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  • Going Barefoot (2 of 3)

    Part 2: A Growing Body of Evidence

    I couldn’t find any reason for people who are at a healthy body weight not to run or perform some exercises barefoot. In fact, it appears that there is little real evidence to support correction or injury prevention via the traditional running shoe practice of fitting people in cushion, stability and motion control shoes.

    Running injuries and frequency have not changed much in the last 30 years despite the development of the running-shoe industry. Biomechanists who have consulted with the largest sports shoes companies are coming forward, and no one has stepped up to challenge their revelations. An article in Runner’s World, for example, cites Dr. Benno Nigg, a leading sports-shoe researcher at the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary, who concludes that:

    - Shoes and surfaces are in most cases (with a few exceptions) a minor factor for the development of short or long-term injuries. There is no conclusive experimental or theoretical evidence that fore- or rear-foot landing are predictors of injuries.
    - Impact forces build bone, and there is no “conclusive evidence” that they cause injuries.
    - There is no evidence that overpronation causes injuries.
    - There is “weak evidence” that orthotics can reduce running injuries.

    In a second Runner’s World article, Dr. Ning states, “I pushed the cushioning trend as much as anyone…And I take the blame for pronation devices as well.”

    Meanwhile, Dr. Irene Davis, Harvard Medical School, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, states, “You have to be willing to change your position.” She recommended orthotic supports and motion-control shoes to runners in her prior position as a physical therapist at the University of Delaware. Dr. Davis now helps patients transition to barefoot running. She’s a covert herself, running 20 miles a week without shoes.

    In her research, Dr. Davis found that barefoot running actually results in a decrease in the impact force of your foot’s initial contact with the ground. That’s because running in minimalist shoes or barefoot causes most people to land on the forefoot, mid-foot or whole foot instead of the heel (which is what tends to happen when running in a traditional running shoe).

    Part 1 of this series looked at one athlete’s discovery of the joys of barefoot running. Part 3 looks at some big benefits to you, your training, and your performance.



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