Friday, February 05, 2010

Barefoot Running Has Been Getting Attention

When did running form become such a hot topic?

Over the past few months arcane debates within the running community about forefoot vs. heel strike, Pose, barefoot running, minimal shoes have seeped into the mainstream media:

On John Stewart's Daily Show there was an interview with Christopher McDougall author of 'Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen' As well as describing the incredible feats of endurance of the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico, it describes the effect on him of following their ways and abandoning his hitech trainers. Before he could manage only limited mileage before injury, whereas now he is injury free.

The book seems to have caught on and there have been a number of articles about it including this nice piece on the New York Times website The Roving Runner Goes Barefoot, which includes a video of the journalist going for a barefoot run with Christopher McDougall.

Of course, for all of us, and especially the press, products are a major focus of attention, so there have been many lifestyle/living features on
Vibram Fivefinger shoes
and the fact that these shoes have been more successful than the manufacturer believed possible (they were originally designed for boating) shows a movement is developing.

Even so I was surprised when barefoot running was a topic on drivetime radio. But I don't know whether this means it is going mainstream or whether it is seen as one of those quirky stories put in to amuse (probably the latter). The trigger was research published in Nature on the different forces experienced when running barefoot as opposed to shod. They interviewed the lead author Daniel Lieberman and mostly it was fairly jokey dwelling on things like the practical problems of running barefoot, such as dog poo. However when the interviewer tried to summarise the research as showing that barefoot running lead to fewer injuries, Lieberman was very clear in stating that it showed no such thing as it merely showed the different forces at play. He did not want to stretch the evidence too far but as the press tend to rewrite press agency material and as
led the story with "Runners who eschew shoes may be less likely to do serious injury to their feet", that might be a difficult line to hold.

However what he said was interesting as this video shows:

However it is very easy to get carried away with such ideas.

As a corrective I would like to offer this excellent article on running form: an interview with Jay Dicharry, which plays down the importance of where the foot lands.