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Thoughts on barefoot running...
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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/18/2009 21:03:02 MST Print View

So is it all about going barefoot, or simply about using barefoot training to teach oneself a better form that ultimately transcends footwear choices?

The latter approach is working for me- my miles have been getting faster and I'm recovering quicker from runs (no joint/tendon issues).

Seems to me that the benefits can be achieved by doing 2-3 barefoot runs/week and simply maintaining the form when wearing footwear.

A subjective topic of course...


Edited by xnomanx on 11/18/2009 21:18:36 MST.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/18/2009 21:29:37 MST Print View

That is great Craig that you are seeing benefits from barefoot running. I haven't incorporated any barefoot running into my regular run week yet, the weather, terrain, and practicality of barefoot running is keeping me from baring my foot condoms at the moment. My current running shoe whether I'm running trails or roads is the New Balance MT100, they are spot on for me, minimal, uber light for a trail shoe, flat, and simple, about as near to barefoot as I'm going to go for now. I have noticed tremendous strength improvement in my lower legs and feet since moving to these about 2 months ago.

I browse Barefoot Ted's blog sometimes to see what he is up to, he is really kind of a renaissance man and spokesperson for barefoot running in the ultra scene. What kind of terrain do you typically put your feet through on your runs? And have you noticed your foot strike change since running barefoot?

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/18/2009 22:10:55 MST Print View

I'm running in MT100s now too- really like them. I'm looking into road flats...something a little less stiff in the forefoot than the MTs. I actually ran tonight (road) in my "traditional" Asics 2140s. I'm a little hesitant at the moment to big miles in with them on the street, but trail has been good (ran 16 with 4,000 feet of climbing last Sat.)

As for terrain, I'm doing my barefoot on grass mostly, about 4 miles at a time- lapping the local park or the track at my high school (I'm a teacher).

I run as much as possible on trail ~80%; fortunately I live 1 mile from the Angeles National Forest/San Gabriel Mountain in So. California.

Foot strike:
It's interesting- I'm striking mid to forefoot at the outer edge of my foot, rolling inward toward the ball as I land- basically pronating. When did that become such a dirty word in running? Toes are pointed downward before the strike- the opposite of how I was running 6 months ago. It seems like it's the natural stride any human would have (barefoot)- toes down, forefoot strike, rolling inward.
I notice that I've really been able to transfer this form to running with shoes- especially the MT100s- they have so little padding they'll let you know if you're getting sloppy.

I've actually run into Barefoot Ted a few times. I like what he has to say...but at the same time, I don't necessarily believe barefoot is the only way. (I'm really inspired by his quest to run in native footwear- I know he's been working on yucca-woven sandals of some sort.)

Ultimately though, I think mixing it up has its merits.

Edited by xnomanx on 11/18/2009 22:14:00 MST.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/19/2009 05:28:59 MST Print View

Great topic. I have tried barefoot running a few times and while I did not stick with it, I do feel I gained a better sense of proper running form. With a midfoot strike and landing with my knee's slightly bent my comfortable running pace has increased and my overall recovery time after a long run has decreased. Last night I did ten miles on the road and this morning, while I can feel the workout last night, I am not nearly as sore as I would have been with my old running style. That said I do try to keep it on the trails as much as possible. Not only is it more fun, it is easier on the body.

FYI I am currently switching back and forth between Inov8 Roclite 320's and 315's but am eyeing a pair of MT100's as well. I have a pair of Vibram 5-Fingers but never really felt comfortable doing much more than laps around the local football field.

Edited by Jkrew81 on 11/19/2009 10:28:32 MST.

Tim Testa
(MichaelRedbeard) - F
Some Quick Passing Through Thoughts on 11/22/2009 01:51:40 MST Print View

1) Your Crazy.
2) Your Insane.
3) Ouch!!!

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Some Quick Passing Through Thoughts on 11/22/2009 02:55:34 MST Print View

That's exactly what traditional backpackers say about UL hikers!

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Some Quick Passing Through Thoughts on 11/22/2009 07:02:25 MST Print View

thank you for your positive contribution Tim, don't knock it till you tried it...

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/22/2009 13:34:31 MST Print View

> basically pronating. When did that become such a dirty word in running?

I think the concept was created by Nike as part of their marketing blitz.


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/22/2009 16:15:09 MST Print View

Yup, marketing.
The beauty of running is that you don't need anything to do it. But that's no fun if you're a gear manufacturer. Better start cooking up a long list of "needs" to sell.

I fell for it big time when I started- like many of us backpackers here did. "Needing" all the bells and whistles, gadgetry, etc.

