Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Minimalist shoes and fixie mountain bikes

This afternoon, Beat and I went for an eight-mile run in the heat of the day. I didn't feel any strain in my feet — an encouraging development. For two days after the 50K, I had mild soreness on the sides of both feet that felt like muscle strain — very much like one's biceps might feel after too many reps with heavy weights. Even after the long day Saturday, my legs still felt great, so I did two days of bike recovery — 20-mile, 2,900-feet-of-gain mountain bike ride on Sunday, and a 25-mile, 2,600-feet-of-gain road ride on Monday. By Tuesday, I'm back to running. It feels good.

Since I started wearing my Hoka One One shoes in public more often, a lot of people have asked me how I like them. Since this is a bike blog, I feel like I should back up first and explain. In trail running right now, there appear to be two growing trends on opposite ends of the spectrum. The first are ultra-cushioned shoes like these Hokas that claim to absorb 80 percent of the shock associated with heel striking. The second and arguably more popular are minimalist shoes, or "barefoot" shoes like Vibram Five Fingers, which eliminate cushioning to prevent heel striking altogether. Both claim to minimize injuries and make running more fun.

Beat bought me the Hokas as a sort of "I'm sorry for wrecking your feet" gift following our awesome first date at the Bear 100. I traveled 50 miles with him and developed so much foot pain that I could scarcely hobble the last eight miles of the race. I attribute this pain to excessive impact, the kind that could arguably be reduced with heavily cushioned shoes. At the time I was wearing an admittedly worn-out pair of Montrail Mountain Masochist shoes. The pain, which was similar to a mild case of plantar faciitis, bothered me for nearly six weeks after the Bear. I accepted my injury because it is quite reckless to go from practically zero running to 50 miles overnight, but at the same time desired a way to get back into running quickly while keeping my soft feet functional. Beat, who had seen the Hokas work very well for more than half the field in the grueling 200-mile, 80,000-feet-of-climbing-crazy-steep Tor des Geants, told me I should try out the clown shoes.

The verdict: I like them a lot. I still run in my regular Vasque shoes in mixed and soft terrain, such as mud and snow, but I by far prefer the Hokas on hard dirt and rocky trails. I compare them to trail riding with a full-suspension mountain bike. The thick cushioning floats over small rocks and allows me to pound hard on terrain where I otherwise might tiptoe or hold myself back. While I am still a running klutz, the Hokas do help improve my downhill confidence by absorbing the shock and allowing me to increase my speed. They also seem to maximize foot and leg comfort over higher mileage runs compared to my regular shoes. I mean, a mere 36 hours of minimal foot strain after an eight-hour run, following two months of relatively little running, really isn't too shabby.

And then there's the other end of the spectrum — minimalist or barefoot running. As a newbie runner who has never even tried these types of shoes, I can't claim to know anything about it. But when I hear others counter my "awesome full suspension" views about Hokas with the case for barefoot running, I can't help but smile and think of the claims of the growing culture of mountain bikers who like to ride fixed-gear bikes off road. Both tout simplicity and the lack of extranious and arguably needless pieces of metal and plastic that just weigh you down. Both tout connectedness, a sort of "one with the trail" feeling that can only be achieved if there is a high risk of stubbing your toes or bashing your pedals into a large rock. Both claim to force a flowing, natural sort of movement — for runners, that means landing on your forefoot. For fixie mountain bikers, it means mashing pedals really really hard when you are climbing a hill and then spinning your legs into a soft whip upon descent. Both take a higher level of skill and both are more physically taxing than the "geared" version. Both embrace abstract and therefore unsubstantiable ideals such as liberty, freedom and mindfulness. And both, from my limited perspective, seem to sustain a whole lot of injuries — barefoot runners get stress fractures, and fixie riders crash a lot.

But, of course, both require a slow buildup and time and distance in order to master the discipline, which is great. But not all of us have that kind of time or patience. Some of us just want to spend as much time and as many miles as possible in the beautiful outdoors. We want to run and ride whatever terrain we want, when we want, instead of building up distance on smooth gravel roads in 1/10th-mile increments over many tedious years. To me, tools that allow us to move more easily and freely — tools such as full-suspension mountain bikes and Hoka shoes — just make a lot of sense.

