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Medical Is barefoot running healthier?

  1. Aug 5, 2011 #1
    Hey, I have been looking at buying the new five finger shoes to run in for my HS cross country team and I'm not sure of the benefits so please comment.
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  3. Aug 5, 2011 #2


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    Well, what have you learned? What are the supposed benefits? Does anyone other than the manufacturer corroborate these benefits?
  4. Aug 5, 2011 #3


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    For what it's worth I read that the toe thing is purely gimmick and unnecessarily separates your toes, which can cause foot strain. That the foot covers would be better without the individual toes.

    I've tried to find the article, but it was last year and there is just too much garbage to read though. So take it or leave it.
  5. Aug 5, 2011 #4
  6. Aug 8, 2011 #5
    Here is food for thought…..the physics of our gait will change as an adaptation or as a response to our environment. Not our social/physical environment, but the foot’s environment – our shoes. We can blame our social environment in part for that, firstly - fashion for one and secondly; the ongoing technological quest initiated by the marketing departments of the shoe companies to reduce injury, that may be they were in part responsible for causing (Good strategy – create a problem – then market and sell a proposed solution to the problem).

    The longer stride issue comes naturally as we remove the biofeedback and proprioceptive input that puts our body into an injury prevention mode. For runners the injury prevention mode is notably a shorter stride and a midfoot strike. This gait better utilizes the energy control capabilities of the muscles spring properties in eccentric contraction, reduces shearing and non-uniform compression on joints, and takes better advantage of the osseous matrix that makes up the core of our supporting long bones. There is a plethora of injury prevention advantages to making that change in stride. The one stimulus that may have been responsible for us originally adopting that shorter stride is biofeedback and proprioceptive feedback from our environment. Our footwear insulates against that, unless we complimnet our shoes with special insoles like Barefoot Science, and possibly then removes our body’s desire to move towards the less injury causing stride. The very a physics of footwear also tends to cause our stride to be lengthened, and the distal inertia caused by the swing foot and its added mass also may logically lead to the longer stride. Anyhow the move to lighter minimal shoes with some type of biofeedback interaction with the foot’s plantar surface may naturally lead to a change in stride length and a midfoot strike – thereby removing a runner needing to consciously re-train their gait – anyhow, just some food for thought. Get minimal and get some proprioceptive stimulation.
  7. Aug 9, 2011 #6


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    Barefoot running is definitely healthier ... until you step on something.
  8. Aug 9, 2011 #7


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    Adding some scientific support to D Patterson's arguments, I read recently about a study in which runners were given two types of shoes, one with better shock cushioning than the other. Through motion capture and modeling, it was determined that they had equal biomechanical stresses in their legs. Apparently the people with the less cushioning shoes automatically did things to their gait that reduced stresses. This is also used as an argument against the conventional wisdom that you're less likely to get injured if you run on softer surfaces such as dirt or grass.
  9. Aug 9, 2011 #8


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    The corollary of this though is that, if they are adjusting their gait to reduce stresses, they are not optimizing their gait for speed. So it would come at that cost in a race. (Granted, that is not quite what the OP was asking about.)
  10. Aug 9, 2011 #9
    This is assuming that the two factors are mutually exclusive, which I don't think is necessarily the case.

    Many things effect speed. In fact you really need to define speed when speaking of running. The type of 'speed' a marathon runner must exhibit is different than the type of 'speed' a sprinter must exhibit.

    Total body mechanics, substrate utilization, and power development are just a couple of factors that I can think of off the top of my head which will greatly impact performance and may be modified by implementing appropriate training programs.

    From my limited understanding of the subject. There is no black and white answer to this question. Everybody has different mechanics of movement which may be need to be addressed with appropriate gear (shoes and such) or training (not necessarily just running, but also movement based training to address issues outside the foot/ankle complex which may effect gait).
  11. Aug 9, 2011 #10


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    No, it is assuming the two factors are competing.

