Apr 22, 2013 at 6:18 am #1302034
About one year ago, I started to run with more of a mid/fore foot strike and it has drastically changed my running. I no longer have any knee pain. I ran XC in high school as a heel-striker, so my knees are a little worn out. I've read some reviews on here of minimalist shoes and seeing comments like "my heels are sore, but my posture is better!" make me cringe. If you are still striking with your heels while running, watch this video and check out this website:
You will save your heels, knees, hips, and back. Keep in mind, this is for running, not walking. I see no point in walking with a forefoot strike…it's not natural…and even if it is, you look like a t-rex.
Anyway, I've been trail running in Montrail Masochists and love them. They are also excellent while hiking. Even though they are not a low/zero drop shoe, they were still working fine with my mid/forefoot strike. I wanted to try some zero-drop shoes, so I picked up a pair of Merrell Trail Glove 2's. I cant remember what the difference is between the first and second versions, but I remember reading a blogger who really liked the updates. I took them out for a 4 mile trail run and really enjoyed the way I could feel the ground but still had protection from small rocks and other corners on the trail. The traction wasn't as good as my Masochists, but that's a non-issue since traction has more to do with foot placement than whether your shoes can grab the ground underneath you. Running with that in mind will make you run smart – you will avoid stepping directly on top of a root and expecting your foot to not slip…why should a root offer traction in the first place? It took some time to get used to it, because I am conditioned to not look so closely at where I am placing my feet.
I liked the fit a lot better than a New Balance Minimus…can't remember which one – it had a "strap" over the forefoot. The TG2's have a much better heel and arch fit for me. I know the arch isn't technically "support", but it feels good nonetheless.
The uppers are light and breathable – more than any other shoe I've worn so far. The soles seem bomb-proof. They certainly are not the best for ground-feel, but that's not exactly why I got these. I got them for moderate ground-feel, traction, and zero-drop.
Also – after my run I went for a 1/2 mile barefoot run on the park road. My feet are somewhat tough already, but I swear by doing this – it will seriously teach you proper running form. Check out the videos on this blog for a great intro if you want some tips:
It teaches you how to land properly on your feet to avoid injury and increase efficiency. Anyone else on here running barefoot?Apr 22, 2013 at 7:09 am #1979271
I'm running barefoot on beach. What I like about it is the simplicity and option to jump into water and run there for a while. It's so cool. What I also like is touch of the ground I feel when I step. On my 10K trail along a coastline there are some rocky places where I have to alternate and jump over a pits.
On road I'm using Saucony Hatori. Which is a 0-drop running shoe. They look more like slippers with thin and airy upper mesh. Very light. I run in them more than 500km.
I'm considering now minimal trail running also. So I thought about Inov-8 Trailroc 235 or 245.Apr 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm #1979481
The 235's look sweet. I have a friend who runs ultras and he uses them. If you get them, let me know what you think.
They seem to be perfect for longer distances. Trail Gloves seem more suited for shorter runs…but I bet some people use them for longer distances. Really, if your form is good, you don't need much padding. However, that's probably tough to maintain over 20+ miles of changing terrain.Apr 22, 2013 at 4:35 pm #1979493
@dafiremedicLocale: Southern California
This is great stuff, thanks. Years of installing ceramic tile and urban search and rescue have left my knees in less than stellar shape, to the point where I had to take several years of hiatus from backpacking due to knee pain. Its because of trekking poles and ultralight trends in backpacking that I was able to get back into hiking again.
You are saying that this isn't so much for hiking as it is for running, right? I saw the other thread here that said that one could benefit from hiking in more of a trail glove as well. I'll check it out, but if its something that will further alleviate knee pain, I'm there.Apr 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm #1979546
Post a link to that thread if you don't mind. I'd love to read it.
EDIT – is this the thread? I didn't notice it until now…lots of overlap.
Personally, I can't say whether a forefoot or midfoot strike is more beneficial than a heel strike while hiking because I've never tried it or looked into it. I do think it's a little less practical. This may be obvious, but how you strike the ground isn't about how you point your toes, but it's all in how you move your lower body while walking/running. When walking, it seems that getting a proper fore/midfoot strike would require really short steps, really bent knees, etc. which is why I said it looks like a t-rex (sarcasm). It just doesn't seem to lend itself well to the mechanics required for efficient walking. With running, it works perfectly.
So yeah, check it out. That first video has literally transformed my running. Report back with what you find…stick with it for a few months to see if you can tell a difference.
Side note – sometimes I am tempted to yell from my car window at guys running in minimalist shoes with a heel strike. Most of the time they are wearing VFF's. It seriously makes such a difference if you change your mechanics.
