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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Barefoot running and shoes Q & A Part 2

Barefoot running and shoes - the Q & A Part II

Earlier this morning, I started a series on the barefoot vs shoes debate, intended to debate the current move towards running "natural" (that is, without shoes).

This is a topic that always inspires passionate responses from both sides of the aisle, so to speak, and the post this morning didn't take long to stimulate debate. Generally, both sides dismiss the other argument out of hand.

I earlier posted the answers to the first three questions of an interview I gave to a Dutch running website earlier this year.  It turns out that perhaps I should have posted the first seven questions, because I've created the impression that I'm totally against barefoot running, which is not true. As the interview will make clear, I think there is substantial merit to the barefoot position, which we recently covered in our post on Daniel Lieberman's research on barefoot running.  

So I've decided to get the next part of the series up as quickly as possible, lest I am seen to occupy the same position as most others in the debate.  I'd like to think I'm objective on this issue, but clearly that is never the case, for anyone.  But here are questions 4 to 7, discussing some issues on the other side of the debate.

4. Our first experience (and the claims of barefoot ambassadors) is that 'barefoot' running forces you to land more midfoot/forefoot, simply because it hurts to land on the heel. This makes your step automatically shorter and keeps your knee bent when landing. Natural running proponents claim this way of running makes the runner less prone for injury. Would you agree that midfoot/forefoot landing, bended knees and shorter steps benefits the runners body? 

The changes in landing and kinematics (knee angle, ankle angle) when you shift from shod to barefoot running are pretty well established. So you’re exactly right – the most noticeable change when you run barefoot is that you land further forward, your knee is bent, and also your ankle is more in what is called plantar-flexion – your foot and toes are pointed away from the body. One of the consequences of these adjustments is that your stride is shortened, but this is at least partly made up for by an increase in stride rate. This is easy to test for yourself – you can run 100m in shoes and without, and count the strides, feel the landing of your foot, and you’ll have confirmed the running science within 30 seconds!

There’s also evidence that the pattern of muscle activation – when different muscles are active during the stride – changes in the final few hundred milliseconds before your foot strikes the ground, and that’s because the brain, anticipating that there is no longer an air cushion or gel pad inside a soft heel, is going to do the job of ‘softening the landing’ for you.  The body is remarkable this way, and this "natural" response to being barefoot is, I believe, one of the most compelling arguments for barefoot running.  The best study showing this cushioning response is Lieberman et al's recent study in Nature, which we posted on previously, and is also summarized on their excellent website.

As for the second part of the question, whether it’s better to run this way, the full body of evidence does not exist, yet.  What has been shown is that a shift in running technique can change the loading patterns, so that the eccentric loading on the knee is reduced when the forefoot/midfoot landing is used.  In contrast, the ankle loading rises compared to heel striking.  This has important consequences, which we'll definitely discuss later on.  Changing the loading pattern and the eccentric loads in particular will affect injury risk.

However, nobody has yet done the study that changes a runner's technique and then tracks them over many months, or years even, to see how their injury rates change.  This would be a mighty difficult study to do – it would have to be very long-term, and control for a number of other factors (weight, running speed, training volume, training history, skeletal dimensions because there would be considerable individual variation between people, and so on – too many factors contribute to injury for there to be a keyhole study to find the answer). But the key is that nobody has really provided the evidence.

And in theory, the verdict could go either way. Either you are an advocate for barefoot running, and you believe that the bent knee and forefoot landing is protective, and you cite studies that have found reduced impact forces when running barefoot, such as the recent work by Lieberman et al, which is really provocative and breaks through this argument for the first time. Even here, the practical application of the research is not so simple – just because the impact force, particularly that initial impact, is reduced, does not mean that a habitually shod runner switching to barefoot running will reduce injury risk.

