Barefoot Running and Minimalist shoe running

Hi There,

I am a bare foot and minimalist shoe coach and specialist. I frequently come across injured runners who are trying the minimalist shoe approach to running and cant understand why they get injured. Firstly, running on your tiptoes will be a sure way to smash your calves so make sure your heel comes into contact with the ground to distribute your weight evenly and limit push off at the end of the stride (just pick your feet up off the ground). Secondly, you have to build mileage very slowly in minimalist shoes as your bones will have become soft from many years in padded shoes which can result in stress fractures in your feet. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have so that I can dispel many off the myths and assumptions of barefoot running. I run a course which will teach you how to run more efficiently and biomechanically sounder for anyone in the bristol area

Piers Stockwell 


  • surely its your muscles that have become weak, not your bones soft? If your bones are soft then that would a be a serious medical condition.

    and anyway, is this forum supposed to be for advertisments?

  • Actually your bones deossify and become less dense as there is less stress on them when in shoes. As soon as you start running on them barefoot, they will ossify more and become stronger and denser, the same way martial artists bones become denser when exposed to repeated impact. The article wasnt supposed to be an ad, I want to dispel some of the myths of bare foot running.
  • don't think there is such a word as deossify.

    ossification refers to bone development, all ossification is usually complete by the age of 25

    have you had any medical training?

  • Look it up. Your bones are constantly changeing by the process of osteoblasts and osteoclasts.. Your bones can get stronger, or weaker, depending on the load you put on them. Its the reason astronauts have problems with their bones when they get back to earth from a zero g environment. This discussion is about barefoot running, not bone density so please stick to the subject. Im happy to answer questions on barefoot or minimalist shoe running if you have them.
  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭
    piers stockwell wrote (see)
      you have to build mileage very slowly in  minimalist shoes as your bones will have become soft from many years in  padded shoes which can result in stress fractures in your feet.
    piers stockwell wrote (see)
    This discussion is about barefoot running, not bone density so please stick to the subject.
    You posit a relationship between bone density and barefoot vs conventional running in your opening post, so I would suggest it is very much on subject.  I don't know much about bones but if you're going to suggest this as one of the reasons to run barefoot, it's perfectly reasonable for someone to discuss whether it has any credence.
  • I did look it up, and ossification refers to bone developement in children and young adults. perhaps you chose the wrong word?

    astronauts bones got weaker because of a lack of earths gravity -  Exposure to the microgravity environment of space causes astronauts to lose calcium from bones. This loss occurs because the absence of Earth's gravity disrupts the process of bone maintenance in its major function of supporting body weight.

    yes you can make your bones stronger, by doing weight bearing exercises. but i think you were wrong to say that wearing shoes causes the opposite? 

    I thought i was sticking to the subject

    i am quite happy with my barefoot running many thanks, I wil lnow withdraw from this thread and not post any more.

  • I think you have missed the point, it is not the reason to run barefoot, it is a result of running barefoot. Barefoot running is biomechanically very efficient as modern shoes have cushioning that allows us to heel strike resulting in inefficiency (putting on the brakes each stride) and makes us more prone to injury due to the impact forces caused by landing with our feet out in front of us with often straight legs. By hitting the ground with straight legs we cannot absorb the impact properly with our natural suspension system. By running barefoot or with minimalist shoes we dont heel strike because it hurts, so the feet land underneath us using our bodies natural suspension system of our knees and ankles.
  • I dont tend to heel strike but I have had a play at heel striking in various minimalist shoes and I have to say that it isn't really at all uncomfortable it's not like being totally barefoot!!!
  • There is a big difference between barefoot-style running and barefoot running certainly.
  • minimalist shoes let you get away with a few things that you wouldnt if you are fully barefoot though the technique to run efficiently is the same.
  • Piers

    As a specialist in this area, what are the main injuries you see when people start running in minimalist shoes?

    I had always understood that the biggest reason for needing to build your mileage very slowly when you start using minimalist shoes ls that you are training your muscles and your body to work differently. This is why a lot of the injuries that I have heard people get when they do too much too soon are issues with their calves, or their knees, bursitis or fasciitis, or ligament strains, rather than bone problems such as stress fractures.

    My view ( as a non specialist ) is that to link wearing padded shoes to your bones going soft is a massive oversimplification, and as such I think Max's Mum and Philpub are absolutely right to query this.

    I also think you're being a bit naive to say you don't want this post to be seen as an advert when you include a link to your course and this is the first time you've posted? This feels like classic spam to me.....
  • The main injuries I see while transitioning to barefoot are calve strains, achilles tendonitis, Anterior tibialis tendon injuries and the worst, broken metatarsals in the feet. You are definately training your muscles, tendons and bones to work differently with stresses they are not used to. We are biomechanically designed by nature to be barefoot so by using different movement patterns from what our bodies were designed for, we are not as efficient as we should be.
  • If any of you have a spare moment could you fill in a questionnaire about your Running Shoes for a Finalist research Project at Loughborough University.

