Don't wear running shoes?

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Don't wear running shoes?

Postby cooran » Sat Oct 16, 2010 10:57 pm

Hello all,

Looks like we can save all that money on special shoes:

Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes

"Running barefoot or in minimal shoes is fun but uses different muscles," said Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman. "If you've been a heel-striker all your life, you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles." (Credit: Image courtesy of Harvard University)

ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2010) — New research is casting doubt on the old adage, "All you need to run is a pair of shoes."
Scientists have found that those who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid "heel-striking," and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, these runners use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience.

"People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," says Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature. "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes."

Working with populations of runners in the United States and Kenya, Lieberman and his colleagues at Harvard, the University of Glasgow, and Moi University looked at the running gaits of three groups: those who had always run barefoot, those who had always worn shoes, and those who had converted to barefoot running from shod running. The researchers found a striking pattern.

Most shod runners -- more than 75 percent of Americans -- heel-strike, experiencing a very large and sudden collision force about 1,000 times per mile run. People who run barefoot, however, tend to land with a springy step towards the middle or front of the foot.

"Heel-striking is painful when barefoot or in minimal shoes because it causes a large collisional force each time a foot lands on the ground," says co-author Madhusudhan Venkadesan, a postdoctoral researcher in applied mathematics and human evolutionary biology at Harvard. "Barefoot runners point their toes more at landing, avoiding this collision by decreasing the effective mass of the foot that comes to a sudden stop when you land, and by having a more compliant, or springy, leg."

The differences between shod and unshod running have evolutionary underpinnings. For example, says Lieberman, our early Australopith ancestors had less developed arches in their feet. Homo sapiens, by contrast, has evolved a strong, large arch that we use as a spring when running.
"Our feet were made in part for running," Lieberman says. But as he and his co-authors write in Nature: "Humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s. For most of human evolutionary history, runners were either barefoot or wore minimal footwear such as sandals or moccasins with smaller heels and little cushioning."

For modern humans who have grown up wearing shoes, barefoot or minimal shoe running is something to be eased into, warns Lieberman. Modern running shoes are designed to make heel-striking easy and comfortable. The padded heel cushions the force of the impact, making heel-striking less punishing.
"Running barefoot or in minimal shoes is fun but uses different muscles," says Lieberman. "If you've been a heel-striker all your life you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles."

In the future, he hopes, the kind of work done in this paper can not only investigate barefoot running, but can provide insight into how to better prevent the repetitive stress injuries that afflict a high percentage of runners today.

"Our hope is that an evolutionary medicine approach to running and sports injury can help people run better for longer and feel better while they do it," says Lieberman, who has created a web site, http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu, to educate runners about the respective merits of shod and barefoot running.
The Nature paper arose out of the senior honors theses of two Harvard undergraduates, William A. Werbel '08 and Adam E. Daoud '09, both of whom went to Africa with Lieberman to help collect data for this study.

Lieberman's co-authors on the Nature paper are Venkadesan and Daoud at Harvard; Werbel, now at the University of Michigan; Susan D'Andrea of the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Providence, R.I.; Irene S. Davis of the University of Delaware; and Robert Ojiambo Mang'Eni and Yannis Pitsiladis of Moi University in Kenya and the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

The research was funded by the American School of Prehistoric Research, the Goelet Fund, Harvard University, and Vibram USA.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:27 am

Hi, Cooran,
This came up in a thread on DW a while ago - I'm guessing six months or so back.
It all makes good sense to me, but you might like to search for the older thread to find other comments.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Sun Oct 17, 2010 12:43 am

I remember Zola Budd breaking the 5000 meters world record in 1984 running bare foot.Unfortunately the record was not officially recognized because she was South African and the whole apartheid thing was going on.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby lojong1 » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:20 am

Muscle aches and scraped skin really can be a nuisance for at least a few weeks. As the callouses thicken, some feet get deep deep splits that take forever to heal. Proper care and awareness prevents that from happening.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:23 am

Nanadhaja wrote:I remember Zola Budd breaking the 5000 meters world record in 1984 running bare foot.Unfortunately the record was not officially recognized because she was South African and the whole apartheid thing was going on.


Not only that Bhante, but from memory, she was competing as a mercenary in the UK team. I remember the schelacking she got in the media.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Phra Chuntawongso » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:27 am

Ben wrote:
Nanadhaja wrote:I remember Zola Budd breaking the 5000 meters world record in 1984 running bare foot.Unfortunately the record was not officially recognized because she was South African and the whole apartheid thing was going on.


Not only that Bhante, but from memory, she was competing as a mercenary in the UK team. I remember the schelacking she got in the media.

From memory that was after she broke the world record then represented Britain in the olympics and allegedly tripped the favourite up.Big stink.
Did Kathy Freeman run bare foot or was she just incredibly fast?
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Ben » Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:35 am

Nanadhaja wrote:
Ben wrote:
Nanadhaja wrote:I remember Zola Budd breaking the 5000 meters world record in 1984 running bare foot.Unfortunately the record was not officially recognized because she was South African and the whole apartheid thing was going on.


Not only that Bhante, but from memory, she was competing as a mercenary in the UK team. I remember the schelacking she got in the media.

From memory that was after she broke the world record then represented Britain in the olympics and allegedly tripped the favourite up.Big stink.
Did Kathy Freeman run bare foot or was she just incredibly fast?


