Tuesday, April 21, 2009

running shoes unnecessary

"I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism" -- Abebe Bikila, 1960 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist. Barefoot.

I've been reading more about running barefoot (or nearly so). I saw on slashdot today an article where a ton of research was done (interviewing a bunch of runners before a race about their injuries). The biggest cause of injuries was not training, or age, or weight, or health-- but shoes. The more a person spent on expensive running shoes, the greater the injuries. Our foot was designed/evolved to need no padding or pronation control or shock absorbers. Also, the more expensive running shoes have big, heavy, powerful heels which make it nearly impossible to run without landing heel first.

Probably the most interesting part of the article is below-- I've copied the paragraph

In a paper for the British Journal Of Sports Medicine last year, Dr Craig Richards, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, revealed there are no evidence-based studies that demonstrate running shoes make you less prone to injury. Not one.

It was an astonishing revelation that had been hidden for over 35 years. Dr Richards was so stunned that a $20 billion industry seemed to be based on nothing but empty promises and wishful thinking that he issued the following challenge: 'Is any running-shoe company prepared to claim that wearing their distance running shoes will decrease your risk of suffering musculoskeletal running injuries? Is any shoe manufacturer prepared to claim that wearing their running shoes will improve your distance running performance? If you are prepared to make these claims, where is your peer-reviewed data to back it up?'

Dr Richards waited and even tried contacting the major shoe companies for their data. In response, he got silence.

There's also some interesting information about the Tarahumara tribe (apparently a short game of soccer/football for them is a couple hours of nonstop running. A longer game might last a couple days without stopping. They'd also hunt deer and other animals by literally running them to death-- as much as a hundred miles or more.

Another article from the New York Times discusses running shoes. A quote from the Doctor who's the medical director of the New York City Marathon, states

“Barefoot runners show up in my office very often because they’re not getting any control of their foot strike,” Maharam said.

The lesson here (which I've been focusing on) is that you can't just take away the padding and expect to have the same experience. Running barefoot (or in Vibrams) requires landing differently and (over time), strengthening the previously atrophied muscles. Walking and jogging barefoot it something that has to be worked into gradually-- a couple times a week.

On a side note, I decided since my calves are taking such a beating working far, far harder than normal, that some compression socks (minus the foot part) would be a good idea. My friends/workout partners/triathaletes Gabe and Jon have a triathalete supply store (www.trinationsports.com) hooked me up with a pair of 2XU Calf Guards (with personal delivery!).

I'm wearing them now and they're really cool. I think they work (they feel good) so if they only give me a placebo effect, it's still probably worth it.

No comments: