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Advantages of Barefoot Running, Part II June 1, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Advantages of Barefoot Running, Running, Shoes , 1 comment so far

Advantage #2

Your barefoot shoes are really light.

Consider Nike’s most expensive running shoe, the Nike Air Max+ 2009 iD Running Shoe.  This shoe has a price of $185 at Nike.com.  I pick the most expensive shoe because when something costs this much . . . I expect a lot out of the product.  Nike lists this shoe as weighing 12.8 ounces for a men’s size 9.  I wear an 11 so it’ll probably be a few more ounces . . . a little closer to a pound.  For simplicity, I’ll use the weight they give on their site.

Let’s say I decided to run a 5K . . . just for fun.  Every mile, I can expect to lift my feet a total of 2,000 times between the two of them (that’s the best estimate I could quickly find via google . . . nothing really scientific for that number).  Let’s add that up.  12.8 ounces lifted 2,000 times per mile for 3.1 miles.  That’ll equal 6,200 steps at 12.8 ounces per step for a grand total of 4,960 lbs.  Woah!  You’ll end up lifting more than two tons in shoe weight in a 5K!  What if you run a marathon?  2,000 steps for 26.2 miles equals 52,400 steps.  At 12.8 ounces you’ll end up lifting 41,920 lbs!  I’d have to say running barefoot is a bit more efficient.

Enjoy the efficiency!

First 5K May 31, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running, Shoes , add a comment

This morning at 6:00 am I woke up to the sound of the alarm on my iPhone.  Today was my first “official” race with minimalist shoes and new stride.  The sky was beautiful and the temperature was a crisp 50° F.  I wasn’t expecting to win anything as I’m still working into my new stride and didn’t want to kill myself.  One thing I noticed right away in this photo . . . look at what part of the foot most of the people are landing on.  OUCH!

I don’t mean to say that my form is perfect . . . because looking at other images from the race, I’ve got a lot of improving to do, but notice I’m about to land on the forefoot of my left foot.  Much less impact than a heel strike.  I decided to go with the Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs) this morning as I knew I was going to be on the asphalt most of the time and I know my feet aren’t quite ready for barefoot on 100% asphalt.

Yes, lots of people asked me about my shoes.

Yes, lots of people gasped when I told them I usually run barefoot.

Come to think if it, this is the longest race I’ve ever participated in.  In high school, I ran track.  My events were the 100, 200, 400, and associated relays.  I always hated long distance running.  It hurt a bit in the lungs while I was running, but I’m feeling great now!

It was a bit humbling when my 80 year old neighbor passed me at the end of the second mile, but also inspiring since he had a great time.  That’s my goal . . . to be running and functional up till the day I die.

Let’s Talk About Arch Support May 19, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Running, Shoes , 1 comment so far

I walked into the store and the clerk asked me, “What can I do for you?”

I scanned the walls and found exactly what I was looking for . . . Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs).  I said, “I saw on the VFF website that y’all carry those shoes,” motioning to their small VFF display on the wall.  I knew what I was looking for.  I had recently made the decision to incorporate running into my life.  I didn’t want to go the traditional route because, let’s face it, I’m anything but traditional.  I had heard of the shoes and read on their website that the Sprint, KSO, KSO Trek, and the Flow were recommended for running.

The clerk asked me, “Did you read Born to Run?”


“That’s actually why these have been so hard to get a hold of recently, but we have the largest selection in Utah.  We’ve carried these since they came out.”

As I picked up the KSO I asked, “Do these have good arch support?”

