There was an interesting thread today on LetsRun entitled “News article about barefoot running/minimalist shoes” which somewhat relates to my footstriking post. It discusses the minimalist movement. (The article itself, “Barefoot running: enthusiasts swear by weird-looking shoes,” makes one major factual error. In a recent interview, Christopher McDougall said he no longer wears anything, i.e., he runs barefoot, after injuring his toe when he was wearing the Vibram Five Fingers. This article also made it to the homepage of the Huffington Post.)

Importantly, there is a discussion of the difference between barefoot running and shod running. In a 2006 article by Joseph Froncioni entitled “Athletic Footwear and Running Injuries,” he analyzes the importance of foot-feedback in running. Studies suggest that the loss of that feedback, uniquely the product of the foot actually hitting the ground unshod, fools the foot into doing things inappropriate to the surface on which it is landing. It is even suggested that if runners think that their feet can handle a surface with no problem (even if they are wrong) they will expect too much of their shoes and increase their chances of injury.

This loss of feedback would sharply distinguish barefoot running from wearing the Newton shoe since the latter would deny the direct feedback, although both may entail forefoot running. Separately, I had a brief, still-open email exchange with Newton. I believe it refers to the study mentioned by SoS about heelstriking when it says,

Any strike forward of center of mass has a braking effect (simple vector mechanics.) A recent Japanese study of elite runners noted that quite a high proportion of the study group strike their heel first (they were looking at where the shoe *touched* the ground first), but when you dig into the method and definitions they are actually landing and weighting midfoot/forefoot.

The unfortunate aspect of traditional 24-12 shoes [referring to the difference in heel-height and toe-height in many conventional trainers] is our afferent feedback from feeling the ground through the shoe’s heel before the forefoot causes the reflex arc of the somatic nervous system to act as if the runner is braking. We counteract this by engaging our propulsive muscles immediately afterward, resulting in a “brake – accelerate” cycle each step. Not very efficient. Newton race shoes with a 22-18 (23-18 in the trainer) largely bypass this effect.

This suggests to me that many runners who think they are heelstrikers really aren’t, which presumably means someone like me (and Flo) who look that way in the photos since it seems unlikely that we can maintain the speeds that we do were we constantly braking ahead of our “centers of mass.” I would think that a herky-jerky motion would be the result. So if we’re not true heelstrikers, the rational for changing stride, and shoes, evaporates since we are running in an efficient manner.

(Now Newton also came up with a study. I started a LetsRun thread entitled “Newton Shoes Study: More Efficient.”)

As I’ve noted before, I think it important that runners exercise their foot muscles. As one poster noted in the thread, we exercise all manner of support muscles. Why not the feet?

There are links in the thread to a Science of Sport thread on, inter alia, Pose. The article specifically discusses, and I think debunks, a study Brandon kindly linked to in my prior post. A follow-up thread entitled “Pose Running reduces running economy . . . the missing study” on a study to which Pose makes no reference further challenges Pose. I should note, though, that part of SoS’s rejection of Pose is not the technique itself, although the latter study might result in that, but the significant time (including a lay-off) required to make the conversion to it.