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Truth on Fitness: Insights on Barefoot Running

  
  
  
  

Truth on Fitness Barefoot

Barefoot running is an increasingly popular trend, fueled by a popular research article and a bestselling novel.  This is leading many people to claim that running shoes are the cause of all injuries that plague runners these days.  As a result of this trend, many people are choosing to run without shoes or in near-barefoot shoes (such as the Vibram FiveFingers).  Are traditional running shoes to blame for all injuries?

Most claims related to the benefits of barefoot running are based on anecodatal evidence (‘It worked for me, so it must work for everyone!’).  The truth is that there have been no scientific studies that show that traditional running shoes directly cause injuries or that barefoot running reduces injuries.  Many claim that adapting a different running style, similar to that of barefoot runners, is the better or more ‘natural’ way to run.  There is also little evidence that links these different running styles to reduced injury rates.

There are countless factors that can play a role in the development of injuries in runners including: training program and history, cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal strength, and nutrition.  The human body, specifically the muscles and the bones, adapts to demands that we impose on it.  For this reason, introducing a new set of drastically different mechanical demands to an unprepared body could potentially be very harmful.  Everyone’s physiology is different, and it is foolish to claim that one particular running style is the ‘best’ for everyone.  Starting any new training program or running style should be done carefully, with a slow buildup of mileage and intensity to help the body adapt to the increased demands of running.

Please click here to read the full article.  

Cory L. Hofmann, M.S.

Research Project Manager, Cybex Research Institute

Cybex is a provider and manufacturer of premium commercial fitness equipment.  Content featured in the Cybex Fitness Blog is meant to inspire healthy living and wellness and should not be taken as medical advice. For medical advice please consult a doctor. 

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Comments

Agreed... but don't leave out that there are also no studies that show running shoes prevent injuries, nor any that show barefoot running causes them.  
 
In other words, the scientific jury is still out. 
 
Plus there's a lot of confusion about barefoot running, where some people think the "magic" is in being barefoot... but barefoot runners argue that the bigger effect is the form changes that being barefoot can engender. 
 
BTW, there's aa hysterical video on youtube about barefooters -- Sh*t Barefoot Runners Say
Posted @ Saturday, February 04, 2012 3:54 PM by Lou Reiner
Great point Lou, I address the issue of form in more detail in the complete article, which should be posted soon. 
 
Posted @ Tuesday, February 07, 2012 1:22 PM by Cory Hofmann
I first tried barefoot running on sand when I was in Hawaii. One of my best workouts ever! Since then I train barefoot on sand as much as possible. The constant shifting under my feet has improved my balance, coordination, you name it.
Posted @ Monday, February 13, 2012 10:11 AM by Will
Thought you might be interested
Posted @ Tuesday, March 13, 2012 11:17 AM by
BOTH SHOES ARE CORRECT DEPENDING ON BIOMECHANICS OF THE PERSON WHO USES THEM, ALSO I THINK RUNNING SHOES ARE FOR THE STREETS AND FINGER SHOES APPLY ON SOFTER TERRAINS LIKE GRASS, SAND, DIRT ETC.. YOU WILL HAVE TO TRY!
Posted @ Tuesday, May 08, 2012 4:23 PM by SAMUEL CAPUANO
It's good to read all sides. This article says there's no proof it,  running barefoot or wearing minimal foot ware works for everyone and that no studies prove that running shoes cause all injuries.  Of course not, "all" and "everyone", but that doesn't discount a Harvard study that has shown that running barefoot might have natural benefits within it's natural forefoot strike. All and everyone are indeed difficult to prove.  
Posted @ Tuesday, May 08, 2012 7:32 PM by Jil
When a body jogs and the impact forces are transmitted up the musculoskeletal chain where is the weakest link in the chain. There are many good inner and outer sole materials that have wonderful damping effects. Unfortunately running shoe manufacturers are not willing to produce a shoe that could be effective in attenuating or absorbing impact forces so...maybe until they make a decent shoe, barefoot?
Posted @ Tuesday, May 08, 2012 9:39 PM by harry barney
Jill – I indeed cited the Harvard article to which you are referring, by Dan Lieberman and colleagues. All that study showed was that people who have never worn shoes tend to run differently (forefoot strike) than people who have always run in shoes (heel strike). It is all speculation at this point whether or not this different style of running provides the benefits of which you speak. 
The danger with this trend is that people will attempt to run barefoot or in minimal-type footware and could seriously injure themselves if they don’t make adaptations to their running form. Everyone’s body adapts to the stresses it experiences, so long-time runners must exercise extreme caution when radically changing their running style. 
This article is not intended to claim that barefoot running (or forefoot striking) is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If someone is constantly injured and is willing to make a change, then this is certainly an option. But they must remember that different shoes and different running styles impose different stresses on the body, and that any change must be made in a gradual way. It is my hope that this article can provide information for those interested in learning more about the science behind this trend. Armed with this information, it can be valuable for everyone to make an informed decision. 
Thanks to everyone for reading, and for the interesting discussion. 
Posted @ Wednesday, May 09, 2012 8:56 AM by Cory Hofmann
Running fast barefoot or in minimal shoes does make the run easier. For me, a faster pace is easier to maintain for a long distance because your legs don’t work as hard. It’s difficult to explain the feeling, but you’ll know it when it happens. Your faster run will feel effortless.When you run, your toes should always be pointing straight ahead. If your toes point outward, you’re forcing the knee to bend sideways.The trick for pointing toes forward is to rotate your hips not your knee or ankle. Practice walking with your toes forward. Then move up to running. 
Posted @ Thursday, September 12, 2013 5:17 AM by Jeet Chowhan
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