Barefoot running has gotten quite a bit of attention in the last year. Have you incorporated any of it into your training? Do you wear minimalist running shoes? Why or why not?
Yes. When I run indoors on Mondays I run barefoot, adding .5 miles each time. At the end of last season I switched to the Nike Free+ shoe which I love and solved some foot problems. I am now experimenting with Newton Distance and Saucony Kinvara2 as well. I decided to go this route after listening to EFRT teammate Laura Bergman at USAT Age Group Nationals. After our discussions, I read a few books. My main motivation was to prevent injury as I increased my running volume training for Ironman South Africa. I figured barefoot running would make my feet stronger. [Siphiwe Baleka, 40, Muncie, IN]
I mainly incorporate barefoot running when doing strides, and living in a university town I have great access to large, manicured, grassy fields. It makes me feel like a kid, I really enjoy letting loose out there. I’ve moved away from heavy shoes with built-up heels and run in Saucony Kinvaras and Mirages that have a minimal heel-to-forefoot drop. (I wonder if I’m the only runner in the world who can’t seem to get through the “Born to Run” book?) [Cortney Martin, 44, Blacksburg, VA]
I have two pairs of Vibrams but cannot wear them, due to pronation that unless prevented,cause knee and Achilles pain. I have tried all approaches with these, but no matter how slowly integrated, they result in leg pains. I also tried Newtons and had similar results. Reduced shoe heel size with stability and forefoot cushioning in a lightweight racer is what I have found works best. [Scott Endsley, 57, San Diego, CA]
I am not arguing with the evidence presented by numerous studies about the effects of barefoot running, but I will argue that we have been raised in a western society that puts shoes on our feet since we were able to stand, driven wherever we need to go, and were active only when playing a sport. We often see the evidence paired with East African runners since they dominate the sport. Western society is far from the primitive society that Eastern Africa is. A society where transportation is running and poverty prevents athletes from purchasing a pair of Nike’s. Their training age, in the sense of barefoot running, didn't start when they were 20, 30, and 40 years old. It started at birth, and they have adapted just as we have with our lifestyle of running shod. What is important is to know the place of barefoot running in your training. The purpose should be to aid in learn a natural running gait, a quicker cadence, and to build tendon strength over TIME to make you a more durable runner. However, it is not the sole teacher of good running form, but only a tool. If you are interested in barefoot running, it should be a drill session as opposed to a training session. It is best learned in sand or on soft grass where the ground absorbs most of the impact force instead of your legs. The shoes worn during training should meet the athlete's biomechanics first followed by the type of training that is going to be done in. [Bill Vann, 22, Ft. Lauderdale, FL]
I have been researching this topic for five years and recently submitted it for an assignment ( A+) for my masters program (and is the subject of another blog post). I am running for the first time in my life without pain once I got rid of the traditional high heeled bracing type of running shoe. There is work and time involved to transition to minimalist shoes and in this ‘need it now’ day and age that is the problem we (exercise scientists and health professionals) face. The research is there but not everyone (including docs) have read it. [Laura Bergmann, 29, Ranson, WV]
After reading Born to Run I have. I used to run in Brooks Beast, a very heavy, cushioned shoe. I have really flat feet and was told I needed the support. I bought myself a pair of Vibrams and strengthened my feet to the point where I can now run in Brooks Green Silence, which are basically racing flats, on a daily basis. I have improved my gait, I am running faster and I no longer get injured as frequently as I did when I was wearing the heavier shoes. In fact I haven't had an injury since switching over early 2010. [Nick Logan, 30, Norwalk, CT]
I haven’t done any barefoot running. I use to be very against it. Now I am trying to change my foot strike and I believe it may have some techniques that I need to master before I learn how to change my strike! [Liz Baugher, 23, College Station, TX]