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Thread: Study: Running Barefoot is Better

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    Study: Running Barefoot is Better

    Thursday, January 28, 2010 8:30 AM

    If running is your thing, you may want to throw away those pricey sports shoes and just do it barefoot, according to a study released Wednesday.

    Three-quarters of runners who wear shoes land squarely on their heels — about 1,000 times for every mile run.

    But even well-cushioned sports shoes that help distribute weight across the foot cannot fully absorb the shock of these blows: 30 to 75 percent of regular runners each year suffer repetitive stress injuries.

    By contrast, the vast majority of unshod runners don't hit the ground with their heels, landing instead on the sides or balls of their feet, the study found.

    The practice is especially common in several east African countries where long-distance running is almost a national past time.

    In 1960, for example, a shoeless Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won the 1960 Olympics marathon in record time.

    By not "heel-striking," barefoot runners avoid painful and potentially damaging impacts that concentrate the equivalent of two or three times one's body weight onto a coin-sized surface.

    "People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," said Daniel Lieberman, a professor at Harvard University and lead author of the study.

    "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision," he said in a press release.

    The merits of shoelessness are hotly debated in specialty magazines and online forums, and major manufacturers have started to make thin-as-skin shoes in anticipation of new markets.

    But up to now, there has been little scientific evidence supporting the claim that barefoot is better.

    Lieberman and colleagues helped fill this void by studying the gaits of three groups of runners in the United States and Kenya: barefoot, shod, and those who had converted to shoeless running.

    "Most people today think that barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain," the study found.


    "All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot."

    But making the switch to barefoot running is not simply a matter of kicking off one shoes, the authors caution.

    Running unshod or in so-called "minimal shoes" requires the use of different muscle groups. "If you've been a heel-striker all your life, you have to transition slowly to build strength in calf and foot muscles," Lieberman said.

    The study, published in the British science journal Nature, also bolsters evidence suggesting the human foot evolved for rapid upright motion, said William Lungers, a professor at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York.

    "Bipedalism" — walking on two feet —"has been around for millions of years, and we have been unshod for more than 99 percent of that time," he wrote in a commentary, also in Nature.

    A radical reshaping of the foot about two million years ago, including shorter toes and a fully-arched foot, probably occurred to enhance our ability to move quickly over sustained periods.

    "Our endurance running abilities may have evolved to enable our ancestors to engage in 'persistence hunting'," the ability, in other words, to run down one's prey, he said.

    Source.
    For several years in my late teens and early twenties I used to run regularly but repeated joint injuries made me think better of it, so I took up hill-walking instead. Now with this these new findings I might go back to the running. I might even combine the to and go "Hill-running" perhaps. There's thought!

    I'll be in thin soled sneakers though, not those fancy "5-toed" tingies that cost about €150.
    Close observation may result in feelings of horror, wonder and awe at world you find yourself inhabiting.

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    Cool post, relevant to my interests. I run with shoes in the old style (heel first) and have also suffered joint problems as a result. Perhaps this way is indeed better.

    BUT!!! What if you combine the two? Like you know sometimes you tread on a horn or something, it hurts! So why not run with shoes but just change how you land instead, like land with your whole foot instead?

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    I don’t think that would be possible with conventional running shoes as they are not flexible enough, perhaps the development of an alternative which enhances the body’s natural movement could be undertaken.
    Although the word "Commando" was wrongly used to describe all Boer soldiers, a commando was a unit formed from a particular district. None of the units was organized in regular companies, battalions or squadrons. The Boer commandos were individualists who were difficult to control, resented formal discipline or orders, and earned a British jibe that"every Boer was his own general".

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    Quote Originally Posted by xamarth View Post
    BUT!!! What if you combine the two? Like you know sometimes you tread on a horn or something, it hurts! So why not run with shoes but just change how you land instead, like land with your whole foot instead?
    That's what I'm doing. I'm wearing thin-soled sneakers like "plimsolls" not Nike style trainers. And I'm jogging slowly with shortish strides, not extending my foot far in front of me. So basically my feet stay pretty much beneath me all the time. I'm concentrating on landing as lightly as possible. If you ever see footage of bare foot runners you notice how lightly they seem to land with their feet. They don't "pound" or smack their feet into the pavement because that would hurt their feet, they seem to "place" their foot on the ground as gently as possibly whilst still maintaining sufficient speed. That's what I've been trying to do.

    I'm also taking it fairly easy, just doing a couple of miles each day. Maybe 4-5 miles at most if I take the mood. And walking to recover if my form starts to slip, so as not to push myself. It's been two weeks now, and so far no injuries or shin-splints!



    Quote Originally Posted by Grimner
    I don’t think that would be possible with conventional running shoes as they are not flexible enough, perhaps the development of an alternative which enhances the body’s natural movement could be undertaken.
    The plimsolls are working out ok for me. There is a shoe made by Nike called "Nike Free" which is meant to mimic the feeling of barefoot running and it appears to have a very flexible sole. But I'm not going to bother with it for the moment, while the "cheap as chips" plimsolls are serving me so well.

    Sole of Nike Free from wikipedia;
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    Time for a quick up-date. I've been jogging in flat-soled sneekers about every other day now for a couple of weeks. So far no shin-splints like I would normally expect get with regular running shoes, but I have developed a slight soreness in one of the tendons at the back of my right knee, which I only notice when I run. When I feel it start to come on during a run I ease off with the intensity for the rest of the workout, and skip the next days jog and walk instead. I expect this discomfort is just a sign of my musculo-skeletal structure re-adjusting to a long forgotten mode of locomotion, and it will fade away with time.

    I still think this type of shoe is better for the bones and joints than the normal cushioned trainers.
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    When I first read the title I remembered running barefoot through a pine forest (full of twigs, cones, spikes) - not fun!

    But your idea of using thin-flat-soled sneekers does seem worth a try

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