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What I've Been Reading

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« About QUICKSWOOD | Main | Form and Function »

August 22, 2006

Comments

Cady

Michael Sandler and Jessica Lee have so much knowledge and experience concerning barefoot running. Both made inspiring transitions from shoe running to barefoot running and wrote a book and made a movie about it. Here's the trailer for the soon-to-be-released movie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2Ob9NfOAvo&feature=g-all-s

Joseph Froncioni

Thanks...and there is also the small matter that I wrote this article 16 years before Christopher McDougall wrote BORN TO RUN. Go figure.

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I think this is one of the best articles I've read that details the harmful effects of modern running shoes: Athletic Footwear and Running Injuries. It shares a common theme with the article by Christopher McDougall but it's presented as an essay, with more detail and includes a supporting reading list at the end.

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it's a conspiracy theory, and theories by their very nature need empirical testing to be held valid. Fortunately it only takes a little barefoot running followed by a case of shin splints, followed by a pair of shoes with a medial post, followed by less shin pain

Pandora Bracelets

I went through your article and till before that I was thinking of the design of running shoes. Yes I do agree with you that running barefoot is better than running in shoes. Since our bodies are actually designed to run without shoes naturally, and our systems has repairing techniques for all sort of problems and injuries, so I think that running barefoot is much better. However running on natural surfaces is advisable.

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I have talked to some barefoot runners even a barefoot ultrarunner. Anyways all that to say I agree and am working on changing my gait and so far it has improved my speed and I am working on rebuilding my endurance.

Mike

The human feet were not created for the hard surfaces of today. Grass is soft, Dirt is still soft because there's a little give. Nature is mostly soft. Shoes were invented to provide comfort and protection from the MAN-MADE surfaces such as concrete and asphalt. So the argument that we are supposed to be bare-feet doesn't hold up 100% all the time.

Don't get me wrong. I love my Vibrams. Best thing I've ever had because of my back problems. But I do HATE the stares, questions and curiosity people have when they see them.

Anand Anantharaman

Navi Mumbai Barefoot Half Marathon

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

Hello,

I am Anand Anantharaman, the Managing Trustee of Barefoot Runners of India Foundation (BRIF), which organised the Navi Mumbai Barefoot Half Marathon near Bombay in western India on the 12th December, 2010. On 31 October 2010, I ran the Athens Classic. On the run from Marathon to Athens, I saw the statue of Pheidippides, the original marathon messenger – runner, which surprisingly, was barefoot. That gave me an idea (though I was myself running shod then), as to why not organise a barefoot marathon. If Pheidippides had done it barefoot, he would rather wish everyone else running in his memory to run barefoot.
Once I returned to Bombay, things moved fast. On December 12th, 306 runners ran 21.1 km barefoot around Kharghar Central Park in a four – lap half marathon. Over 60 officials - pilots, lap scorers, time keepers, judges and referee - closely monitored the race that started at 7 am. The weather, at its very best, helped.
We had expected the winner to finish at around 1:12 to 1:15 hours But Kamlya Joma Bhagat surprised, homing in at 1:10:03. First runner-up was Tangi Maruti Lalawde (1:10:10) and second was Prakash Shankar Dhasade (1:10:23). There were totally 155 finishers within the 2.5 hours cut off.
The most satisfying thing was that there were no serious injuries, in spite of the boys running barefoot for about two hours. I was seriously concerned on this count. So I myself ran barefoot with the tail-enders for 5 km, just to know what they undergo. Some of them poured water on their feet to cool down, but otherwise, they were fine. These runners have now convincingly proved to the world that Barefoot is not only possible, but fast and safe too. Two medical ambulances kept in readiness thankfully saved their gas. And doctors on the spot had nothing else to do but cheer the runners.
Priyanka Patil, the winner amongst girls said, "Though this was our first barefoot marathon run, we all enjoyed it." Priyanka was right. The faces of the runners beamed the sentiment. Like those of the Tarahumara, captured in brilliant prose by Christopher MacDaugall.
The surprising fact about the barefoot runners in Navi Mumbai was that, they just took off their shoes and shot forth. Many were running barefoot for the first time. I was told by coaches in Mumbai that many of their trainees reluctantly trained shod, because coaches insisted. But on race day, they preferred to run barefoot, because that was more comfortable and speedy.
The December 2010 Navi Mumbai Barefoot Half Marathon being the first such barefoot run in the world, we sent all the video evidences and bagged the Guinness World RecordTM for the “Largest Barefoot Race” (http://guinnessworldrecords.com/Search/Details/Largestbarefootrace/124037.htm)
We propose to hold the 2nd edition of the Navi Mumbai Barefoot Half Marathon in December 2011. There will be a minimum 1000 Indian barefoot runners. As we are interested in converting this marathon into a rallying point for barefoot runners around the world, the second edition will be an international event, with the course certification by Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS).
Do take a look at our YouTube video

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

and our website www.barefootrunnersindia.org

Cheers!

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A new study finds that running shoes, at least the kind currently on the market, may actually put more of a strain on the joints than if one was to run barefoot or even to walk in high-heeled shoes, and the increased pressure could lead to knee, hip and ankle damage.

www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawk_kJ8N04U5SO8NnBObKFfbND8r3WkAECg

One of the few advantages of growing older is experience. Mine as a runner for twenty five years coroborates Dr. Francini's. During the early days the first 'running shoes' were very perfunctory and very light. New Balance were a bit heavier, but very comfortable. My racing shoes from the late 50s were Japanese.

