Thursday, November 10, 2011

Barefoot Running is Snake Oil?

<see article below> I don't know where to begin..  This guy is horribly confused and since he is reaching an audience- there will be damage done.   He says: "There is no best way to run. Period. Studies have been done on the footstrike of hundreds of elite runners and what we know is that half of them run heel-to-toe, and half have a midfoot strike. They run the way it works for them. You do too"

 I counter - there is no way to know how you run with the overly supportive footwear that we're fitted for by someone who sells you shoes to treat your symptoms.  

All elite athletes running differently from each other, ok - but the greatest ALL have 'growing up shoe-less' in common.  They found their 'way' to run by running without the support we're stuffed in to at a young age.   The reason there's no 2nd generation elite long distance runners so far is because the athlete is risen from poverty and their kids don't have to walk to school, that can afford expensive shoes, they don't walk to get well water, etc...

Are muscles and tendons are aligned to sequence in a certain way.  I dare-say you don't KNOW the way unless you're in touch with the ground and aren't running on muscles that have been atrophying since you moved out of your toddler shoes. Am I crazy?


The barefoot running joke: when will Chris MacDougall quit selling his snake oil?

Along with about a zillion other runners I read Chris MacDougall's book "Born to Run" when it first came out, and then I went to the Cooper Aerobic Center to hear him speak. I was amazed after reading the book and listening to his talk that anyone could be guilty of such faulty logic.
To hear him tell it, the Tarahumara Indians are the greatest runners in the world because they live in these remote and steep Copper Canyons of Mexico, they have no cars and no money, and run everywhere up and down these huge hills, from the first day they can walk.
So as a long-time runner, I thought to myself, "Hey, that would make me a good runner too, running up and down hills all day, never riding in a car, running to school, running back home, no money, no video games, just running with my friends. Yeah, I can see that."
But in an amazing leap of non-logic, MacDougall concludes that the entire reason the Indians are superior runners is that they run barefoot. And from there he tries to convince us that running barefoot is the only way to run long, fast and injury-free. He then moves on to the injuries and damage that runners undergo because they run in today's running shoes, with their motion control, stability, thick soles, heel protection and cushioning.
Now let's examine this sanely by first eliminating both ends of the running performance curve, the super weak and the super strong.
In 1954 Morton Thompson produced the great novel "Not as a Stranger" about Dr. Lucas Marsh, who struggles to do the best he can for his patients. He asks his older partner why it is the same people come to the clinic with ailment after ailment. Dr. Runkleman explains, "Some people are just constitutional inadequates." I never forgot this line, and I use it often to explain injuries. Every doctor knows it too. No matter how they run or what they put on their feet, some people are injured all the time.
At the other end of the spectrum are those super athletes and strong runners who could put bedroom slippers on their feet and run backwards for 50 miles, never stretch and never do core work. They never get hurt. I hate them, and so do you.
In the middle are the rest of us, and if you don't know this yet, get ready for some startling information. There is no best way to run. Period. Studies have been done on the footstrike of hundreds of elite runners and what we know is that half of them run heel-to-toe, and half have a midfoot strike. They run the way it works for them. You do too.
Alexander Pope said, "Tis with our judgments as our watches; none go just alike, yet each believes his own." Ask a group of men what time it is and they will all say a different time, then argue that only their watch is correct. Religion is the same. No matter what you believe, there are people who are convinced that theirs is the one true faith and you don't know what's right.
Here's my advice. If you want to take up minimalist running, try it in very small doses over a very long period of time to allow your body to adapt, so that you won't join the crowds of people visiting their podiatrists after joining this cult. It may not be for you, no matter what Chris MacDougall says.


  1. I'm sorry, man,

    But I've grown sick and tired of people who, like the French expression says, piss in the sauce. You bring no argument whatsoever for this rant and really, you're not helping anyone.

    I'm not saying McDougall got it all right, but don't blame the man who successfully managed to question the running credos to create one of the most interesting debates we had in a long time.

    And why does it have to be an "us or them" issue, dammit? Can't you see there is good in proper running form, light-footed landings ans quick turnover?

  2. Does this guy have any stats about people going to the podiatrist for foot injuries as he asserts? Does he compare it to shod injuries? No. And what snake oil is McD selling exactly? He has a book, not a shoe that promises to make you faster while causing more injuries.