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Transportation Science

Do We Need Running Shoes To Run? 776

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the kenyans-have-it-right dept.
prostoalex writes to tell us The Daily Mail has an interesting look at current research in the field of running and injuries related to running. Most of the evidence pointed at a lack of any need for running shoes. Some of the more interesting points: the more expensive the running shoes, the greater the probability of getting an injury; some of the planet's best and most intense runners run barefoot; Stanford running team, having access to the top-notch modern shoes sent in for free by manufacturers, after a few rounds of trial and error still chose to train with no shoes at all."
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Do We Need Running Shoes To Run?

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  • by Davemania (580154) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:43AM (#27658035) Journal
    Evolution didn't have Nike in mind.
    • by Corporate Troll (537873) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:50AM (#27658095) Homepage Journal

      some of the planet's best and most intense runners run barefoot;

      Now see, this proves there must be a Designer! ;-)

      /me runs and hides!

      • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:34AM (#27658499)

        some of the planet's best and most intense runners run barefoot;

        Now see, this proves there must be a Designer! ;-)

        Show me the designer label and I'll believe you

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:52AM (#27658111)

      Or concrete.

      Just sayin'.

    • by hasmael (993654) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:57AM (#27658161)
      It would seem that way These Toes Were Made for Running [wired.com]
      • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NETBSDgmail.com minus bsd> on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:24AM (#27658389)

        The importance of running to early Homo is, of course, conjectural. But it does make sense: few other animals are capable of long-distance running, and none can do so under a blazing sun. (Wolves and hyenas, for example, require cold weather or nightfall for long-distance hunting; otherwise they overheat.) Endurance running might have set early humans apart from the pack.

        According to study co-author and Harvard University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman, many modern anatomical features make sense in the context of savannah marathons. Achilles tendons act as springs to store energy. Our hind limbs have extra-large joints. Our buttocks muscles are perfect for stabilization, as are regions of the brain uniquely sensitive to the physical pitching generated by the motion of running.

        Informative indeed.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by abigsmurf (919188)

          I have a lot of trouble believing this.

          Humans aren't capable of long distance running 'in the wild' so to speak. In the context of Savannah marathons, we'd be dehydrated severely after a few miles. We have great cooling but it comes at a huge cost, it uses a lot of sweat up. If you run 5 miles in the blazing hot African sun without stopping to drink and there's no water at your destination, you're finished. Most mammals which don't use heavy sweating will have to stop in the shade a often to cool down when

    • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:58AM (#27658167) Journal
      Evolution also didn't have any use for post-reproductive individuals, so if you wore out your knee joints by the time you were 40 then there's still nothing stopping evolution selecting for you (unless your children were still too young to defend themselves and were killed off by predators).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:07AM (#27658253)
        (unless your children were still too young to defend themselves and were killed off by predators).

        Just thought of a new slogan for Nike, "Only Nike shoes can help you defend your children from wolves. You don't want your kids to be eaten by wolves, do you?"
      • by Kryptikmo (1256514) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:17AM (#27658317)
        Well, evolution can skew towards all sorts of benefits in long life. This can happen quite easily if having grand parents who help look after the family mean that the youngest survive to reproduce.

        To say that evolution is all about reproduction is nonsense. It's also about raising offspring to survive better than the environment and other predators can kill them off.
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:27AM (#27658429)

        You're also meant to reproduce by the age you're 14 or 16. Aside from legal considerations, today you'll probably get to be on a talk show if you do.

        Evolution stopped being important when civilisation set in. Or rather, it changed. It's no longer "natural" selection, we found our own selection criteria and moved on with it. Earlier the female chose her mate by his fitness. Today, she chooses him by the size of his wallet. Evolution 2.0, if you will.

        • by zaxus (105404) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:36AM (#27658525)

          Earlier the female chose her mate by his fitness. Today, she chooses him by the size of his wallet. Evolution 2.0, if you will.

          I would argue that she's still choosing her mate by fitness. A "large wallet" is indicative of societal fitness. In civilization, physical fitness has decreased in reproductive importance as it no longer has a significant bearing on our ability to survive and protect the family. The size of the wallet, however, is a very good indication of how well a mate can provide for the family.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Spatial (1235392)

          Today, she chooses him by the size of his wallet. Evolution 2.0, if you will.