When, in the 70s and 80s, manufacturers began to get imaginative one early change was to widen the heel and add cushioning. I bought some of those, expecting to glide the roads as if they were grassy meadows, and experienced my first chronic knee pain. It took a few years, but I finally realized that I could buy last year's model and shave off the splayed heel, saving both my knees and my pocketbook. My guess was that the widened heel affected the natural rolling action of my flexible ankles. The description of the complex sensory-based control system certainly fits.

I would use the very light "racing shoes" for races, and never experienced the aching knees after a 10KM race that were predictable after an 8KM workout with the luxurious cushioned training shoes, on the track or cross country.

bianca

This is very eye opening. I never thought that shoes that are cushioned and have arch support would be bad...

Then what do you recommend for flat feet runners? Wouldn't barefoot running make it worse than it already is? Thanks.

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The reason running injuries are increasing is runners in increasing numbers are running more miles with greater intensity on harder surfaces than ever before. The fitness craze makes people not know when to take it easy or get off the pavement. I agree that some shoes are too controlling, and at the expense of our natural footstrike

ChrisR

Doctor, I wonder what your insight is into any athletic shoe that is kinder for someone with bad facet joints in the lumbar spine? I agree with you that arch support is terrible--I cannot walk in shoes like that for more than a minute. But I hear/see lots of ads for things like Skechers or other shoes that claim to help with lower back pain. Any of that hold up?

Kevin Phillips

VERY INTERESTING READ!!!!!!

Maciel Diaz

Really good Read.

The best part of this read was

By not acting now, Dr. Robbins predicts the footwear manufacturers may end up in the same situation as the tobacco companies with massive class-action lawsuits brought against them.


Im Slowly turning into a barefoot runner, it kinda rules leaving someone in the dust in their 300$ shoes... with mah barefeet

GL McClendon

WOW! The article, the research that was done. After reading this, one can only have second thoughts about buying $300.00 running shoes.

BPM,Brisbane

Good shoes.... happy weekend

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wow! such a lovely article and thanks for sharing nice info about shoes. i love to use Nike and Vans Trainers UK.

Rishi

I fully agree with the logic and I have shifted to racing flats for my running. I felt great and increased my pace. But after few weeks I developed IT band problem. Not sure whether this is the racing flat or my over-enthusiastic increase in speed. Any suggestions?

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I wonder what i should do now that I have PF. I'm currently trying to get back to running and am wearing the Newton Racer with a Superfeet insole which was customized for me by an athletic trainer. I've been hurt for 2 months and do stretching, icing, therapeutic ultrasound etc etc. and have been to 2 doctors. No relief yet. Last year, I had a similar problem and switched to the Asics Piranha (4.8 ounces) and the PF resolved itself in 3 days. I ran without pain for 3 weeks and it reappeared after I ran a too hard 1/2 marathon. Should I chance dumping the Newtons and getting back into the Piranha? Can you recommend a doctor in the Cleveland, OH area?

Andrew King

I stopped wearing trainers over ten years ago because I found that running in them was causing pain in my knees. I realised then that this was due to over-extension which led to heel striking and a much higher impact on my knees. So I switched to basic, thin soled Plimsolls (sneakers for Americans) and have not had any problems since, either with my feet or my knees.

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Interesting post. Thanks for sharing, keep it up.

John

In the 1960 Summer Olympics, Abebe Bikila won the marathon with a record time of 2:15:16. He had run barefoot. In the 1964 Olympics he won the marathon again, setting a new world record with a time of 2:12:11--a little over three minutes faster than his old record. This time however, he was wearing shoes. Asics shoes, to be precise.

An important idea to understand is that the human body was never "designed" by anyone. There was never an engineer, nor a doctor for that matter, who sat in a dimly-lit room and thought to his (or her) self and thought "Well, maybe if I put the appendix here, and move the femur there..." The human body is a physical entity that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, and developed largely thanks to environmental factors, genetic mutations, and natural selection.

The argument that the human body was designed to run barefoot is no more logical than the argument that the human eye is designed to see without glasses. Indeed, some individuals have fine eyesight without glasses, and some individuals run well without shoes. But there are those who do need assistance with their eyesight, just as there are some who do need correction and cushioning with their gait. Over the years running shoes have indeed been designed to provide that.

Does Nike have a vested interested in making a profit? Certainly. It would be difficult for an employee of Nike to pay for groceries and electricity without some form of a paycheck. Most people in life need a paycheck. Are Nike shoes perfect? Certainly not, and there are a number of models that really are nothing more than glittery junk.

But there are other companies--Brooks, Asics, and Mizuno, to name a few--who pump a fair amount of dough into research and design to--gasp!--make shoes that actually work for runners. And to a large degree, they do fairly well. So while the conspiracy theory against the shoe companies sounds plausible, remember that it's a conspiracy theory, and theories by their very nature need empirical testing to be held valid. Fortunately it only takes a little barefoot running followed by a case of shin splints, followed by a pair of shoes with a medial post, followed by less shin pain, to figure out that the running shoes are not all bad.

As for Abebe Bikila, the reason he ran the 1960 Olympic Marathon barefoot was to prove he could do it with "determination and heroism". He happily returned to using shoes four years later, and set a new world record doing so.

WalkFit Orthotics

Thanks for the comprehensive reading list!

