To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes

By | July 13, 2009

vibram_3Before the Nikes, before the breathable, antimicrobial running shorts, before the personal fitness coaches, heart rate monitors, wrist-mounted GPS and subscriptions to Runner’s World, you were a runner.

And, like all children, you ran barefoot.

Now, a small but growing body of research suggests that barefoot is the way adults should run, too. So, many runners have been shucking off the high-tech trainers in favor of naked feet — or minimalist footwear like Nike Free, the Newton All-Weather Trainer and the glove-like Vibram FiveFingers.

“People have been running barefoot for millions of years and it has only been since 1972 that people have been wearing shoes with thick, synthetic heels,” said Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

Strong evidence shows that thickly cushioned running shoes have done nothing to prevent injury in the 30-odd years since Nike founder Bill Bowerman invented them, researchers say. Some smaller, earlier studies suggest that running in shoes may increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Runners who wear cheap running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers. Meanwhile, injuries plague 20 to 80 percent of regular runners every year.

But the jury’s still out on whether going barefoot is actually an improvement.

“The running shoe right now is doing nothing for preventing injuries,” said Reed Ferber, director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Kinesiology. But, he adds, going barefoot has downsides too, and the research so far is still inconclusive. “It’s a total tradeoff.”

via To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes | Wired Science | Wired.com.

Barefoot? I think not… too much sharp junk out there on the trails… but I’d like top try some of those Five Fingers.

One thought on “To Run Better, Start by Ditching Your Nikes

  1. Al

    The FiveFingers do work a treat, I’ve used them for trail running for almost a year now. It does take time for your feet to re-acclimatise to a more natural feel – they still feel sore on rocks at first, but after a while you realise that you can run comfortably on stuff that used to make you hop. Now I hop fully barefoot on stuff that I used to look at and go “no way”.

    Its a big difficult to argue against the statement that “going barefoot has downsides”, because I’ve shredded the soles of my feet with the best of them. The point is, you run in a different way barefoot. Not only do your feet get harder with practice, but you watch where you place your feet in a different way. It’s not hard, it just becomes the way that you run. You don’t have to be careful in trainers because you can’t feel the ground – so the difficult choice really becomes do you want to a. run paying attention, or b. just stick your feet into the ground whatever and assume that Nike and Co have paid their technical people enough?

    Bowerman originally designed his trainers to give his athletes a competitive advantage in foot recoil, not to protect their feet. The industry marketing took that concept on the the massive hype we see today. Ultimately running is just about getting out there and doing what Lieberman believes we evolved for.

    Happy running.

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