Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Overview Of The Science Of Barefoot Running

From The Science of Sport blog:

"...The evidence so far suggests that barefoot running produces some potentially beneficial changes, mostly related to how running form and kinetics are altered without shoes. However, it also points to a potentially large group of people who, when running barefoot, may have increased risk of injury, especially early on - these are the people who continue to heel-strike when barefoot, and who may 'force' a forefoot landing, leading to huge strain on the calf muscle and Achilles tendons....

"In terms of advocacy, I believe that barefoot running will help most runners. It may be as part of a training programme where barefoot running helps with adaptation because it loads the joints differently, activates muscles in different patterns and therefore provides a good training impulse. For some, barefoot running (or minimalist shoes) will go on to become the 'only way'. For others, it will remain a training technique, and that's fine too. But I'd certainly look at incorporating it, just for the training adaptations it provides...."

I don't agree with his assessment of injury as stated in this post. I think the evidence is quite clear for certain types of injuries that they are caused by the changes in form one sees when wearing sneakers.  And you only need one clear injury linkage to decide that sneakers are worse than barefoot.

The Science of Sport guys continue to get the logic backwards.  Barefoot is the null hypothesis, as Lieberman regularly points out.  It's the default.  You need to prove that the shod condition is an improvement over that.  And, cold weather aside, it's quite easy to show that it's not an improvement.

Of course there does need to be a careful conversion away from sneakers, just like you need a period of rehabilitation after a long period in a cast, as they correctly note.