Craig McAllister

Today's New York Times has an interesting article that echoes your post:

"Recent research suggests that for all their high-tech features, modern running shoes may not actually do much to improve a runner’s performance or prevent injuries. Some runners are convinced that they are better off with shoes that are little more than thin gloves for the feet — or with no shoes at all."

http://tinyurl.com/npgjuq

Take care.

Craig McAllister

John

I wonder what i should do now that I have PF. I'm currently trying to get back to running and am wearing the Newton Racer with a Superfeet insole which was customized for me by an athletic trainer. I've been hurt for 2 months and do stretching, icing, therapeutic ultrasound etc etc. and have been to 2 doctors. No relief yet. Last year, I had a similar problem and switched to the Asics Piranha (4.8 ounces) and the PF resolved itself in 3 days. I ran without pain for 3 weeks and it reappeared after I ran a too hard 1/2 marathon. Should I chance dumping the Newtons and getting back into the Piranha? Can you recommend a doctor in the Cleveland, OH area?

Sam Ronicker

I have recently been reading the book "Running Fast and Injury Free" by Gordon Pirie. He has similar ideas years previous and I have recently started running with this mid-forefoot landing gait. I have had some issues with soreness and some pain lately but it seems temporary. I have talked to some barefoot runners even a barefoot ultrarunner. Anyways all that to say I agree and am working on changing my gait and so far it has improved my speed and I am working on rebuilding my endurance.

Andrew Lyons

Hi there,
I went through your article and till before that I was thinking of the design of running shoes. Yes I do agree with you that running barefoot is better than running in shoes. Since our bodies are actually designed to run without shoes naturally, and our systems has repairing techniques for all sort of problems and injuries, so I think that running barefoot is much better. However running on natural surfaces is advisable. Paved surfaces may really cause some injuries which can be taken care of by using the right kind of shoes.
The shoes should neither be too tight nor too lose. Shoes should only provide protection to the feet from the rough and sharp objects .
Shoes should cover the entire foot such that the movements of the feet are not hindered. The sole should be able to flex and move as it is supposed to. Take for instance shoes which do not allow bending of the foot while running, they are actually stopping the free movement and as the natural movement is restricted the feet get injured as the muscles and ligaments are not allowed to take any kind of pressure they are meant to.
Well if any one there does not agrees with me then there is a request from me try to look at it from the point I am looking at it. Body has its own mechanism of reflexes that prevent us from infections and damage. Like inflammation of infected region. Actually by heating or swelling the body itself does the needful to counter the infection. We simply take meds to get cured quicker otherwise the body can do it on its own. So let your body feel itself as the nature has designed it to be. Believe me it is not aggravating any injuries, on the contrary, it will help you get better.
Andrew.

alexis carlier

could you please update your view as to what the best running shoe is?

Colorado Running

Solid article! Thanks

Matt

This document is very interesting and I do believe you are honestly trying to do some good. However providing people with half the information, such as Marti's results from the 1984 Berne road race, doesn't help your cause. In this case it is not proven that more expensive shoes cause more injuries but rather that the people wearing them, on average, had more injuries. As the paper states, it may well be that runners with existing injuries buy more expensive shoes in the hope that they will help them. I am sure Dr. Marti would be unhappy to see you using his data in this way. As a secondary point, Dr Marti's data is nearly 24 years old and shoe technology has developed exponentially since this period, so these findings cannot be related to sports footwear currently produced.

Matt

Has anybody looked at Vibram Five Fingers? That's what I use and I like them a lot.

Jones

I'm writing a speech on technology for my speech class and I decided to do it on running shoe technology and it's benefits. One of my main points was going to be how better shoes helped prevent injury. Then I stumbled across this site...oh dear. Haha I think I'm going to go with the topic anyways but only because it's to late in the game to switch. Bullshitting this will be interesting...

Very interesting article I enjoyed reading it very much!

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I've only been reading since the last few posts, but I am enjoying your views more and more. I'll be back for more and will be sure to subscribe!

David Sypniewski

Dear Joseph et al,

I have been a barefoot runner for 7+ years. The past 4 years I've been occupied with thinking how I can bring natural barefoot running to the masses (okay, at least us runners). Barefoot is best, period, but if you must wear shoes, wear these ones (not yet released). I invite everyone in joining what I have named the BarefootProject. If you're interested in participating to shape the final design. I'll share this: This will not be a traditional shoe in any way. No midsole (read: no cushioning/arch support), no "technology", only the softest leather, minimal design and wide forefoot. Joseph, sent me a note, I'd like to chat. Regards, David. http://www.FormeFootwear.com

Natalie

Just as the running shoe industry has something to hide by marketing gizmos in shoes that don't really help our feet, orthopedic surgeons have something to gain by encouraging the populace to strap into minimalist training shoes and hit the pavement: You will get more patients needing treatment in the short term while their feet adapt, so you can make loads of money and retire early. The reason running injuries are increasing is runners in increasing numbers are running more miles with greater intensity on harder surfaces than ever before. The fitness craze makes people not know when to take it easy or get off the pavement. I agree that some shoes are too controlling, and at the expense of our natural footstrike. However, don't paint the shoe companies as evil and money-seeking and orthopedic surgeons as noble champions of the oppressed, who merely want to help people rather than make a lucrative living off running injuries.

Craig Richards

I have recently co-authored a systematic review on this topic in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. See http://bjsm.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/bjsm.2008.046680v1 to view the abstract.

