View Full Version : Bare feet in the news

01-24-2010, 18:15
I just saw this article in today's paper:
Jury still out on whether barefoot running trend is beneficial

by Mary Beth Faller - Jan. 24, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Running barefoot is as old as humanity. We ran barefoot for thousands of years before shoes were invented.

But barefoot running has become more popular lately, due mainly to Christopher McDougall's best-selling book "Born to Run," which describes the barefoot-running Tarahumara tribe of Mexico and its mystical ultra-marathoning lifestyle.

Though there weren't throngs of barefoot runners at last week's P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon and 1/2 Marathon, more people are interested in barefoot coaching seminars and "barefoot"-like footwear (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/#).
The trend can also be tied to a backlash against running-shoe companies (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/#) that pile on ever-increasing and costly amounts of padding and gel while pulling favorite models off the market to encourage stockpiling.
"One thing that annoyed me about running shoes is that they kept changing," said Andrew Holtum of Phoenix, who runs barefoot. "I'd be disappointed when I'd find a shoe I liked, and by the third iteration it would be something different."

Advocates say that running shoeless produces a more efficient gait, reduced impact and fewer injuries.

Patty Egan, a physical-education teacher and head cross-country coach at Cactus Shadows High School in Cave Creek, has her runners go barefoot. "About twice a week, we have our cross-country kids finish their workout at the football field - the only nice grass to be found - to run 200 to 1,000 meters of barefoot running," she said. "When the foot spends most of the day in a restrictive shoe, the small muscles (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/#), tendons and ligaments can weaken from lack of use. Getting out and running barefoot, when introduced in a progressive manner, can give the runner a chance to build the strength back up."

For others, bare feet are more about freeing the spirit. The guru of the movement, Ted McDonald, known and revered as Barefoot Ted, was featured prominently in "Born to Run," although he has been sharing his passion for au naturel running for years.

"We were not born broken," he said. "So many people have been led to believe that their feet are broken appendages, and (that) if we could have them removed at birth that would be better, but since we can't, we'll cast them up in shoes and await their demise."

Science lacking

Not everyone agrees, including Lewis Maraham, a New York City physician and medical director (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/#) for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon. He sees few barefoot runners at the Rock 'n' Roll races.

"You can run barefoot if, from the moment you were born, you never wore shoes," Maraham said. "Running barefoot isn't going to relieve (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/#) what your parents gave you."

Most people have biomechanical issues to their gait that need to be corrected before they cause overuse injuries, he said. "People need shoes for structure."

American running icon Frank Shorter, who won the 1972 Olympic marathon gold medal, said: "Everyone who's ever looked at my feet has said, 'How do you run?' I was born with very bad feet. I run with shoes."

"Born to Run" author McDougall talked to several experts on biomechanics before concluding that "running shoes may be the most destructive force to ever hit the human foot."

But there's not enough science to prove - or disprove - that. Podiatric groups haven't taken a stand on barefoot running because evidence is lacking, thus there are no definitive conclusions.

David Jenkins, a professor in the podiatric medicine program at Midwestern University in Glendale, recently reviewed dozens of studies.

"Advocates say that barefoot runners have less injuries, but we haven't been able to prove that yet," he said. "My gut feeling is that some of the perceived benefits are real, but I can't say for sure."

Removing shoes would give a runner a shorter, quicker stride, Jenkins said. "There might be less impact but that impact would have to go somewhere, maybe into the muscles and joints instead of the heel."

The most important factor for those who want to try running barefoot is to work up to it gradually, he said.

David Cauthon, one of Jenkins' students at Midwestern, worked on the review of studies and started running barefoot last May, after finishing the Boston Marathon. "I would go out for a 3- or 4-mile run, and at the end I would take off my shoes and do half a mile," he said. Other than some blisters (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/#), he was injury free. "I had read a lot about how you automatically change your gait to shorten your stride and reduce your impact, and I was still surprised at how quickly that occurred - in the first 50 meters. Your body seems to know what you're trying to do."

A glove for the foot

Jenkins would like to survey runners to see how many run barefoot and why. "That might steer us toward ideas for actual research."
Rather than going barefoot, some runners choose the next closest thing - wearing form-fitted socklike coverings that protect the skin but provide no support. One of the most popular is the Vibram FiveFingers.
Phoenix-based Runner's Den manager Ron French said he has fielded dozens of customer requests for the FiveFingers over the past few months, and the product is so popular that Vibram can't fill orders until March.

"It's created a buzz in the running community, and I think it's a good training tool for people to do foot drills on grass," he said.
As someone who has been in the running business a long time, French has seen the FiveFingers fall prey to the same "cool factor" as other footwear.
"I've already seen people at the mall wearing them."

Barefoot-runner Holtum has taken his footwear into his own hands. He makes running sandals out of utility floor mats from Home Depot, polypropylene rope and duct tape. Each pair, which resembles flip-flops with a heel binding, costs him about $2.

"The design is simple, cheap, consistent and comfortable," said Holtum, 52, an engineer. He can customize the sandals for trails and to compensate for one leg being a bit shorter.