I'm not saying those arguments that heel-striking leads to long-term injury have no merit; I'm only saying that there does seem to be inherent risk in trying to fix a "problem" that may not need fixing. As Beat likes to argue, the problem isn't running shoes — the problem is running on roads. Technical trail running by definition forces natural movement and all but eliminates repetitive motion and heel-striking issues, even over long distances. But it still feels rough on soft cyclists' feet, which is why I love my Hokas.

35 comments:

  1. barefoot/minimalist running is totally the fixed gear of running!
    Time and place for both, imho.

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  2. Minimalist running comes down to believing in evolution, no? Yes we've all grown up in shoes, and yes, vibrams in the like allow you to run much farther/harder than your bare skin will allow, which is why you see stress fractures in fit runners who over do it. Too much, too soon.

    But, if you actually run barefoot your skin builds up very slowly, and prevents you from injuring yourself in doing so.

    Bikes are machines, SS/fixed/geared/hardtail/full suspension, all machines. Your body is the result of thousands of generations.

    I really respect your accomplishments and love your books/attitude, but don't you think it's weird to advocate for ultra-soft shoes while you and Beat are both nursing running injuries?

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  3. Like the bike analogy.

    I have some New Balance MT101s (which are fairly minimal but still cushioned) but I use them as a training tool, to practice running lightly and yet still have plenty of rock protection.

    I like the trail feel under my feet with that shoe, and the fact that my footsteps are quiet.

    But I'm not sure why one shouldn't use whatever protection or technology is available. Even midfoot strikers have some impact when their foot/leg hits the ground.

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  4. Interesting point. I actually don't run in Hokas, though I would like to try. To me, they're a tool to make 200 miles with 80k climb more bearable. It has not really anything to do with training technique, and I don't envision them being my primary shoe, though you never know. I will also end up going SO slow, that biomechanics is mostly related to walking anyways. There isn't much forefoot or heel strike going on. There's really only slogging :)

    I am running in pretty protective shoes with orthotics. Otherwise they are not stability shoes or such, nor is there much padding. I found it makes relatively little difference - I do tend to have problems with rock bruises if I don't have a protective layer under my shoe though. I presume I could strengthen my feet, but I also think I'm not patient enough for that.

    As for my injury ... that was a pretty acute thing that happened in White Mountains. Running on snow is like running on sand - I am not quite properly trained for it, to be honest. But the actual injury happened on a very steep snow wall - a very slippery extremely high intensity affair. I was walking - not running. There was no style involved - just dragging myself up with my poles. The achilles that got hurt was otherwise fine - I seriously doubt it had anything to do with shoes :) And looks like I am back in business in 4 weeks, not too bad either ;)

    Last year I ran 6 100 mile races and one 200 mile race, 7 50k, 1 51k road race, 1 100k road race, 1 100k, 1 50m with a total of 283k ft of climbing. Two 100 milers were 1 week apart, and the 200 miler was followed next week by a 100 miler. Certainly a risky and crazy schedule - and I had some minor issues, though they were manageable. But don't you think this indicates that what I'm doing works for me? I don't know many people who can race this much. (I do know that Monica Scholz, who has run 23 or so 100s last year, also wears quite heavy-durty trail shoes, at least at HURT).

    My thinking is this: my success has everything to do with intensity. I run slowly. I never do speedwork. I am not actually a real runner. Running slowly heavily reduces impact, and the kind of issues you encounter shift significantly. Adding lots of walking (I usually do hilly races) helps. Everytime I have done speedwork in the past, I got acutely injured. If I don't - I don't. This happens to align with my goal to go long and enjoy the trails - it's clearly not a suitable approach for everyone. But I do think that the majority of running problems is due to people trying to go too fast too quickly, because there's a crazy focus on speed.

    Cheers,
    Beat

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  5. Ygduf, I'm not advocating against minimalist shoes. I was just pointing out what I view as amusing similarities to fixed gear mountain biking. I choose not to use them at this time because all of my running injuries this far have been directly related to impact and general clumsiness, both of which minimalist shoes do nothing to help or correct. (Arguably, minimalist shoes would reduce clumsiness simply because they would force me to run even slower at shorter distances, but this is not what I desire to do.) My knees and legs have held up very well to what just a year ago for me would have been extreme distances on foot. So all of the issues that minimalist shoes claim to help have so far been non-issues to me.