As I mature into both sports, I find never really "needed" much at all.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/22/2009 17:11:07 MST Print View

I used to run barefoot all the time, especially when sprinting. In fact, I used to do just everything barefoot...then I got a job :(

I think that barefoot running is best started at a younger age, as it seems that a lifetime of wearing shoes makes feet soft and frail and dependent on shoes. It kinda makes sense really-propping up your arches artificially means that you will forever need to prop up your arches. Good for shoe and insole manufacturers, bad for feet.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/22/2009 19:43:05 MST Print View

"basically pronating. When did that become such a dirty word in running?"

About the time OVER pronators started doing high volume mileage. It leads to big time knee problems. Easily corrected with orthotics for those with a tendency to over pronate.

"I think the concept was created by Nike as part of their marketing blitz."

Nah. It's been around a long time. Nike just did what all good capitalists do. Spin it into a profit. It's the American Way. ;}

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/22/2009 22:36:05 MST Print View

It seems everyone's an "over pronator" these days.
Yet I'd wager that the majority of "over pronation" diagnoses are made by running store employees (trained in what by who?) while watching you "run" in the store for 15 feet.
Helps justify the $150 "motion control" shoes with additional $40 insoles...when most of your knee pain was really coming from a crappy form that big 'ol spongy shoes likely won't help.

cary bertoncini
(cbert) - F

Locale: N. California
i worked in a running store for several years on 11/22/2009 23:34:12 MST Print View

i rarely sold motion control shoes

i'd say those who benefit from them are less than 10% of runners - mostly very heavy people with low to flat arches who also over pronate

sounds like from craig's descriptions of his form that he is not an over pronator - motion control shoes would be contraindicated and likely to cause injury for him

now stability shoes are another category - they have some degree of control built into them & seem to be appropriate for a lot of runners, but there is a wide range of models & the type and degree of stabilizing structure built into them varies a great deal. but you can see when someone is running with close to neutral (corrected) pronation if you know what to look for. for some people this helps a great deal, for others there are other issues that seem to be overriding. it's not simple or magic - there is no such thing as the perfect shoe, and definitely a big difference for different people with the same shoe or even category of shoe

what i did see quite a lot are people with one foot that over pronates and one that doesn't. leg length difference can do this (not rare) but more often there is a functional difference caused by an upslip (can be in back but usually in hips/pelvic symphesis). this can be caused by running on cambered surfaces (roads) but can also be the result of driving - when we drive we sit with our hips and pelvis slightly cocked forward on the right side, which can cause upslip mechanically or via soft tissue maladjustment leading to compensatory overpronation on the right foot

barefoot running like shoes can be good bad or neutral in effect depending on a lot of the same large number of varibales: form, genetics, health, recovery, training surface, training intensity, training duration, luck, etc.

Edited by cbert on 11/22/2009 23:35:51 MST.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
Re: i worked in a running store for several years on 11/23/2009 06:48:05 MST Print View

I found your comments really interesting because I have a knee issue (patellar tendonitis) and I've found that when I drive for over an hour it really causes the pain to flare up. I'm sure I'm sitting wrong, and I'm sure I sit even worse when my knee actually starts to hurt... I just have no clue how to fix it. Any suggestions?

Plus I also think my right leg is longer (same side the knee pain is on) since the sole of my shoe is waaay more worn down on that side. Go figure, I went to a physical therapist and she didn't mention any of this stuff. Just gave me some strengthening exercises and sent me on my way.

I'm contemplating orthotics now. Any other suggestions on how to fix the way I sit, or if there are any really good videos online of proper running gaits would be really appreciated.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Re: i worked in a running store for several years on 11/23/2009 06:57:33 MST Print View

hey Angela,
had the same issue in the past and for me it turned out that I was trying to do too much when the legs were not used to it. I would sit in the office all week and then try to do a 30 mile weekend and the knee's couldn't take it. I started adding in some light running and within a year the issue went away. I have been trail running 15-25 miles/week for 3-4 years and the issue has never resurfaced.

So happens I also get knee soreness when I drive for long periods of time. 9 times out of 10 if I just alter my position every 10 to 15 minutes the pain goes away.

