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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More on unshod or not - barefoot running's run

In alignment with my attempt to seek brevity as a solution to blogging that becomes too infrequent, yesterday’s mammoth post hardly resonated! Anyway, I had had so many requests to state my case that I finally relented.
Today I want to briefly state that in preparation for yesterday’s piece, I did quite a bit of reading on the matter. Some of the pieces I referenced went into detailed, historical, well researched & anecdotal evidence for the use of shoes in some form or another. There are some really smart people out there! Of course what would be needed would be some convincing stats, from broad studies, that support the move to barefoot running en masse or not. I suspect that the level of sedentary backgrounds & social behaviors & circumstances of most individuals would indicate that the shift to barefoot running would need to be so gradual & expertly monitored as not to be possible both in terms of time & environmental requirements. I did not go into any detail on the actual mechanics involved as they pertain to wearing footwear versus going barefoot, but the prerequisites needed for the average runner to gain advantage from striving to run barefoot exclusively will in most cases be insurmountable & counter-indicated.
Add to this that there are a number of BFR (barefoot running) practitioners making a good bit of cash off their efforts to run BFR groups. This is not wrong, but to try to undermine bona fide research & efforts to make running less injurious & more pleasurable & effective for the masses smacks somewhat of hypocrisy.
Please also note that I am in no way financially supported by any shoe company or running store & am in the business to do whatever it takes morally & legally to provide a service to runners & triathletes to optimize their running experience.
Barefoot running most definitely has its place & that place is not as a full-time running alternative for all or most runners.


  1. Why is it that this is such a black and white subject. This is not an all or nothing topic. As a sporadic seeker of your assistance it wasn't until i shucked the shoes and started doing my WUs in vibrams or socks only that i began to understand and piece together everything that i've been told by you and many others. BFR is simply a tool or another drill to put into your run performance quiver. With my swimmers i instruct them to drill in WU .... then get on with it and go get fitter. Likewise with the barefoot thing... resolidify that nice good form with your WU... then put your flats on and get on with the work out.

    I cannot ever run in a shoe with a big heel ever again. :)

  2. "...yesterday’s mammoth post hardly resonated..." - it resonated with me in as much as it was well reasoned response to a growing "craze" by someone who clearly has far more experience and wisdom as it pertains to the sport of running than myself - so it was a little intimidating for me to add anything as a coolaid sipper. :)

    I'm 37 years old, my only organized group sports activity was high school football (offensive lineman) so I don't have the history/desire to ever try to win a race but I've always been able to at least "jog" 3 or 4 miles a couple times a week. 5 years ago the idea of training for a Marathon as a one time event turned into a 70 pound losing, lifestyle changer for myself (and 2 more marathons) and now I just enjoy distance runs and interacting with others and a chance to clear my head.

    Unfortunately, I did have nasty PF issues for almost all of 2009 and I stumbled on the audiobook for B2R two days after it was released while researching PF and after my 3rd Chicago Marathon, I’ve been retooling and using a mix of 85% Vibrams on a rubber track, 10% nike free's on a treadmill and 5% nike pegs with ice spikes (Chicago winter) when I get too stir crazy being indoors and now that I have my strength up (yes I had a calf strain with the Vibrams due to over enthusiasm), my PF pains have finally subsided and I can get out of bed in the morning without the searing pain in spite of putting on 30 to 40 miles a week.

    I agree with what I think was your intent and what Markyv re-iterates that this is another tool that will work for some and not others. Even if I disagreed with you 100% (which is not the case) - your post and mindset is reasonable, healthy and far less offensive than what I've seen on some of the barefoot sites/blogs (that barefoot kenbob is out on a fringe so extreme he’ll start yelling at those who are trying to get advice from him if they claim wearing Vibrams or similar as "barefoot" - if it isn't your raw skin hitting the pavement, he'll let you hear about it :)

    Aside from both extremes, I think most runners are great about sharing and listening to suggestions and politely figuring out what works for them so as a child of staunch Republicans who voted for Obama and as an IT guy who supports Windows but secretly enjoys his Mac at home, I hope the discourse remains passionate but polite.

    I really have no idea what I'll wear for my first half marathon of the season in March. I won't be barefoot but my Vibrams or Frees are a definite possibility.

    Heading out on my lunch break to pick up today's issue of Nature Magazine - picture of bare feet on the cover with results of another study for us cool aid drinkers to get excited about :)

  3. Great article Bobby. I think as a tool to give direct kinesthetic feedback. BFR could be a good thing. I might try it on th team next week.

  4. Great article. I wish people would calm down about this issue.

    I've been running with VFF for 6 weeks or so. Based on my own experience, I'm not sure they are for everyone, but, like other commenters, I have found BFR to be an interesting tool. I'm up to 45 minute runs in them with no injuries or soreness, but I doubt I will ever go more than an hour in them. However, I will probably go to a lighter shoe than I am in now.

    What the VFF have done is forced me to focus on form, and in doing that, I am much more conscious of what Bobby advised in a gait analysis session several years ago. I've worked on form a lot since then, but there's nothing like running without real shoes to bring those points home.

    For runners who don't think about form at all, I can see how they would lead to real problems. I can also see that if your feet can't distribute the shock of the landing, that could also lead to real problems.