    Beat's injury was an Achilles strain caused by running on snow, an extremely irregular surface that he had little opportunity to train on. It had nothing to do with his footwear, and I doubt any winter runners would advocate minimalist shoes. ;-)

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  6. Jill great post! as usual. And Beat, spot on about the problem being running on roads. I ran cross country back in High School and loved running off road. Training on pavement. No thanks.

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  7. Really interesting comparison between cushionned shoes/full suspension bikes and minimalist shoes/fixed gear bikes. Makes a lot of sense to me and I think captures the heart of both mindsets!

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  8. I ordered a pair of Hokas as Resrie was raving about them on Sunday (yeah I got to see them on Sunday!) AND I now have a mountain bike. Where am I going with this? Oh yeah I guess I'm like single white female? :-)

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  9. Yeah! Danni got a mountain bike! I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on the Hokas. Also, I had to look up the reference to single white female. It made me grin.

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  10. Danni: sweet. All you need is a plane ticket to the Bay Area now!!!!!

    As with everything, be careful with the Hokas - don't overdo it. Ease into it, alternating with your usual shoes, and listen to your body, as always :) No sudden increase in distance or speed ... no matter how good it may feel! I still am quite on the fence about those shoes ... we'll see.

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  11. Those shoes with the toes are just ridiculous. The acid-washed jeans of outdoor gear.

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  12. Great post!
    As a Mountain Biker who runs Ultras your blog has Been very enjoyable with the Bike/run mix...I run in the Hoka Bondi B on the trails, they are a little lower to the ground and the uppers are a whole lot more comfortable...when I first got them I thought they were kinda a "gimmick" so I bought a pair of regular trail shoes, built my runs up slowly and ran in them for a month...My legs were tired my old IT band injury (That I never had since returning to running in Hokas) came back....One can't deny the obvious benefits of the Hoka.
    Here in Salt Lake there are a ton of runners in them, I am sure it has alot to do with Hoka Ambassodor Karl Meltzer living here...As Karl says I want to run the rest of my life and in "normal" shoes I had my doubts but in the Hoka I am very confident!!

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  13. Anonymous6:52 AM

    I would be curious to know if you have any actual data indicating that true barefoot runners have a lot of stress fractures. All of the ones that I hear about come from wearing minimalist shoes and doing too much too fast (TMTF). Every article I read written by researchers and journalist that invesitgate the issue seems to support this theory.

    Just curious, that's all.

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  14. Oh shoot, I have no idea. I just got my Pace Gloves but I am not an advocate of either as being "better." I just run in what I feel like..one day the cushioned, one day the Barefoot. I don't buy into the hype of either...But then again I've been running since I was 14 so have seen things come and go in that very, very long time period. :)

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  15. No one can say that you guys aren't successfully completing races and huge events, so you're doing something right.

    And I do think you're right that there's bandwagon money being made in "barefoot" running, which is too bad, because it's the minimalist shoes that really facilitate TMTS injuries.

    I used to not run because my knees and hips really bothered me. Now, I still don't run much (hurts cycling training time) but when I do I only go as far as my tender little feet can take me (asphalt and grass). The feel of running in bare feet is, to me, totally different than with my old shoes.

    So now I'm generally an advocate of barefoot running. The idea strikes me as sound reasoning, my n=1 empirical testing matches what I've read; I'm a fan of what helped me.

    I've already promised that the next surgery I need to screw my collarbone back together will be my last and I'll take up trail & ultra running. Then we'll see if it holds up for me.

    Until then I'll continue following with interest!

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  16. Ever since watching Tim Hewitt running to Nome (um 6 times) I'm intrigued with ultra running, recently bought Hoka's too... we'll see if it lessens injuries for those of us without good coaching or genetically gifted. This article I thought was informative and made sense too:

    http://www.irunfar.com/2011/03/the-religion-of-running-technique.html

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  17. Beat, I have to RD a race this weekend, then have to go to NC, then to a work retreat, then I have trial for a few weeks (again). In June I hope to visit after trial. Sooner if my trial goes away.

