Barefoot running: Fad or cult?

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Damiano Machiavelli said:
That bolded part is absolutely laughable. Do you think that the hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps even billions of dollars, that Nike has expended on R&D was spent to make shoes that promote injuries?
They study the data from shoes: load bearing, energy return, where weight is distributed, ect. and then infer those results to injuries. They study the effect their shoes have on strides, not the effect their shoes have on injuries (no research team can do that accurately, not even those in the minimalist camp).


This is as far as I got in the thread, but the two sides seem pretty polar. Everyone here should know that there are no absolutes in training. Shoes do not guarantee injuries, and neither does barefoot running. Do not go beyond the literal meaning, and that is an indisputable fact. Start there.

A better way to rethink the debate is to think of injuries as the products of overuse and the failure of bodies to recuperate. That is almost always product of human error. Running barefoot/minimalist data shoes that people get injured when they switch too fast and overload parts of their body that cannot handle the new stress. Similarly, shod runner data shoes that the changes in foot strike caused by the shoe design result in overloading certain points in the stride. I can cite my sources if you want, but right now it is time I don't have. More importantly, shod runners with a forefoot footstrike (unaltered by the shoes, similar to barefoot) do not show this overloading. Shoes are not related directly to the stress. But, a stressed (in this overloading sense) footstrike is almost always the result of shoe design. I say almost only because I'm not a scientist and don't know for certain; neither do you.

Running barefoot/minimalist data shoes that people get injured when they switch too fast and overload parts of their body that cannot handle the new stress.

Data tying injuries to shoes or to minimalism is not enough to determine which is better. The unquantifiable variable is the human, and the choices they make in training and recovery, and their unconscious bio mechanics of their footstrike, stride ect. It is an entirely individual process to determine which is more beneficial.

FWIW, I run in minimalist shoes. They are lighter, allowing me to train more efficiently. I trust that the "peripheral" work I do maintains my strength, and prevents overuse injuries. No data would be able to make that decision. Use your reason. I hate to say I've been in them since "before they were cool", but I've been wearing them since 2005, before the hype. My decision was based on training in more efficient shoes and my confidence from injury.
 
The recent barefoot craze was started by the book 'Born to Run by Chris McDougall. Vibram footwear company had the Vibram Five Fingers as a deck shoe designed to increase grip on deck. A crackpot called Barefoot Ted asked em for sponsorship and the rest is history.

Here is Scott Jurek's opinion on barefoot running. He won Western States 100mile 7 times in a row. He is considered the guru of ultra running. Yep, he is also a long term vegan.



Matt: And I read that you wore the Brooks Green Silence when you set that record; is that true?

Scott: That is true.* A lot of people asked, "Did you switch out shoes?"* I wore the same pair for the whole, entire time.

Matt: Oh, really?

Scott: You know, 165.7 miles, and it felt great, and just had the right mix of cushioning and so forth.* And when running a race like that you take so many steps and strides that every little weight counts, and to give my body that kind of feeling of, "Okay, I've got one of the lightest weight shoes that I'd feel comfortable wearing for this distance," and gave it a shot.

Matt: Yeah, that's what I noticed about it, was that it was extremely lightweight for the fact that it still had a kind of cushioned sole on it, compared to the Vibram FiveFingers or something like that.

Scott: Exactly.

Matt: And there are obviously all the environmental aspects of it.* I wrote a post about that people were really interested.* Was that part of it for you?

Scott: Oh, definitely, it's been one of my favorite shoes from that standpoint as well.* I mean, anytime a shoe company like Brooks… they've been focusing on sustainability.* That was unheard of 10 years ago or 15 years ago in the footwear industry.* So it is important to me, and I've been really focused on supporting that and encouraging Brooks to do more and more.
We're definitely trying to do more with the design of the Cascadia as well, you know, keeping as many pieces of that shoe and the components involved in that shoe as sustainable as possible.* And again, it's not 100 percent there, but we're making steps each reiteration and each model into making it more sustainable.* Again, like the Green Silence, the heel counter is made of recycled CD's, and again, a lot of these things would just be dumped into landfills.* And shoes, unfortunately, are a very high-landfill volume type product, very throwaway in some ways.* But if we can make it last better and to hold up with using recycled components, we're definitely making strides in the right direction.* We've got a ways to go, but we'll keep working on it.

Matt: And do you wear that kind of minimalist-style shoe a lot, for even like a trail race, or do you ever run in Vibram FiveFingers for races?* Or is that something you just work into your training every once in a while?* Or do you even wear FiveFingers?