          Yup. You can tell by the rounded corners.

        • by rajafarian (49150) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @09:56AM (#27659677)

          Or rather, it changed. It's no longer "natural" selection, we found our own selection criteria and moved on with it... Evolution 2.0, if you will.

          One really annoying thing about Evo 2.0 is that people that should be having more kids (kind, intelligent, financially responsible) are not but those that should not (lazy, stupid people, with anachronistic religious views) are pumping them out like it's their job to overpopulate the world.

          • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @11:30AM (#27661167) Homepage Journal

            One really annoying thing about Evo 2.0 is that people that should be having more kids (kind, intelligent, financially responsible) are not but those that should not (lazy, stupid people, with anachronistic religious views) are pumping them out like it's their job to overpopulate the world.

            IMHO this is still bad old natural selection. We have created a society for the lazy and the stupid, so in this environment the intelligent ones are not the fittest ones. Evolution doesn't have a goal, even though it would be great for some people if it did have one of intelligence.

            In other words, build a system that even a fool can use, and only a fool will want to use it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MightyYar (622222)

        Evolution also didn't have any use for post-reproductive individuals

        This isn't true at all. Children with surviving grandparents tend to survive at a higher rate than children without grandparents, so evolution does select for longer lifetimes. In fact, menopause seems to be a human-specific trait that evolved to keep older women from dying in childbirth.

        This article sums it up nicely [inklingmagazine.com].

  • Hmm, no... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rastilin (752802) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:44AM (#27658041)

    Back in High School I remember seeing a girl nearly lose a toe to a sharp rock, it cut so deep it went right to the bone. Blood everywhere, shouting, etc.. As long as there are pointy things on the ground, I can risk a broken ankle. Yes, the whole "personal story proves nothing", but what should we learn from if not experience.

    • Re:Hmm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wjh31 (1372867) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:48AM (#27658077) Homepage
      all that means is that people who walk barefoot should look where they are going a little more than others, ive herd plenty of stories about people standing on a nail and having it go through their sneakers/trainers/whatever and out the other side of their foot, does that mean i should wear iron clad boots?
    • Re:Hmm, no... (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:54AM (#27658133)

      I love running barefoot. If you keep an eye on where you're going, you won't step on anything you shouldn't. And once you get calluses built up you can take a bit more than 'normal'.

      The longest I've ever run (10 miles, 8 miles, 7 miles) were all bare foot. If you stay on the balls of your feet and don't heel strike it feels like you're gliding. Funny that this is just now being researched heavily. I did my own anecdotal research and it made sense 4 years ago.

      http://runningbarefoot.org/ [runningbarefoot.org]

      • Re:Hmm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:03AM (#27658213) Journal

        Running on the balls of your foot means that the shock is being absorbed in your calf muscles. Running on your heels means it's being absorbed in the cartilage of your knees, which can very quickly wear out. Most running shoes I've tried have been weighted such that it's easier to put your foot down on your heel than on the front of your feet, which is likely to cause long-term injury (the cartilage damage is cumulative). They attempt to avoid this by having a lot of padding under the heel, which ends up making the heel heavier and making it even harder to put your weight on the front...

        That's not to say running shoes are intrinsically bad. If I were to design some, they would be flexible underneath, to make it easy to run on the balls of your foot. They would probably be weighted slightly forward, so that your toes would be pulled down, and would probably have a thinner sole at the back than the front. In short, they would be almost the opposite of most running shoes I've seen. If anyone wants to make shoes like this, please send me a pair...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by poetmatt (793785)

          Good running shoes that are appropriately balanced, provide plenty of space so you don't sweat, etc are pretty expensive. However, I don't have the callouses nor do I intend to develop them. So I run with Mizunos (130$) and the difference between those and el cheapo running shoes is night and day. All my foot pains from exercising went away almost immediately once I swapped to em. I would suggest you check them out, their better line would fit exactly what you want.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Hurricane78 (562437)

          Running on the balls of your foot means that the shock is being absorbed in your calf muscles. Running on your heels means it's being absorbed in the cartilage of your knees, which can very quickly wear out.