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  18. Auris9:29 AM

    Jill, Beat,

    I am relatively new to trail running so take my comments with a grain of salt. When I first started last fall I did a little bit of research into the different running styles. It seems that barefoot running is more of an issue about proper running form. From what I discovered the invention of shoes has changed the way we run. Basically, our stride has changed because of all of the padding shoes provide. Because of the incorrect running stride, people tend to get foot, leg and knee injuries. According to my research, Barefoot running actually helps correct peoples running stride while still providing protection to our delicate feet. While I dont have the barefoot style running shoes, I do employ the barefoot or minimal running techniques when I run and have not had any issues running beyond sore muscles from building leg strength. A good article about minimal or barefoot running benefits and differences can be found here: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20100127/barefoot-running-laced-with-health-benefits

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  19. Auris, I don't disagree that there's been some compelling research about barefoot techniques. The truly scientific studies are still lacking but I'm sure that will come along. As far as my flippant comment about stress fractures, I was only rehashing anecdotal knowledge. Same with the comment about fixe riders crashing. (And I have a lot respect for people who have mastered both.)

    The main issue here is that there are so many different kinds of "running," just as there are different kinds of cycling. The kind of running I am most interested in is ultra distance on technical trails. At my level of skill, for all practical purposes we can call it "speed hiking" or "fast packing," because there is a lot of walking involved and also self-support, which means carrying a fair amount of extra weight. My needs are quite a bit different than a person who aims to race a fast marathon on the road. You might agree that, over 100 miles, many of the benefits offered by minimalist shoes are negated by their drawbacks, mainly that they force the body to absorb *all* impact and also fail to protect toes from rocks and stumbles. As Beat noted to me the other day, we're essentially midfoot strikers anyway, because that's the kind of run that ultra-shuffling encourages. I'm definitely a heel striker when running downhill. Because I struggle so much with steep descents, I've tried different strides. Heel striking is by far the most stable and comfortable for me, and right now I'm mainly trying to ward off side-stitches and falls. If it does become an issue in the future, I'll of course reassess.

    Anyway, I agree there are good reasons for minimalist shoes as training tools for disciplined runners, just as I believe there are good reasons why these heavily cushioned shoes are quickly gaining popularity even among the fast and long-time runners in the ultra-running community.

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  20. Two more things: I've of course looked into running form. I don't really thing there's a "right" or "wrong" form. I've seen people run in ways I thought were impossible to sustain - for years successfully. It often boils down to listening to your body very actively. I did take some of the low-impact techniques and learned them - I tend to lean into downhills with short strides, and often will consciously relax my legs to achieve a more relaxed stride.

    The issue with minimalist shoes is that one of the big premises is that you are "forced" to reduce impact and improve your style - however, as it turns out many people overdo other things and end up not listening to their bodies and still injuring themselves. And of course, new form needs to be learned from scratch, and I know very few people who would really reduce their distances and training and go years back to re-learn.

    In the end, it makes a huge difference if you run a 16, 10 or 7 minute mile, if you run 20 or 100 miles, if you run very technical trail or road. It just doesn't seem in the least reasonable to assume there's "one" proper way to do this. I spend a LOT of time in very long races, and little time in short training - that alone makes a big difference.

    In my opinion, I say it again, it's the singular goal to be faster and to do speedwork that is dangerous ...

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  21. There actually are some studies published by accepted sci journals.

    http://www.pmrjournal.org/article/S1934-1482(09)01367-7/abstract

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v463/n7280/full/nature08723.html

    So, it's not as if there are no studies at all. It will be interesting in the next few years as other sports which have a lot of financial investment in athletes take up the subject. The NBA for one has teams grading injury prospects based on running style. There's a mention here:

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/25570/how-lebron-james-and-dwyane-wade-run

    Clearly we're still at the anecdotal stage though, where the idea is new enough that everyone has pre-existing experience and beliefs to wade through.

