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By NathanAndMax / Administrator on Jun 22, 2009

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  • LG-life'sgood

    Barefoot running and shoes.

    Hi, thanks Max for such a comprehensive look at a subject I have been interested in for a while. There are a couple of thoughts I wanted to offer.

    I ran the City to Bay last year, I bought a brand new pair of shoes a couple of months before as my old shoes were dead. I went to a shoe shop where they used the pressure pad to try and get the best support for my feet. I trained in the shoes to try and ‘run them in’ before the fun run, and possibly didn’t give them enough time. By the 6k mark one of my knees was killing me, and my ankle on the other side was starting to hurt. By the end of the run it was all I could do to finish the race I was in so much pain (about an hour). There could be a number of reasons for this, but I decided that if running was going to hurt that much, I wasn’t going to do it anymore.

    I first started reading about barefoot running after hearing of a book that had been written about the Tarahumara Indians from Mexico who run amazing distances (http://www.amazon.com/Born-Run-Hidden-Superathletes-Greatest/dp/0307266303) the whole premise of the book is based on a man’s quest to find out about running without getting injured. I haven’t read the book yet but it got me interested in the subject. I once did a triathlon, with a 2.5k run in bare feet as I forgot my running shoes, my feet were cut up a bit but it was a nice feeling. Then I found there are a lot of websites for enthusiasts of barefoot running (barefoot Ted), and a large grey area about it’s benefits and problems from a medical and scientific perspective.

    I also recently came across a story about persistence hunting in the Kalahari desert. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUpo_mA5RP8I). Where the tribesmen run after a Kudu until it collapses. It made me think that perhaps we are designed for long distance running.

    So I decided to experiment on myself, I have started to run again, this time as my experiment, I tried running in Dunlop Volleys, thin soles, no heel or arch support, just thin rubber, material and shoe laces. (Don’t knock it, my Grandpa was a local tennis champ on Volleys) I noticed in pictures of ‘barefoot Ted’ a bit of a barefoot running fanatic, he had surprisingly muscular calves, where I always thought ultra-marathon runners would have super skinny legs. So I decided that running barefoot must utilise the calf a lot more than traditional running shoes would. (sorry that’s just how my mind works no science involved, that’s why it is good to hear from an expert like Max).

    So after running for a while, my calves are noticeably bigger, and my ankles seem thicker also!? I have had no injuries, though I have had sore muscles, less overall running pain, and am thinking of trying more barefoot style shoes, however the cost seems a little prohibitive (Vibram five fingers $200 AU, if you can even find them in Australia!) I haven’t looked at the Nike’s yet, so we will see. Let me just say, NO blisters with the Dunlops and I have done some k’s in them.

    I would love someone to comment who has any barefoot running comments, or tried any of the barefoot style shoes.


  • Nathan

    I came across a website a while ago which talks about the correlation between gluteal development and barefoot walking in tribal people. It has some interesting thoughts on the matter. We typically focus on good gluteal function when rehabilitating people with hip, knee and ankle joint problems. Perhaps these issues are as a result of our westernised, sedentary lifestyles?? The link for the webpage is: http://www.easyvigour.net.nz/fitness/h_gluteus_maxintro.htm

  • Brenton Bowen

    This is still a very hot issue amongst health professionals. I see this not just as an issue of shod vs. barefoot running, but a very individual approach to running technique and functional strength.
    Barefoot running is real and possible, the main point is to avoid heel strike shorten stride length. This seems to be the main problem as people transition from orthoses barefoot style running.
    I think the experience outlined by LG in the above post is fairly typical. Most people have a few issues in transition and may decide to stop at a level of support that is appropriate for them.
    Personally, I love the Nike Free shoes. My favourite is the 4.5/5.0, having tried most support levels, the 2.0 is painful on asphalt and the 7.0 feels too supportive. When my functional strength is limited, I continue in neutral shoes with orthoses.
    I would encourage interested people to have a go and work with professionals that are willing to support your goals. There are are always a few hurdles, but generally nothing insurmountable.


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