Or, on the other hand, you might choose to adopt the position that being barefoot simply changes the loading patterns, not the load, and that the extra work being done on the calf and tendons is worse for you. You therefore decided that you need the stability provided by the shoes and that barefoot running will never work. Note here that you don’t exactly have a lot of evidence to support this position either!  30 years of shoe research has not shown that shoes protect runners against injury.  Neither side has this study.

But apart from all the scientific debate, and the discussion around whose evidence is stronger, what it means, there is a practical problem with making the change from shoes to barefoot running, and that’s what the marketers have overlooked.

This is my biggest word of caution in this whole debate. When you run barefoot, you are changing loading patterns and muscle activity considerably. Your calf muscles and ankle joint, in particular, do  more work running barefoot than in shoes. The same is true for newly-trained Pose runners incidentally – the loading on the ankle goes up while the loading on the knee decreases. The problem is that the calf, Achilles tendon and ankle are not used to this and you pretty much guarantee injury.

This is why the scientists who are arguing the merits for barefoot running (Lieberman et al) are being so careful to encourage a prudent approach to barefoot (or Vibram) running. Unfortunately, that prudent approach has not been shared by media or marketers, which is why they had to issue a statement on the front page of their website after their paper in Nature.  That statement is testament to the challenge faced by runners who switch to barefoot and it should be cold water on the hostility they often show towards anyone who dares to suggest that they are at risk.

This situation is much worse if you force the forefoot landing, which is what many people do when they read the marketing hype – they go out and force themselves to land on the forefoot, which is a recipe for disaster, because the only way they can achieve this is to point their toe down, by actively contracting the calf. Suddenly, four times your body weight is being thrown onto a contracted calf muscle, and the only outcome is a very hurt soleus muscle, or worse.

So the short answer to your question is that if you’re not careful about how you run barefoot (or mid/forefoot, in the case of Pose), and how you teach your body to do it, you basically guarantee yourself an injury, which makes you worse off than running in shoes.

I think that people will under-appreciate how difficult the switch can be, and a lot of people will injure themselves because of misinterpreted science. Out of 100 people to attempt barefoot running, I’d be surprised if 30 pull it off without some ‘trauma’, and I’d be willing to be that at least 30 pick up an injury that forces a long lay-off, maybe a return to shoes.  Of course, 30 will succeed and be much better off, which may power the movement even more.  You are far more likely to hear about the success stories than about the guy who damages his Achilles tendons in a week and abandons the plan.  And well done to those who succeed - they've found a solution.  But to suggest that this solution will work for everyone may be making the same error that others have made before.  Quite what determines who succeeds, I don't know.

5. What about the act of shifting the pelvis as chi running proposes and the relationship to mid/forefoot landing?

This is the correct way to change the body position during running, and you see it in a number of athletes who run efficiently (and who have never heard of Pose or Chi, incidentally!). You simply cannot run when you are leaning backwards, with your weight behind you. So by getting your pelvis forward, you bring your body more into an effective running position, and one of the consequences is that your footstrike will move forward slightly, since your feet will be moving under your body, rather than reaching out for the landing on the heel.

But the key, again, is that you can’t control the landing cognitively, it is the consequence of otherwise good form. And crucially, you can have this good form and still land on the heel! You cannot judge a runner’s efficiency by looking solely at their footstrike, and this is a problem I have with how the whole debate has been positioned. The contact point of the foot is a consequence of numerous other factors, pelvis position being one of them. It’s not the diagnostic, or the fingerprint that identifies good vs bad technique, and a lot of runners would be better off not worrying about the foot.

6. The above is a health perspective on the advantages of running with a shorter stride and lending on the mid/forefoot. What do you think about the claim that the runner is faster in this way of running, due to the fact that it is a less energy consuming way of running (obviously speed over longer distances, we’re not talking sprint here)?

Same as for the injury aspect – there’s no evidence for this. The theoretical argument once again works both ways – there are some studies that suggest that landing on the heel produces the most efficient energy return and produces the lowest oxygen consumption for a given speed (which immediately contradicts the basis for the question). However, other studies have shown the opposite, which means your question is valid after all! So the jury is well and truly out on this one!

