There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life. But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint. So, too, are you. Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.
- George Sheehan

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Barefoot running leads to injuries!! ZOMG!!1!" article

The Recent AP article that goes by various terrifying titles

^This article has been floating around recently online, and has been picked up by many, many news sites around the country.  I thought I'd add my $.02, seeing that this is my blog and probably only three people in the world actually read it.

The article states:
"Swept by the barefoot running craze, ultramarathoner Ryan Carter ditched his sneakers for footwear that mimics the experience of striding unshod.
The first time he tried it two years ago, he ran a third of a mile on grass. Within three weeks of switching over, he was clocking six miles on the road.
During a training run with a friend along a picturesque bike path near downtown Minneapolis, Carter suddenly stopped, unable to take another step. His right foot seared in pain.
“It was as though someone had taken a hammer and hit me with it,” he recalled.
Carter convinced his friend to run on without him. He hobbled home and rested his foot. When the throbbing became unbearable days later, he went to the doctor. The diagnosis: a stress fracture."  - The Associated Press

Text in bold for emphasis.  He went from a third of a mile on grass to six miles on roads in THREE WEEKS.  Sorry Mr. Carter, I know you can run better in your sleep than I ever could even on my best day, but that was a stupid, stupid move.  There is no secret danger about barefoot running that led to that injury.  You can't go from 1/3 mile to 6 miles barefoot in a matter of three weeks.  Thanks for playing.

That's the point I was trying to make in my recent, and extremely verbose vent-fest.  People need to take responsibility for their safety.  NO ONE should try barefoot or minimalist running if they're not willing to completely start over in their running training, and build themselves from the ground up, a few hundred yards at a time.  They have to listen to their body and know when to stop, and allow the transition to happen slowly.  This will take at least MONTHS for most people, upwards of a year or more for others.

High mileage, experienced runners like Mr. Carter often run into this situation.  Their experience and fitness is, in a way, their downfall.  They don't want to have to start from scratch.  So they knock the mileage down for a few weeks, thinking it's enough, and start ramping up quickly again.  And they run themselves and their weak feet into the ground.

The article then goes on to make some reasonable points, such as:
- People jumping into barefoot/minimalism "too enthusiastically" and getting overuse injuries as a result
- Runners get injured in regular running shoes too all the time.  Between 30-70% of all runners get injured according to this
- Scientific research is severely lacking for both barefoot running and shod running
- Start slow and add distance in small increments
- People with decreased sensation in their feet should probably not run barefoot (I agree with this; feeling the ground and using that input from your feet is everything with barefoot and minimalist running)

I especially like the closing with Mr. Carter's running shoes sitting unused in his closet.  Perhaps if he had started completely barefoot, and used some barefoot training exercises to supplement his regular distance training (in his regular shoes), he could have strengthened his feet, improved his mechanics, AND kept up his mileage. 

Ultimately, it's about running better.  Whether you're barefoot or not, this "barefoot running movement/craze" is really just about finding a more efficient way to run.  It's about natural running style.  That can be achieved in shoes too, with the proper education and some controlled use of barefoot exercises instead of trying to transition to barefoot/minimalism.  People that are completely unwilling to dedicate themselves to a year or more of careful barefoot transition should not try that.  But a couple minutes of barefoot drills each week can slowly improve your running form in shoes.  I tell a lot of people I know who are experiencing issues running, that they don't have to throw their shoes away, but if they try some barefoot drills, that they might see some improvements in their shod running. 

For me...

...Peace is a beautiful bit of land, a perfect sunny day, and some friends to enjoy barefoot running with.  Thanks guys/girls for a wonderful time this morning!