Thursday, June 30, 2011

Barefoot Running and Broken Feet

You should already know my stance on barefoot running, so I won't rehash too much. You can check my thoughts here and here and here and here and here and here...

Anyhoo, there was a good article in the Oregonian yesterday about barefoot running and the chance of injury. You can see in the comments under the article that barefooters were not happy with the tone of the article. Frankly, and predictably, I liked the tone of the article. Running magazines over the past two or three years have been littered with pro-barefoot and minimalist running articles - it's nice to see a writer take the other side.

Lord knows, the shoe companies are jumping on the minimalist bandwagon hard. We need a little skepticism here and there.

That's what I think anyway. What do you think?

Photo by Faith Cathcart at the Oregonian.


  1. I think you are wrong, that's what I think.
    I ran the Race for the Cure in Portland this morning. It was my first competitive race since high school. I'm 40 and have been running BF for a year now. I pr'd by a minute crossing the finish line in 17:36.
    To me it's not shod versus BF though, it's heel-strike versus fore/midfoot strike. That's the problem with the whole shod thing, is that your shoes are encouraging you to hit heel first.

  2. Nice race, Josh!

    But I think you're making my case for me. I've always said that barefoot running/minimalist running is great for the top 10% of the running world. Unfortunately, I think it's a bad idea for the 80-90% of normal/average runners out there.

    Now, if you ran a 17:36, at age 40, after not running in races for the last 20 years, guess what? You're not an average runner! You're well above average. Trust me, there's not more than 10% of runners over 40 that are running 17:30 5k's.

    That said, I'm glad it's working for you. I hope you continue to run fast and injury-free.

  3. Thanks Scott for the encouragement.

    I get people coming up to me all the time at races and even on trails to share their stories of how they used to have terrible knees or other aches and pains until they went minimalist. The most telling example for me though has been my 15 year old daughter who is in her second year of cross-country at Lincoln High. As soon as she started running barefoot with me, her posture straightened up, her landing went from pounding to feather light and she got a lot faster. Unfortunately her team trains mostly on city streets (go figure when gorgeous Forest Park is right there) and to stop from standing out she has kept her Nikes which make her instantly regress.

    So in a nutshell, I have to disagree about running BF (or minimalist) only being good for the top percentile of runners. Sharp pokey things make you intuitively land with as much surface area as possible, not to mention with bent knees. I think it can no longer be argued that to run smoother with less impact, running without shoes is the way to go. Of course it's a commitment to take the time to build up the skin to be able to handle it. I think it's this commitment that turns people away from running barefoot. And that's too bad because beyond being easier on your body it also makes running a much richer, more tactile and fun experience.