          Not exactly. Running on the balls of your foot means that the shock is being absorbed in all your leg and back muscles. While runnin on your heels removes the calf muscles from the equation, and creates shock waves in your bones. Not very healthy.

        • by wdebruij (239038) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:47AM (#27658661) Homepage
          There has been some research [nytimes.com] (reg.req.) on the benefits of barefoot running. BUt, the article also mentions having to pull glass from your foot... I've tried running barefoot once, on the beach, but wouldn't dare doing it on my standard run through the city. Does anyone here have any experience with the ultra thin Five Fingers [vibramfivefingers.com] running shoes (basically protective gloves around your feet)? Sure, you look like a dick -- almost as bad as Crocs -- but they appear a great alternative.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by chialea (8009)

          They make running shoes like that (but probably not as padded as you have in mind). They're called track spikes (just take the spikes out).

          Thanks,
          Lea

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) *

          I used to run cross country with sprinter spikes(first link on the goog) [firsttothefinish.com], which are basically slippers with metal spikes near the toes...They effectively have no heel.

          There are plenty of shoes out there that offer some protection without being heavy clod hoppers.

  • by sc0ob5 (836562) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:45AM (#27658049)
    Thousands of years of evolution is better than a pair of shoes... Crazy talk!
  • by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:46AM (#27658059)
    Then I noticed that it's an extract from a book and some attached material which almost certainly came from the publisher too, as part of the promo. Thereby bypassing the Daily Mail's staff entirely and "ensuring quality".
  • Football is the same (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plover (150551) * on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:48AM (#27658083) Homepage Journal

    'Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented, people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries.'

    And football supposedly had a much lower incidence of injuries before the introduction of "pads" (which quickly became an offensive weapon allowing harder hits)

    Of course, this could just be "numbers". Many of the running injuries treated today are repeat injuries. Prior to the invention of the running shoe was also pretty much prior to modern sports medicine, meaning a single injury would have prevented you from running again. Today's numbers may be higher than historical numbers due to the vast number of people who continue running after recovering from surgery to correct their problems.

    • by martinX (672498) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:03AM (#27658209)

      What they fail to mention is that prior to 1972, no-one ran. Then jogging was invented and we've regretted it ever since.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by slim (1652)

        What they fail to mention is that prior to 1972, no-one ran. Then jogging was invented and we've regretted it ever since.

        My dad (in his early 60s) has an anecdote about his older brother during the jogging craze of the 1970s. My uncle asked what this 'jogging' was. When told, he replied, confused, "that just sounds like going for a run".

    • by midicase (902333) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:07AM (#27658247)

      Today's numbers may be higher than historical numbers due to the vast number of people who continue running after recovering from surgery to correct their problems.

      Sound like the "divorce" statistic that is often quoted: "50% of marriages end up in divorce". the truth is that there are just as many long term marriages as ever, but at one time divorcees did not remarry. Now it is common to remarry and (re)divorce, skewing the statistics.

      Darn repeat offenders.

      • by pisto_grih (1165105) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:42AM (#27658603)

        Sound like the "divorce" statistic that is often quoted: "50% of marriages end up in divorce".

        They're the lucky ones. The other 50% end in death.

        (Not my joke, can't remember whose though)

      • by Comboman (895500) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @09:41AM (#27659449)
        Sound like the "divorce" statistic that is often quoted: "50% of marriages end up in divorce". the truth is that there are just as many long term marriages as ever, but at one time divorcees did not remarry. Now it is common to remarry and (re)divorce, skewing the statistics.

        That's part of it, but the biggest problem is how the 50% number is generated. It compares the number of people getting divorced to the number of people getting married in a single year. Since most people don't get married and divorced in the same year, the results are skewed. Even worse, most people currently getting divorced are baby boomers; a huge statistical bulge that recently married Gen-Xers can't hope to compensate for (much like social security). According to this report [divorcereform.org] the divorce rate in the US has never been 50% even at it's peak in the 1970's and has been dropping since then.

