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Author Topic: Is there an advantage to "minimal footwear" running?  (Read 3392 times)

Emilio Romero

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Emilio Romero asked the Naked Scientists:
   
I am a runner, and there is a new trend in running, regarding which I would very much appreciate some scientific input...

I am referring to minimalist footwear.

It's being said that man is anthropologically designed to run, and to run barefoot. And that running shoes are the leading injury cause in runners because the artificial cushioning in today's shoes make runners feel a false sense of security, thus the runner strikes the ground with his or her heel (also breaking in the process --going slower)   and the pounding takes place in an unnatural way.

The argument has some practical back-up: no matter if you believe the minimalist trend is sound advise or not, if you do run barefoot you are definitively going to change your stride, never landing with your heel. The way nature intended.

On a personal note: I had a meniscus tear repaired surgically a couple of years ago.  When I started running again I had (tolerable) knee pain for months, until I switched shoes to a very light pair with almost no cushioning.  The day I switched the pain disappeared.  Of course I had changed my stride, my biomechanics... my calves though burned like hell for 2 or 3 months until the muscle adapted.

Now I only run in minimalist shoes.

Does this make sense to you?

BTW I'm 6'4, 129 pounds and run approximately 40 to 70 miles per week.

Thanks

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 18/05/2010 10:30:04 by _system »


 

Offline JP

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« Reply #1 on: 18/05/2010 11:57:55 »
Hi Emilio,

I'm a runner too.  I've been suffering from a bit of sciatica for a while and just now trying to ease back into running.  I tried the barefoot running to help with it, but it was too early to really tell as both barefoot and shod running caused the same pain to come back. 

At any rate, there is some science to indicate that barefoot running might be better.  (Notice the qualifiers there!)  This is the Nature article recently that spurred a lot of press:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7280/full/nature08723.html

What they found was that runners who go barefoot tend to strike the ground first with their forefoot or midfoot before pushing off with their toes.  Runners who use highly padded shoes tend to strike the ground first with their heel and push off on their toes.  They studied the forces involved and found that the force generated at impact is higher when you strike with your heel than with your mid- or forefoot.  What they didn't do was to actually tie that result into injuries!  So there is evidence that the forces your joints experience will be less if you train without shoes due to your feet striking the ground differently, but there is not evidence one way or the other on if that's enough to prevent injuries. 

What I've heard from runners is that basically your mileage may vary.  If you like running in minimalist shoes and aren't feeling injured, then keep on doing it.

By the way, the group who published that study was also funded by the makers of Vibram Fivefingers, which are minimalist running shoes.  The science seems pretty robust and it was peer reviewed.
 

Offline JP

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« Reply #2 on: 18/05/2010 11:58:15 »
Also, I found this after typing up my response: http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/news/news/1891/
 

Offline imatfaal

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« Reply #3 on: 18/05/2010 12:30:18 »
With the summer coming in england more people wear sandles and I was pondering yesterday the size of the achilles tendon on the people on the escaltor in front of me and thinking that most animals walk,run, and stand on the front of the foot.  I think it is right that most fleet-footed animals have their carpal bones well off the ground (ie the lower backward angle of their leg)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:DogDewClawTika1_wb.jpg

No overwhelming proof yet - but it does have a nice sound to the whole idea.
 

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Is there an advantage to
« Reply #3 on: 18/05/2010 12:30:18 »

 

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