EDIT – I will say, however, that a forefoot strike is my choice when going up or down steep sections of trail. It makes no sense to heel strike on steep uphill sections. With downhill sections, striking with your forefoot takes more of the pressure off your knees. This is really simple, obvious stuff, but I think it goes a long way.Apr 22, 2013 at 7:11 pm #1979558
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
oops, wrong thread.Apr 22, 2013 at 8:25 pm #1979571
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
I cannot say this enough…barefoot running and minimalist shoes are absolutely not for everyone. Most people, even with training, cannot change their foot strike. There have been tons of research studies of this lately and lo and behold…you run (and hike) the way you run and hike.
Sometimes you can kind of change your mechanics…the easiest way, interestingly, is by increasing your running cadence…but if you are a rear foot striker you will continue to be so, only in barefoot shoes. There was a great study a year or so ago and they took experienced runners and had them train to run barefoot. A year later they all had exactly the same foot mechanics as they did before they trained to run barefoot.
This is why you see all those folks in vibram five fingers heel striking…it's how they run.
If you have knee problems, over pronation issues (be careful with podiatrists…you are SUPPOSED to pronate), weak ankles, etc, then yes, you would benefit from improving the strength of the intrinsic muscles of your feet…but do not ignore your hips!! Most of the literature in the past decade has really illustrated how controlling the rotation and stability of the hip during a single leg stance can have a tremendous impact on your knee, ITB…it can even control over pronation in some people.
So just be careful…once the running season gets into full swing here in Chicago nearly half my patient load are people trying to run in minimalist shoes.Apr 23, 2013 at 4:03 am #1979623
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
"You run and hike the way you run and hike"
Running is a skill, and like any other skill (golf, gymnastics, etc) can be taught and coached. Independent of the shoes you wear, there is room to learn better (and less injurious) form. One of the problems with the many studies looking at barefoot running techniques is the lack of real training in running form because experienced runners "already know how to run".
After years of repetitive running injury, I took good form running classes and retrained my stride as did the others in my class. Learning a midfoot stride and faster cadence has been a transforming experience and I'd recommend it for anyone wishing to run better or farther. I do wear minimalist shoes, merrills in fact, because I haven't needed anything more since I learned to run, but in the end, its not about the shoe.Apr 23, 2013 at 4:44 am #1979629
You make some assertions about foot placement making up for poor traction and cushioning in your new shoes. After using them for only 4 miles? Seems a bit presumptuous doesn't it?
I would withhold your review of the shoe until you've got more than 1 run of 4 miles in them.Apr 23, 2013 at 5:08 am #1979632
Traction is certainly influenced by the tread of your shoe, but if you learn how to run smart and have better foot placement, you could run barefoot on anything except slick red mud…but at that point, what shoe will help anyway?
Read this. It's not much, but it gets the point across.
Then read this. He compares the Trail Glove to the Vapor Glove and makes a statement similar to mine…however, he is a barefoot runner, so TG's are "stiff" to him. My experience with Montrail Masochists = his experience with Merrell Trail Gloves, etc.
BTW – I've been a runner for over 13 years. I can tell when shoes and mechanics make a difference or not, even after one run.Apr 23, 2013 at 5:14 am #1979634
I appreciate your input here Jen. Especially on the other shoe thread. That's really helpful.
I think you reinforced my point when you said, "If you have knee problems…then yes, you would benefit from improving the strength of the intrinsic muscles of your feet." That's really where I'm getting at. I agree that running form is personal. I've always said (and should have included it, but forgot because of my zeal) that if you have no issues with your running, then don't change it. For me, it was an issue of severe knee pain. Switching my mechanics, and thus strengthening my supporting muscles, changed that.
As for heel striking in minimalist shoes – doesn't that absolutely hurt? I can't see why anyone would do it…or maybe I just have weak heels.Apr 23, 2013 at 11:45 am #1979765
Guys, there were ZERO people with minimalist shoes! ZERO!
Oh, forgot myself. then ONE!
I couldn't see everyone's shoes, but I looked for them. Amazed me!Apr 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm #1979777
What kind of running event was it?
This is my friend Josh's blog. He's a huge proponent of low-drop shoes and they have served him well over many ultras.Apr 23, 2013 at 4:57 pm #1979859
@dafiremedicLocale: Southern California
"EDIT – is this the thread? I didn't notice it until now…lots of overlap.
Yes, That's the thread.
