The Great Running Shoe Debate

Posted on January 12, 2010


It started with a recent post on Peak Performance by Amby Burfoot titled:  Do Running Shoes Cause Running Injuries? A Few Insights on a Dismal Science. In the post, Amby lamented about his frustration searching through medical papers on the subject. However, his discussion quickly became a running in shoes vs running barefoot debate.

The main argument is that “No one has ever proven that any running shoes prevent running injuries” and that “No one has ever proven that barefoot running prevents running injuries.”

Certainly, a relatively new but successful running shoe company, which make shoes that help runners promote “natural running technique as if you were barefoot”, may have motivated such a discussion.

I found a response to Amby’s post at The Running Front which covered the thoughts of Ian Adamson, Director of Education at Newton Running. A proven athlete, Ian wrote about his personal experience and comparision of shoes such as Asics Piranha 3, Nike Free 5.0 and Brooks T6. But nothing was mentioned of Vibram Five Fingers.

All these discussions are indeed exciting. And what I do know is that Nike has been pushing out the idea of barefoot running since 2005. In fact, I think it is the only company that has been making shoes on both principles. So kudos to them.

Personally, I know some runners who wear conventional running shoes but land on their fore/mid-foot. One of them revealed to me that he usually runs on grass. Could that be a contributing factor to his running gait?

Here’s a running tutorial video from Newton Running.

I had been suffering from achilles tendonitis especially after longer runs. In a gait analysis done a few months back, I saw on the video recording that I was landing on my heels. And I was wearing racing flats then. Surely the point of heel heights wouldn’t count.

I am now more conscious about my landing while I run and try as much as possible to avoid a full heel landing. I am not sure if that may cause my running gait to worsen or not but it will be like that for now. I may just put on a pair of Newton Sir Isaac one day.

So The Great Running Shoe Debate continues. In the meantime, it’s back to running, with or without shoes.