If you find the Nature paper, can you post the citation?
DE Lieberman, et al. Nature 463, 531-535. Or just log into the nature.com website, it's the cover issue or this week.
I'm a borderline Clydesdale who's been running for several years and dealt with the typical consellation of running injuries: plantar fasciitis, "shin splints" and iliotibial band irritation. I'm also an orthopaedic surgeon.
From a biomechanical point of view, I would read Lieberman's Nature article, and a few other studies out there that compare forces, kinematics and efficiency in shod versus unshod situations. I read them and they were compelling. _Born to Run_ also makes the argument in a more fleshed out but biased way.
One person on this thread asked whether shoes prevent you from running like you're barefoot. The simple answer is yes. It's very, very hard, even if you subscribe to the Chi Running school, to run a balanced toe-heel-toe gait with shoes because of the amount of heel padding. The only exceptions are Five Fingers and racing flats.
I started running barefoot maybe 5 months ago, interspersing it with running in my Brooks Adrenalines. First of all, you need to start doing it slowly - your gastroc-soleus complex with be sore because it's not used to being the primary shock absorber. I was shocked at how easy it felt to run barefoot (quasi-barefoot - I use Vibram Five Fingers exclusively). My pace barefoot was within a few seconds of my shod pace. I have had no issues with plantar fasciitis or posterior tibial tendon dysfunction, nor have I had any shin splints or IT band symptoms. As long as you don't have a neuromuscular disorder of some sort, running barefoot naturally corrects most people's tendency towards overpronation, and it's easy to explain why, but I won't bother unless someone actually wants to know.
Anyway, long story short: I'm impressed with barefoot running, I didn't lose speed, I managed to avoid the injuries that had plagued me before, and it feels pretty damn good. I recommend Vibram 5-fingers, and avoiding trails and gravel because you'll feel it.
Thanks, Jason. Hope all is well up in the lab - I miss it!
ok then here is my question about simulated or near barefoot running.
if racing flats are closer to barefoot running than normal training shoes, why is it that when i use racing flat for racing only (5k-10k in a triathlon or road race) that instep/top of my feet absolutely kill to the point of barely being able to walk for 1-3 days afterwards, but then goes way?
my calves are not that sore as would be expected, and the arches of my feet are not hurting as would be expected either.
the difference between racing flats and "barefoot shoes" like the vibrams may be the level of stiffness. If you are running with no padding and no support, you tend to run flatfooted and strike forward. You also tend to naturally bend your knees more than you would normally. If you land forward on the balls of your feet and push off similarly, your transverse tarsal joint will be locked out for almost the entirety of your stride, creating a tight and stable platform for pushing off. It may be that a stiff shoe prevents the transverse tarsal joint from locking out and puts more stress on the ligaments around the transverse tarsal joint (which is right where you're feeling pain) to stabilize. This is theoretical, but I've experienced the same thing with flats and (even worse) Newtons.
I would really give actual barefoot or the vibrams a shot. I think you'll find that the feel is quite different.
How'd all that outdoors barefoot running go for everyone this past weekend? ;)
I went once. No frostbite. Not as bad as expected...
Haaahvid University weighs in:
As a Physical Therapist, I was skeptical when I initally heard about "barefoot running," and even more skeptical when I read testimonials stating that barefoot running cured all pain these people were having. But then I was asked to write an article for our clinic's newsletter.
In doing research and writing this article, my opinion changed, but I still don't think it's a good idea to start barefoot running without an assessment by an orthopedic healthcare professional (especially if you're experiencing pain.) I do think, should you choose to start barefoot running, that you should slowly increase your mileage/speed (as previously suggested.)
If you're interested in reading it, I've attached the link to the article I wrote:
Interesting presentation on the subject last night by PT Robert Gillanders at Sports and Spinal downtown. Used video of participants to analyze difference between barefoot and "shod." With shoes, heels tend to hit the ground first. With barefeet or Vibrams, middle part of feet hit the ground. Only sprinters hit the ground front of feet first, some top runners on hand noted.
Barefoot causes considerably more strain on the knees, apparently, tho the hard data presented seemed a bit mixed on this. Runners can get injuries, in plantar and Achilles I think, and elsewhere, if they don't adapt slowly to Vibrams. There are exercises, such as standing straight up from one's toes, and moving the legs apart against the tension of a flexible band, to help build the muscles needed for Vibram. I've heard barefeet helps build the arch, tho this wasn't discussed. The light weight of barefoot shoes is a plus.
Whatever the shoe, the importance of a rapid cadence to improve running efficiency, and reduce "time on the ground," was stressed. The presentor suggested one might use a mix of shoes, light-weight or Vibram shoes for races and shorter events, and shoes with more support for long-distance training and long races.
A represenative of Pacers was on hand, and noted many running shoe companies are coming out with hybrid shoes that reduce heel size and are more like Vibrams. Running shoes are coming full circle, the presentor said, from the flat Adidas shoes of the 1970s, to the thick soles and heels of the 2000s, and now back to minimalism.
Barefeet or not, there is a disturbingly high percentage of injuries among runners. To help ward off injuries, runners should note the possible effect of changes in their workouts or shoes on their running health. It was stressed that each individual is different, and may or may not find the barefeet approach is the right one for him.