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  22. The first study you mention refers to running on a treadmill at a particular speed. The issue with all this sort of stuff is a lot of implicit assumptions, very small sample sizes, and poor control of all variables. I've done statistical analysis for many years in physics, and I do know a little bit about that ... none of us are really qualified to draw any conclusions from this. Did you understand the limitations that they mention in their "Conclusions" section? As a physicist I have an idea what it means. It means that they measure one particular variable, but the connection between that variable and actual degenerative diseases, or how that variable is affected in real life situations, is unknown. This article is a "this is worth investigating" kind of article. It doesn't actually draw any conclusions. This is another thing that bugs me about popular media - they take a scientific finding, and make completely unwarranted statements about it. The second article brings up an interesting point, but again the control variables make a lot of difference. As I said before I land midfoot anyways most of the time. Barefoot runners may come to a halt on steep downhills, which I could emulate, but most likely even if you habitually run barefoot and you run in regular shoes for a particularly steep/rock event, you end up with the harder heel strike.
    The issue is that there are way more different conditions than can easily be covered. I still think this has little to do with trail running on technical trails. Or very slow running.
    Of course there are NO studies that show the benefit of stability shoes either ... and I'm not at all advertising those.

    The real issue I have is NOT if something is better if done properly. The issue is that people don't do it properly and thus end up hurting themselves. That's why I say it's a fad - promises are made, no disciplined program is followed ... and, no surprise, injury ensues. Something needs to work in an imperfect world with imperfect focus. Looking at professional athletes has little to do with me, and 99% of all recreational athletes. You do realize that a prius doesn't need a spoiler, bur a track porsche does? Because there's an actual fundamental difference in the mechanics of the motion depending on your speed.

    People need to figure out carefully what works for them. This may change over time and needs to be aligned with your goals. Barefoot running, strength training, yoga, orthotics, running techniques (chi, pose, run/walk ...) - all that should be in your consideration (I've done all of that one time or the other). But everything needs to be done carefully and adjusted to your own needs. I do something that clearly works for me. You bet that if I decide I need more foot strength, which might well be for my upcoming Alaska adventures, I will certainly look into minimalist running and running on sand etc.

    You may have a lot of success as a relative novice runner with this "natural running style", and I think that's great. A 240 lbs 6' person may simply not be able to do this ... but they may be able to do something with some cush. DO you actually think I'm doing things wrong?



    Just if you want my advice - limit the speedwork, and do it at a lower intensity than you think you should :)

    Cheers, Beat

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  23. Beat,

    So defensive! Did I say you're doing something wrong, or did I say "you're obviously doing something right". Note the quotes, because that's exactly what I said.

    And yes, you're not the only person to understand that scientific studies are best designed when they isolate and measure specific things. That's why they put people on a treadmill and not a trail, and measure specific things like "torque to common injury location".

    You're obviously a smart guy, and an accomplished ultra runner, so there's no need to be condescending.

    Jill's post read as dismissive to barefoot running as a fad. I think minimalist shoes are a fad, but I believe the ideas behind barefoot running are solid. You can pick apart the studies promoted by the barefoot crowd, but I think you'd be better served pointing to the studies which show supportive shoes and orthotics reduce injury rates.

    That's what the basis of the discussion is, right, preventing injury?

    You won't catch me advocating minimalist shoes. They allow people to go too hard too soon, which, as with any running style, always leads to injury.

    Are there any studies showing that supportive shoes help anyone? (Honest question, not snark.)

    What do you think of this article and it's linked studies?

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/phys-ed-do-certain-types-of-sneakers-prevent-injuries/

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  24. Jill: While reading your post it sure seemed like it would be in the 'running' for max comments...in my experience: for 'fast' running, the forefoot strike (vs heel) yields less injury when properly acclimated (choose your degree of minimalism carefully); for longer, slower running it seems like many have success with either more minimal-ish forefoot or by working the opposite end of the spectrum with Hokas - Hokas sure seem more comfortable downhill - !