It’s interesting Haile Gebrselassie is very clearly a heel striker during marathons, though he was a famously reported forefoot striker when on the track, often being pointed to as the unwitting endorser of forefoot landings.

There is also the practical issue that someone who is a heel-striker, and who suddenly decides to switch to a mid-foot or forefoot landing because they think it might be more efficient is highly unlikely to be able to run very well, and risks injury anyway (see Q4)

And finally, a study on Pose found that months of supervised Pose training succeeded in shifting the landing point to a more forefoot one, but the runners were LESS efficient than before, by a considerable margin. So the possible benefits of forcing yourself to land on the mid-foot may be small (or non-existent), whereas the downside includes serious injury to calf, Achilles or ankle, and overall, I wouldn’t force it in a runner until evidence is absolutely convincing.

That’s not to say you cannot introduce training methods that very gradually, and unconsciously, help to improve running by (among other things) changing running form. Form drills, uphill running, sprinting are all training methods that will have natural effects on form. I see these as distinct from cognitively changing technique, which is what this debate leads to.

7. There seems to be lot of debate between researchers at the moment on the subject. Which of the two parties (barefoot vs. modern running shoe) do you see as having the most valid research outcomes at this moment?

At the moment, the barefoot position is in the ascendancy. I realize that in this interview, I’ve said that evidence is lacking, but I still believe they have merit. The problem is that neither extreme is likely correct.

The extreme view that shoes protect against injury and are necessary and should be prescribed according to specific tests like foot shape is very much in doubt. That’s why the barefoot group occupies the stronger position – their ability to cast doubt on conventional wisdom is better than that of the shoe advocates to criticize the position that being barefoot is better. I think the conventional wisdom about shoes is changing, more and more people are recognizing that all the gadgets sold as injury prevention devices are not effective, and so the minimal movement gains momentum.

Having said that, the extreme view that we should be barefoot or in minimal shoes is just as likely incorrect. There will be a middle ground where the best scenario for the most people exists. I believe that shoes are crucial for some runners, who would be unable to run without the level of cushioning and support they offer. In theory, maybe barefoot works for everyone. But years of deconditioning and wearing shoes, along with biomechanical factors, may make it absolutely impossible for some people to make the transition. So now you have a choice - run in shoes and keep going 10km a day, no problem. Or shift to barefoot and run a few hundred METERS a day and break down injured. It's just too difficult, practically, for some people to shift.

For others, perhaps a majority, smart training and gradual progression can see them running successfully and injury-free in lightweight shoes. And “smart training” includes some barefoot running, even if it is once or twice a week, for reduced distances. I’ve no doubt that it helps and may protect against injury, and I think it is a matter of time before there is some evidence for this. But neither side is going to convince me that they’re 100% correct in the extreme, and shoes are not endangered species just yet!

Looking ahead to Part III

So again, I apologize for the information overload today. Two posts in a day is a lot. Next time, hopefully there'll be only one. So far, I've looked at the issue from the side of the barefoot. Tomorrow, we'll look more at shoes, and why this perception exists that shoes prevent injury, how marketing messages have shaped those beliefs, and what scientific exists (or is lacking, as the case may be) supporting shoes.

Join us then!



aluchko said...

I, for one, am certainly interested to see how this series progresses. I'm personally sympathetic to the hypothesis that life-long barefoot runners would have lower injury rates due to the evolutionary environment, though that doesn't necessarily extend to someone moving to bare-foot after being raised in shoes.

I recently got a pair of Vibrams and am mostly transitioned to going half & half (thought I was taking it slowly enough but still had a few days of pretty sore calves). I'm particularly curious how bare-foot mixes with flat feet as my feet are particularly flat and I've always used orthotics in my running shoes (though have never had injury issues).