    • by evilkasper (1292798) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:07AM (#27658249)
      I also have to wonder about the motivated couch potato effect. You know where someone who is fairly non athletic and all decides or is "motivated" by someone or something to get in shape. Goes out buys the most expensive trainers they can find(so they can run faster) and goes for a run. Pushes themselves to hard because "no pain no gain" and pulls a muscle or rolls an ankle.
  • by Choozy (1260872) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:52AM (#27658109)
    ... to see Olympic athletes run barefoot... better yet, bring back the original way of having the Olympics and have everyone go butt nekkid (of course we don't need to bring everything back of old where only men could compete).
  • by Qbertino (265505) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:58AM (#27658169)

    The correct running technique - which can vary from runner to runner - is much more important than the type of shoes. Some running shoe brands claim that their shoes encourage and help do the right technique, but it really boils down to doing it by yourself.

    The only point I see in running shoes is an certain amount of cushoning, since we tend to run on concrete quite a lot, allthough our type of pavements have only been around in recent history.

    It's safe to say that most of the running shoes available are mostly snakeoil.

  • by superid (46543) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @07:59AM (#27658177) Homepage

    I'm 46 and I'm a casual runner. For years I had intermittent knee and hip pain during and after a 4-6 mile run. I finally broke down and spent more money ($90-$110) on good quality running shoes. The pain is gone. I can run 6 miles regularly with nothing but plain old muscle pain. I can tell when it is time to buy new shoes too. After a couple of hundred miles and the shoes lose their cushion, I can feel it when I run.

    • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:10AM (#27658273)

      So you had bad shoes, then bought good ones, and then the good ones went bad, and somehow that means that good shoes are better than being barefoot?

      Check your data again. It doesn't lead to your conclusion.

      • by Dripdry (1062282) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @09:45AM (#27659505) Journal

        Running shoe padding wears out over time. In fact there is even a "best by" date on good running shoes. After a couple years on the shelf they get recycled because the padding material inside begins to break down. With regular running it also breaks down. Please try to be informed about a subjective before ridiculing someone who is actually directly involved with it.

        Some may say "how convenient" regarding the sell-by date, but I'm in the same boat. I can tell when a running shoe is beginning to wear out as I begin to have more knee and foot pain. Of course, my whole body is screwed up so I'm more sensitive than most.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bwalling (195998)
      You run heel to toe, right? Have you ever tried running without landing on your heels?
  • hmm .... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WankersRevenge (452399) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:05AM (#27658227)
    I've run at least three miles a day. I've run one marathon and I am currently training for another. I've had multiple long runs that have exceeded twenty miles. At one point, I was running at least forty miles a week. I can tell you from my experience is that shoes make a huge difference. Once my shoe starts to go, I'll start to get intense pain in my hips and knees. Changes the shoe, and the pain goes away. It's a form issue in my case which the shoe helps to correct. I'm guessing those people who run barefoot have really good form. Take away my shoes and put me on a flat area without any rocks, I figure I might be able to run a few miles before I'm forced to stop because of knee or hip pain. I'll keep my shoes, thankyouverymuch.

    No joke ... when a new runner starts to experience pain, the quickest remedy to buy new shoes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No offense, but that only seems to show that bad shoes are really, really bad for you. How do you know barefoot might not be better than even good, new shoes?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AaxelB (1034884)

      It's a form issue in my case which the shoe helps to correct. I'm guessing those people who run barefoot have really good form. Take away my shoes and put me on a flat area without any rocks, I figure I might be able to run a few miles before I'm forced to stop because of knee or hip pain. I'll keep my shoes, thankyouverymuch. No joke ... when a new runner starts to experience pain, the quickest remedy to buy new shoes.

      Oh, I certainly agree, but I think the article brings up an interesting thought that while it's not necessarily the quickest, running with good form barefoot is better and healthier than wearing most any shoes you can buy. If you move to landing on the ball of your foot, rather than the heel, and depend on your calf for shock absorption, you handle the shock very easily and naturally (I noticed this during my short stint as a cross-country runner, but didn't really make it a habit for some reason.) and also

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joshv (13017)

      The reason you are experiencing pain is that one side of the thick wedges of foam in your shoe has lost it's spring, turning your shoe into a crappy little ramp that actually accentuates whatever that wedge was meant to correct.