Yes of course, the tripping incident! She became the girl everyone loved to hate! In a weird sort of way, for some people at least, she was emblematic of South Africa.
Kathy was just a very fast girl. She may have run barefoot earlier on in her career but I don't recall her going barefoot in the Commonwealth or Olympic Games.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby alan » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:12 am

Although it may be true that some rare individuals can get away without proper running shoes, it is a very poor decision for most of us.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby lojong1 » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:26 am

alan wrote:Although it may be true that some rare individuals can get away without proper running shoes, it is a very poor decision for most of us.

How do you figure it's a poor decision for most of us? How will I know if I'm a rare one?
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby alan » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:41 am

If your feet are perfect and have high arches, if your knees are perfectly aligned, and if the muscles in your lower skeletal structure are perfectly balanced, and you are totally flexible, then run without shoes. In a totally flat environment. Don't blame me when you are injured.

The answer, of course, is I don't know you. Maybe you are the one in a million type who can run without shoes.
Can't recommend it, though.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Sobeh » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:44 am

With proper technique and a moderate, reasonable conditioning period, most people can run barefoot. It's still inherent in our body mechanics, and only requires acclimation.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby alan » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:48 am

Bt what is the point?
The purpose of running is to stay healthy, right?
I don't see any benefit to shoeless running. I see many drawbacks.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:51 am

Sobeh wrote:With proper technique and a moderate, reasonable conditioning period, most people can run barefoot. It's still inherent in our body mechanics, and only requires acclimation.

Not just in our body mechanics, either - in our evolutionary history.
People have been running without shoes for as long as there have been people.
*Some* people have been running *with* solid-soled shoes (i.e. not just moccasins and similar) for the last, say, 0.1% of that time.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby alan » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:53 am

Sprinting is far better than running, if your desire is good health. If you are healthy enough to run, you can sprint. Much better you do that with good shoes. Why not?
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby alan » Tue Oct 19, 2010 4:06 am

Don't disagree, Kim.
But it is also true that people have run and then had problems with their knees, their shins, their hips. Most people in the bad old days lived to be 35 or so. The fact that we evolved without shoes does not convince me that shoes are not an advancement, and that with them, we can extend our useful running lives.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Annapurna » Tue Oct 19, 2010 6:28 am

alan wrote:If your feet are perfect and have high arches, if your knees are perfectly aligned, and if the muscles in your lower skeletal structure are perfectly balanced, and you are totally flexible, then run without shoes. In a totally flat environment. Don't blame me when you are injured.

The answer, of course, is I don't know you. Maybe you are the one in a million type who can run without shoes.
Can't recommend it, though.


I'm the one in a million then.

I always walk barefoot, run barefoot, since my childhood. Or in minimal sandals.

Of course only in the summer.

Flip flops mostly.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Annapurna » Tue Oct 19, 2010 6:30 am

PS: I don't jog. I'm just a lot on my legs most of the day anyway, so why would I do more.

In my free time it's feet up.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby lojong1 » Tue Oct 19, 2010 6:35 am

alan wrote:It is a very poor decision for most of us.

Again, why?
alan wrote:If your feet are perfect and have high arches, if your knees are perfectly aligned, and if the muscles in your lower skeletal structure are perfectly balanced, and you are totally flexible, then run without shoes.

My skeleton and muscles are not perfect, I'm normal that way. I want to know why it is a poor decision for 99% of runners to run barefoot if they are structurally imperfect.
alan wrote:I don't see any benefit to shoeless running. I see many drawbacks.

You said that already, now what are the drawbacks, not just for you, but for virtually everyone else?
alan wrote:Much better [to sprint] with good shoes.

Again, why?
Why is barefoot worse? Where's the proof, the studies, the logic, the online anecdotes, the personal observations, anything other than 'because I said so'? I'm not asking you to take off your shoes; I'm not trying to convince you that barefoot is better. I'm just asking for an explanation of the statement: "It is a very poor decision for most of us."
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Oct 19, 2010 3:13 pm

There are other considerations in addition to what to wear or not wear on your feet. Anyone interested in jogging might be advised to talk to their local orthopaedic consultant.
I was travelling to a meeting with a colleague who is one such when we passed a group of joggers in their twenties. " See you in about about 15 years " said my colleague to himself ...when I looked quizzical he said that all orthopaeds are seeing increasing numbers of people in their forties who have been jogging on a regular basis for a decade or more and who " have tremendous cardiac and pulmonary health but wrecked knees , hips, and ankles, and advanced osteoarthritis ". "They have", he added "the joints of sixty year olds ".
I pass this on without comment.
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Re: Don't wear running shoes?

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:19 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:all orthopaeds are seeing increasing numbers of people in their forties who have been jogging on a regular basis for a decade or more and who " have tremendous cardiac and pulmonary health but wrecked knees , hips, and ankles, and advanced osteoarthritis ". "They have", he added "the joints of sixty year olds ".

Of course... without shoes on I think you're more sensitive to how (and where) you land, and therefore you'll run much more gingerly, and with a better technique. With the pillows on you're just pounding on the ground, running with over-extended strides, oblivious to the effects that these have on your body. By the way, for most people, their arches will strength more if they regularly walk barefoot. Of course the exceptions are flat-footed and high arched... those are medical conditions.

I heard that flip-flops aren't good for feet... sandals (or barefooted) are better.
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