it's an intriguing area that I explore for personal and scientific areas. It's my opinion, yes, but based on more than just YOUR isolated experience, which seems to maybe be the problem here?

To Adam:

Yes, you're right, but again, I'll cover the shoe issue tomorrow, so your concerns will hopefully be addressed then. You're quite right - no evidence that shoes prevent injury!

And then to Phil:

yes, mea culpa. I struggle with all the travel to maintain the momentum of a series, and what happened last time is that I traveled with the SA Sevens team and the series was interrupted for 3 weeks. So the series kind of got suspended and then the Winter Olympics came up, now I'm traveling again and have no time to do those posts which were very time intensive. The reason for this series, and I'm not ashamed to admit it, is because I answered these questions many months ago, so they're very quick to post now.

I still want to return to that, but because this blog is a labour of love, it sadly takes second place behind other work.

Anyway, thanks for the responses. I think I have to post the second part of this series as soon as possible.

Ross

aluchko said...

To all the critics here.

Note that the default position in science is the null hypothesis, that there is no difference.

Therefore I assume that Ross is starting out with the null hypothesis in mind, that unless he can find strong evidence to the contrary the correct assumption is that there's no injury nor speed difference between barefoot and shod runners.

One can make arguments based on theory all day, but if you want a reasonable chance of being right you really need evidence from a experiment asking the right question.

Oliver said...

Does the Olympic marathon champ actully run barefeet now? No

Does the WR holder?...No

Does the 10km WR holder and OG champ?..No

Do they land on the forefoot?...No

Do any in the lead pack of major city marathons ran barefeet...how many?
How many land on forefoot...less than 10%??

There are ample videos that can be analysed.

Why does the competitive nature (the desire to be fastest, win OG, make money) not produce barefeet runners in races with a forefoot strike?

Is it possibly just as simple as it not being faster?

I am not convinced that one can design a scientific study to prove or disprove this.

Cheers

aluchko said...

Oliver,

The the funding and coaching that produces the top athletes originated in the West has a strong shod running tradition which would have shod any barefooters regardless of speed.

When Haile Gebrselassie switched to shoes it probably wasn't for any performance reason, it was because his coaches said something like "all top runners wear shoes, it's only poor people who can't afford shoes who go barefoot".

This movement back towards barefoot running is only very recent and even if barefoot was slightly faster it wouldn't be enough to overcome all the conventional wisdom telling top runners to wear shoes.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi again

Just wanted to come back to the comments again and add one or two things.

Oliver makes some good points. Aluchko has part of the answer that coaches do encourage runners to wear shoes, but I'm not convinced this is the only thing. I think a bigger part of it is that practically, these guys can't do the required volume of training barefoot, given the surfaces they train on. I know people will point to the Tarahumara Indians made famous by Born to Run, but a structured training programme where weekly distances of 200km are required is a little different to running for transport.

So I think Oliver is right - the natural "evolution" would have seen these runners, many of whom start off barefoot, stay that way if they could. Therefore, I would also suggest that it's not a viable option to go totally barefoot. But that's conjecture on both our parts.

Just another response to Tuck from earlier. Thank you for the article link you provided. It's interesting, but it's still not "causal", which is the word I used in my post.

That article shows how the shape of the foot and its function may change as a result of wearing shoes. That DOES NOT necessarily equal an increased risk of injury when running in shoes. If a person who has run in shoes all their life switches to barefoot, that study provides a reason why the switch is so difficult to manage, but it doesn't do much in the debate about whether people who run in shoes are disadvantaged compared to different people running barefoot.

Note also that the authors actually conclude that paper by saying "The use of footwear remains necessary, especially on unnatural substrates, in athletics, and in some pathologies, but current data suggests that footwear that fails to respect natural foot shape and function will ultimately alter the morphology and the biomechanical behaviour of the foot."

I find that significant, because they've recognized that shoes are necessary in athletics and with certain "pathologies". I would not describe it as pathology, but it seems to me that many runners will need shoes to counteract some biomechanical factors, while others will not.

Your position, Tuck, is very strongly against what I've tried to suggest, and that is that the evidence is lacking. I stand by that assertion, though of course it's true for both sides. But the paper you provide is by no means evidence. In fact, it does little to swing the argument.

As for objectivity, I was thinking about that. It comes up a lot on the site, whenever someone disagrees with an opinion or interpretation, the default accusation is that I lack objectivity. Maybe that's true, who knows? But I'd like to think that by presenting both sides (as I do in Part 2, and will do when I actually discuss some evidence around the problems with shoes in Parts 3 and 4), I'm doing as much of an objective job as is possible. But I wouldn't want difference in interpretation to be confused with subjectivity.