Now, why did I ask this question?  Most likely for the same reason you have asked the same question.  I’m a product of advertising.  Do we really need arch support in a shoe?  I’ll address that in a bit.  The fact is, VFFs have absolutely NO arch support.  There is no padding.  The point is that these shoes allow your feet to function the way they are supposed to function.  In an extensive and well written essay, Dr. Joseph Froncioni, an orthopedic surgeon,  references several studies and summarizes that the “shodding” of our feet has several deleterious effects.  He references one study by Dr. B. Marti of 5,038 runners.  (Note that this study was done in 1989 so adjust the cost of shoes.)  He found that the incidence of injuries in runners using shoes costing more than $95 was more that twice as great as in runners using shoes costing less than $40.  What is common in the more expensive and more high-tech shoes?  Softer cushioning, greater arch support, more foot control, etc, etc, etc.  Multiple studies demonstrate the increasing age of a shoe results in less cushioning to the foot and reduced injuries.  It all comes down to feeling.  Dr. Froncioni poses this question and answer:

Why are super shock-absorbing athletic shoes causing more running injuries?   Dr. Steven Robbins from the Centre for Studies in Aging at McGill University in Montreal is the man who came up with the answer.  Dr. Robbins pointed out that the human lower extremity is not a delicate, rigid, passive structure requiring ‘packaging’ to protect it from impact.  This becomes blatantly obvious when one observes the nearly complete absence of foot disorders in unshod populations.  People who go around barefoot just don’t get plantar fasciitis or any of the other lower extremity injuries so common in shod populations.  The lower extremity, he points out, is a rugged, flexible, active, well designed (theologically) structure.  Wire this structure to a spinal cord and a brain and what you’ve got is a system fully capable of handling the impacts of running.

He notes that the impact of a heel strike form of running can generate a force equal to 2.5 times the runner’s weight at the foot and up to 7 times at the hip.  That’s a lot of impact!  There are several key components at play in the foot when the “barefoot” stride is analyzed.

First, and most obvious, is the fact that you feel your impact.  Second, and not quite as obvioius, is the motion of the foot as it impacts the ground.  Take off your shoes and jog 100 feet.  You may start out landing on your heel, but I guarantee when you get to the end of the 100 feet you’ll be coming down on the front part of your foot.  This is indicative of the sensory feedback you’ve just opened up by taking off your shoes.  Your body just adjusted to the environment.  The arch is meant to move and absorb in conjunction with the achilles, calf muscles, quadriceps, etc.

Next question.  Can my feet handle running barefoot after living a life in shoes?  Dr. Froncioni asks a similar question and shows us the answer in his essay:

Is it possible to rehabilitate the weakened muscles of a normally shod runner?  It certainly is according to another excellent study by Dr. Robbins (1987).  He asked 17 normally shod recreational runners to gradually increase barefoot activity both at home and outdoors over a period of several weeks and to maintain barefoot activity for about four months.  The runners’ feet were examined, measured and x-rayed at regular intervals to detect changes.  Results showed marked improvement in the anatomy and function of the arch.  The authors concluded that the normally shod foot is capable of rehabilitation of foot musculature.

So, the answer to the above question . . . yes, our feet can be rehabilitated.  However, as I’ve mentioned before . . . make that transition very slowly.  You’re going to use muscles you haven’t used in a looooooong time.  You’ll feel it the next day, especially in your lower calf.  You need to expose your feet to the normal stride a bit at a time over a long period of time so they get the signal to start rebuilding.  Listen to your body and follow Michael Sandler’s instructions on transitioning into VFFs here.

Now, go enjoy the world the way you were born . . . barefoot.

Timpanogos Cave Barefoot . . . Well Almost May 18, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Health, Shoes , add a comment

We decided it would be fun to hike to Timpanogos Cave last Saturday.  Of course, both of us wore our Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs).  We got stopped on the trail more than once by people wondering about our, “shoes or socks or whatever those things are.”  It was a great minimalist experience.  I took note how wearing the shoes affected my footfall and how I ultimately felt at the end of the trek.  Even though I wasn’t running, my footfall was predominantly on the forefoot which helped me to tread lightly . . . even with my tank-of-a-boy strapped to my back in a snugli backpack (which we had to end up leaving at the junction of the trail as you can’t bring a backpack with exposed metal into the cave).

