Monday, February 1, 2010

Running Barefoot--Who should?










It is safe to say that right now the hot topic in the running world is Barefoot Running. This could be due to the Vibram 5 Fingers, or Newton shoe releases. Or maybe because the book BORN TO RUN, is a good read and talks a lot about the Tarahumara Indians running barefoot. Either way, the question remains, who is it for? Will it fix your injury? Should you run barefoot/minimalist everyday? Will you be better off long term with our without shoes?

Since this blog is sponsored by a running shoe store, I thought it best that we look outward to someone who is more 3rd party. While Salt Lake Running Co does, in reality, do our very best to be absolutely honest and not push a bad product on someone, it just seems best to outsource this answer.











The objective opinion is going to come from Bobby McGee, a world class running coach for the last 25 years. No really, this guy is one of the sport’s best. Having coached world record holders, world champions, Olympians, professional triathletes and everyday normal Joe runners like ourselves, he knows his stuff and the BEST part is that he is sponsored by NO ONE! He has no allegiance to any product whatsoever with the exception of his greatest product…his athletes...US!

Here are some excerpts from a recent post by Bobby on the barefoot running scoop. To check out the full article, click here. www.bobbysez.blogspot.com Feel free to comment here and/or there on what you think or have experienced.

Can we all run barefoot?

If we all grew up rurally in regions where there was no concrete or asphalt, or broken glass & shards of various metals lying about, then maybe…

AND

If we all started life using running as a primary mode of transport (together with walking) for EVERYTHING we did & EVERYWHERE we needed to get to, then maybe

AND

If we all lived in climates where footwear was never a prerequisite demand of our environment, then maybe

AND

If we all grew up never having the posterior side of our legs shortened by footwear with heels, then maybe

AND

If we all weigh under 110 pounds if we are female & 130 pounds if we are male, then maybe

AND

If we all had the time, the structural integrity, the youth, the willingness, the mechanics, the soft tissue, the environment, the guidance, the patience, the support & the understanding, then maybe:

Who can run benefit from running barefoot some of the time?

I work with the individual running quirks of many world-class athletes & regular athletes. I address each one according to need. Some actually NEED less orthotic, less support, less cushioning. Many have feet that have atrophied & lost critical motion capabilities because of overly restrictive or ill-advised footwear or orthotics. Many can benefit from time spent walking or even some small amount of running barefoot on well cushioned surfaces like grass or synthetic grass surfaces – this will return neuromuscular feel & function; this will teach true elastic-loading & unloading. This will also strengthen critical muscles & tendons in the foot & lower leg. It is a very gradual process & prescribed not because the athlete desires to run barefoot full time, but to heal & enhance their running experience.

Do the fastest runners in the world run barefoot?











Only one man has ever won an Olympic marathon barefoot & his name is Abebe Bikile, an Ethiopian who ran 2:15 barefoot because he was such a late entry into the Ethiopian team, Adidas could not find him a pair of shoes that fit – he had trained barefoot however. It is interesting to note that his father was a shepherd, so clearly he grew up exactly fulfilling ALL of the above Ifs. He won the next Olympics in 2:12 in Puma shoes. Both the 1st sub 4min South African miler, DeVilliers Lamprecht & Zola Budd ran barefoot & they both told me that eventually their feet gave them so much trouble that they could no longer run (DeVilliers) & that they had to resort to wearing shoes for training & eventually racing as well (Zola).

The forefoot, midfoot, healstrike argument

The greatest runner of all, Haile Gebrselassie, realized after being badly beaten in the London Marathon with a time of 2:06, that he would have to forego his habit of running on his forefeet, he would have to lower his heel to the surface to compete against the world’s best. He now runs the marathon 3 minutes faster! He has run in Adidas shoes his entire career.Many of the world’s greatest runners are heel strikers (look at above picture of Haile) – having these athletes switch to barefoot running would no doubt destroy them –

As a whole, we need shoes to survive the hostility of running

Before footwear became as advanced as it did, distance running was reserved for only a small select group of men & school children participating in track…HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THE ADVENT OF THE MODERN RUNNING SHOE, DISTANCE RUNNING AS WE KNOW IT TODAY, A SPORT OF HEALTH, FITNESS & HEROIC PARTICIPATION WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ACCESSIBLE TO THE MASSES. IT WOULD HAVE REMAINED A SPORT FOR A SMALL COMMUNITY BLESSED WITH THE PHYSIOLOGY & MECHANICS OF A BORDER COLLIE. THE LUNATIC FRINGE WHO NOW SO IRRESPONSIBLY & VEHEMENTLY VILIFY RUNNING SHOES WOULD HAVE US RETURN TO THOSE DAYS WHEN NONE BUT A FEW MECHANICALLY BLESSED INDIVIDUALS WOULD HAVE ACCESS TO A SPORT THAT SAVES & ENHANCES THE LIVES OF MILLIONS.

