Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Eating Leftover Bambi

Steve Perry's latest entry

Ah, we're eating leftover Bambi, but -- how are our feet and knees doing?

You liked this paper:

Good article, and full of information. Though I missed the part where it said bare feet were better than running shoes. And to offer you an alternative reason why men run better than chimps, the article you quote speaks to that: Endurance running might just as well be due to trying to beat scavengers to some big cat's kill, as for chasing down game.

Nobody knows at this remove, and it's six to one, half a dozen to the other.

Hard to tell the brand of shoes the San hunter was wearing, being unable to see a name or how padded they were, but they looked like low-heel running or walkers. Didn't look like Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes to me.

The article doesn't speak to the point that running barefoot is less likely to cause injury that in running shoes; additionally, it says "might," "perhaps," "may," and "suggests another hypothesis" frequently. Of course such long-distance views of evolution are necessary, since the evidence is impossible to check for certain:

"Testing whether ER was employed in hunting or scavenging will be challenging given the limitations of the archaeological and ethnographic records."

"Challenging." Yeah. That's a euphemism for "impossible."

And this: "Although such demanding strategies have been occasionally documented among modern foragers (see ref. 61), they might have been too energetically expensive and low-yield for the benefits to have outweighed the costs."

There's that "might" again. And here comes the "if …"

"If early hominids were regularly scavenging marrow, brain and other tissues from carcasses, then ER would have helped hominids to compete more effectively for these scattered and ephemeral resources. Wild dogs and hyenas often rely upon remote olfactory or visual cues such as circling vultures to identify scavenging opportunities, and then run long distances to secure them13,14. Early Homo may thus have needed to run long distances to compete with other scavengers, including other hominids. This hypothesis is difficult to test because modern hunter-gatherers tend to scavenge only opportunistically. However, similar strategies of ‘pirating’ meat from carnivores are sometimes practised by the Hadza in East Africa62 and perhaps were more common in open habitats before the invention of technologies such as the bow and arrow."

Getting to carrion before the hyenas doesn't sound quite as romantic as running down game one's ownself …

It's a good article, but it doesn't speak to the point that running barefoot is less likely to cause injury that in running shoes which is where all this began; additionally, it says "might," "perhaps," "may," and "suggests another hypothesis" frequently. Of course such long-distance views of evolution are necessary, since the evidence is impossible to check for certain. Fine theory, but sketchy.

You said, "Yep, and highly padded, over-engineered running shoes have been proved to cause more problems than they prevent. If you think not, then feel free to produce even one peer-reviewed scientific paper demonstrating that modern running shoes do anything to prevent the sort of injuries we see so often in running today."

Um, that's not how it works. All I have to do is say "I don't buy your contention that barefoot running is safer on concrete than wearing shoes." Up to you to prove it, since you are taking the affirmative. And thus far, I haven't seen the evidence.

Alan Webb is a great runner, but his testimony about how he cured his flat feet is anecdotal, and doesn't necessary follow. His insight is personal.

Dr. Paul Brand was an expert in leprosy, specializing in the hands, not the biomechanics of feet.

Dr. Gerald Hartmann says that shoes are the problem. And his evidence seems to be "because I say so."

"Danny Dreyer is the creator of ChiRunning® and ChiWalking®, revolutionary forms of moving that blend the subtle inner focuses of T'ai Chi with running and walking." From his site, and it sounds as if he's selling something to me.

Irene Davis, PT, PhD, professor of physical therapy and director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Delaware, said she would generally not recommend the Nike Free shoe for patients with plantar fasciitis, high arches, or severely pronated feet. However, she said, one of her patients who had plantar fasciitis and flat feet went ahead and bought a pair for himself, and to her surprise the plantar fasciitis symptoms abated and the patient was able to run short distances in the shoes.

"This is how we often learn things, when patients don't listen to us," said Davis, who added that reading up on barefoot running studies has motivated her to incorporate more barefoot walking in her own life. "I think perhaps the widespread plantar fasciitis in this country is partly due to the fact that we really don't allow the muscles in our feet to do what they are designed to do."

Barefoot walking, she said. Not running. "I think perhaps" is hardly the same as "The preponderance of evidence shows."

And from that same article in BioMechanics, this:

"Given this level of popularity, surprisingly few recent studies have specifically examined the biomechanics of barefoot walking or running-with much of what is known in this area dating back more than a decade. A February 1985 study published inMedicine and Science in Sports & Exercise found that barefoot running was more economical than shod running in terms of aerobic cost, and was associated with less angular displacement of the knee. In the April 1987 issue of MSSE, Canadian researchers documented that barefoot running was characterized by deflection of the medial longitudinal arch not seen in shod runners. An April 1991 study by Swiss researchers, published in the same journal, reported that running shoes decreased torsion angles and increased pronation angles compared to running barefoot, but those results were disproven in a November 2000 study that used more accurate marker placements. The follow-up study, published in theJournal of Biomechanics, found no significant differences in calcaneal or tibial movement between barefoot and shod running.

Pro. Con. Pro. Con.

The tropical stuff refers to temperature. We work naked fine when it's hot, we don't work naked fine when it is cold. Bare human skin gets frost-bitten when the snow is piled up and the wind is blowing, and without shoes, any possible benefit one might get from barefoot running is apt to cost one some toes. Ditto running over broken glass, and CONCRETE.

And there are conflicting findings, again from the article in BioMechanics: "Recent studies have also focused on the effect of barefoot running on shock absorption further up the kinetic chain. In a study published in the August 2001 issue of IJSM, Austrian researchers found that running shoes significantly decreased shock transmission and improved muscle response at the spine while jogging compared to a barefoot condition. But a July 1995 German study of a single subject with instrumented hip implants, published in theJournal of Biomechanics , revealed that loads at the hip were lowest while the subject was barefoot and that softness of footwear materials did not translate into load reductions. And a September study from Rush Medical College in Chicago found that peak joint loads at the hip and knee were significantly lower in 75 patients with knee osteoarthritis while walking barefoot than while walking in shoes; those findings were published inArthritis & Rheumatism."

For. Agin. And some walking, some running. (And I would presume that the IJSM article by the Austrians would could as a peer-reviewed article?)

There are other fun things in this article, which is worth reading:, one of which is that tests done on the Nike Free and the Masai Barefoot Technology concept show that indeed the smaller muscles in the foot had to work work more and became more developed, but that "Neither group demonstrated a significant change in MPJ range of motion."


"Neither the German investigators nor Nike's research team have looked specifically at whether those documented changes translate into improved performance. But research from the University of British Columbia presented in June at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine suggested the shoe could be useful for rehabilitation following an ankle sprain (see "Nike's barefoot-like Free shoe could play role in rehabilitation."

In short, the jury isn't in on this yet, and while walking barefoot around the house, or running barefoot across the lawn or beach or on a dirt trail in the woods makes perfect sense to me, nobody has shown anything that amounts to scientific proof that running on the sidewalk barefoot is better for you than wearing shoes.

Steve Perry

1 comment:

Mo'in said...

Dear Steve,

Thank you for your part in this contiuing thread of discussion!

Kindest wishes,