Sean

I've just ditched my orthotics after 10 years. A vendor introduced them to me at the '98 Columbus Marathon. I wore them soon after and I don't know if they helped prevent any injuries. But I do think they caused an adjustment to my running gait over time and brought on the ischial tendonosis that I'm just shaking off. I will continue to run in my Nike Air Max Moto's but without the PowerSteps or Superfeet inserts.

Chris Colenso-Dunne

Regarding the ASICS acronym, "animus sanus in corpore sano" does not mean "a sound mind in a sound body": strictly, it means "a sound SOUL in a sound body".

It seems likely that ASICS contrived their neo-Latin acronym from an adaptation of Juvenal's well-known phrase "MENS SANA in corpore sano": which does mean "a sound mind in a sound body".

NB, Juvenal's full line (from his tenth satire) reads "Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano": "one ought to pray for a sound mind in a sound body". It is in part his answer to his own question - for what should humans supplicate the Gods?

Craig Richards

What a great article!

I think the other evolutionary problem with running shoe design is the failure to test real world outcomes.

I have always been frustrated that even Steven Robbins did not go on to test the predictions of his fantastic work in clinical trials.

Biomechanical studies can tell us how a shoe changes the way we move, but they cannot tell us how this tranlates into injury risk or a change in performance.

I wonder if the lack of clinical data is one the reasons that the shoe manufactiurers have successfully ignored Steven's work for so long.

I am planning a major randomised controlled trial to measure injury rates and performance of runners wearing running shoes of different constructions. Ideally this will include a comparison of standard heel strike running shoes (eg ASICS Kayano), older variants such as the Dunlop Volley and KT-26, as well as 'barefoot' and midfoot strike running shoes.

It will be a major undertaking but is well overdue. If anyone would like to get involved by providing funding, expertise or you would like your company's shoes included in the trial, please get in touch- Craig.Richards@newcastle.edu.au

Tom Sheehan

These shoes may interest some readers:

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I have been using them for a while now.

Peter

Thanks for the very interesting article. I had abrupt plantar pain about 7 years ago. I have recently restarted running using Nike free and lots of calve stretching.

I am curious at the whether you think the benefits are from thinner soles (and thus less impact) or from greater flexibility? I seem to find that I have painful feet after a day in stiff shoes, while flexible shoes always do better? So flexible, or thin soles, (or both)?

regards

Peter - UK

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Very interesting... as always! Cheers from -Switzerland-.

zent

NICE ARTICLE!!!

I believe I'm 15-20 lbs over my ideal weight, and that could be the reason of my high tech shoes hunt

I agree that the body has to be trained to make the right movements, and going barefoot (not over concrete!) can allow to use more minor muscles to gain long term strength and control than using high tech ultra-cushioned gear.

I hate throwing my money away, and after buying my first running cushioned shoes (ASICS Nimbus 9 $125) my metatarsal pain IS still there, as well as the pain on knees and ankles. I am afraid to get an evem more cushioned shoes as I see it as unnatural movements, and loose even more control.

Regarding the third world and the correlation running injuries, due to economic issues, people in the third world don't have time to go running as a hobbie, nor push themselves to go to the Olympics or such, therefore expect less injuries, besides the fact that they don't have a log of injuries and can't afford to go to the doctor, forget MRI's and such.

Maintaining a good weight, will certainly allow you to find the control needed in order to make the right movements and achieve heath, without the excessive need for cushions.

Yanni Papastavrou

Excellent article - I gradually transitioned to running barefoot after having chronic ITB injuries that limited my training to less than 20 miles per week and caused me much pain.
After a gradual transition in 2004 that took perhaps 6 months, I was able to run as far as 50 miles per week with no sign of injuries. No injuries since then after running thousands of miles, many races and a marathon. I agree that running on soft surfaces is a bad idea: I run mostly on pavements on city streets. Many thanks for a most informative article!
Yanni
London,
UK.

Gerry L

If you believe that 2 out of ever 3 runners get injured every year you're nuts. This article takes a good idea/theory, that running/walkign around barefoot OCCASIONALLY to strengthen/stabilize is a good thing, and turned it into an all out assault on the running shoe industry. Too extreme, and I've run in Brooks & Nike cushioned neutral trainers for 20 years without injury. Often in the 60-70 mi a week range. Theres no way you'll convince me that I should be or COULD be doing that Barefoot....

Joseph Froncioni

Marti's study sort of did that if you assume that there is a correlation between "enhancement" and price.

nilah

how about a comparison between a more enhanced shoe and a inferior one?

Joseph Froncioni

Melissa,
There is increasing evidence that pre-exercise stretching, once thought to decrease injuries and improve performance, does neither of these. In fact, some studies show that increased flexibility may actually lead to increased risk of injury. A short article on this new evidence can be found at http://www.pponline.co.uk/encyc/stretching-performance-and-injury-prevention .
I'm curious to hear what the PE teacher and the physiotherapist have to say after they read the article; along with running shoe salesmen, PE teachers and physiotherapists are the least likely to accept any paradigm shift when it comes to "their" field of expertise.
Oh...and tell your daughter she can keep the Payless shoes as they're every bit as good as the Nikes.