Anecdotes don't work for me - as I said in Part 2 above this, there is strong bias towards hearing the success stories. No one writes about the dozens of people, and they do exist, who try and fail to convert to barefoot and end up with blown Achilles. We only hear from the converts, who tend to be quite zealous about their experience. Nothing wrong with that, but one has to avoid making the same error as shoe companies when one advocates that barefoot is "the answer".

Ross

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response.

"The same goes to anonymous - I've run a great deal barefoot, and like I said, it's an intriguing area that I explore for personal and scientific areas."

Full disclosure is nice, thank you.
Why do you run BF?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am old, 50. Run only for general fitness. Don't care about speed, 8 minute mile.
I used to run before, but aches pain, and injury, I gave it up.
(I continued to exercise)

Running BF strengthen my feet, allows me to run, and feels good.

If you are trying quantify it for elites, good luck.
Interesting link:
http://stacktv.stack.com/search.aspx?searchType=advanced&keyword=barefoot

Did not mean to come across as hostile.
Enjoy your trip.

Tuck said...

Just read the second installment. You're right, I jumped the gun. I think some of my comments were on target, but you've definitely proven in the second post that you're taking an approach that is more objective than it appeared to me in the first post.

Part of my annoyance with the first post was that I was expecting better, and you delivered better in the second post!

I'm looking forward to the remainder.

As I said before, you guys do great work, and I'm a big fan of "The Runner's Body". (I recommend it whenever I have the chance to.)

I prefer the term "barefoot-style running" to "natural" running, because of precisely the pejorative sense of the term "unnatural", and also because you can run shod in properly-designed shoes, and barefoot is not always the correct answer, as you note. I am a proponent of "barefoot-style" running, but I am a proponent of it precisely because I believe it stands up under an objective analysis, if given the chance.

Thanks again for covering what can be an important topic for many people who've given up on running because of a bad experience that in many cases can correctly be attributed to running in badly-designed shoes.

Tuck said...

@Oliver: Paula Radcliffe does in fact do some training in barefeet, and does run with a forefoot landing. She is the woman's world record holder in the marathon. A video gait analysis is here: http://www.youtube.com/user/njsportsmed#p/u/4/9jJ7bWJfp64

Why don't more people follow her example in training and competing? Good question.

@JT & RS: I agree that this study doesn't speak to whether the fact that our feet are deformed by shoes implies that shod running is more likely to lead to injury or not. (One could argue that by deforming our feet, it already has led to injury.) But undeformed feet could well be the cause of barefoot-trained runners being faster, and your claim that there's no "causal" link here is what I objected to. The article does not make that case, but it would hardly be a surprising outcome. We don't need a study to tell us that other deformities or injuries impact performance, the question is merely "how much".

As to the authors stating "the use of footwear remains necessary...", they provide no evidence to support this view, but given that they're publishing in "Footwear Science", that may merely be bias on their part. Certainly in some cases it's true that footwear is necessary, but culturally we seem to have adopted the view that footwear is *always* necessary, and this is clearly not the case, in atheletics or anything else.

It's pretty clearly the case that it is unwise to wear "footwear that fails to respect natural foot shape and function" since it "will ultimately alter the morphology and the biomechanical behaviour of the foot."

There's no evidence whatsoever to suggest that these changes are beneficial, clearly the authors, by describing such feet as "deformed", agree.

I think a truly objective study would start with the baseline, as Lieberman did, and compare the habitually barefoot to shod runners, and see if the shod runners have any advantages. Clearly in some cases they do, but it's not clear that they always do.

If sneakers were being proposed today as a medical device, this would be the only way their efficacy could be proven.

Have you had the chance to discuss Munson's book with Prof. Lieberman? I suspect you'll find it quite interesting.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi all

Thanks for the comments!

I can't do justice to them right now, so hopefully Part III deals with some of your questions.

For the rest, thanks for the follow up, Tuck, I am glad I managed to redeem it with the second post. In hindsight, the split between Part I and Part II caused the problem, because it just happened that they were kind of polar opposite approaches to the debate. But hopefully now we can maintain the momentum with the next installments!

It's always a problem with these series - happens often that way, where I can't present all the facts. I've yet to figure out the art of the longer series!

ANyway, thanks again for the comments, I'll absorb them all and work them into future posts!

Ross

Gene said...

Ross, a reality check seems in order. Shoes, and not just sandals, go back in human civilization to Mesopotamia, roughly 3500 years ago, if not earlier. Now, I don't know what marathoners in Greece wore on their feet, if anything, but two points appear obvious from this: 1) as a species humans long ago chose shoes or some kind of barrier as a good idea for safety and health, meaning species longevity (and all that it implies); and 2) whatever those engaging in specifically athletic competitions or play wore, humans have been walking and running quickly in footware in everyday life for a long time. Both of those observations render the claims about barefoot running being uniquely natural as silly, reminiscent of 'back to earth' idiocy about the so-called natural human condition.