I'm also waiting to see what happens when I start racing. There's a series of races I do each year with a lot of repeat runners where I can compare barefoot vs shod. I should be able to detect any speed difference > 4 seconds / km!

Oliver said...

Following on from my comment on Part I:

"What about the act of shifting the pelvis as chi running proposes and the relationship to mid/forefoot landing?

This is the correct way to change the body position during running, and you see it in a number of athletes who run efficiently (and who have never heard of Pose or Chi, incidentally!)."

Exactly...it has nothing to do with Chi, Pose, Vibrams, Barefeet or shoes.

BTW...I spent good part on my youth barefeet and I am said , by all observations (coaches, peers, outsiders etc) to have a nturally smooth and efficient style, and that is borne out by my achievements especially the conversions of short to marathon distance times.

Yet I will not go back to running barefeet...btw I don't run in stability/anti-pronation..neutral or racing flats.

Despite having a history of barefoot as child, and being able to run barefeet I find more efficiency running in shoes.

Perhaps my barefeet history contributed to an effecient style...but just like all the elites, I find it faster, more efficient, more economical with clad feet.

The day I see a sudden breakthrough in times at the top due to a total change back to barefeet then I may eat my words.

Interesting that western athletes with their science tries to run the way 3rd world ones grew up (myself included) in a vain attempt to get faster,

.....yet the latter run faster, more efficient by putting on the shoes provided by western science.


Neil Hart said...

Interesting debate and ideas coming out here.

I try to do some track (grass) running once a week to help strengthen the foot musculature and ligaments and often include that as my sprint session. Took a while to get the muscle/tendon extended and happy with the barefoot stride but quite happy now.

My main experience is an strengthening of the arch and ability to run and walk without the ankle falling inwards.

Then I trail in trail shoes with fair cushioning and road run in stability shoes with big cushioning.

It may be interesting to look retrospectively at early shod runners, where there was little cushioning in the soles. I recently bought a pair of converse-allstar-type shoes and loving walking in them cos there is so little cushioning and so have to have lighter heel strike.

And these are the early shoes that people used to run, play tennis etc. in.

To further blur the lines in this debate I wonder whether this shoe type gives a much close gait to barefoot than does a modern running shoe and thus debate becomes about heel cushioning vs, no cushioning rather than shoes vs barefoot...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this interesting Q&A. I like to add some thoughts to it.

I treat a lot of recreational runners that turned to Chi or Pose running, because of knee problems. Most of them, don't have knee problems, but hip mobility problems (medial rotation). If we fix that, their original knee problems disappear. I have nothing against this type of running, but I find it hard to see that people tend to work around problems, instead of solving them.

There seem to be an unanswered topic in this debate. What about reactivity and energy efficiency. Leaning forwards makes it nearly impossible to use the reactive capacity of the m.psoas and a limited forward swinging leg does not stretch the posterior chain enough to store reactive energy.

If you have enough reactive power build up in the hamstrings, you will have a mid foot strike. There is no reason to lean forward to get this effect, it can be done with reactivity. Running up straight gives you the benefits of bare foot running, while reusing reactive energy.

Some athletes have backpain trying to run with a straight upper body. This however has in my clinical experience to do with a dysfunctional m.gluteus maximus movement pattern. The extension comes partly from the lumbarspine and not from the hip. It's like beating your spine 10,000 times with a bat with every run. It's fixable.

I know I touched several subject with the central theme that a pelvic tilt is not necessarily the only way to get a mid foot strike and entertain the idea that there might be more efficient methods.

If you have the time, I like to hear your thoughts on this topic.

~ Chi (no, not from the running)

Anonymous said...

Back in the seventies, we all wore minimalist running shoes. They were called plimsolls - they came in black or white canvas with crepe rubber soles. For cross-country around Port Meadow in the winter, where one would slip and flounder continuously in the icy water in our plimsolls, we would sometimes wear our studded rugby boots - then have to contend with running on a semi-rigid, studded sole on tarmac on the return leg. Most unpleasant and jarring.