Melissa Burlison

My 13 year old daughter had a achilles injury last June in school. Her PE teacher told them to run without instructing the students to first stretch. The first part of the run was downhill and this is where the injury happened. At the time, she was wearing cheap slip on tennis shoes (no lace kind) from Payless (even though she had Nike's in her locker which she didn't change into!) Her PT advises us to buy expensive New Balance shoes with plenty of cushioning and arch support. After reading this article, I don't know what to do! I am going to pass this on to the PT. Any comments from anyone would be appreciated!

He Who Runs with the Squirrels

I just visited my physical therapist, who happens to be a former world-champion in the marathon. I have a leg length discrepancy, and he feels occasionally running barefoot will harm, rather than help my circumstances, because I can't compensate for the leg length discrepancy (1 centimeter by x-ray) without confusing the body. Additionally, after having run for the last month in flats and occasionally barefoot, I get the idea forefoot running is best.

He disagreed, showing me a picture of the human anatomy and the giant bone of the heel. He asked why we would have such a prominent heel and fat deposits there if we weren't supposed to be mid-foot strikers to heel strikers, naturally.

I couldn't come up with a good answer, only thinking that the fat came about AFTER we started wearing the shoes...i.e. we're looking at an anatomy that's been changed by our lifestyles.

Any thoughts to all of the above (in particular, how do I accomodate for the leg length so I can keep up the fun barefoot work without confusing my shod running too?)

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Gerry

There are running shoes on the market with a wave spring embedded in the heel and ball area and it's been getting publicity lately. Most recently a couple of rabbits were wearing them in the Boston Marathon and other marathon runners wore them in winning races in Ottawa and Fort Worth. They are the Spira Stingers. The Spira Footwear Co has a line that I wonder if is worth trying or is just a lot of hype with the tenor of the article of less cushioning is better. Any pertinent comments from knowledgeable people on this?

Tobias

Great article, both thorough and entertaining, I enjoyed it a lot!

Have you considered sending it to the Society for Barefoot Living (www.barefooters.org)? I'm sure it would be a very welcome addition to the collection of articles on their website - or at least they could link to your blog.

Joseph Froncioni

Jim,

It certainly would. Walking is man's default mode of ambulation, running being reserved for the "flight" moments in our existence. We walked out of Africa 50,000 years ago and kept going till we had reached all four corners of the globe so we're pretty well designed for it.

Jim

Would this also apply to brisk(13 minute miles) walking?

Craig

Doc,
I own a shoe store and half of our business is referrals from podiatrists and PT's. Most of them want their patients in motion control and stability shoes. Why is there such a disparity in your logic and theirs? I trail run and always run on the balls of my feet and have no problems. My wife is having knee pain and the PT told her to read your article. It has helped so far. But, I still question why the medical community is so far apart.

Laura

hey, thanks so much for this article. i'm actually working on a persuasive paper for a class and i'm taking the direction of how technological advancements are harmful sometimes and the effects of shoes on our feet is one of my points. i was thrilled to find an article like this one that took almost the exact direction i had in mind.

this totally explains why i feel so much better after running 24 100ms on the football field in track practice than running 16 in my shoes on our brand-new rubberized track.

i have recently bene developing some minor injuries all along my lower body, so my next pair of shoes, i will look for a flatter one. thanks.

DaeJa Napier

I don't know how to find information posted about others that have injured their knees from wearing Masai shoes. Do you have any information or suggestions concerning this?

Thank you,

DaeJa Napier

steven robbins

The figures related to injury incidence Marti gave were corrected for age, gender, training mileage, previous injury and a host of other factors. No data are available that have ever related diet and training method to injury frequency. It seems to me that the only explanation available that can explain improved running times with highly competitive runners then and now is performance enhancing drugs. As far as the recreational runner is concerned, I am aware of no difference over time, except the current runner seems more skeptical about the claims regarding protection offered by athletic footwear manufacturers. Hence runners currently seem to take seriously even the first signs of injury, rather than running with injuries after purchasing new shoes.

Running Curmudgeon

A very intriguing article! Thanks for exposing the work of Robbins and Marti to a wide audience. You've certainly made a splash in the running blogosphere. I get the feeling that the number of runners who feel that they've been sold down the river by trend-focused shoe manufactuers is not insignificant. A review of this article's comments provides further anecdotal evidence that something is amiss with modern trainers and that those of us who have returned to more basic "flats" are seeing longstanding injury and gait problems resolved.

A couple of questions about the research:

1) Regarding the incidence of injury now and then, is it statistically appropriate to compare the populations of runners during the first boom to current runners? Age, sex, mileage, training methods and history, and diet are a few potential differences that come to mind.

2) How did Marti account for differences in his populations' mileage and history of injury?

Thanks for the informative and important article. And for the thorough bibliography!

AndyF

Danny Dreyer is right about needing a synthesis of shoe and technique. ChiRunning is an excellent technique for decreasing impact on the lower body. I'm glad to hear Danny agrees with you, Joe, on footwear.

Andy

Danny Dreyer

A friend sent me your blog about running shoes and I can whole heartedly agree. I have been teaching runners the mid-foot strike as a way of reducing leg injuries, for over 10 years now and the results are incredible. When I'm asked what shoes I can recommend for the technique I teach, I usually recommend that runners work on altering their running form to a mid-foot strike over a period of time until they can gradually "graduate" themselves to less and less of a shoe.

We are currently working with New Balance shoes to develop a shoe that specifically meets the needs of someone looking for a shoe WITHOUT a big cushioning heel. So, at least one shoe manufacturer is hip to the problem.