"Running shoes are good at making the foot land exactly the same way each time. It's not about the impact, it's about repetitive motion," he said. "When running with sandals, I'm constantly altering my foot strike to dodge things or compensate for terrain, so every foot strike is a little different than the next."

Holtum said the sandals have helped him to regain the fluid running style of his youth. "It's quiet. There's no weight on your feet."

Barefoot Ted, whose coaching seminars have exploded in popularity since the release last year of "Born to Run," tells his clients to think about why the bottoms of their feet have so many nerve endings. "It's to deal with what's happening with grace and form and strength," he said. "It's a joy to run."

01-24-2010, 21:01
I've been going barefoot as much as possible each day for the last couple plus months and like the feel. I am in the camp of mixing it up though. For longer stuff I still prefer shoes. I would try the FiveFingers, but they don't make my size.

I do like the change it's made in my running. I've gone from a longer stride and landing on my heel to shorter, quicker strides and landing mid-foot, so my heel doesn't really come into play when I run barefoot.

I went for a nine mile walk today on the Florida Trail and noticed that my walking stride has shortened up and I'm landing mid-foot with shoes on.

"Born To Run" is one of the best books I've read since I enjoyed "Atlas Shrugged" about five years ago. :)

Thanks for the post!

01-25-2010, 13:08
If God had meant for us to go barefoot, he wouldn't have given us shoes

01-25-2010, 13:21
Ever try to run through a water stop in a marathon slick from spilled Gatorade, smashed paper cups, and empty Gu packets barefooted? It's really fun.......

01-29-2010, 11:25
I've been trying to work my way up to barefoot running. I try to walk barefoot a few times a week. I have done a few hikes barefoot, too. So far I have run in aqua socks, but they are sort of hard to run in because it feels like my feet slip too much inside. I keep ending up with sore calves every time I go running, so it's been hard to work up to it. Plus I don't already run.

01-30-2010, 19:05
I work beach patrol, the beginning of every summer is tough, BUT a month in to it I can walk on just about anything, I am even a 1/4 inch taller. I remember my first summer I stepped on a tack and didn't know it till I heard it clicking on the pavement. Now I usually go about 4 months out of the year only putting shoes on to go to the bars. We also have this thing we call " running the island" its almost a half marathon. you work up to it but most guards have run the whole island soft sand at least once about 12 miles. We work out everyday and word everyday barefoot. But the end of the summer you can walk miles on gravel but if you walk 2 miles in hiking boots you will have blisters all over, it kinda funny.

I am not a land creature but I run miles everyday on sand barefoot and I never have any joint pain but even with good running shoes I still cant stand pavement running. I run my 5k on soft sand as fast as with shoes on pavement??? When it gets cold I wear these, you can run on soft Sand, they keep you warm in rain and you can swim in them.....
they are kind of like sealskin socks with thin rubber on the bottom for durability.

02-03-2010, 16:01

what is the name of those booties you have pictured there?

02-03-2010, 16:42
click on boots

never tried them in the woods but they are alot like being bare foot but warmer and you can step on broken beer botles left by tourists

East Coast Alex
03-21-2010, 02:52
Science is funny like this. The old saying about how for every one study supporting something, there can often be found a similar study which comes out against it.

About a month ago, I was reading of a study by a team of exercise physiologists coming out in support of barefoot running benefits. It did not reject the validity of some of the points made in the original post, but did come out in favor of it, within a certain narrow scope analysis.

I've been a minimalist shoe advocate for the better part of fifteen years now and am pretty well sold on it for a variety of reasons. Three to five ounce racing flats are my main staple, and I actually consider sneakers over seven ounces to be on the heavy side. :p Gone are the days of 12 ounce "super duper cushioned shoes with inch and a quarter wedges of foam under my foot. Now, aside from the light weight, and perhaps more importantly, I want my sneakers to be low to the ground, affording a positive tactile connection to what is under foot, and not artificially loading my achilles like most sneakers with thick foam wedges do.

The aforementioned led me into barefoot running, which I only picked up in the ten years, or so. Have not done a race barefoot yet, but came pretty close to thinking about doing it once on a XC race that was held on a golf course. Mainly I just train barefoot on the beach as well as the grass at the local sod farm and infield of the local running track. I also occasionally run on the track barefoot, though I partly do that to toughen my feet up. Some of my P.R.'s such as my 400 metre time have been barefoot on the track.

I'm not a barefoot fanatic like some people, but I could stand to see a lot more of it, and I don't mine one bit the recent trend favoring it. I think time will eventually bear out that having an inch and a quarter foam wedge under your heel, not to mention trudging around in 13 ounce super duper $120 cushioned sneakers is not quite the "marvel of sneaker engineering" that the shoe manufacturers once thought it was.

03-21-2010, 10:26
[I][B]I've gone from a longer stride and landing on my heel to shorter, quicker strides and landing mid-foot, so my heel doesn't really come into play when I run barefoot.As someone who is struggling with osteo-arthritis of the knee, I'm convinced that my extended running & walking stride contributed to the degeneration of my cartilage. Shorter strides landing mid-foot put a lot less stress on the knee.