  • Why haven't Elite athletes embraced this or young up and coming runners as it seems to me that only your average competative runner/triathlete have contemplated using minamalist barefoot running shoes, or do you see a trend towards this style of running becoming more mainstream in the future?
  • Hi all, just joined this discussion. I know of no research on the statement that footwear causes de-ossification in the body. Yes of course astronauts suffer with this and yes - there is research to back this. Lets not frighten people away form barefoot / minimalist techniques by this and get to the truth of the matter. There is new research which suggests that barefoot style of running may be better for your body.

    The reason is not in bones or joints but in your soft tissue system. When barefoot running you utilise more of your soft tissue elasticity in tissues such as fascia and muscle and tendon rather than pounding away. 

    You develop a softer approach which conserves energy (research on this e.g. reduced VO2 max) and places less strain on knees (does increase strain on ankle in some cases). 

    Technique is important and yes perhaps gradually introducing the new technique into your neurology is important. You need to develop a dynamic and elastic soft tissue system focusing on correct technique. 

     I am probably one of few podiatrists in the UK (if not the world!!) who advocate barefoot running.  image

  • Gafin, good to hear opinion of someone professional actually.

    I'm about to run my first full marathon in minimalist shoes in couple of weeks. Been transitioning for about a year now, still run easy runs on my "normal trainers" to give my calves a bit of a break. But I've done all my main training in minimalist shoes and I like them.

    I have definitely developed a different running style however I'm starting to see some issues now in my hip flexion. It's very weak. Whether it's always been and I'm only noticing now, I don't know. But I've also noticed that my minimalist shoes have a lot more heel wear than I thought. So it's looking like I'm still heel striking, or whether my heel just drops to the ground heavier than I thought... although I dont feel it.

    So is it possible that some people are naturally just heel strikers, no matter what the footwear, or none at all?
  • Elli of the North wrote (see)

    Whether it's always been and I'm only noticing now, I don't know. But I've also noticed that my minimalist shoes have a lot more heel wear than I thought. So it's looking like I'm still heel striking, or whether my heel just drops to the ground heavier than I thought... although I dont feel it.

    I have exactly this 'issue'. It's not caused me any problems: no discomfort in my heel or anything like that.

    I think I'm just more of a mid-foot striker than a fore-fote striker, in the end. I would like to be able to force myself to drop my feet with only the force of gravity, but I don't think I'm quite there yet. The other thing I need to work on further is lifting my foot straight up. 

    You see a good few barefoot fanatics on the real proselytising sites pouncing on any heel wear and saying 'you're running gait is wrong and you'll suffer health problems in the future'. I'd take that with a pinch of salt. If I try to move any further forward on my foot, I simply go onto my toes, which creates a whole host of problems. 

    I'm going to keep using minimalist shoes for road running until problems do manifest themselves. On the whole, I have far more issues with shoes with more cushioning (top of foot, metatarsals, knee usually). I'd be interested to hear Gafin's take (or Piers'), though. 

    Good luck on the mara; I'll be hoping to hear a positive result for you image .

  • Hi Elli of the North
    Pleasure. Will be great to hear how your marathon goes. Fab. Interesting about your hip flexion. Could be for number of reasons. But yes could have been an issue for a while. Athough I cant give you direct advice over the forum its worth looking at your psoas muscle. So important.
    And you may well be heel striking intermittently. It takes time for this to get into your neurology and now and again you may well break into a different pattern. Ive heard some people taking years for this to happen fully so stick in there.
  • Hi Radicchio
    Cushioning tends to increase instability. Not always a great thing.

    "think I'm just more of a mid-foot striker than a fore-fote striker, in the"

    I hear a lot of runners making this distinction. To be honest it means the same?
    I just think if your foot lands like an aeroplane on the ground thats about it. Keep your tail end in the air but it might touch the trees now and again..While landing.? !

  • Yeah it's my PSOAS I reckon. Also my glute med and min are pretty tight and always have been. Just trying to re-train my muscle memory and getting those right exercises in is a tricky one. I'm a sports therapist myself but very bad at looking my own problems objectively.
    After this marathon is over I'm going to be concentrating more on my form, strength and speed. See how that will change things.
  • Cheers Gafin, always good to have that reassurance. I was always primarily on the ball of my foot, even before moving to minimalist, so the change has been relatively easy - although I'm sure I've still got plenty of work to do on my form.

    I really liked the aeroplane analogy and 'got' it. Then I started to think about it a bit more: don't planes always touch-down with their rear wheels first?

  • Ever been on Easy... Sorry cant say it! lol!
  • Hi everyone.  Am very keen to do barefoot running but know that it does take time as we are not used to it in this country, unlike, say, African peoples and tribes who have been running barefoot since birth, practically.  I have tried it and suffered accordingly (Lol), and realise that starting out slowly, one mile distance to begin with, will pay dividends.  I have found that landing on the forefoot and letting the heel land gently just prior to lifting off again works well and I have no back pain as a result, like I did before when heel striking.  One mile at a time until your body tells you to attempt say, 2 miles, and so on, but very very gradually.  I am currently using cushioned shoes but will revert to minimalist shoes soon to help my legs gradually get used to less padding.  Am not sure about Vibrams yet - any comments anyone about these?  Forefoot striking feels quite natural now, having seemed a bit foreign before, but that was because I wasn't used to it.  At least I dont have to see the chiropractor about my back these days!!   

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