    If one is adjusting one's gait for anything other than speed, then one must be adjusting it to speed's detriment. (If that were not the case, then one would not need to adjust at all, as one could simply get maximum speed and maximum comfort simultaneously.)
  12. Aug 11, 2011 #11
    I guess I can agree with that statement, at least in the short term. Almost any new/different activity is going to lead to poor performance until the body can adapt appropriately (see Hans Selye and the GAS). Changing something like the type of footwear that an athlete wears will, in the short term, lead to an adaptation phase where lower performance is almost certain.

    Once the adequate adaptations have taken hold, everything goes "out the window." Stride lengths may return to normal, power development may increase, injuries may be prevented etc.

    This is, of course, assuming proper and consistent training is present.

    I'm not really arguing for or against shoes here though. I just want to let it be known that it is a very complicated issue with no clear cut "one size fits all" solution. When speaking of body mechanics during movement we all come very close to being beautiful and unique snowflakes.
  13. Aug 12, 2011 #12


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    Well, you're asking two different questions, one about running barefoot, and one about running with a particular type of shoe. I just got a pair of those shoes (literally, they arrived yesterday). I don't run, and didn't get them for running; I like romping about barefoot in warm weather, but wanted some protection from things like glass and rocks when walking, and I saw some other people wearing those shoes that looked super comfortable to me. So, they ARE comfortable, and they don't cramp your toes like regular shoes, and they're very lightweight and protect your feet from things on the sidewalk, but after all of two days of wearing them, they are NOT the same as being completely barefoot. They keep your toes more separated than they'd be if you were barefoot...or at least that's how my toes feel in them. (I still like the shoes and still think they're better than the alternatives of wearing traditional shoes or cutting up my feet on things I step on, just pointing out they are different.)

    Anyway, as I was looking into them to figure out stuff like shoe size, I was coming across all of the information about running in them. It's recommended that you train slowly in them, and some of the reviews from buyers reflected the same, that if they switched to them and tried to do their usual running routine, they were hurting from it. So, if you're planning to use them for something like competition running, you'll be starting over retraining yourself to take a different type of stride than you are currently doing. Whether that's better or worse might depend on how much time you have to strengthen new muscle groups.

    It also might depend on the surfaces you're running on. There's nothing "natural" about running on pavement either, so shoes that absorb those shocks more seem like a better idea for pavement. If you're running on softer surfaces, they may not be as good, and something that gives you more "grip" might be better instead. As others have pointed out, it's also possible that some of the impact-sparing loading of barefoot running may also be speed-sparing. It's also possible that people running barefoot are registering less of an impact because they're feeling more pain and back off, while wearing a traditional shoe is absorbing more impact for them and they aren't feeling it as pain.

    Will these turn out to be better for preventing injuries? They're too new to tell. People using them now would be in the guinea pig group. Ask again in 10 or 15 years how they're doing compared to those who stuck to traditional running shoes. There seem to be podiatrists weighing in both pro and con on the issue. I haven't seen what orthopedists have to say with regard to knee or hip impacts.

    So, I can primarily just share first hand knowledge that they aren't quite the same as running barefoot.
  14. Aug 13, 2011 #13
    I think that if you're young, it might not hurt to experiment and have fun with them if you can find a pair you like. However, given the changes in bone and articular surfaces as you age, it could create a whole new set of complications. Your balance and stride will change and this could stress things that you don't want stressed -- lower back pain, foot arch pain, heel pain.

    I'm all for personal testing, but don't spend a lot of money on your first pair. As to the "scientific evidence", so far I'm not seeing much of anything. Hype, yes, anecdotal evidence, yes. Haven't done a deep search, though.
  15. Aug 13, 2011 #14


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    Five finger shoes isn't exactly barefoot. I think it's a gimmic.

    I prefer barefoot, or if I wear a shoe, it has to be light. I tend to run on my toes.

    I pretty much grew up going barefoot, and I prefer to run barefoot. It works for me.

    Tenderfeet have to build up to it.
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