I've been looking at some of the info out there, including Jennifer's blog and if nothing else, I'm getting some good info on how to maintain knee comfort during hikes. I'm usually OK, but sometimes pain begins to flare up on the downhill sections, especially if its been a few weeks in between hikes.Apr 24, 2013 at 5:46 am #1980005
Well, it was a 10K urban running event.
Anyway, do you think all those minimalist shoes are good for hiking?
When you hike you heal-strike. Then maybe that cushioning is necessary to maintain your knees healthy?Apr 24, 2013 at 8:18 am #1980037
I agree with Jennifer that minimal/barefoot running is not for everyone. If one is going to try and change their running form, they need to know the why and how. And as she has stated, there are a lot of considerations – hips, thighs, knees, ankles, etc. However, minimal/barefoot running will cause a shorter stride and a foot strike – the impact of heel striking is just too traumatic. Do a lot of minimal running, you will foot strike more when hiking, especial on steep hills (up or down), although normal walking is usually a heel strike, even for the minimalist runner. The reason minimal runners can/will foot strike on hills is because their muscles, especially calves are conditioned/built up to do this. For most hikers it is quickly too tiring. All of this is just personal experience and observation. I have no professional experience or training.
She also made a statement about cadence, I think in another post. Cadence is the number of strides per minute. Increase your cadence and your stride will shorten and your foot strike will move forward. Decades ago common wisdom was a cadence of 180 strides per minute was optimal for elite distance runners. Bill Bowerman, Oregon coach and Nike founder, thought lengthening the stride at this cadence would enhance performance. All it did was cause injuries to a generation of runners due to heel striking, in spite of his over-engineered shoes.
Running form is a skill, as Ike pointed. The best example is America's Galen Rupp. Alberto Salazzar has been training him since high school. Over the past 13 years he has been pretty much injury free due to a fast cadence; greater than 190 strides per minute and a foot strike. But as Jennifer pointed out, running is a habit and it takes a lot to change your form and you need to understand why and what you are changing. The older you are, the more difficult it is.
Another poster mentioned only getting out once every few weeks. This can be a recipe for injury. Need to get out several times per week for long walks, runs, or hikes. Have to keep our hips, thighs, knees, ankles, feet and related connecting components in shape. This why I have never had a serious injury in 50+ years of running/hiking. Of course good genes helps with this.Apr 24, 2013 at 8:53 am #1980052
@ikeLocale: Central Michigan
Good post, Nick.
I think a lot of people buy into the marketing hype that if they slap on a pair of VFFs or other minimalist shoe, they will suddenly run like the Tarahumara. Jennifer probably sees many of these folks in her daily practice after they've injured themselves.
In the end though, I don't think that people can't change. Rather, they don't change. It takes a lot of effort to give up a lifetime of habits and to retrain your stride. Trying to do so while transitioning to minimal support is a process that takes at least a year if not longer. Many probably throw in the towel after 3-4 months when they have sustained their first overuse injury (lots of tendon injuries and stress fractures in those transitioning too quickly) or have become frustrated by lack of rapid progress.Apr 24, 2013 at 9:19 am #1980058
I hike in minimalist shoes all the time, probably more minimal than most folks, using XC racing flats.
One needs to train in these, you just can't stap them on. A whole lot of foot flex going on. Even just hiking you will foot strike on some terrain, even if you don't run in them.
For most folks cushioning is important and protection of the bottom of the foot. Impact injuries to the sole are a concern. IMO the hiker using minimal shoes must not be overweight and should carry a light kit. For more thoughts you may be interested in this article I wrote.Apr 24, 2013 at 9:21 am #1980059
W I S N E R !Participant
I was running marathons as a heel striker before I was eventually getting injured and switched my form.
I went from being able to run 30 miles as a heel striker to only being able to run 3-5 miles at a time as a mid to forefoot striker before my calves were blown. As awkward as it was, I stuck with it, built back up, and haven't looked back. I'm big- ditching the heel strike has done wonders for reducing the impact of running on my joints. Despite being 6'2", 215, you can't hear my footstrike on the road anymore- that says a lot about impact. Cadence is really important as well. I do practice staying at 180+ regardless of speed.Apr 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm #1980114
Nick, thank you for the info.
I see, when I go up/down hill I strike forefoot. On steps also. And I do so when I cross some "challenging" terrain like roots, boulders, rocks… But on paved road when I hike I still strike heal. So that was I was thinking about.
Should I also train to walk as a forefoot striker? Tried that and that wasn't that practical due to the reasons already mentioned above.
Running the natural way is a way to go. I think people should all switch to that technique. Maybe for some it will took 1.5 years, but this is the right direction. Should gradually change running habits.