Scott: I think barefoot running and training is a great adjunct and for some people, it's the best thing that's happened to their running, and I say great.* Or if it inspires people to get back into running because now they pay more attention to their technique, I mean there's a lot of benefits and I do incorporate some barefoot running into my training.
But as far as everyday or the use of running in that extreme minimalism shoes, like the Vibram Fivefingers or using my bare feet, I'm not going to be able to perform as well because I'm not getting enough protection.* There's a fine line between getting enough protection…I definitely use a lighter-weight shoes when I'm out on the trails and roads, and I've experimented with a number of things and prototypes with Brooks, but the key is having some form of cushioning and protecting the foot.
I went down to the Copper Canyon with, of course, the Tarahumara, and the whole Born to Run book speaks of this—the Tarahumaran use tire tread.* And that's, in some cases, up to a half-inch thick or three-eights of an inch thick.* I mean it's thick rubber; it's tire tread.

Matt: So they're not really running barefoot.

Scott: No, they're not.* And you can't run fast on technical terrain—and again, for some people, running fast isn't their main objective.* Their goal is to get the finish line, and I think everybody wants to get to the finish line.* But if you do want to have a mix of feeling for the ground, integration and proprioception with technique, then going with a more minimal shoe would be great for that. And for some people, you know, running in barefeet and running in a minimal shoe is the best way for them to enjoy this sport, and I say go for it.* Definitely.

Matt: Alright, so now that you've done the 24-hour record and set that American record, you mentioned that it was kind of something you did later in your career, because it required such mental focus.* So what's next for you?* Are you satisfied with what you've accomplished in ultrarunning, or do you still have certain races in mind and certain things you'd like to achieve?
 
Apr 5, 2010
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This thread is speaking to cross purposes because "barefoot running" has come, perhaps unfortunately, to include running in "minimalist" or super light and "neutral" shoes as well as running in barefeet. It is a little confusing. "I run in barefoot shoes" is the kind of statement that leaves me scratching my head, especially when I say it.

Jurek's pov is, like many already given here, perfectly reasonable and well articulated (basically, if it's working for you then it's working for you and kudos, but what works for me might not work for you, but it might, so go for a run and shut up about it already) with very professional product placement (he's paid to run in Cascadias right?).

Whenever athletic outliers give their opinions I kind of discount them. They don't breathe the same air I do. Jurek's footwear has got so little to do with Jurek the athlete I refuse to even talk about it. He'd win any given 100 miler wearing chuck taylors.

peace
 
Jul 4, 2009
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I have been meaning to get some minimalist shoes and give them a try for quite a while now, but haven't got around to it. Then on the weekend I did a (don't hate me) triathlon, in which they moved the swim course so there was a 1km run from the swim to the transition zone. In the briefing they told us we would be issued with a new bag, which we should put a spare pair of runners into so that we could use them for this km. I, of course, had no spare pair of runners, so I did it in socks. As I ran I could feel my heels thumping into the asphalt/concrete, and when I finally got to the bike by back was locked up and took about 50km before I could rest comfortably on my aero bars.

Conclusion: going to go and get some minimalist shoes and try to improve my gait a bit, and see what happens to my times. I suspect I will be slower over the first 2-3km, and quicker over the rest. I wil let anyone who is interested know though!
 
Aug 9, 2010
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durianrider said:
The recent barefoot craze was started by the book 'Born to Run by Chris McDougall. Vibram footwear company had the Vibram Five Fingers as a deck shoe designed to increase grip on deck. A crackpot called Barefoot Ted asked em for sponsorship and the rest is history.

Here is Scott Jurek's opinion on barefoot running. He won Western States 100mile 7 times in a row. He is considered the guru of ultra running. Yep, he is also a long term vegan.





Matt: And I read that you wore the Brooks Green Silence when you set that record; is that true?

Scott: That is true.* A lot of people asked, "Did you switch out shoes?"* I wore the same pair for the whole, entire time.

Matt: Oh, really?

Scott: You know, 165.7 miles, and it felt great, and just had the right mix of cushioning and so forth.* And when running a race like that you take so many steps and strides that every little weight counts, and to give my body that kind of feeling of, "Okay, I've got one of the lightest weight shoes that I'd feel comfortable wearing for this distance," and gave it a shot.

Matt: Yeah, that's what I noticed about it, was that it was extremely lightweight for the fact that it still had a kind of cushioned sole on it, compared to the Vibram FiveFingers or something like that.

Scott: Exactly.

Matt: And there are obviously all the environmental aspects of it.* I wrote a post about that people were really interested.* Was that part of it for you?