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  25. Auris9:40 PM

    I guess I wasnt absolutely clear. While I agree with the research that padded shoes has effectively changed the way people run and that the Barefoot running style with a fore or mid-foot strike is probably the anatomically correct way of running, I still run in standard trail running shoes. My Columbia Ravenous have been awesome. From what you both said it sounds like you run with a fore-foot or mid-foot strike even though you use cushioned shoes. Now if I could only get some time away from the bike to train for the Xterra trail run I signed up for... :)

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  26. Anonymous10:22 PM

    maybe what we should all do is... WEAR WHAT WE WANT! :) yay! you wear minimalist... i wear neutral cushion and treaded... someone else wear hokas... and the high fashion people can run in heels! let's all get along! jill and beat are entitled to their perspective and have a lot of miles to prove it... undoubtedly many others do as well... so... if you're injured... figure out why... if you're slow/fast/technical/flatlander and you like it, then keep it up.... if you don't, then change it.
    let's just all smile and hug and live to run another day shod however we wish! yay!
    kz

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  27. I just wanted to join the fray and tell everyone here that MY way of running and MY shoes are the only proper ones....OK, obviously joking.

    However, I do think these sort of pointless debates keep getting stirred up when advocates of barefoot/minimalist running make overly broad generalizations. If you go back and read through the comments, you see that it starts with a statement that "Minimalist running comes down to believing in evolution". Beat, on the other hand, while expressing skepticism about the recent minimalist trend, isn't actually advocating anything except people figuring out "what works for them." The expression "experiment of one" is a popular one in ultrarunning for a reason. I've found that, time and again, over the course of very long endurance events, the need to deal with the variability among individuals often outweighs concerns with the general rules of the sport.

    As a side note, I find sweeping appeals to evolution (which seem to be popular among advocates of things like barefoot running or paleo-diets) to be particularly frustrating. They not only drop context, but represent a misunderstanding of how evolutionary forces work. Evolution is concerned with the perpetuation of species not the fulfillment of the individual. While I would never ignore evolutionary evidence, the fact that my ancient ancestors went barefoot is not prima facie evidence that I should follow suit. We have been evolving outside the strict dictates of natural selection since we began using tools and applying our faculty for reason to adapt our environment to our own needs. Furthermore, many of the activities that I as an individual choose to pursue (such as running over the most technical trails possible and living past age 35) have little connection with the driving forces that helped ancient man survive. Not only that, but I was born severely pigeon toed. Without the application of technology and at a young age, I might have had difficulty walking normal, let along running, as an adult. I certainly wasn't "born to run!"

    All that said, this experiment of one, has been integrating some barefooting into his running long before most people even heard of the Tarahumara. I also occasionally train in minimalist shoes. I see these as great tools for strengthening and rounding out my running. However, when I hit my favorite type of trail which happens to be steep, technical downhills, I wear the shoes that work best for me there. I left mountain biking for running partly because of the minimal gear involvment, but I still consider gear (in this case shoes) an essential ingredient. It allows me to pursue the activity in the way I enjoy best. I'm not interested in modifying my pursuits to fit my gear (or lack thereof).

    Finally, I want to congratulate Jill on a great post even if (or especially if) it stirred up a bit of controversy. I remember when I first started focusing on trail running, I used to make all sorts of analogies to my past as a mountain biker. I do think there are interesting ways in which the two pursuits support one another that are not always obvious.

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  28. I love how you tie in barefoot trail running with the very similar fixie mt. biking scene... I also love how you nail the "feel" that both proponents are trying to describe!

    I was getting tired of trying to describe why I like my ancient fixed-frame over the $5K suspension bikes while living in CB... and only one or two people "got it"

    Thanks!

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  29. OKOK. Maybe it's the medium, but everyone seems to have hurt feelings over differences in opinions.

    I never advocated anyone switch what they are doing, or discontinue something that's working for them.

    My only point was to say that the arguments made for barefoot running seem very intuitive to me.

    Maybe it's a sign of the times, but searching "shoes + injury prevention" returns nothing but pages of barefooting news/opinions.

    I really was not being facetious when I asked if there were studies or data showing that any supportive shoe types actually prevent injury. Obviously I'm interested in the subject, so if there's another side to the debate (beyond anecdotes), I'm all ears.

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  30. Ygduf - I didn't mean to be defensive or condescending, apologies. I though I had posted a reply earlier but I didn't. Just as well ;)

    I think Eudemus (Steve) summarized it well. And I think we actually all violently agree. There are no simple solutions - anything has the potential for catastrophic failure if you don't listen to your body and adjust to your specific situation.

    I think we also all loathe blind marketing - be it for "motion control" shoes (which, btw, are much less prevalent for trail shoes because it just doesn't make sense) or for minimalist barefoot shoes.

