Saturday, November 5, 2011

Christopher McDougall and Barefoot Running

So Christopher McDougall, the Born to Run guy, has a new article in the New York Times about barefoot running.

Titled, with great restraint and understatement, The Once and Future Way to Run, McDougall rambles off five pages of anecdotes and questionable facts about why barefoot running is the only way to run. Ever. Period.

Again, before you hit the "comment" button and yell at me, let me say this: I'm not against barefoot running! I am against people that say barefoot running is for everyone and is the end-all for running injuries.

I have to show a couple passages:

So how did one of our greatest strengths become such a liability? “The data suggests up to 79 percent of all runners are injured every year,” says Stephen Messier, the director of the J. B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University. “What’s more, those figures have been consistent since the 1970s.” Messier is currently 11 months into a study for the U.S. Army and estimates that 40 percent of his 200 subjects will be hurt within a year. “It’s become a serious public health crisis.”

Oh boy. First, 79 percent? Wow. I don't buy it, but OK. Second, why does it say a couple lines down that only 40% of his subjects will be hurt? I thought we just said it was around 80%? That's a pretty big difference. And finally, running injuries = public health crisis? Somebody is looking for more grant funding.

And this beauty:

Nigg now believes mistakes were made. “Initial results were often overinterpreted and were partly responsible for a few ‘blunders’ in sport-shoe construction,” he said in a speech to the International Society of Biomechanics in 2005. The belief in the need for cushioning and pronation control, he told me, was, in retrospect, “completely wrong thinking.” His stance was seconded in June 2010, when The British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that a study of 105 women enrolled in a 13-week half-marathon training program found that every single runner who was given motion-control shoes to control excess foot pronation was injured. “You don’t need any protection at all except for cold and, like, gravel,” Nigg now says.

I'd like to see this study's methodology. First, were all 105 given the motion-control shoes? And if not, how many? And were the motion-control shoes only given to women that had problems...such as previous injuries?

The comments section is actually more interesting than the article itself, and has better information, both for and against barefoot running.

Here's the APMA's position statement on barefoot running, in case you're curious.

Look, I don't care if you run barefoot or not (I don't have a book to sell), but if you're going to proselytize barefoot running like there's no other conceivable way, please do it away from me.

Flame on!

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