Scott: Oh, definitely, it's been one of my favorite shoes from that standpoint as well.* I mean, anytime a shoe company like Brooks… they've been focusing on sustainability.* That was unheard of 10 years ago or 15 years ago in the footwear industry.* So it is important to me, and I've been really focused on supporting that and encouraging Brooks to do more and more.
We're definitely trying to do more with the design of the Cascadia as well, you know, keeping as many pieces of that shoe and the components involved in that shoe as sustainable as possible.* And again, it's not 100 percent there, but we're making steps each reiteration and each model into making it more sustainable.* Again, like the Green Silence, the heel counter is made of recycled CD's, and again, a lot of these things would just be dumped into landfills.* And shoes, unfortunately, are a very high-landfill volume type product, very throwaway in some ways.* But if we can make it last better and to hold up with using recycled components, we're definitely making strides in the right direction.* We've got a ways to go, but we'll keep working on it.

Matt: And do you wear that kind of minimalist-style shoe a lot, for even like a trail race, or do you ever run in Vibram FiveFingers for races?* Or is that something you just work into your training every once in a while?* Or do you even wear FiveFingers?

Scott: I think barefoot running and training is a great adjunct and for some people, it's the best thing that's happened to their running, and I say great.* Or if it inspires people to get back into running because now they pay more attention to their technique, I mean there's a lot of benefits and I do incorporate some barefoot running into my training.
But as far as everyday or the use of running in that extreme minimalism shoes, like the Vibram Fivefingers or using my bare feet, I'm not going to be able to perform as well because I'm not getting enough protection.* There's a fine line between getting enough protection…I definitely use a lighter-weight shoes when I'm out on the trails and roads, and I've experimented with a number of things and prototypes with Brooks, but the key is having some form of cushioning and protecting the foot.
I went down to the Copper Canyon with, of course, the Tarahumara, and the whole Born to Run book speaks of this—the Tarahumaran use tire tread.* And that's, in some cases, up to a half-inch thick or three-eights of an inch thick.* I mean it's thick rubber; it's tire tread.

Matt: So they're not really running barefoot.

Scott: No, they're not.* And you can't run fast on technical terrain—and again, for some people, running fast isn't their main objective.* Their goal is to get the finish line, and I think everybody wants to get to the finish line.* But if you do want to have a mix of feeling for the ground, integration and proprioception with technique, then going with a more minimal shoe would be great for that. And for some people, you know, running in barefeet and running in a minimal shoe is the best way for them to enjoy this sport, and I say go for it.* Definitely.

Matt: Alright, so now that you've done the 24-hour record and set that American record, you mentioned that it was kind of something you did later in your career, because it required such mental focus.* So what's next for you?* Are you satisfied with what you've accomplished in ultrarunning, or do you still have certain races in mind and certain things you'd like to achieve?
Some need to feel like they have the definitive answer for everything...

FWIW..there have been many barefoot runners during the last few decades. Just because a much-talked-about book has gotten a lot of pr in recent months, there emerge a whole new group of 'culties' looking for a new thing to gravitate to.

Zola Budd.

Gary Neptune, who owns Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder used to run constantly barefoot through Boulder's streets...this was 30+ years ago.

Colleen DeReuck, one of the most amazing runners and eternally a competitor, now a multiple masters' champ, born in South Africa...where she ran barefoot. (she's healthy, strong, and has had incredible longevity and is NOT a vegan BTW)

Every few years this comes around.
Always folks looking for the next trendy idea to make them a fitter and better runner....
 
Jun 21, 2011
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I run in Nike Free shoes, the minimal cushioning ones etc yadda yadda

Ditched my more conventional ones after shin splints, sore toes and the usual.
No problems at all now. Just my asthma :rolleyes:
 
Aug 9, 2010
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I've always shied away from the large overblown rubbery soles that seemed to show up on some running shoes. It seemed for a while that all the trend was for globby looking large treads...and I've always hated that. It never looked like a natural way to run did it?

I'm happy the trend seems to be leaning back to more simple soles. Some folks do need more support, but not ridiculous air tubes and springs...

I've recently enjoyed some Saucony Mirage and now am running in Nike LunarFlys. I'm pretty much a trail and dirt/gravel road runner, so don't like most of the clunky 'trail' models. :)
 
Mar 18, 2009
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mewmewmew13 said:
I'm happy the trend seems to be leaning back to more simple soles. Some folks do need more support, but not ridiculous air tubes and springs...

