Should we run barefoot?



  • I've done all my running in minimalist shoes since October, except when legs feeling particularly sore then gone in Ekidens.

    As to barefoot - I was doing bits last summer. I found cricket grounds good - the tend to be well maintained, clear of glass and dog crap and nicely cut.
  • its a developmental thing A, we start off toe walking and then move on the heel striking. If we continue to toe walk then the achilles gets tight and the result can be excess pronation to compensate for the lack of bend in the ankle joint
  • In theory obviously
  • Ok, I've been walking bare foot most mornings on the promenade and beach when walking the dogs in the morning - this was initially to toughen my skin up in preparation for a forthcoming trip to the mountains, as I always get blisters as I have such "baby skin" .....

    However, I started bare foot walking about the same time as I really upped my weekly mileage - now I usually suffer from loads of niggles, calf strains, achillees and the like ---> now I seem to be quite clear of these inflictions.

    I mentioned this to a mate who is a chiropractor etc as I felt walking barefoot was in some ways some fom of core stability exercise - he then mentioned that he has been reccommending to some of his patients a specifci brand of shoes - and what a coincidence - the shoes are based on barefoot technology!!

    See here

    Mind you I know what I'd rather do have my morning walk than fork out £120 + for a pair of shoes - mind you to be honest, I have not been able to walk much in the last couple of weeks in bare feet - and what a surprise, some of my niggles have come back!
  • Moorman and FFG
    I'm OK with the concept of forefoot striking at faster paces, but surely it's natural to heel strike when we walk, sprint on our toes, and do something in between, in between? It just doesn't feel right forefoot running at LSD speeds. Was it hard to get used to running like that?

    Another thought. In this country (or London at least, I don't know about Barnsley or Maidstone ;-) ) people generally don't walk around barefoot in the street. Maybe we need to do that to rid ourselves of the need to wear shoes when we run.

    When you see film of people in "less developed" countries walking around barefoot, I don't recall see them walking on toes like the baby in your example.
  • Windsurfer
    Wow, I've just looked at the MTB website. Mindboggling!
  • We always take our shoes off when in the house. In fact, when visiting other people's houses we take our shoes off there too - more out of courtesy then anything else.

    I do most of my "barefoot" training by running in socks on the treadmill. Outside, I run midfoot in racing flats.

    Living in London I haven't had the guts to run barefoot outside but would love to try. As an alternative, I have a pair of cheapo Tribord surf-shoes from Decathlon. The surfshoe rubber is too thin (a few mm) and quite soft. They'd wear out quickly outside. Therefore, last weekend I bought some glue-on rubber soles from Woolworths which I plan to stick onto the surf shoes to to make them durable. All for less then a tenner and some change for a MaccyD.

  • AardvarkAardvark ✭✭✭
    RB - the forefoot walking thing was just a point of interest really. What does strike me though is that in most activities that require a combination of balance and power, and where shock absorption is crucial, the participants tend to be on their forefeet or toes (eg gymnastics, ballet, martial arts). I watched hours of olympic gymnastics in the summer, and didn't see a single heelstrike during any of the events. Naturally, all the competitors were either barefoot or in minimalist footwear.
  • At a fitness weekend i went to in January I tried out those MBT shoes and to be honest wasn't that impressed. Not worth 120 quid in my opinion. Did an hours 'walking workout' and my feet hurt, real arch pain. Never have that when I walk barefoot.
  • aardvark, my daughter tends to walk either forefoot or sort of placing the foot down rather than heel first, I seem to remember reading somewhere that it's because of shoes that we all start to heel strike from an early age (I used to heel strike excessively probably also due to joining the army at an early age, can't exactly march forefoot, it'd be a bit quiet!).
    rb, when I first started walking barefoot (in the vivo's) I tried walking on my forefoot which actually looked like I was walking on my tip toes (my wife couldn't stop laughing) Since then I sort of place my foot down so it is mid to forefoot landing first with the heel lightly touching as if you put your heel down first and there's a small stone underneath it causes quite a lot of pain as obviously there is no give. If man was built to heel strike surely we would have excess flesh under the heel bone to absorb some shock, instead of the arch of the foot, calves and thighs used when forefoot striking? maybe the major trainer manufacturers could go into plastic surgery and insert an air cushion? I've been forefoot running for a year now, and to answer your question on slow pace I still land fore/mid foot and touch the heel down, bent legged and directly under the body.
  • I believe heels are in fact very good at absorbing shock, but heelstrikers push that ability to the limit and beyond.

    RB - It feels 'wrong' to me to heelstrike at any speed up or down any gradient, and I suspect other converts would agree.

    Barefoot runners don't heelstrike, I'm pretty sure. If you watch kids running round at swimming pools, or in those soft play centres, they appear to have lovely forefoot technique!

    There are quite a few barefoot hippies in Bath through the summer. I haven't seen any of them running though. I really don't think broken glass or dogsh*t are much of a problem. It's an issue of too much British reserve I reckon
  • I live in a developing country. There are many poor people who can't afford shoes for daytime, let alone running!

    In last Sundays T&T Marathon there were many barefoot runners (on hot paved surfaces). I saw about 10 in my range of 4:18. A friend who was at the finish saw a guy come in at just under 3:00 and many others in the 3-4 hour timeslot. They are all forefeet runners, not a heelstrike to be seen for the reasons already stated on this thread.

    I run barefoot on the beach and have noticed that despite the cushioning from the sand I tend to forefeet, where my usual tendency in heel/mid.
  • Hah, I read an article about the Vivo Barefoot shoes in the paper a couple of weeks ago but couldn't find out what they were called when I wanted to look them up.