In about 1974 or 75, the rubber waffle sole became available. This provided more cushioning and grip than the plimsoll, but turned the shoe into a mud magnet over cross-country.

Then, in October 1976, the first modern lightweight running shoes hit the shelves. I was one of the first to wear them - bright red, nylon Pumas with black, artificial suede reinforcements around the toe and the heel. Call it the placebo effect but they transformed my performance from place getter to winner. It was a revelation.

Thirty five years later; still going strong; and gone full circle. In the mid-nineties, went from wearing over heavy, over engineered, over priced shoes to minimalist, lightweight cheapies for all my road training (Pumas again!)

Then abandoned tar macadam altogether, except for road races. Instead, did all my training on dirt trails in the fabulous original Adidas Trail with flared heel, that Adidas of course, in their wisdom, stopped making some years back.

Now I train entirely barefoot along the sandy foreshore and on the steps that lead up from the Esplanade to the top of the ridge at Trinity Beach. Haven’t hit the tarmac or worn running shoes in over a year.

Running barefoot fast and far on sand and up and down steps is great. But if I were to race on tarmac again, then I would definitely be putting a pair of super lightweight racers back on for the event.

Unknown said...

So this from the Dumb Questions Dept.

You write: "30 years of shoe research has not shown that shoes protect runners against injury."

So I should just dump my Asics?
The answer is surely somewhere on this site, but I haven't found it yet.

Best, Michiel

Betty Swollocks said...

In Calgary, Canada, we have many a runner jumping on this bandwagon: by that I mean this period when an idea has captured people's imagination and seems like the answer to their running questions. Mechanics and injury aside (I think the post and posters have covered most everything), I have just two words which explain why I absolutely must wear shoes for six months of the year -

minus 40 celsius!

The built form we have created and the areas we have made habitable require us to wear shoes for the most part.

Barefoot running in moderation is great as a training tool and I could not agree more that it has positive effects on foot muscle and strength. However I feel people are looking to it as panacea, a silver bullet, a short cut to a faster time, and not a holistic approach to getting enjoyment from their running.

For anyone reading this post looking for a barefoot shortcut - you need to think long term, not "oh I'll run barefoot this summer and qualify for Boston". To paraphrase from Once a Runner, successful running has not so much to do with fancy gear and gadgetry as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rendering process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprises the bottoms of your running shoes.

Nemo said...

You write:
"What about the act of shifting the pelvis as chi running proposes and the relationship to mid/forefoot landing?

This is the correct way to change the body position during running, and you see it in a number of athletes who run efficiently (and who have never heard of Pose or Chi, incidentally!). "

I'd like to understand what you mean by "shifting the pelvis forward". In my minds eye I can imagine this to mean to different types of action within the pelvis & hips and I'm not sure which of these you would describe as "forward".

Steven Sashen said...

I have seen more than a few people who are new to barefoot running underestimate the amount of strengthening they'll need to do in order to handle the new forces on their ankles, calves and, not surprisingly, feet.

On the other hand, I don't know one barefoot running coach who doesn't say, over and over and over, "Start slow! Do WAY less than you think you should. STOP at the first sign of discomfort and REST until you're recovered before you run again."

All the coaches I know suggest treating barefoot runs like a gym workout and suggest incorporating barefooting into an existing training routine.

That said, I know very few people who are able to learn those lessons through any other method than "hard knocks." It took me one big blister and 2 week-long sore calves to get the hint.

The minimalist shoe manufacturers, on the other hand, tend to leave out this "take it easy" instruction.

I make a point of it, not only on our huaraches website -- http://www.InvisibleShoe.com -- but in the literature I send with each pair of huaraches kits or custom-made running sandals (I'd rather have happy customers than lots of injured ones).

Anonymous said...