It's like stopping smoking or eating junk food.Apr 24, 2013 at 1:34 pm #1980145
I wouldn't try to change your walking stride. I never even thought about mine until a few years ago when I did a long day hike. We walked several miles making our way to a summit. I was leading. When we got to the top he told me I walk on the balls of my feet. He is an engineer and notices these things.
Just hike and enjoy the view.Apr 24, 2013 at 2:32 pm #1980164
Agreed. The only time I would change the way I walk is if the ground called for it – steep uphill or downhill.
All of us in the forefoot running camp seem to have switched to it as a means of avoiding pain and injury. For anyone wanting a good way to be convinced to switch, go to a set of stairs and walk down quickly (and carefully) by landing on your heels at each step, instead of your forefoot. You can literally feel the shock run up your legs. Don't do it too much. Compare that with landing on your forefoot (which I assume we all do naturally while going downhill).
Here's my point – if you are running, each step is almost like going down a stair (not quite, but close). If your heels take the impact, you are going to pay for it. It also leaves room for your knees and hips to be out of proper alignment. If your forefoot takes the impact, it gets transfered through muscles and ligaments, which were made to take that impact.
I feel like I'm probably preaching to the choir now.Apr 26, 2013 at 11:43 am #1980794
@cohikerLocale: San Isabel NF
I've been extremely happy to see the growth of less substantial shoes in the last 5 years. In the 90's when I was in high school I ran XC and middle distance track, averaging about 40 miles per week my Jr and Sr years. I found that I liked running in my 'racing flats' better than my running shoes so I just ran in flats all the time. I just sort of adopted a midfoot strike from there. I got all kinds of unsolicited advice about how bad it was for me, but I was one of only 2 team members in my 4 years of HS to never have an overuse injury (I rolled my ankle on a trail run my Jr year)despite running 150% of the per-week mileage that I probably needed to run 5k's as a teen.
While in the Army I was essentially forbidden from wearing anything but a traditional running shoe, and I paid the price with shin splints and achy knees. So much so, that after my 2nd enlistment was up I got out and figured I was just to 'broken' to run. Then a year ago I realized I had put on 20 lbs and was horrifically out of shape. I tried to run in standard Nike's and barely made it a mile in 10 minutes, and my knees hurt for days. I did some reading and tried a pair of the NB minimus shoes. Immediately the pain was less, though I was still a slug.
I've been running in NB MT701s for about a year now and can't envision myself ever going back to a traditional shoe for running. I literally never hurt, regardless of how far I run or how often. I've run 27 miles this week so far.
Edit: this morning I went for a run and noticed my shoes are actually 730s not 701s. Mah bad.Apr 27, 2013 at 9:24 am #1981020
"Anyone else on here running barefoot?"
Rather than running, I'd be more interested if anyone is backpacking barefoot. Anyone?
My profile pic is me on my first try, summer of 2011. ~4 miles from the car, I decided to take my shoes off. Unbeknownst to me, 3/4 of this consisted of broken granite and gravel. The granite, and other rock I've found, is not the problem. It's the gravel…at least for me. I have since done another ~3 miles at the beginning of a trip (lots of gravel again) and many miles day hiking a familiar local trail with a variety of surfaces minus much gravel. The latter trail is where I realized I could run again, sans shoes, after a long hiatus.
I don't say this to try to be cool but rather as a genuine observation. I find that going barefoot is liberating in ways I can not articulate well. It makes me feel more youthful and lets my natural agility expand, fly. It feels good on my feet….soothing. I find it meditative, focusing on what my feet are feeling and how they move. My feet are able to wrap around the terrain, whatever it may be, naturally for grip. There's also mounting evidence of the benefits of being grounded to the earth, literally (check out the book "Earthing"). I believe it's one of many reasons I feel alive, good, when I'm barefoot. Everyone knows how good it feels to go barefoot on the beach and dip our feet in the ocean. There's no more conductive spot…so I believe there's more to it than what may be generated in the mind.
Also, I've been interested in Anthropology and primitive technology most of my life, and have studied it fairly strongly the last decade. Most of the natives in the west were unshod the bulk of the time….and, in every old photograph I have seen showing their feet, their forefeet are noticeably wider. Their feet and ankles in general are better formed and more muscular than contemporary feet…presumably from their feet being free as opposed to being entrapped in modern shoes. Genetics may have played a role here but it goes to reason their feet looked they way they did due to the exercise they got. I have noticed changes in my feet structure as well…but they are no where close to those who had gone natural all their lives.
The real drag of going barefoot for me is broken glass, dog crap, and vanity chemicals/weed killers…..oh, and gravel. When my feet are strong enough to deal with gravel, they'll be tough SOBs!
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