Every year 65% to 80% of all runners suffer an injury no matter how much you run, who you are or what type of shoe you wear. With $20 billion dollars spent on running shoes each year and 30 years of experience, you would believe with the technological advances, including even embedded microchips, that injuries would be down. Not so says the experts. In fact, the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that researchers from Australia found that there is not a single evidence based study done in the last 30 years that demonstrates that running shoes makes you less prone to injury.
My son, living in Salt Lake City has been a distance runner all through high school and college. He sent me an email telling me he had just bought (for $80) a “shoe/sock” called Vibram Five Fingers. Vibram is a company that has been making soles for shoes nationally for years. They have developed a product which consists of a sole that is exactly like the base of your foot, including “toepockets” and put a nylon sock on the top. The idea behind this product (named one of Time Magazines Best Inventions in 2007) is that running BAREFOOT is the most natural and safest form of running and we should try to get back to the basics.
The concept has been catching on fast. An article he sent me regarding the idea included a story about the Stanford University Track Team. Apparently they are sponsored by NIKE and when 2 Nike Reps came by to talk to coach Vin Lananna about what shoes Nike had sent his runners preferred, they were shocked to see most of the team running barefooted. The coach told the reps that “I believe that when my runners train barefoot they run faster and have fewer injuries”. The Tarahumara tribe, known to be the best runners in the world, run with basically strips of old tires or leather thongs strapped to the bottom of their feet. Until 1972 when Nike basically created the modern athletic shoe, people like Jesse Owens and Roger Bannister ran on thin soled shoes and had very strong feet.
Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard believes a lot of foot and knee injuries are caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause ankle rotation and gives us knee problems. Running on shoes encourage people to land on their heels, and transferring the weight to the middle and eventually to the ball and front of the foot. Running barefoot, you are more likely to land on your forefoot transferring weight to the heel and using the calf muscles to control weight distribution. Running barefoot also adds strength and elasticity to your feet. Shoes tend to make muscles shrivel and tendons stiffen.
My son has worn his Five Fingers shoe socks on several runs. The instructions say you need to build up a tolerance to running on the thin soles and he has only run 30 minutes per run this week. He did state there was some pain associated in getting use to them. He is hoping to run a 3 hour race in Utah in June and will see if they help his speed or comfort. Oh, and by the way…Nike is onboard now too with a thin sole shoe sock called the NIKE FREE. This maybe the secret formula for winning the Fargo Marathon this coming Saturday!