I would suggest a book to add to your reading list; ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-free Running.

It's a revolution that is begging to happen.

All the best,
Danny Dreyer

Cancer

I now understand why white children in Africa are always running around barefoot. It's healthy. The next step in emancipating children from the shoe should be to get floor polish banned, especially in big department stores. You never know how much carcinogenic materials go into its manufacture!

steven robbins

Hi Joe:

Just came across this blog. I can tell you a story about an orthopedic surgeon who was an avid recreational runner. He developed persistent plantar fasciitis, that did not respond to practices prevalent at that time - he thus was unable to treat himself. Rather than providing his patients with treatment methods in which he had no confidence, he turned to the scientific literature in hopes of discovering a better treatment. At about this time a series of scientific papers began appearing in sports medicine journals dealing with the bare foot during running, and potential hazards of modern footwear. This surgeon initiated a series of extended long-distance calls from his home (on an island paradise known for banks and millionaires), and my office in Montreal. It wasn’t long before I received ecstatic calls regarding the healing of his problems, and similar disorders in many others through application of a large dose of barefoot activity, along with firm racing flats (“buy last years models – they give them away and are no different than the current model except for color”). He never could understand why such simple and effective health related practices failed to alter shoes, or information coming from sources of information to athletes, such as magazines. I am, or course talking about you, Joe (excuse errors from my recall).

Finally things are changing. My solution to problems associated with thick layers of high resiliency shoe materials, was the use of low resiliency materials. A U.S. patent was awarded in 2002. Initially there was little interest shown in this by insole and running shoe makers. But much has changed – infringing on this patent (sometimes willingly) is in fashion. Most examples of “memory foam” insoles appear to fall under my patent, as does “memory foam” used in host of footwear from many (perhaps most) manufacturers. This infringement is being handled through the typical legal channels. There is now a high probability that footwear will become safer in terms of impact and balance. None of this replaces the benefit possible through barefoot activity, and the use of “minimalistic shoes”, as described in this blog.

Regards

Steve

Marc

Exellent article Doc! Many thanks for your insight.

Some questions/thoughts that immediately spring to mind after reading it are:

1) Is there a trade-off we have to take into consideration when running on unnatural man made hard surfaces no mater how correct good your running technique is? (ie: some forefoot cushioning in shoes)

2) Can we place any faith in orthopaedic surgeons who prescribe orthodontics for runners? If the theory of this essay is correct, it would imply that even the specialist might have an incorrect understanding on how the feet respond and deal with impact stress when applied to a sport such as running and also corrective prescription.

3) The implications that modern day running shoes are no good for you, weather in the short or long term, by simply not being at all effective in doing anything to either "re-educate" or strengthen any foot muscle weakness/imbalance, making our already Lazy feet muscles even lazier, impairing the bodies natural feet to brain sensory feedback system that has been given to us by natural evolution over many thousands of years is quite profound, especially to a runner. So bearing this in mind, where does the average Joe now turn to for the best advice?

I appreciate that the main things to sort out to reduce any risk of repetitive impact related injuries is to start off with learning how to run with the correct technique first and foremost, but it begs the question of how far does a modern day running shoe inhibit this process and why is this not front page news on all running sites/organizations etc across the globe?

To me, implications of this article is as shocking as hearing that the earth might actually be round instead of flat...(ok maybe not quite that shocking)

bud4wiser

The article proposes several interesting theories.

Unfortunately, this article is like so much popular "junk science." just because there is "some truth" in a statement, hardly means the statement is accurate or without any error.

There is no doubt that "high tech" footwear both contributes and diminishes the possibility of injury among runners. Similarly, running barefoot on modern surfaces is dangerous as well.

If runners train stupidly because they have purchased expensive shoes, perhaps we should remind them that fast-food will make them fat and that penis-enhancement drugs don't really work.

The rest of us don't need a doctor to tell us train smartly, and select running shoes carefully.


Ewa

Thank you for putting so eloquently what I've felt and believed ever since I started running. I've been running almost exclusively in Nike Free shoes and while they don't provide the true barefoot feeling I know my 49 year old feet and knees are much stronger than those of many 30 yo runners. After reading your article I am tempted to try racing flats.
Thank you for putting all this information together. I hope you don't mind I pass your blog to other runners. The more vocal we all become the more running shoe companies will listen.

TasterSpoon

Thought provoking. Drosser's comment begs a question in the back of my mind, though, which is, could the increased (or sustained) incidence of running-related injuries in recent years have something to do with how advancements in running shoes (to correct for flat feet, pronation, whatever) make running POSSIBLE for many who otherwise wouldn't be running at all?

Are problems necessarily the fault of the shoe, or might not the shoes just expand the field of participants to otherwise marginalized would-be athletes such that use injuries will also go up?

Ryley

This is a great article. I am a sophomore in highschool and have, over the course of a year, worked down from normal trainers, to lightweight trainers, to Nike Frees, to Nike Streak XC flats, to Puma H-street flats. I am currently running in the Puma H-streets and am thinking of the Vibram FiveFingers next. I had no idea about any of this information until the Nike Free came out, so at least Nike did something right. Another great article on this issue (along with others) is: http://tullyrunners.com/Articles/RaucciArticle.htm
It has been tough trying to convince brainwashed coaches and parents that I am not crazy and this article is a big help, especially when it is written by an orthopedic surgeon (what I someday hope to become).

