Shod or barefoot; which running style is best according to the NY Times?
Shod (with shoes) or barefoot, forefoot strike, midfoot strike or heel strike is a discussion that has been gaining popularity. A NY Times article explores this concept using history and our knowledge of who ran barefoot, how fast they ran, and more.
There is a growing group of people who believe that we should all run barefoot or close to it. Barefoot runners tend to run slower than those in shoes and they tend to be more midfoot strikers. Shoe wearers are more heel strikers, and those doing chi style running tend to be midfoot runners and are not as fast, but it is believed that this style of running is easier on the body. On the other hand, evidence, as mentioned in the NY Times article, shows that some barefoot groups in Africa must have been able to run 5-minute miles barefoot, and that requires a larger stride and that they were heel strikers while barefoot.
Knowing this, we cannot assume anything because it is not popular to speak about the idea of natural selection and genetics which vary widely from global region to global region. One can make the assumption that those who ran faster and had fewer mechanical problems were better hunter-gatherers and did not get eaten. On the other hand, those who lived a different existence such as those in Europe had little need for the same type of activities, and running was not necessary for survival in the same way. One can also assume that those who were less perfect mechanically were able to survive without having to run to live and exist.
Keeping this in mind, the idea of runners who came from European ancestors may or may not be able to run as fast depending on their inherited body mechanics, and all of their ancestors for years wore some type of shoe. Then came along the running shoe revolution in the ’70s which got us out of boots and sneakers and made running safer and more popular for the masses. The beauty of a shoe, as it morphed over the years is that it cushioned the heel well and allowed for ever-faster runners. Because of the way shoes are designed today, almost all will accommodate a device called an orthotic that can correct for asymmetry of one’s gait while running, which allows for a better stride and usually fewer injuries. On the other hand, those who came from ancestors who ran barefoot, often have terrific body mechanics naturally, and barefoot running works great for them.
Of course, with asymmetry comes mechanical adaptations from the fascial system that affect the upper body as well. Since all these motion transfers through the core muscles and its surrounding fascia, the more asymmetrical the person is built, whether they walk or run shod or not, the body will adapt by distorting the core which increases over and under striding, distorting the distribution of forces from the core to the legs (core should fire and stabilize first, then the legs), resulting in gait-related issues no matter whether you run shod or not. Since we are agreeably all built differently, we must keep an open mind and tailor shoe or nonshoe recommendations and everything in between to the individual and how they are built.
With this line of thought, it may be quite appropriate to take a minimalist shoe and put in a small insert which reduces overpronation and adds symmetry for some, while others may run or perceive they run better barefoot, while others, may run better shod and yet others may be best shod with an orthosis (straight lasted shoe with a custom orthosis).]
Read the NY Times article which makes some valid points.
Is There One Right Way to Run?
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
In recent years, many barefoot running enthusiasts have been saying that to reduce impact forces and injury risk, runners should land near the balls of their feet, not on their heels, a running style that has been thought to mimic that of our barefoot forebears and therefore represent the most natural way to run. But a new study of barefoot tribespeople in Kenya upends those ideas and, together with several other new running-related experiments, raises tantalizing questions about just how humans really are meant to move.
For the study, published this month in the journal PLoS One, a group of evolutionary anthropologists turned to the Daasanach, a pastoral tribe living in a remote section of northern Kenya. Unlike some Kenyan tribes, the Daasanach have no tradition of competitive distance running, although they are physically active. They also have no tradition of wearing shoes.
Humans have run barefoot, of course, for millennia, since footwear is quite a recent invention, in evolutionary terms. And modern running shoes, which typically feature well-cushioned heels that are higher than the front of the shoe, are newer still, having been introduced widely in the 1970s.
The thinking behind these shoes’ design was, in part, that they should reduce injuries. When someone runs in a shoe with a built-up heel, he or she generally hits the ground first with the heel. With so much padding beneath that portion of the foot, the thinking went, pounding would be reduced and, voila, runners wouldn’t get hurt.