I've recently enjoyed some Saucony Mirage and now am running in Nike LunarFlys. I'm pretty much a trail and dirt/gravel road runner, so don't like most of the clunky 'trail' models. :)
I switched to these. Hoka Mafate. (The one on the left.) Nothing better for looooong distance on rocky technical trails. Try running a 50 or 100 mile trail ultra in those Vibram jokes.

 
Aug 9, 2010
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BroDeal said:
I switched to these. Hoka Mafate. (The one on the left.) Nothing better for looooong distance on rocky technical trails. Try running a 50 or 100 mile trail ultra in those Vibram jokes.

I'm not an ultra runner. I also don't like asphalt if I can get away from it. Those on the left look like balloon tires! Do they fit snugly? Cant' tell if there is a side lacing system or ?? ..but interesting.
I like trail running because it works all your muscles as you find balance ...but those look like you could muscle your way down scree slopes and not feel a thing!
 
Mar 18, 2009
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mewmewmew13 said:
I'm not an ultra runner. I also don't like asphalt if I can get away from it. Those on the left look like balloon tires! Do they fit snugly? Cant' tell if there is a side lacing system or ?? ..but interesting.
I like trail running because it works all your muscles as you find balance ...but those look like you could muscle your way down scree slopes and not feel a thing!
Yeah, they are freakin' huge. Light but spongy as heck. They do not beat your feet up over long distances like other shoes, and the distance ends up being easier on your joints. The sole is massive so you get traction like nothing else. It is like the anti-minimalist shoe.

 
Aug 9, 2010
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Actually BroDeal, now that I see those new pix they look like a very streamlined shoe but just have the soles 'puffed'.
They are trim around the shape of the outline, and look to be designed with no extra clunkiness save for the vertical cushion directly underfoot.

I really think the Japanese have a knack for the simple and functional design.

My gripe with shoes is when the soles have all this unnecessary cr_p added such as flaring out of the soles,Big round 'fake' springs, air 'tubes' inserted as gimmicks and stiff things added to the insteps that make your foot rebel in unnatural ways! ha. There is my rant. :)
 
Mar 18, 2009
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mewmewmew13 said:
btw, do you ever feel like you might turn your ankle or roll sideways off the sole? with that height ?
Not really. When I started trail running I folded an ankle a few times, one time really bad. Since then a combination of muscle strength, better technique, and more careful foot placement has pretty much eliminated that. I find myself constantly shortening or lengthening my stride to avoid stepping on things that could potentially move under my weight and cause me to go down. By the same token, I tripped a lot initially and now I only fall in weird situations.

The traction definitely helps avoid falling due to loose material over bulletproof hard dirt. I feel a lot more secure in Hokas than my other shoes.
 
Mar 12, 2009
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BroDeal said:
Not really. When I started trail running I folded an ankle a few times, one time really bad. Since then a combination of muscle strength, better technique, and more careful foot placement has pretty much eliminated that. I find myself constantly shortening or lengthening my stride to avoid stepping on things that could potentially move under my weight and cause me to go down. By the same token, I tripped a lot initially and now I only fall in weird situations.

The traction definitely helps avoid falling due to loose material over bulletproof hard dirt. I feel a lot more secure in Hokas than my other shoes.
Replace "Hokas" with "Vibram" and I would say the exact same thing!
 
Oct 17, 2011
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I never wear shoes at the time of running..I hate shoes..I feel more comfortable with barefoot running..I always prefer barefoot running..
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Tapeworm said:
Replace "Hokas" with "Vibram" and I would say the exact same thing!
The difference is that when I mess up and hit a rock or root I don't break a toe.
 
Mar 12, 2009
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BroDeal said:
The difference is that when I mess up and hit a rock or root I don't break a toe.
Pain enforced learning. But I haven't broken a toe, and some of the trails are treacherous to say the least. Plenty of "ow" moments but this had made me change my running to a) pay ****ing attention to where my feet are going and b) be "lighter" on my feet.

FWIW I have come across people who have broken toes on trails wearing perfectly normal shoes.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Tapeworm said:
Pain enforced learning. But I haven't broken a toe, and some of the trails are treacherous to say the least. Plenty of "ow" moments but this had made me change my running to a) pay ****ing attention to where my feet are going and b) be "lighter" on my feet.

FWIW I have come across people who have broken toes on trails wearing perfectly normal shoes.
Some trail running shoes have reinforced toe area for such occasions. As careful as you try to be, you still bash things on technical trails, especially when running at night with a head lamp.

Montrail's Vitesse (R.I.P.) had a plastic plate under the forefoot to protect against sharp rocks. Those were great.
 

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