As for changing your running form, I highly recommend going to your local football field and try some light barefoot running to get a sense of how you body works when you do not have shoes on. Then try to translate it to your regular workouts. It is def not easy. At first it will take a good amount of focus to mimic with shoes on, but after a while it becomes 2nd nature.

hope this helps

Edited by Jkrew81 on 11/23/2009 07:01:21 MST.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Re: Re: i worked in a running store for several years on 11/23/2009 08:38:58 MST Print View

Thanks Jonathan. I do have a very bad habit of trying to pile on the weekend warrior miles... but even when I was regularly running light miles the knee pain would flare up if I pushed myself. It's just frustrating to limit myself and I have a very hard time doing it. Especially as I'm contemplating a thru-hike and I don't want to take more than 5 months to finish... yet resting and low mileage seems to be the only solution for me to accomplish these goals.

The running is actually what got me in trouble in the first place - I totally overdid it.

Thanks for the advice. Will have to test out the barefoot method... once warmer weather rolls around!

Jeremy Gus
(gustafsj) - MLife

Locale: Minneapolis
I used to hate running because it hurt so bad! on 11/23/2009 13:11:44 MST Print View

I got to the point where I couldn't even run any more this summer as my knees hurt so bad. I was diagnosed with patella-femoral syndrome and went through a bunch of physical therapy and sent on my way. My knees still hurt! After hearing about barefoot running this summer and the benefits, but warned about the long transition time, I started taking off my shoes whenever I got home and walked around the house and yard in my barefeet and lovied it!

About two months ago, I bought a pair of Vibram Fivefinger KSO's and have been running in them (with a little barefoot mixed in - weather and daylight permitting) since then. My knee pain is gone!!! BUT, I have discovered a whole new set of muscles that I didn't even know were there... I enjoy that kind of pain though, so no complaints here!

And now, I love running!!! So much so that I have put two 25k runs on my calendar for next spring and a 50k for middle of next summer. We'll see how the training goes, but I am pumped to be able to 'bare my soles'... the bummer part is that I'm in Minnesota and I won't really be able to go barefoot until April, so I will have to find some minimalist/primal running shoes that will insulate me from the frozen ground even moreso than my KSO's.

I have become super motivated to find ways to get out for a run despite having a busy work schedule, a project house and two kids under the age of two! My wife is mad that I have the alarm going off before sunrise on the weekend so that I can go out for a run... ;-) sorry hon!

I have lot's more thoughts, but I'm supposed to be working now.... I'll try and write more later. There is more info on my transition to 'primal' running on my blog if you want to read in the meantime.

Also, read "Born to Run" and you will be inspired! I just started listening to the audiobook this weekend and am about half way through... gives a lot of background on both sides of supportive/cushioned footwear vs not.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/23/2009 18:18:44 MST Print View

"Yet I'd wager that the majority of "over pronation" diagnoses are made by running store employees (trained in what by who?) while watching you "run" in the store for 15 feet."

Maybe, but the real diagnosis gets made when you hit 50-60 miles/week and start getting pain around the knee joint. Anybody that listens to a shoe salesperson is asking to be duped. I'll put my money on a good sports podiatrist. Saves a lot of money and hurt in the long run.

I don't think crappy form relates much to over pronation. It's more a structural issue that is best addressed with orthotics made by a reputable professional. Made a world of difference for me back in the day.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Thoughts on barefoot running... on 11/23/2009 18:46:29 MST Print View

Jeremy, Born to Run is definitely a great read for the adventurer in all of us, I loved it! The author Chris McDougall brings to light many points about the relationship between humans and the natural act of running. McDougall raises a lot of questions about running and the effects of footwear on the human body, this is the touchy topic that has increased in the running footwear industry and the sports medicine world as of late. McDougall doesn't go very in depth in the book though as to what particular footwear he uses in his running, I assume from the book that it was the Tarahumara style sandals, it would have been nice to hear some insight into what worked for him in the end of his journey.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Another thought on 11/23/2009 20:18:50 MST Print View

I pondered this a bit more. It occurs to me that, with one exception that I can recall, no one in the upper echelons of the running world, which is increasingly dominated by runners from areas of the world where people grow up walking and running barefoot, runs barefoot. They all train and run in shoes made by guess who? Nike, ASICS, Adidas, etc. I know, I know, they get sweet contracts but they would run in shoes, contracts or no contracts, quite simply because well designed shoes enable them to perform better and handle the rigors of training required to do so.
If it works for them, how would it be different for recreational runners?

I would be interested to hear back in a year or so from those of you experimenting with barefoot running as to how you fared. I am not putting the idea down, but I confess to being skeptical as to whether or not most of you will be able to tolerate it if you are engaged in a serious running program.

The exception, BTW, was Abebe Bikele at the 1960 Rome Olympics. On second thought, Zola Budd also ran barefoot.
Still a miniscule percentage.