EdBiew

link correction [without the full stop] re shoes / treadmill / fracture?
http://crazykmw.blogspot.com/2007/02/slug-no-more.html

EdBiew

Hi Everyone, one of my concerns is the possible link between shoes and stress fracture/s of the foot and/or ankle. Karen mentioned her experience of such a fracture at http://crazykmw.blogspot.com/2007/02/slug-no-more.html.
What's your opinion as to the role of the treadmill and/or has Anyone experienced a similar fracture whilst wearing a particular shoe design? warm thanks, EdBiew

Fred

I really enjoyed reading the article. I solved ALL my problems related to running injuries, by learning the 'Pose method of running' by Dr. Romanov, the shoes that he reccomends is minimalist like the Puma High Street or the Fivefingers.

Joe

Amazing article. I read it twice and passed it on.

Julie A

Loved the post on running shoes!

I'm a middle aged woman, my activity level varies from sedentary to low level activity. I golf regularly and walk once in awhile. I'm also a bit overweight so often found myself with an achy and tired lower back after a half hour or so.

Until I found MBTs.

http://www.swissmasai.com


Apparently these shoes were derived from the barefoot gait of the Masai tribe. I have 2 pair and wear them as often as I can. My back actually feels stronger and I no longer get the achiness and fatigue.

Anyway, check them out!

Thanks again,

peteopia

IN GENERAL
Besides a couple of details the general story is pretty sound, however I would not suggest people run barefoot on hard man made surfaces - pavements etc. You WILL damage yourself if you train extensively like this. A nice viewpoint is to apply logical thinking and think how humans evolved. We evolved running on soft (sand) and hard surfaces (dried compacted mud). so you can run on the pavement I hear you say.. well no. Even though you might not feel it, there is a lot of cushioning even on a dry mud surface when compared to concrete pavement. These fancy cushion style running shoes started life by trying to reintroduce some of this cushioning, but as usual man has taken it to the n'th degree, such that it is now detrimental as the article points out.

THE DETAILS
A couple of the facts in your story have been miss interpreted but as I said in general the message is pretty good, so don’t take this the wrong way. for instance the argument about people in third world countries not having problems and not wearing footwear is a bit of a leap of faith - you are assuming a correlation between two factors in a massively complex and multi-factorial system. there are MANY other POSSIBLE explanations. EG their cultures are such that they are less likely to admit pain and/or are more likely to put up with pain than have a major operation. This final point in also evident in Japan where rates of joint replacement in patients under 70 are extremely low when compared to European and the US. When you ask the patients/surgeons why, the answer is purely because they do not think it a good idea. In European and the US we have become so demanding, we expect to live longer and to be able to do the same things. If something breaks then it must be fixed – this is crazy culture and evident in the way we must sue someone for any action possible. If trip in the street we sue the government for make a poor foot path .. etc etc.

A GENERAL RANT
As for the marketing machine I agree totally and utterly, but that’s life. If you see anything just in our western world I’d be amazed. From cosmetics to cars to health care products.. they are all using the Freud’s psychology to make sure we buy buy buy! On a functional basis there are v few things that we need, but the world economy would stop if we didn’t buy a new car every three years, get that new phone, drink that health shake, little to say what our neighbours would think! Unfortunately we have chosen the wrong social model, and it’s going to take a long time for us to bounce back in the right direction! Pants I hear you say, well yes for most people, but just use your brain as the author of this article has done. Don’t believe everything you hear, and most of all come to your own conclusions.

PS I’m not saying become a hippy (heaven forbid) just educate yourself. Read about social science, body language, etc etc and it becomes pretty obvious that we can rectify some of these issues, on a personal level at least, then is a couple of generations we’ll be back on track :D

John

As a member of the Pose Method community and occasional barefooter, it was wonderful to read this article. Because of the frigid temps out here on the east coast, I have been running in the New Balance RC750 racing flat...yeah, training and racing in them. Can't wait for the warmer weather so I can kick off the shoes a few times a week.

Where to learn more?


I would also like to ask about the rigid orthopedic arch supports (you put them in your shoes like the Dr.Scholl's implants). I was given them because my arch supposedly does not support itself, but I never wore them because they were too uncomfortable (blisters etc). I'm not sure what this means in respect to the information presented. Can anyone shed some light on this?

So do you minimalist shoe wearers wear socks too? If so, what kind?

I'm also curious: What kind of shoes do the Olympics sprinters use?

Since I've never come in contact with this information before, I'm not sure where else I would ask these questions. Thanks.

Milt

I had to quit running due to permanent nerve damage in my left foot. Now, I mostly wear dress shoes with no cushioning and little arch support and I've noticed an improvement. I also recommend going barefoot as much as possible.

Lars Nielsen

Great article. I've been thinking along the same lines for the last couple of years. 2½ years ago I switched to really minimalistic shoes (Puma h-streets) and learned how to run in those. After 15 years of constantly recurring achilles-injuries, I haven't had an injury since, despite the fact that I've been training both longer and more intensive than before.