My legs and feet are not quite there yet.  I was aching when we finished the trip up and down.  It’s a 1.5 mile trail with some pretty steep inclines that totaled over 1100 vertical feet each way.  I didn’t really have any foot pain until we hit the way down.  The impact on the balls of my feet was evident.  My dogs were certainly barking by the time we got to the car, but it wasn’t that annoying type of barking that makes you want to call animal control on your neighbor’s dog . . . it was that cute barking of a puppy that just joined your family.  I reminded myself that the aching or pain I felt is there for a purpose.  It’s there to educate me.  It allows me to alter my stride so I don’t ultimately injure myself.  Multiple times a day in medicine, patients are told to listen to their bodies.  Don’t go beyond what you feel you should.  The recovery has been quick and I’m happy we went . . . almost barefoot.

I’m continually inspired to find new ways to exercise and develop my feet in order to prepare them for a long, healthy, and active life!

Winded After Five Measly Minutes May 13, 2010

Posted by Emily in : Health, Photo Shoots, Running, Shoes , add a comment

Hi!  It’s me!  Emily!  You know, the one who is “too busy and important” to write a little bio?


I thought I would take a minute to share my experience with Vibram Five Fingers (VFFs).

Here’s the thing, I don’t like textures on my feet, so I’m not sure I will ever go completely barefoot (plus, I love well manicured feet too much to scruff them up running).  I’m the kind of girl that has to take deep breaths before walking onto the sandy beach.  I think to myself over and over, “The sand will rinse off, the sand will rinse off, the sand will rinse off . . .”  I’m not exactly the kind of girl that likes to get my feet dirty on a daily basis either, so I hope you understand.  I am happy to be a “minimalist” and maybe over time my husband will convince me to throw all caution to the wind and I’ll let my bare feet hang out (literally).  We’ll see.

I started running in my VFF’s a few weeks ago.  Sadly,  sitting in front of my computer for hours on end, editing photos, writing, and studying, has done nothing to increase my lung capacity.


I’m suffering from lateral spread at the moment, and I know all you women out there know exactly what I’m talking about!

When I first got on the treadmill, I thought, “Great!  I’m ONLY allowed to run five minutes a day for the first week!”

Hallalujah.  This is my kind of work out!

Sadly, my lungs were ready to give up before my feet were, and that is just pathetic all around.  I mean, who gets winded after FIVE MEASLY MINUTES!?

OK, so it happened to me.

I’ve been running here and there, but really, consistency in exercise is not my strong suit, (What gave it away?  The 20 pounds of baby weight I’ve been carrying around the last two years?) so VFF’s are worn on a casual everyday basis.

Mostly, I wear them on walks with the kids, to photo shoots,  out shopping, and to family gatherings.

I love them.  They are really comfy.

They are also a great conversation starter, and without a doubt, I end up talking about barefoot running with my clients at every shoot.

Take this for example: (her foot wear is about as opposite from barefoot as you can get)

I got into this box and demonstrated this pose for her (so she could clearly see my vision for the image) in my VFF’s.

Then, she pointed out the obvious and asked me about my “crazy socks.”  What you don’t see in this picture are four more ballerina’s and their mothers who were at the shoot,  all actively listening in.

You KNOW their feet are just CRYING for a pair!

Sanuk May 5, 2010

Posted by The Barefoot MD in : Shoes , add a comment

After seeing one of my facebook posts about my new Vibram Five Fingers, one of my friends told me about a shoe company that makes a great line of minimalist shoes. Sanuk is a company that was founded the same month and year as my marriage.  They started out pretty funky, but have developed into a great “not-a-shoe” kind of shoe.  The “not-a-shoe” I got is called the Boardroom.  I instantly fell in love with these shoes as they truly allow me to have a “barefoot” experience while I’m at work.  There is no arch support so they are letting my foot develop properly.  The comfort is outstanding in these “feet covers”. . . so much so that I often have to remind myself that I’m not wearing slippers to work.

Funky shoe, great comfort.