THANK.YOU. BOBBY!! We appreciate people like Bobby McGee sharing their opinion that is formed in their quest to not only keep us all running, but to help us run faster!

Here is a great closing quotation emailed to our staff by Travis. It is from the book Born to Run where YES! Even Christopher McDougal confesses that it is not complete heresy to run WITH shoes.

“Check out their feet," said Eric. Even though Scott [Jurek] was in the Brooks trail shoe he'd helped design and Caballo was in sandals, they both skimmed their feet over the ground just the way [Barefoot] Ted did in his bare feet, their foot strikes in perfect sync. It was like watching a team of Lipizzaner stallions circle the show ring." - Born to Run p. 190.

12 comments:

Lloyd said...

Good post... Bobby's the Man, and I agree 100%. I have the Vibram FF, and started out just walking in them... as in pretty much all the time. Ran a little, but not much, and eventually developed a nueroma for my trouble. I'm sure glad I have running shoes!!

Karl said...

It is important to put Bobby's comments into context. He also says:

Many can benefit from time spent walking or even some small amount of running barefoot on well cushioned surfaces like grass or synthetic grass surfaces – this will return neuromuscular feel & function; this will teach true elastic-loading & unloading. This will also strengthen critical muscles & tendons in the foot & lower leg. It is a very gradual process & prescribed not because the athlete desires to run barefoot full time, but to heal & enhance their running experience.

Leslie said...

I'm glad Karl brought the extra context in. Those are are good words. I don't think everyone should run 'barefoot' ALL of the time, but I think almost anyone can benefit from SOME barefoot, Vibram style, minimalist shoe time, of course breaking into it gradually.

Just like coach Bobby said
"Many feet have atrophied and lost critical motion capabilities because of overly restrictive or ill-advised footwear or orthotics"

It bothers me that some treat 'barefoot' running as an all or nothing event. 'You either run barefoot 100% of the time or shoes 100% of the time'...or 'unless you're from a tribe you cannot condition your feet/body to run without shoes'. I just don't agree with those arguments. Barefoot style and shoes both have a place for every runner (including myself) in my own opinion.

Karl said...

If you know trail running, you know Scott Jurek. Here's his take on barefoot running, and even on the Brooks website.

http://www.brooksrunning.com/About+Brooks/On+Barefoot+Running/The+Experts/Scott+Jurek/

Personally, because of gradually incorporating a barefoot/VFF component to my training, I've been able to ditch my heavy orthotics. That doesn't mean I'm going to start going by "Barefoot Karl", eschew modern civilization, and live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

Almost everyone agrees that there are both benefits and risks/costs to barefooting, but not all agree on whether the benefits and costs outweigh each other in particular situations. However, most coaches advocate some barefoot running in some aspect of training.

Karl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Robillard said...

"As a whole, we need shoes to survive the hostility of running"

I don't know... I run ultra distances barefoot and I'm not mechanically or athletically gifted. I just take the time to learn good form, train smart, and actually watch the terrain I run on. If I encounter glass or other such hazard, I run around it. It's quite simple, really.

Kfranck said...

I agree with Jason. While I respect Bobby's experience, I think people would be amazed at how many are capable of barefoot running. From what I've seen, people who give it an honest try find out how enjoyable it is and I don't know of many instances where they return to using the overly-engineered shoes as they had before.

On the other hand, if people are happy in their running shoes to start with and don't want to try barefoot, that's fine too.

Tim R said...

I wear Vibram Five Fingers exclusively and have since 2007. I got them to combat a case of P.F. that I had been wrestling w/for over a year. I weigh in at 200lbs and am 5'10''. I gradually worked my way over two months to wearing them everyday, but I have not looked back.
I average 30 miles a week on the road.

Salt Lake Running said...

Well, it's a good thing that we sell both kinds of footwear. We have had minimalist shoes for years and finally got in the Vibrams for those that like to run barefoot a little bit or a lot. And for those who are better off with something more, we always have all kinds of shoes with different levels of support and cushioning.

In reality, we are here to not only keep people running, but keep them running happy. That is we why we don't just sell shoes, we sell solutions. We don't like seeing anyone injured and realize that some people are better with less or no footwear and some are better with more. So no matter what is or isn't on your feet we hope you RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

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Amy said...

When I first choose running on vibram five fingers shoes I feel I will not regret it and yes. I'm not, it is a very good shoes I ever had. It is so comfortable and flexible.

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