Duncan Domingue

I've had similar ideas about shoes for a long time. I've always been a fan of light, flat, and hard shoes like Converse All Stars and used them for everything. I even wore them when I skateboarded for six years, and I must say that my feet never hurt from being pounded on all day and I could feel the board much better than the when I wore "proper" skateboarding shoes for a brief period. I no longer skateboard, but still enjoy minimal shoes, and currently wear Chucks and kung fu shoes available at any martial arts store. At $6 a pair, you really can't beat the kung fu shoe.

gw

Hello, I have been running barefoot and with minimal shoes for about 8 months. The web address that the author mentioned at the article is a great resource for learning more about barefoot running. The FAQ page has almost every conceivable question you could think of about barefoot running, here is the direct link:
http://www.runningbarefoot.org/?name=FAQ

Also, as for shoe recommendations, I sometimes use a very minimal shoe called Vibram FiveFingers (http://www.vibramfivefingers.com/) these are seriously amazing shoes. Very thin and lightweight, I highly recommend them for running. Actually much more than the Nike Free. I bought the Nike Free and it's a step in the right direction for Nike but it still has quite a heel compared to something like the Vibram Fivefingers (in other words you will still have issues with you feet sensing the ground in the Nike Frees).

For times when you are not running and need a good looking thin shoe (like going to the office) check out a shoe called Vivo Barefoot here:
http://www.terraplana.com/vivoTech.aspx

Zach

Your article comes as no surprise to those of us who have chosen a barefoot lifestyle. The information has been available for years, it's just been ignored by most the experts in the sports medicine industry.

I applaud you publishing this and encourage you to spread the word about how harmful shoes are.

The only time that one should wear shoes is when they're needed for protection against dangerous ground (and I don't include your average city street in this, even "dirty" cities like New York, San Francisco or Oakland, all of which I have walked barefoot in.)

Great Article

Maybe I am overstimating the impact, but:

Have there been any comparative studies of running-induced injuries in those raised in/currently living in Asian homes (no shoes when inside, usually) and those raised in Western homes (shoes inside, more often than not)...or studies from which such a comparison could be inferred?

Conclusive evidence might be hard to come by, but a comparison between injury rates of Japanese and American runners -- probably as close a socioeconomic match as you're likely to find for this purpose -- would give some indication of how much prophylactic effect you can get just from going shoeless in the house.

Alex

hey dad! i love it!!! xx

steven yip

Great article,
I just came back from running 31km...on Adidas shoes...

Makes me think to get my next pair...it will be Nike Free...

No wonder I have those pains at my knees.

Thanks.

Shiva

I came across this article talking about the research behind the development of the Nike Frees a few years back. Nike also found that the mechanics of the foot were best when barefoot. After reading your article I managed to dig it out, check it out:
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,68474,00.html

Jason

Thank you so much for this wonderful article! I've truly learnt alot for the past 20 mins reading this article.

Can you please recommend a normal day-to-day shoe?

mike smick

I have a question though, what about pronation. I experience a little shin pain depending on the shoes. is there a flat shoe that helps with that, or is the whole pronation ankle thing caused by cushioned shoes?

thanks!

Shawn

Dr. Froncioni,
Fantastic article regarding footwear and running injuries. The Puma H-Street is also a great shoe at about 4.5 oz that lasts forever - well, for a really long time anyway. I probably have 500 miles on one pair and 300 on another with many years left on both. Also, at least 100 miles on my barefeet in the past 2 years. Again, great article. Thank you.

Mark

Dr.,

What you have written here is *landmark* material. This is the first time I have read someone in the medical community take a position so firmly against status quo (that we need the protection of better shoes and orthotics) and so eloquently suggested we get healthy by taking a more minimalist approach to running shoes.

I applaud you. Can you please contact me? I would very much like to discuss this some more with you.

Thank you,
~Mark

Peter

This is an interesting article and poses a very serious issue.

However, I think there is an issue that is just as serious. Adults do not know how to run! After years of stress and sitting at a desk all day long, they forgot how to run. If you look at children running, their form is much different than adults. The reason is they run naturally. Adults have forgotten how to do this and run unnaturally. If you make your body do something for a long period of time in a way that is not natural for it, then you will cause problems.

So, there seems to be 2 problems at stake here:

1) People don't run correctly.
2) People think shoes will compensate for all of this.

If you want to know what I am talking about when it comes to running correctly, check out "Chi Running". yeah it sounds a little hokie...but it makes a lot of sense if you have done it.

Specul8

Awesome article Doc! Well written and informative.
I never would have guessed that cushioning impact made things worse but it makes perfect sense when you consider it removes the feedback loop the body needs to function and protect itself under continued, high impact load/stress associated with running and the like.
Thanks!

Jim

Eye-opening article! Thanks. Any evidence that shoe design (running or otherwise) has anything to do with the incidence of gout? I've worn Merrill shoes (of various makes) exclusively for three years and was recently diagnosed with the ailment...

drosser

I've had flat feet/fallen arches my entire life. Wearing hard plastic orthotic arch supports in high school helped tremendously. I went from having almost insufferable hip pain to being able to run normally very quickly. On to my actual question - Can you wear these rigid orthotic arch supports in racing flats?

John

I recently purchase a pair of Nike Free shoes. I jog on the beach when wearing them as I am a larger fellow (6'0 210) and don't want to run right away on the road systems.

They seem to give plenty of whatever it is when I am jogging as I don't have that banging heaviness I did the one day I went jogging in my old house sneakers.

They work nicely so far. You might want to research the history of hte Nike Free. They were created as a result of a basketball coach in Alabama or Louisiana who had a statistically low amount of injuries to his players over the long term. It was found his players ran in the grass barefoot. Thus the Nike Free...the lesser the shoe was involved the healthier the person long term.

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