OT - running barefoot may be healthiest

Submitted by jmblue on March 27th, 2010 at 12:35 PM

A link someone posted about the NBA contained another link to this article from the Boston Globe published a few weeks ago.

Shoes may offer more cushioning than running barefoot, but can also cause you to land on your heel, which places undue amounts of force on your body and may increase incidence of knee injury. The way the shoe companies have been designing their footwear, loading it up with cushioning, may be completely backwards.




March 27th, 2010 at 4:10 PM ^

Bought them for the funky looks - love them for their comfort.

Got them as a fun second set of shoes (boots) for backpacking and (low) alpine climbing. You know - change out of your boots to give your feet a rest at camp - type of thing.

I couldn't believe how comfortable they are.

Take a little getting used to, but then great.

Well spent $69.95. I got mine in Takoma, but I know they're available at the Bivouac on State St. My son, Edward (senior at U of M) works there.


March 27th, 2010 at 12:57 PM ^

Yeah, I've read about this in a couple Men's Health issues recently. It's pretty interesting. Being about 238 lbs., though, I feel like I need the cushioning that shoes provide.

When I used to go to the gym and run on the treadmill, I would land on my heel and my running was REALLY quiet. Since I've learned more about running form, I've learned that I should land more on my toe. It feels better and doesn't bother my knee as much, but it's LOUD on the treadmill.

Maybe I'm just doing it wrong.

Nosce Te Ipsum

March 27th, 2010 at 1:05 PM ^

If anything you are probably doing right by your joints by running primarily on a treadmill. Most have a shock type of system in them so they will give when each foot makes contact. The tracks with the crumbled up tires are the best to run on followed by dirt paths and then the treadmills. Never run on the pavement. Btw, I believe you're doing it right. I don't think someone that size could be quiet running on a treadmill.

Wes Mantooth

March 27th, 2010 at 1:14 PM ^

I was just about to post something along these lines. Running barefoot only makes sense if you're running on a surface with some give- like one of the rubber tracks or a grassy field. If you tend to run on a hard track then going barefoot could be a big mistake. I used to run track & cross country in HS and I would occasionally take my shoes off, but I had to run on the fields behind my school. I ran on our track without shoes a couple of times and wound up with all kinds of heel, shin, and knee pain...


March 27th, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

"I don't think someone that size could be quiet running on a treadmill."

So you're saying I should give up my dream of being a ninja assassin?

Anyway, yeah, I never run on the pavement anymore. I only run on the treadmill, the beach, or dirt/grass hiking trails. I could run on the track at my school, but running in a circle is boring and I seem to get tired quicker.


March 27th, 2010 at 11:43 PM ^

One, you have a larger build and as the others have said, it's going to cause you to make more noise.

Second, since I've modified my running form from the old heel toe strike to more of a mid/forefoot strike, the noise I make when running is a lot more. I once had someone think I was wearing spikes during a road race because of the noise.

You might be a bit hard on the landing, and could be running on the ground as opposed to running over it (where the idea is to minimize contact with the ground ie. treadmill).


March 27th, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

And have had some knee problems in the past - particularly from shoes without enough support (at least according to Northwestern's athletic medicine folks - lucky to have free access since I'm in grad school here).

One thing I've discovered is that by lengthening my stride just a bit and not picking up my foot as much, I don't have as much impact on the heel, which has helped.

To be honest, I'm willing to try just about anything if I can still get my miles in and it saves my knees so that I can keep running as I get a little older.

Maybe this finding will spur folks to keep working on shoes that minimize this impact.


March 27th, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

When you run, are you a heel striker or a forefoot striker? I'm forefoot striker myself and always wear out the center portion of my running shoes first (beneath the big toe). The heels are always pristine on my shoes.

As a old guy, I've always felt being a heel striker is harder on the knees. Running more on the toes (or midfoot) helps reduce shock on the knees IMO and reduces the likelihood of iliotibial band syndrome.

But I also put graham crackers in my Rice Krispies, so what do I know?


March 27th, 2010 at 2:30 PM ^

I am a serious marathon runner. I tried the nike plus system as an add on training for my running. I would still do my main running using my ASICS Gel DS trainers, but I would do an easy 3 miles using the nike plus shoes before my run. It helps build up the tendon and ligament strength in my feet and calves. I noticed it increased my sprinting ability and recovery time for intervals.


March 27th, 2010 at 4:08 PM ^

This is a very popular new fad, esspecially since "Born to Run" came out. While I agree that running barefoot can provide some benefits, IF it is done correctly. There are still a lot of question marks, as, yes, humans were born to run barefoot, but that was not on the heavily concrete and asphalt society that has developed. Not to mention the mountain of debris that the streets, sidewalks, trails and parks can be littered with. This has resulted in the development of the Vibram FiveFingers, which give you that protection while simulating barefoot running. Ultimately, though, a lot of injuries can and will come of barefoot running due to the evolution of the human body with running shoes, at least in the US.

Zone Left

March 27th, 2010 at 4:27 PM ^

The Vibrams are really popular in the military for the reasons you mentioned. I don't believe actually running barefoot in an non-controlled environment makes much sense. It may strengthen your legs in a better way, but the first time you accidentally run over a broken bottle, you aren't going to care about those benefits.


April 20th, 2010 at 3:56 PM ^

I promise you that there hasn't been *any* "evolution of the human body since the advent of the running shoe.

Otherwise, I agree with your post. While on the one hand it's silly and arrogant to think that human beings could--in one thousand years--develop a product to outperform the marvels of engineering, human feet, that developed over the course of six million years of hominid evolution, I also agree that barefoot running today isn't the same as it was 1000+ years ago. Less so because of our cement jungles, in my opinion (though I agree that they make things worse) and more so because we've acquired maladaptive learned behaviors.

I own a pair of Five Fingers (I too love 'em, by the way). However, if I ever heel-strike by mistake (and, yeah, sometimes it happens, especially while walking--an unconscious mistake), then I experience pain. The problem isn't so much barefoot running/walking in todays hard-surfaced environment. Instead, the problem is barefoot running/walking after having taught ourselves to do so incorrectly for multiple generations.

Even though I poked fun of your misuse of the word evolution at first, I think this last paragraph articulates what you intended to say. And, if that's true, then we agree with one another.


April 20th, 2010 at 4:02 PM ^

Switching gears a bit:

I think it's also important to note that while the early hominid and hunter-gatherer moved about bare-footedly, they didn't do so with large weights on their backs.

I love to hike. Around here (Hershey, PA), the Appalachian Trail is exquisitely uneven terrain. I hike on it with my Five Fingers and enjoy myself confidently. However, when I hop onto the A.T. for 1-2 week excursions, I peel off the five fingers. I don't think the "engineering marvel" that is the human foot is marvelous enough to keep up with the demands of (me)+(35lbs.)+(14miles daily).

I'm sure there are other situations in which the Five Fingers are insufficient, too. Nevertheless, it's a great product.