As I understand it, the central issue being discussed in this series is biomechanics. The question is what can be learned about running and the vagaries of human anatomy and physiology from examining the foot in action, covered and uncovered. "Natural" doesn't have anything to do with it.

aluchko said...

Gene,

Running is something we were doing a LONG time before 1500 BC.

Also even if we did switch to shoes 3500 years ago, and even if those shoes back then exerted the same evolutionary pressures (which I doubt) 3500 years isn't a ton of time for evolution to operate. Particularly if you consider the fact that shoes, even if they aren't optimal for running, still work fairly well and I suspect it's only recently that western populations have started really running again (could be wrong here).

I just can't see a scenario where evolution has significantly updated our feet and legs to work with shoes, particularly as I'm not aware of any major biomechanical differences between us and African populations who are historically barefoot.

Gene said...

aluchko,
It appears that you missed my point entirely; that is, evolution has already operated. Humans made an evolutionary decision at least some 3500-4000 years ago that survival and development would be better accomplished with foot covering than without. And the good reason for that decision has been continuously reinforced by human experience over the centuries (long before shoe companies started mass marketing). From that perspective, one could reasonably argue, even with regard to running, that what's natural is foot covering. But I won't, because the terminological issue is beside the point when it comes to evaluating the biomechanics of running (and walking) with and without foot covering.

aluchko said...

Gene, on the contrary I think you missed my point :)

It is true that human survival may be better served by shoes.

Fewer cuts to the foot meaning less infection, more choice of terrain to walk on, and you're not going to make it in a northern climate during the winter in bare feet.

However, the fact that shoes likely aided our survival doesn't mean that we've evolved to wear shoes. 3500 years is pretty short on an evolutionary timescale. There are very few individual genes that can spread through an entire population over that period, much less gene groups to update a big system like running. Especially when you consider that we may not have done a lot of running in the past 3500 years, and more importantly that shoes have changed drastically in the past 40 years, there is absolutely no way we could have evolved to wear our current choice of shoes.

Note human survival is also better served by modern farming, but we clearly haven't evolved to handle that as evidenced by the obesity epidemic.

Anonymous said...

If 40 years isn't enough time to adapt to wearing shoes, then why have our feet changed by wearing them?

aluchko said...

Anonymous,

This isn't about an individual adapting to wear shoes.

This about the human race evolving to wear shoes. A process which, to grossly simplify, would require the individuals in each generation who were least adapted to wearing footwear to either die or fail to reproduce.

That's not something that happens in a couple generations.

Pete said...

Anonymous,

40 years isn't nearly enough time for evolutionary adaptation to a shoe with a cushioned heel. Our feet adapt to footwear because our bones and muscles respond to the forces placed upon them within our lifetime - a person's feet would look very different if they had not worn shoes their entire life. There is a big difference between anatomical plasticity and evolutionary adaptation. For an analogy, astronauts lose muscle and bone mass in space because of the lack of gravitational force, not because they are evolving to live in space. Also, tennis players of have thicker arm bones in the racket arm due to the additional force place on them.

Gene - as a species, we have been running far longer than we have been wearing shoes. Wearing shoes is a behavioral/cultural adaptation, not any evolutionary one - I highly doubt that we have evolved in any genetic sense to shoe wearing. There are plenty of places in this world where people get along just fine without wearing shoes.

To me, the big issue is not shoe or no shoe, but rather whether the modern running shoe with a thick heel is beneficial or not. It is entirely possible to wear shoes for protective purposes and still run in a way that mimics being unshod (hence the recent Vibram craze and the Newton Running shoe approach). For most of those 3500 years that we have been wearing shoes, there was very likely no thick heel on the sole.

Pete

Don said...

About that 3500 year business -- don't confuse what people likely did in "state societies," or "ancient civilizations," with what people in other kinds of societies in other parts of the world did.

What you're really saying is that in a small part of the world, a very modest proportion of all the people in the world at that time seem to have used footwear.

And that's not a very good foundation on which to build an argument.

The Middle Eastern civilizations were no more representative of humankind than the industrialized West is now.

I am, by the way, an anthropologist.

I spent years among rainforest farmers in the Southwestern Pacific, almost all of whom wore no shoes. When I was with them, I also wore no shoes except when working in some part of the big bush (thorns!) and then I wore an old pair of moccasins. This was easy for me, because I grew up in Hawai'i in the fifties, a time when no one cared whether you wore shoes to school or anywhere else.

Here's my anecdote -- when I was young and thin and reasonably fast, I did best in flexible lightweight shoes for training and racing. Flexibility was the key.

Now that I'm old, not thin, and not fast, I still do much better in flexible lightweight shoes than in any other kind.

Matt said...

The bit about natural being just the way that people run without any outside influence. Yes I couldn't agree more but aren't running shoes an outside influence?