News on Barefoot Running: Part III


To this point we’ve looked a couple of aspects of the human foot and running.  In Part I we looked at research showing the unshod or minimally shod foot worked quite well at running for the vast majority of human history.  In Part II we looked at the following: 1) research linking knee osteoarthritis to high loading forces on the knees, 2) higher loading forces were associated with stability shoes, and 3) lower loading forces were associated with shoes such as flip-flops that allow a more natural foot movement.  Thus we can conclude that in order to avoid ailments such as knee osteoarthritis (and I might guess the same for hip, ankle, and low back arthritis) we should do whatever we can to allow our feet to move unencumbered.

[Researchers] concluded that running shoes exerted more stress on these joints compared to running barefoot or walking in high-heeled shoes.

So here are the lastest findings on this issue.  Running Shoes May Cause Damage to Hips, Knees and Ankles, New Study Suggests details the findings of a study published in the December 2009 PM & R, the journal of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  (Here’s the abstract, and the full text.)  Researchers studied 68 healthy adult runners as they ran on a treadmill both in modern running shoes and while barefoot.  Significantly higher torque forces were observed in the subjects when they were in running shoes.  The study reports “An average 54% increase in the hip internal rotation torque, a 36% increase in knee flexion torque, and a 38% increase in knee varus (inward) torque were measured when running in running shoes compared with barefoot.”

Those are significant forces!  And why do most people wear running shoes?  To protect the feet, provide stability, to be comfortable…  Very interesting that these shoes actually increase the forces which we’re looking to minimize.  In closing, the researchers say,

“Reducing joint torques with footwear completely to that of barefoot running, while providing meaningful footwear functions, especially compliance, should be the goal of new footwear designs.”

So with that statement in mind, I’ve recently purchased a pair of Vibram 5-Fingers model KSO.  I’ve worn them the past couple of days at work and they’re quite interesting.  I plan on wearing them exclusively when I weight train, and I plan on running in them fairly soon.  (There’s a little too much snow on the ground here in Denver right now.)  I’ll probably try some running on the grass first and then try short runs on pavement.  We’ll see what happens…

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