Foot Rant

Last night I came home exhausted, the sort of exhaustion brought on by overload. I though a hot tub soak and a good read would help me unwind so I could fall asleep. The husband unit had pointed out a good article on running in Outside Magazine, so I grabbed that. I’ve got a running workshop coming up soon and I like to catch all the latest hype and buzz.


Super bad choice for unwinding. Dang! I hate it when something ruffles my feathers right before bed, especially on a night when I need some good sleep. I almost wrote the letter that night, but made myself wait until morning. Here it is, my first letter to the editor of a major publication (just in case it never gets printed in the actual Feedback column):

The trouble with quoting scientific studies to resolve a question (You Don’t Know How to Run, April 2013) is that studies can only test for a single variable. Biomechanics must be done with regard the the entire body within gravity. Likewise, running is not just done with the feet. If there is no mention of hip flexion, extension and lateral stabilization regarding stride form, then any interpretations of foot impact are moot. Heel strike verses mid-foot strike has another variable too: speed. Good walking form requires heel strike. As we speed up, the heel strike lessens and the foot lands more in the mid-foot (if the foot is properly landing directly below the torso). These are more important variables to consider when improving running form than what kind of shoes to purchase. I loved Christopher McDougall’s comeback to the hype: “When did I ever say buy shoes?”

Here are my added points I would like to make. First–I love Outside Magazine. Second–I am a barefoot runner. As in no shoes.I’ve been trying a couple of minimalist shoes and had some good and some bad experiences with them. I also have run in so-called “traditionalist’s” shoes. Third–I own a business, but hate hype marketing, which, sadly, works great but only until the next fad comes along. Fourth–most of the research in the article was most likely paid for by shoe companies (Joe Hamill, professor of Kinesiology at University of Massachusetts Amherst, is quoted extensively and “has done research for shoe companies”) as is most of the magazine paid for by shoe companies that advertise.

Barefoot running is about finding alignment through natural movement. That sounds so much better than this snippet from the article: “The minimalists believe they’re poised to inherit the earth. The traditionalists have no plans to surrender. The battles are being fought runner by runner, shoe by shoe.” Alignment is based on science and is different than posture, which is is based on social constructs. Rather than science based, this article is posturing the two sides of the discussion as enemy camps. Why are we fighting?

Because of money, of course. According to the article, Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run launched a 500 percent increase of FiveFingers shoes sales. If the next trend is just regular ol’ barefeet, well, no shoe sales will follow. Podiatrists don’t like to promote bare feet because they sell orthotics (sorry that is a generalization, and I know there are good podiatrists that are not just out to sell orthotics, but there is good money in them and that is a fact). Are there injuries on both sides? Of course. Even if we run with perfect form from head to toe, shit happens.

This I know to be true: our feet are beautifully bio-mechanically designed. To work with our knees. And our hips, and torso, neck and head. Gravity is constant. Strength is relative. Speed is an imposed external parameter of running performance which has gained importance due to cultural influences. Aerobic exercise means moving EVERY muscle, one of which is the heart. Alignment is based on physics (gravity being a big player) and means that every joint is able to move in a proper relationship to every other joint. Only then can every muscle properly move to become nourished aerobically and strengthened eventually. That would be an internal parameter of running performance, and much better science than jabbering on about shoes.

Peace out.



4 thoughts on “Foot Rant

  1. Nice post. I haven’t read the original article you refer to, but I’ve seen many for which your reply would be appropriate. Keep up the barefoot running and enjoy yourself!

  2. The Barefoot says:

    You are exactly right! When broken down to it’s basic purpose, the reason for shoe companies, is to sell you something! To enhance their business, they use advertising and other things to convince us that we just have to have their products to survive the day! The fact that, just like fingerprints, no two pair of feet are the same is NOT brought up! They put their produ t on the retailer’s shelves and hope that you buy a pair! I stopped feeding their coffers over 10 years ago! They use fear and distortion to sell the products, such as “you may step on glass hidden in the grass”! As if every field of grass is the most dangerous place to walk on earth! “Why you could pick up germs!”
    And of course an uninformed public will buy right into it! But the truth is, the actual incidence of injury is minuscule! I’ve gone barefoot totally (not just running) for several years, never had an injury, never cut by broken glass! And this IS indicative of everyone I have had contact with that, like me, have joined the “barefoot lifestyle”. As to your comment about podiatrists, I know one that goes barefoot 24/7/365 as much as possible! He also doesn’t recommend orthotics to his patients unless actually needed!
    What this all means, is that we humans are finally getting back to being natural! No more buying into “You need our plastic and rubber to survive”

  3. Martin says:

    I agree with everything except “good walking from requires heel strike”
    In a ”natural’ transition from running with heel strike to forefoot, as I decided to dich running shoes anduse first sandals and then vibrams, I was further encouraged and helped by an Alexander teach (, barefooting for decades, who advocates forefoot strike when walking. Although it seemed strange at first, I can’t now imagine why anyone would heel strike barefoot. Ok, you can get away with it on some surfaces. Bu forefoot strike, underneath centre of gravity, is always right – it absorbs the impact, provides best balance and the transition to running is seemless.

    • Heels are the largest bones in the foot–where there are big bones, there should be weight bearing. It’s a matter of physics and cell regeneration. As speed increases, there really isn’t any weight bearing downward–we are actually pushing forward. The ball of the foot is where there are a lot of muscular strength, so here design dictates propulsive movement. Losing a heel strike in walking leads to the “shuffling” action often seen in older individuals who have lost ankle dorsiflexion. The calve would become seriously shortened without any dorsiflexion. My experience would dictate to move the whole foot through its range of motion–which would include BOTH dorsiflexion and plantar flexion in a variety of movement scenarios.

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