    Where do you get them from?
  • The trouble with all these "barefoot shoes" is that they are very expensive. I walk outside in thin surf shoes - Teva Protons - about £30. just got my 2nd pair - 1st pair lasted a year with almost daily use and plenty of running.
  • This is an interesting debate.

    I'm switching to forefoot running and went to a running shop.

    There was video gait analysis and I was told I still overpronate even though I land on the forefoot (unfortunately I didn't have my running shoes with me at the time). But I did try on a selection of the shoes and was told none of them were 'strong enough' for me. Is this possible? They tried to sell me another motion control/stability shoe. It looked from the video that the overpronation occured just as the heel approached the ground (my heel doesn't touch the ground at all). Maybe this looks like overpronation but is actually normal and right?

    Forefoot running has certainly helped me so far although I haven't built up the miles much. I've experimented with a couple of minimalist shoes but still find my old pair of Brooks Addiction's the most comfortable to run in. I guess it's what I'm used to !

    I confess that I left the shop feeling as if I'd got it wrong.... I was told I should be running heel/toe with clunky shoes and that I was mad to switch to forefoot as this wasn't natural!

    Could someone reassure and advise? Oh, and if anyone can point me in the direction of a sympathetic running shop near Southampton I'm listening. All I want is an off-road shoe... surely this isn't too difficult !!

  • Surely for off-road stability is not the issue? I've been told to wear hardcore motion control shoes (trying to avoid orthotics) but have to stick to NB854's 'cos they're the only things narrow enough for my feet. But offroad shoes don't seem to have stability at all?
    Incidentally I wear mudrocs offroad (with thick hiking socks so they fit my size 9 feet).
  • moor man - plimsolls for daughter?
  • Bootlegger, yep, you can over-pronate when running forefoot. My problem is at toe-off, so before switching to forefoot a couple of months ago (still going well) I'd be wearing a stability shoe with support all round the heel and arch (which did little good) and almost none at the forefoot because no manufacturer seems to put much there - I had to add a home-made wedge under the ball of the foot and big toe. So now I'm in racing flats with the same wedge, running forefoot - no IT band twinges which would suggest (for me) over-pronation becoming a problem.

    DG's right, by the way. Off-road shoes have little stability support (because the surface is uneven anyway).
  • BL - the running shops cannot see beyond heel-to-toe. You are best off just getting a racing shoe, IMHO. I still pronate and have fairly flat feet, but I get buy - my body is getting stronger and can adapt to the stresses placed upon it.
  • I'm still in 2 minds whether to take the plunge and race FLM in my 150s. For about a week I've run in the Ekidens then last night did an uptempo 12.5 miles on the road. Today it feels like someone kicked me in the calves.

    When I get tired I heelstrike badly and I don't know if 13 odd miles of this round the Docklands is a good idea.
  • BR: During wednesday mid-week long run my hamstrings started to tire, I was not lifting the ankles properly, the cadence decreased, the stride length started to increase......luckily I realised I was about to heel-strike (not a good idea in NB150s) and I simply slowed down to a more comfortable midfoot pace.

    I need to work on my hamstring strength. Perhaps you need to as well?
  • Sure I need to, I also need to get from Blackheath to the Mall in the best time possible. Just wondering which shoes I should choose. Raced a HM in them with no ill effects and have done 20 mile training runs in them.
  • anyone who over pronates when forefoot running is a serious over pronator, as you lift the heel the arch should form and you should supinate. i suggest you see a podiatrist rather than a bloke in a running shop who wants to sell you shoes

    Moor man - we do have big pads of fat under our heels.

    I love this thread, proper debate
  • I bought a pair of Vivo barefoot shoes, and they are pretty good, but I was not that impressed with the quality. There were too many hard areas which could rub. Maybe I was just unlucky, but £90 is a lot of money.

    I am going to have a look at the new Diadora racers on Saturday. They look very low profile, hopefully not too stiff.

    I have also looked at a pair of Asics (Tiger) retro shoes. Just a thin gum rum outsole and a leather upper. they are very like what my Uncle used to wear when he ran in the 60's. They are very flexible. Some of these retro shoes on the market look really good for running.
  • Not barefoot but just enough protection for the streets. I am going to make a real attempt to toughen up my feet to race barefoot on the track this summer.
  • Karl, would you consider running London in them?
  • Karl - at Bluewater the Reebok store (with the full running shoe range) is next door to a fashion shoe store. The former has no shoes I would run in; the latter has 10-20prs I would run in. Retro shoes are the best thing to happen for some time.
    The Asics Tiger range have many good shoes. Puma have proven to have the biggest "low profile" range. But look at Nike Street Maxcats (leather upper though), Street Milers and Jarowe waffles for the best options.

    BR - You know I encourage 150 useage generally , but I would recommend the Ekidens for FLM for the reasons yuo mention. You should do a few long runs and work sessions in them to be comfortable with the weight at speed.
  • How about the Nike Mayflys? Anyone run a marathon in those?
  • I wouldn't even train in them - too high from the ground - requires stability - they have none. Not a good shoe, IMHO.
  • Conventional shoe/heelstrike wisdom says the shoe needs to be replaced when the midsole loses its resilience and/or the sole at the heel wears away. Otherwise, 'tis said, you risk injury.

    For those of you who wear minimalist flats and do high mileage training, when/why do you chuck out your shoes? When the sole wears away completely? Does it matter?
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