Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One small giant injury for running

In the past couple of days, I have encountered links to an article that is trying to make the case that high quality running shoes are the source of many of the injuries suffered by atheletes.

As with all things found on the web, I try to approach these things with an open but skeptical mind. Even if the conclusions were faulty (not saying that they are) there is some lessons to be learned from this article.

To read the whole article, go to this article at the daily mail website. It brings up some interesting points.

There seems to be some presenting of examples and opinion where there seems to be a link between injury and running shoes. In my experience, running shoes can be a source of injury but maybe not for the reasons stated. Choosing the correct running shoe for you foot is a hit and miss proposition. And as soon as you find the right one, the shoe manufactures manage to discontinue or change it. I was very lucky in that the Asics GT series performed very well and for about 10 or so years, I used that shoe. Last year, the shoe did not work the same. Looking at comments from other runners, the consensus was the shoe behaved differently. I ended up with plantar faciatis. The latest model seems to go back to earlier performance characteristics.

So in evaluating the claim that the shoes cause injury does not follow from the anecdotal evidence given. Even the statistics do not have the rigor of proper testing. I would be the first to admit that this sort of testing might be quite hard to design and execute. I would also not throw away the studies completely but become more aware of the effect of my shoes on my injury. Remember we are an experiment of one.

With all that having been said, I think there is something to be learned from this article.

I have to agree that spending time barefoot could offer benefits to the runner. The explanations about how the foot molds and grabs when running barefoot reminds me a bit of ball exercise. The premise is that the extra effort to maintain balance exercises small muscles that do not get worked properly. I can see if we always encase our foot in a rigid shoe, it might prevent proper exercise of small muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the foot and ankle. This is speculation on my part but for me, it seems worth adding some activity barefooted. I does not at this point say I am throwing away my running shoes. It might be that I have not suffered the injuries as noted in the article because I am very aware of my feet and try to adjust when I sense something is not right.

In my early running years, I did experiment with running barefoot and as near as I can recall, I did not have any issues. In those days, shoes were not as sophisticated and more like than not, I probably had an old pair of converse sneakers as my "running shoes". I generally ran on grass at the high school but did try to spend some time on the cinder track to toughen my feet.

If I start adding some barefoot adventures to my training, I will be sure to post here what I find out.


chris said...

I read the same article. I'm recovering from knew surgery and I'm worried about causing repeat damage so I haven't started running again yet. My plan is to try running barefoot on the treadmill. I wonder if this barefoot "advantage" is only due to the foot strike- the front of the foot hitting the ground firs, rather than the heel striking first.

Farrunner said...

Hi Chris,

It would be good to hear your experiences in barefoot running. Keep us posted on your progress.

I have been fighting some plantar fascitis recently which is why the article caught my attention. I am not quite ready to try barefoot on the treadmill yet.

It may be that the treadmill is not the best test since it does change the gait from running outside but worth a try. After I see the doc Wednesday, I plan to try some easy walking barefoot on the treadmill to start (if he doesn't have a problem with that).

Farrunner said...

Here is another link about Barefoot Hiking: for those who are interested in trying this.