I'm astonished that you're so pessimistic about injury rates for people attempting to learn barefoot running. When you learn to run truly barefoot - as opposed to using Vibram Five Fingers - you are forced to progress at a painfully slow rate (literally) because it takes so much time to condition your soles. For example, most shod Westerners simply don't have properly conditioned soles to run even one mile barefoot, and so they won't. As a result, as you spend months slowly and gradually building up the skin on your feet, you also condition the supporting muscles and ligaments.

I successfully learned to run barefoot and I see no risk of injury. You simply can't progress fast enough to cause injury! It simply takes too much time (several months for me) to condition the skin on your feet. By contrast, shoes allow runners to run farther and faster than they are conditioned for, leading to injuries.

Your wild speculation on barefoot injury rates reflects a complete lack of knowledge about transitioning to barefoot running. With the absence of any studies, perhaps the only way for you to gain any insight is to try it yourself.

MichaelMc said...

Thanks for the excellent post. There are few running topics that polarize people quite so much as this one. There seems to be very little "middle ground" allowed: even the few real facts available seem to be contested beyond reason.

I run primarily in shoes, but with a stride that works equally well in Vibrams or barefooted. It has always been my feeling one should fix postural errors, then simply concentrate on landing softly and smoothly: your body will then find the most efficient landing.

It astonishes me how many advocates argue the impossiblity of alternatives to their "right" way to run when there are so many examples of wonderful running form in a variety of landings.

I don't expect the debate to diminish soon, however, but thanks for the reasoned contribution!

aluchko said...


I think it's clear that when we're talking about barefoot we include a) using Vibrams or a similar artificial sole, or b) running on a track or grass field where one does not need calloused feet.

You can't pretend we're using a definition we're not, than accuse us of "wild speculation" because our position doesn't make sense with that definition.

Anonymous said...

"I think it's clear that when we're talking about barefoot we include a) using Vibrams or a similar artificial sole"

No, that's not clear at all. In fact, the article states:

"Out of 100 people to attempt barefoot running, I’d be surprised if 30 pull it off without some ‘trauma’, and I’d be willing to be that at least 30 pick up an injury that forces a long lay-off, maybe a return to shoes"

Vibram Five Fingers are shoes. Strange shoes, yes, but still shoes.

Additionally, the above quote meets just about any standard of 'speculation' at the very least, and arguably 'wild speculation.' There's no data or analogy, just a statement. Having advanced degrees does not give you any knowledge of how painful it is to run barefoot on pavement for the typical Westerner, and how slowly that forces you to progress.

Like I said, based on my personal experience, I'll wildly speculate that if you run barefoot on pavement you'll be very unlikely to get injured because the conditioning of your soles will force you to progress extremely slowly. I'm a 37-minute 10K runner, 50+ miles a week, and it took me several months just to condition the soles of my feet to run 7 miles at a 9-minute pace.

Take it slowly? You don't have a choice with true barefooting!

So, based on my experience, I'll wildly speculate that out of 100 people to attempt barefoot running - true barefoot running - I’d be surprised if more than a couple fail to pull it off or sustain any sort of ‘trauma’

Vibram Five Fingers are another story.

aluchko said...


I concede it has not been completely explicit that Vibrams were included in the barefoot category though it has been mentioned in the previous article

"natural means running barefoot (or in lightweight shoes)"

And this one

"barefoot (or Vibram) running."

and I think everyone here has been discussing it in that context.

As to your personal experience, it's just that a personal experience. Even if Vibram's didn't exist if a Westerner like myself stated they were trying barefoot running I'd be very surprised if they were going out onto the pavement. Instead they would almost certainly go out to a track or nice grass field. The reason is they know they don't have the callouses to handle asphalt, and would be nervous about the hardness regardless. So they'd think to condition their soles with runs on softer surfaces ignorant of the potential injuries to their Achilles.

