Monday, April 2, 2012

The Science of Sport: Vibram shoes named in lawsuit: The danger of barefoot running

The Dangers of Barefoot Running
from the Science of Sport

"Barefoot running cures all ills!" Uh huh.
Does barefoot running cure injuries? Will losing shoes help you lose your injuries? Hmmmm, let's talk about this....

There is a very good reason you will not find me running barefoot (there is a post in this statement), at least for more than a few miles, anytime soon. Why? Read the above. Most typical, non-athletic runners will not have the athletic ability, or forefoot strike of the athletic runner. It is a learned skill, like a jump shot or corner kick (Go Gunners!).  And like some skills, some people have it, most people don't. Some people can't even learn it.

There is something most people know, called "too good to be true", that I equate the barefoot running fad with. Take the time to learn it right. If you are a long time runner, guess what, get ready to learn it all over again. If you are starting, you might have a chance. But ease into it. Years of walking in sloped shoes will take time to unlearn. And not everyone will get it. Sorry. You might not be able to do it. Luckily there are tons of shoes that help your problem (including this)

Me? I have been walking in the Merrell Road Glove to get used to the feel. And only one run. I'm guessing it will take me one or two YEARS to get used to forefoot running. I can already feel the adjustment. My calves feel a little more worked but not overdone. And not strong enough to carry an entire workout. Not yet.

Thinking about going barefoot, or running in the worst named product in history ("barefoot" shoes, come on!)?  There is no such thing as a panacea, nothing works for everyone, and the longer you have been doing something the longer it takes to undo it. Don't be stupid.

You'll never convince me that our legs and feet were meant to run on concrete barefoot. When my wife dropped a stringer of Christmas lights on the driveway the other day, this hammered the point home. But the studies in the article this post links to raise an interesting point. When the right thing is done right, it works! Imagine that.


  1. Roosh! You wrote this just to taunt me, right? Just kidding. My thoughts are this (and they have evolved over the last year): barefoot running didn't heal my shin splints. Good form and not landing like an elephant healed my shin splints. I learned good form via barefoot running. I also hurt myself a few times. But, I did a metric ton of reading and took it slow. When I did have some pain, I stopped running until the pain was gone. Then I started again, re-evaluating my form and how fast I was progressing.

    I've been at this for nearly a year now, and I'm by no means "there". There have been problems, though normally short lived. Because of the excruciating shin splints I started from barely being a runner, so I had lots of room to improve and the drive to do so. The people getting injured are simply doing to much too soon. If someone likes their Asics and they are having success, they should stick with it unless they are looking for a new challenge. If the cushioned soles of a Kayano aren't doing anything for a runner, try something different! The trouble is that people get too impatient and must have results now. They trust that their shoes will do that for them, forgetting that shoes are inanimate objects and have no concern with the wearer's success. What child has never boasted an immediate increase in speed after donning their new school shoes? That thought is ingrained in our brain, and stays with us.

    1. I thought of you when I ran across this study! The basic premise of my non-scientific opening is just what you say - people get impatient and want "it" to work now.

      Please read the study - it 100% confirms that barefoot running can actually be easier on the body, when done right. But when done wrong it is very dangerous.

      I can attest that, after 18 years of running in conventional running shoes, my feet do not have the strength for running barefoot. My first run in my Road Glove shoes gave me sore feet and calves for days. A new runner (or someone coming back into the ranks) has a leg up. If they are already starting to learn at step 1 anyway, might as well learn the right way.

      I am 100% in favor of "natural" running. But it takes time, and not everyone is going to have success. Not everyone can be a runner, whether it be physically, mentally, or otherwise.

      Thanks for the comment - your experience is great and others who have barefoot ambitions have a lot to learn from your experience.


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