The Barefoot Running Movement.

Recently, I’ve become engrossed in the debate in running communities whether or not barefoot running trends are helpful or detrimental for runner’s overall health and performance.  From the increased focus on muscle development, gait analysis and even to the idea of convenience and comfort, it’s certainly interesting to research.

The progression seems to be, as follows:

  • (Actual) Barefoot running
  • Running in unrestricted, yet ‘protected’ footwear, such as the Vibram Five Fingers
  • Transitional shoes, such as the Nike Free Run (or the more pricey Newton running shoes)
  • “Regular” style cushioned running shoes

Now, since I still consider myself a novice runner, I cannot claim to understand all the mechanics behind the various arguments, but in simplistic terms, I have gathered that regular shoes can cause feet to strike the ground in an ‘unnatural’ way.  In direct opposition to walking in heels, we shouldn’t run with the heel hitting first, as that can and does cause injury to the legs, feet and beyond.  With more ‘barefoot’ type methods, we can develop more strength in the entire foot by adjusting our gait, pure and simple.

(Nike)/(Newton)/(Vibram)

I am intrigued by the prospect, from a long-term fitness stance, but to be perfectly honest, one of the most appealing aspect of the movement is the fact that socks are optional; at least for the Nikes and the Vibrams.  I have so many pairs of unmatched or ill-fitting socks, that it seriously can damper my mood when I am out on a run, having to adjust rolling down socks or bunching in the shoe.  I like that with the Vibrams, you can stick most models right in the washer – but with my clumsiness, the Nikes may be better for less stubbed-toe incidents.

I plan on visiting a store this weekend to try on the Nikes, but I am not ruling out any other options at this point.  What are your thoughts on the subject/do you wear specific shoes for workouts?

Sources:

  1. Metafilter
  2. “Barefoot Running is Bad”
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5 thoughts on “The Barefoot Running Movement.

  1. One of my friends purchased the Vibram shoes, and absolutely loves them. The shoes even traveled with her to China, where she climbed the Great Wall in them. She said it took some time getting used to the fact that they aren’t your typical shoe, but after that it was totally worth it!

    • good to hear about them being good traveling shoes! i never even thought of it for that, but it makes so much sense.

  2. oh i could go on for hours about this! personally, i think natural is the way to go! years of studio dance classes taught me that shoes are very likely to hinder natural foot strength and ability and can also cause injuries that otherwise could have been avoided. i have multiple friends who own and wear vibrams on a regular basis for running (and daily life). they enjoy them (and one even embraces your point about them not requiring socks, which is part of why he wears them nearly every day!). my husband has a pair of bikilas and says they’re WAY closer to the track shoes he used to wear during high school track season (and subsequent competitions) than what’s readily called “running” shoes today. i, unfortunately, was unable to purchase a pair yet because everywhere i look is SOLD OUT of my size!!! i’ve currently got my name on a backorder list at REI (though i HAVE tried on an older model year version of the nike frees called “nike eclipse” and they were quite dreamy and comfy as well).

    a few notes if you get a pair: DO NOT use them hard core immediately. most people’s feet are not strong enough to do that. use them slowly, and work into higher times and higher activity levels (basically approach wearing them as you approached the c25k: gradually!). if you’re going to use them for running esclusively, i recommend getting the new models called bikilas. they’re designed specifically for running. the other models may also be used for running, but they were originally designed as general activity shoes or water shoes. feel free to use other models (sprints, kso, etc) as such. also, for people who complain that they have no arch support (on websites with customer reviews of the product, not here): that’s the point. your foot, in its natural running state, will grow strong enough to be its OWN arch support! people with flat feet will see their arches rise and strengthen! it’s AMAZING!!!

  3. As with most new things, I’m a bit skeptical, but I can’t wait to hear how they work out for you. I really badly run on the outside of my foot, so these might actually be a good option for me.

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