It is valid to mention the imprecision in the statement, and the experience of your alternate approach. But you don't have the grounds to claim people have made statements with interpretations that they didn't make.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To anonymous

Vibrams are included in barefoot with respects to the loading of the soleus muscle and achilles tendon, which is the crux of the limitation. Yes, running barefoot imposes another limitation, which is the mechanical impact on the foot, but I'm clearly including Vibrams in that category.

Your experience, with a sample of one, is not proof of anything. You're making exactly the same error that all the shoe manufacturers you oppose made for all these years, and that's to generalize your experience to that of others. It's simply wrong to do.

I'll deal with the training progression issue, but to come here and claim "complete lack of knowledge about transitioning to barefoot running" is to compare the evidence from research to your experience with yourself? or is it to dozens of runners?

The next posts will cover some of these issues, but Aluchko is right in his latest post. And also, in your posts, when you write that you transitioned to "barefoot", are you saying that the Vibrams allowed you to run more, or do you use barefoot in the truer sense of the word?

My experience, for what it's worth, includes about two dozen people who are trying, or have tried to transition, most of whom really battled and are either back in shoes, or not running with Achilles tendon injuries. NOt published data, but that of a coach.


Joseph Froncioni said...

I just wanted to make you aware that Dr. Steven Robbins now has a website ( http://www.stevenrobbinsmd.com/ ) on which he has posted all of his research on barefoot running. He has also included Marti's work and all of the papers are made available as pdfs. This is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the topic.


Joseph Froncioni

Douglas Kretzmann said...

I notice Dr George Dallam showed up in the discussion of the previous post on POSE and running economy, with some new information. The experienced runners he studied continued with POSE after the study, believing that they were faster; and that the decreased economy might be an artifact of treadmill testing.
Dr Dallam himself believes the changes were beneficial.

Graham Fletcher apparently had a study to show that a week of POSE method training improves 1.5 mile run time in experienced runners using a two group design. This was published in Volume 3, Number 3 / September 2008 International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, but it's not available online. Also, Dr Fletcher appears to have a career as a POSE coach.

I'd like to see a second group in any new study, that does the drills without attempting to change to POSE running technique. I suspect the change in training stimulus that the drills provide is what accounts for the improved speed. Many of the drills are the same as the basic plyometrics I've found useful in my training.

Dave from Running Tips said...

I am slowly making the change from heel strike to a midfoot strike. I also have switched from running shoes to Vibram Five Fingers. It is a hard transition. I am at 1 1/2 miles of running all on pavement. I can't wait until the trails in Wisconsin are not muddy and soggy so I can run on softer ground. I do agree that you really have to adjust your whole body. My calfs are sore now (Where before it would have been my shins)

Dave from Running Tips said...

I think the most important thing for a runner to do is to try barefoot or altering your stride to a midfoot strike. I always think of it like this. It's hard to argue about something if you haven't tried the other side. If running in Vibram's doesn't work for me, I'll just go back to running shoes, but at least I won't be spouting off my opinion without experiencing it from both sides.

Jarrod Shoemaker said...

That video of Geb shows that he is a midfoot striker, defiantly not a heel striker in shoes. All midfoot strikers land on their heel after midfoot. Heel strikers land on heel first causing a braking effect.

Plus the grade of the road is not shown... Im assuming since its one of his marathons its fairly flat.

Personally, I have moved from stability shoes to minimalist shoes, have gotten much faster and have had no injuries. For me, it has taken 2 years along with constant exercises and MAT treatments to engage new sets of muscles and strengthen them.

willvis said...

I'm still running and walking barefoot after 16 months, and I love it. Still feeling the benefits in the feet, ankles, achilles tendons, knees, hips and back. Besides, it just feels good, energizes me and makes me happy. Folks, if you start out walking barefoot for a few weeks, you can run pretty much pain-free. Unless, of course, you step on gravel and other sharp little objects---after all, you're barefoot; it hurts. That isn't going to ever change. Take the appropriate steps to prepare your feet and legs for barefoot running, and look out below.