      The proper corrective for poor form is not a running shoe. It's either running barefoot, or running in a shoe with a thin rubber sole that serves as protection only. Try if for a month, but build your miles slowly. All the muscles, tendons and ligaments that your current shoes hav

  • The Daily Mail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Any Web Loco (555458) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:12AM (#27658289) Homepage
    Why is this news? For a start, it's hardly "new" that running barefoot decreases injuries and is, as a rule, better for you than running with trainers on. Here's [sportsci.org] some research from 2001, for example. And getting your science news from the Daily Mail is pretty much the UK equivalent of getting your science news from US weekly. It's not known as the Daily Fail (or The Daily (hate) Mail) for nothing...
  • by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:20AM (#27658361) Journal

    From the summary:

    Some of the more interesting points: the more expensive the running shoes, the greater the probability of getting an injury

    Isn't it possible that the more you run, or the more you get into running, that it is more likely you are going to purchase the more expensive running shoes? So that would seem to correlate mileage and expensive shoes, and it is possible there is a relationship between increased mileage and increase injuries.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RKThoadan (89437)

      Nope, they checked that too. From TFA:

      But what surprised Dr Marti was the fact that the most common variable among the casualties wasn't training surface, running speed, weekly mileage or 'competitive training motivation'.

      It wasn't even body weight or a history of previous injury. It was the price of the shoe. Runners in shoes that cost more than $95 were more than twice as likely to get hurt as runners in shoes that cost less than $40.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sseaman (931799)
        Age. Older runners can afford better shoes and are more prone to injury.
  • The right shoes (Score:5, Informative)

    by slim (1652) <john@ha[ ]up.net ['rtn' in gap]> on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:34AM (#27658493) Homepage

    Something TFA doesn't mention is that most people buy running shoes off the shelf based on silly considerations like colour, brand loyalty, whatever.

    I was recommended a local sports shop where they look at your foot, watch you run on a treadmill, and ask you what kind of running you do (road, trail, track; distance; etc.). That leads to a shortlist of appropriate shoes, then you try those out on the treadmill, and eventually (in theory) leave with shoes that are right for you.

    If you over-pronate, and you buy shoes designed for under-pronators, that's likely to lead to injury.

  • Anecdote (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:40AM (#27658587)

    Here's an anecdote... if we get another one then we have data :)

    About half way through my first semester at uni, I was getting out of my car and my sneakers fell apart. I took them off, chucked them in the car, and went barefoot for the next 2 years or so (mostly - they don't let you into cinemas etc without shoes on :).

    My feet got really tough, 40C days walking on hot tarmac didn't bother me (unless I stood still for too long). I never got stung by a bee, never had any major injuries. I would only notice small pieces of glass stuck in my foot by the noise they made on concrete when I stepped :)

    I did quite a bit of walking too, 5km each way too and from uni when my car wasn't going, which was often.

    Then the first joint on my big toe started hurting on one foot. A day or so later, the other big toe started hurting in the same way. It was like an ache that shot up each leg every time I took a step. I put some shoes on (workboots) and the pain went instantly. I didn't go barefoot for a few weeks, but the next time I tried both feet were aching within hours. Haven't gone barefoot since.

    Now that was about 12 years ago so I may have some of the facts muddled up, but obviously going barefoot just wasn't for me. I didn't really do any running so it's not completely relevant to the topic, but I can't imagine that running would have been any kinder to my feet than walking.

    Maybe shoes mimic the sort of ground that humans evolved around, vs the rock hard tarmac and concrete that I was doing most of my walking on?

