jump to navigation

Transition to Barefoot/Minimalist May 9, 2011

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running , trackback

I’ve been a member of an online discussion group on google hosted by Barefoot Ted for the past several months.  There are many dedicated runners on that forum that have brought up a lot of good points.  Many have no formal degree related to healthcare, but nonetheless have done extensive research and have made themselves proficient, if not masters, in the field.  One of the topics that has caught my attention has been the discussion related to stress fractures of the metatarsal on transitioning to barefoot/minimalist running.  I reviewed bone physiology from my med school days and was reminded of the following:

When enough stress is applied to a bone to create microtrauma or microfractures, (such as what happens during the transition from shod to unshod) the cells around the microfracture die and send signals for the osteoclasts (the bone cleanup cells) to come in and essentially clean out that area.  This process takes about two weeks.  Then, more signals are sent for osteoblasts (the bone manufacturing cells) to come in and lay down a matrix of new bone.  This process takes approximately 3-4 months.  Over the next three years, the matrix that was laid down continues to become mineralized and increases in density and strength to that of the surrounding mature bone.  So, here’s another testament to why we should not make the transition to minimalist/barefoot running too quickly.

I don’t know how ethical a prospective study on people transitioning from heel striking to forefoot landing without proper instruction would be, but I’m sure there are enough people out there transitioning to a forefoot landing stride that didn’t listen to the signals their bodies were trying to send to see if this is something isolated to barefoot/minimalist runners or if it would hold true in “modern” running shoes using a forefoot landing.

Be Sociable, Share!


1. Christina Hassell Martinez - May 23, 2011

Dear Barefoot MD,
My husband and I bought ourselves each a pair of VFF’s this past weekend. We went for a 3.75 mile walk/run (more walk than run) and I have to say I’m SORE!!! But, I actually found that I feel like I’m running, if that makes any sense. Normally the shoe salesman puts me in motion control (i.e. big & cushioned) running shoes. I feel awkward when running, and normally a heal to toe runner (as I was taught about 10 years ago by a running coach). I should also add that while I’ve done a couple triathlons and 5/10k’s, I’m about 20 lbs overweight, and have been an on again/off again runner. With a tri in 18 weeks, I want to do a solid run, and this seemed like a good time to try the VFFs. The moral of my mini-dissertation is this: what do you mean in terms of not making the transition too quickly? Should one be alternating with traditional running shoes? Or just make sure that when I lose good form I slow down to a walk?
BTW – I got referred to your blog by my little sis, Laura (Hassell) Boatswain who works at Saba U.

2. Craig H. Anderson - June 11, 2011

This is a good message for me, that a realistic timeline for barefoot adaption is years, not months. I’m 58, never been a runner and starting to run/walk barefoot. My limiting sensation has been tenderness of the soft tissue on the bottom fore foot.