Barefoot Running/Minimalist Shoes

Posted by on Sunday, May 15th, 2011

With nice weather finally arriving in the New York area the talk has turned to getting outside for walking, running or cycling.  A few weeks ago I participated in a panel discussion at the Jack Rabbit NYC Running show on barefoot running and minimalist shoes. Joining me on the panel was Johanna Bjorken, John Durant, Nikhil Jain and Katherine Petrecca. Johanna Bjorken Johanna Bjorken has been the head “shoe geek” at JackRabbit since 2004. In that time, she has become one of the most influential shoe buyers in the specialty running industry. Johanna decides which shoes JackRabbit carries and develops all of the staff training for JackRabbit’s shoe fitting process. Johanna is a marathoner, a triathlete and a mom. John Durant John is a longtime barefoot runner living in New York City. He is the organizer of the annual barefoot race on Governor’s Island and of the Barefoot Runners NYC Meetup group. He has appeared in numerous articles and TV shows including “The Colbert Report”. Nikhil Jain Nikhil is the technical running product manager at Saucony and is responsible for the design and development of Saucony’s new Hattori, the company’s minimalist shoe.  He is a longtime runner and champion hurdler. Katherine Petrecca An 11-year veteran at New Balance, Katherine is the Business Unit Manager for Running and Outdoor Specialty with a focus on technical product launches and new innovation projects. Over the last two years, she has led the development and launch of the Minimus footwear collection. My Opinion I discussed some of my concerns with barefoot running including a discussion of some of the injuries that I have seen. The injuries have ranged from Achilles tendon/calf strains, plantar fasciitis to stress fractures of the metatarsals and tibia. I also discussed the fact that there are no definitive studies that prove that running in shoes causes injuries and that running without shoes or running in minimalist shoes prevent injuries. However, we do know that running in worn shoes with broken down mid soles and outer soles can cause injury, as can running in too soft a shoe or too stiff a shoe. But is it the shoe or running form that makes the difference? I am a strong believer that improper running technique  is a major contributor to running injuries. We know that approxiamately 60% of running injuries are due to overuse with training errors associated with most of them.  Listening to your body and training in a responsible manner will eliminate the majority of running injuries. Approximately 40% of running injuries are due to some fault in biomechanics with subsequent abnormal impact overload, abnormal loading rate and increased joint torque (twisting). Therefore, it becomes important to get a proper biomechanical examination and evaluation of running form like what we offer at the Center for Podiatric Care & Sports Medicine. (See section on Gait Analylsis and Orthotics) The question then becomes: Can, or should, a particular runner changeover to barefoot running or running with minimalist shoes? If you are healthy and running well there is no need to do anything differently. As the saying goes, “Don’t try to fix the wheel if it ain’t broke.” If you have a history of injuries, then a change to barefoot running or to a minimalist shoe may be worth trying. To properly make this change, you will need to: retrain your running mechanics; go slowly and gradually to allow for physiological adaptation for your bones, muscles and tendons; try more forgiving running surfaces, such as dirt or grass; and strengthen calf and foot muscles. If you have a history of repetitive  injuries it would be wise to make an appointment to have your running form and biomechanics  analyzed to determine whether your running mechanics are contributing to your injures. Call (212) 996-1900 or (914) 328-3400.