    • Re:Anecdote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nutsquasher (543657) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @10:23AM (#27660081)
      Neat story. And excellent point about tarmac/concrete. Something that always bugged me about people who say running barefoot is good for you because it's natural also "must" take the extra step of running/walking on "natural" surfaces. That means no sidewalks, no paved roads, nothing man-made at all. What did humans walk on 10,000 years ago? Dirt. Gravel. Beach sand. Swamps. Woods. Snow. Open fields. etc... These surfaces "give", unlike solid man-made surfaces. I would imagine that the "perfect" shoe would probably mimic this experience, at least partially. That's probably why all shoes have some sort of cushioning built into them. Shoe's are man-made technology designed to work in conjunction with other man-made technology, roads and artificial surfaces.
  • Sample Bias (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OpenGLFan (56206) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:40AM (#27658589) Homepage

    Here's another good example of "correlation vs. causation." Extremely good runners have a very mechanically efficient stride and smooth foot action. Some of this is training, and some of it is related to how the feet and knees are aligned. Most people do not have perfect alignment. We will probably never become Olympic competitors or join the Stanford running team, but we can run for fun; I do the occasional road race, and I'm doing a triathlon next weekend.

    Those of us who run for fun and who are not gifted with perfect alignment may overpronate or supinate our feet when we run. This action is less efficient, so we're less likely to be fast enough to join a college team. A small majority of people overpronate, somewhat less have a good neutral position, and a few people supinate. To look for overpronation, check out your old tennis shoes: if your shoes wear out first near the ball of the foot, chances are you're an overpronator. (If you have flat feet, you're also probably an overpronator. Try the "wet foot test": when you get out of the shower, step on a piece of paper and look at the prints you make.)

    I'm a moderate overpronator, and shoes with a little extra cushion that compensate for my less-than-perfect foot position have kept my feet injury-free for five years.

  • by dfdashh (1060546) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:42AM (#27658605)
    Long time distance runner here. While running barefoot converts more of your energy into forward motion, shoes can protect us against those oh-so-prevalent sharp things on the ground. Granted if you run barefoot enough you will develop thicker skin, but (speaking from experience) I would still check the ground first before I ran barefoot on it. The last thing I need is to step on tiny shards of glass when training for a marathon. Ouch.

    The article also spends little time discussing one big factor in the increase of running injuries: the surface on which most people run these days. Soft earth is infinitely more forgiving than asphalt, but due to its convenience asphalt/pavement is probably used the most. This leads to more running injuries as more and more runners are literally out in the streets, pounding their poor feet on a surface that doesn't give.
  • Protection (Score:4, Interesting)

    by yoshi_mon (172895) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:45AM (#27658649)

    I've been a runner, someone who runs/jogs for the majority of my exercise, since I was a kid. I've always viewed shoes as a means of protection 1st and foremost.

    Over the years I've had many different shoes that I've run in. And have always preferred running shoes that are light and broken in. The worst shoes that I ever run in are always the new ones that try to make my feet contort into ways that they aren't naturally.

    Once a shoe gets to the point where they are more like my feet than like the way the shoe started as they work best.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:47AM (#27658665)

    I'm no runner, I'm more into downhill skiing. Equipment does play a huge role, from shoes to skis to how you set it up. Yet you would not put the same equipment on an inexperienced person just learning that an expert uses. First, the size of your skis. You couldn't turn my skis if you're new to the sport, they're just too long and too clumsy for you. An accident is almost inevitable. My shoes, you wouldn't want them, they kill you and take away any kind of feeling or movement you might still have. The way I set my binding would certainly mean a torn lingament to you when you hit the ground because it would not open.

    I can only assume it is the same with running equipment. I guess, when I use the equipment of someone who has the muscles and sinews of an experienced runner, I'd sooner or later twist my ankle (because frankly, my ankle stability is close to nonexistant compared to the rest of my foot), and I'd probably end up with really bad knees because I wouldn't know how to run in those things sensibly to handle the shock, something that, again I assume, an experienced runner can easily handle.

    There is ski equipment, good equipment actually, available to people who are new to the sport. They don't give you top speed or handling, but they are quite forgiving and they do "cushion" you a lot and keep you from being injured. I can only assume it could be the same for other sports, including running.

    So my guess would be that, as someone new to running, you'd probably need equipment that helps you avoid injury rather than equipment that "makes you good". At least, well, that's what I'd want when I start with a sport. I certainly don't want a Formula 1 car to learn driving, the chances to kill myself are just a wee bit too high.