    The one thing I wanted to add is that the focus on running style and shoewear puts other, in my experience more impactful (on injuries) factors in the background - road vs trail, intensity, benefits/dangers of speedwork, problems with running in groups (and testosterone-induced going too fast), focus on random time goals (24 hrs for WS, 3 hours for Marathon) and so on. Any of those things has always caused me a lot more problems than shoes ... But I guess not everyone is content to run slowly, of course, but you can get all the fun and a lot less of the pain that way (and more health benefits ;) ...

    Cheers,
    Beat

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  31. Anonymous1:54 PM

    I hope someone makes a cheaper knockoff soon, but I definitely want to try the Hoka concept.

    Choice is good in foot wear. Especially for long time runners past 40. Whatever works.

    If I was coaching CC/track teenagers though, I'd encourage them to run a lot in barefeet and minimal shoes. And stay off pavement as much as possible. Good to learn more than one stride.

    I think some of us are just natural heel-strikers though. We probably weren't born to run, until cushioned shoes came along.

    Back in the day we'd have been eaten by jackals.

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  32. I was gonna leave a comment but Eudemus already left the one I wanted to write. I'll have my say anyway, though!

    I believe in evolution but "barefoot" (how is it "barefoot" if you need $70 shoes to do it?) running has nothing to do with evolution at all. The fanaticism with which people have approached this fad is really interesting. Now one's acceptance of "barefoot" shoes is a sign of one's belief in the evolutionary process? I'll bet that I could track that statement back to a clever marketing campaign, not that it matters much.

    Our outdoor gear always interferes with our innate abilities to survive, and usually in a positive way (enables us to survive when otherwise we wouldn't).

    I often wonder if people who experience relief from their injuries using "barefoot" shoes are simply getting the benefit of not being able to run as much as usual? It's often said that one has to dial back their mileage to the point where they're basically starting from scratch. If they're suffering from inflammation injuries the rest time is probably more significant for them than any change in footwear.

    As far as I'm concerned, though, people should use the equipment they like and not be overly concerned about what others are doing. It's nice when we can see through whatever hype/fad is at the forefront and get the facts, but at the end of the day, who cares? Make your own decisions and let others make theirs.

    Thanks for posting this article/review/discussion!

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  33. Everyone is free to do what they want/what's working for them, of course, but what's the harm in discussing the ideas? Some people seem very afraid to learn, one way or the other.

    As far as "how is is barefoot in $70 shoes" vs. my statement re: barefoot/evolution, that's entirely unfair. It's clear you haven't read what I've written, so why work so hard to build up the straw man to knock down?

    I've said explicitly in multiple posts in this one thread that I don't encourage barefoot shoes. They allow TMTS. (<- hey look, this is me saying it again!)

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  34. What? I did read what you wrote and I don't agree. My opinion and statements have nothing to do with you personally so I don't know why you are picking an argument; I simply wished to express my thoughts on this article and leave it at that.

    I don't care if you personally encourage "barefoot" shoes or not, my comment had nothing to do with you other than refuting what you said about evolution. Implying (passive aggressively, I will add) that I'm "afraid to learn" and am "building a straw man" is really aggressive and, well, annoying. And with that, I'm leaving this endless and pointless debate alone other than to say nice article, Jill, though I'm sure you knew it would stir up some of the discussion typical of the "barefoot" vs. normal shoes debate! You minx.

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  35. I've been on both sides of the question. I was given an early prototype of the 5 Fingers to try, and I enjoyed them at first. I agree with Ygduf, and I think they do encourage TMTS, sure did in my case, and I was injured as a result. I still wear them walking around some, but not much. Can't say that them turned me into a mid-foot striker, as I already was

    I've now adopted the Hoka's, and have both the Mafate and the Bondi-B (which is sold as a road shoe, but I like it on some trails.) Never thought I'd even try them, but I spend a couple of days with Karl Meltzer when he was running the Pony Express Trail last fall, and he convinced me to give them a try. I finally did, and haven't looked back. I still mid-foot strike in the Hoka's, but I can say I'm definitely feeling less leg strain and soreness after my runs. Might not work for everyone, but they have so far for me.

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