  • by mccalli (323026) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @08:54AM (#27658737) Homepage
    From the article:
    "Then there's the secretive Tarahumara tribe, the best long-distance runners in the world. These are a people who live in basic conditions in Mexico, often in caves without running water, and run with only strips of old tyre or leather thongs strapped to the bottom of their feet. They are virtually barefoot."

    Virtually barefoot. Which is to say not barefoot at all. These 'best runners in the world' have decided that they need footwear.

    Cheers,
    Ian
  • by PinchDuck (199974) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @09:01AM (#27658847)

    Good for Stanford, run barefoot all you want. A good pair of shoes allows me to run with less pain in my Achilles tendon. Since no one else needs, them, I feel kind of special: A multi-billion dollar industry is targeted directly at me.

  • by Comatose51 (687974) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @09:11AM (#27658989) Homepage

    First, I think the relationship between running injuries and shoes might be reversed. There's a group of people called overpronates who are prone to injuries and need "control" or "stability" shoes. Those shoes are among the most expensive. I have a mild case of it; my arches look flat from a distance but leave normal looking prints behind. My shoes have more padding than normal to help that. I also have orthodics to help more. The combination of both have basically stopped me from getting shin splints. I have had that problem in nearly two years, despite upping my mileage more than 100% over that period of time.

    Second, from what I've read the Stanford track team, who inspired the Nike Free shoes, run bare foot but only once a week. They don't practice all the time that way. They also run it on grass.

    The argument for running barefoot is compelling though and it's something I want to try some day, perhaps starting with something like Nike Free. Also, I'm not sure how well that carries over to distance running that I do. One of the benefits of barefoot running is that you tend to land the ball of your feet. However, long distance running tend to involve more heel striking with short, low strides. I might do what the Stanford track team does, which is to mix it in but for shorter distances.

  • No! and more... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by meburke (736645) on Tuesday April 21, 2009 @09:12AM (#27659001)

    I say no, especially for me. I constantly had problems from walking and running until I read the book, "The Maffetone Method" by Phillip Maffetone. (Maffetone trains bicycle racers and super-long-distance runners. Stuart Mittleman, the holder of the record for the 1000-mile run, was one of his clients.) The two things I changed as a result of reading his book were:

    1. I changed to low-cut Converse All Stars, and

    2. I went on a low-carb diet. (I gained 40 lbs in four years on a low-fat diet. Maffetone hypothesized that some people were carbohydrate sensitive and suggested that trying a low-carb diet might work better for those people.)

    The end result was that I lost 20 lbs in two years, and my legs and hips quit hurting almost immediately.

    Check this link http://books.google.com/books?id=1ehUeFPfch0C&dq=Philip+Maffetone&printsec=frontcover&source=an&hl=en&ei=PMPtSa-HJKb0MvqC0AI&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5#PPA62,M1 [google.com] for excerpts from his book, "Fix your Feet, and click on the "Picking the right shoe" entry in the TOC.

  • I took up first fast-walking and then running after many (MANY) years of near-zero activity, grossly overweight (almost 140Kg). Of course, my body was quite over what evolution anticipated - I have a weak ankle which bended from time to time (now, 40Kg slimmer, much less often and much less painfully). Of course, I didn't buy top-of-the-line running shoes, only a pair of decently resistant, well-formed jogging shoes. I would not have done it without them.

    On the other extreme, we have high-performance runners - Be it my marathonist/ultramarathonists friends, be it the speed runners. Once again, evolution provided us with strong skin soles, but not strong enough to endure a 100m race in ~10 seconds (I still cannot believe a human can do that). It provided us with strong skin, but not strong enough to endure 40Km. And there are humans doing it - Take away their shoes, and they will really suffer.

    Hell, same goes for regular shoes for moving in a city at a calm pace... I like wearing sandals, but I really don't like somebody stepping over me barefooted. And as I often go into people-crammed places (think of, say, the subway), I prefer wearing regular shoes. Odds are I will suffer less, even if I don't really really need them for my day-to-day activities.

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