This blog post is a summary of Stefanie Bacon’s experience with Vibram FiveFinger Lontra’s in the Jungle Marathon Amazon. The first image shows Stefanie in one of the water crossings. She did the four-day 122km race and was the second place female. When I noticed she was running in FiveFingers, I asked if she could write a short review of the shoes. Here’s her report followed by information on the Lontras.
I have been running in my Vibram FiveFingers for over 2 years now. I am very careful choosing which ones to run in, depending of the terrain. When I decided to run the Jungle Marathon Amazon, I decided to research which ones would be best as I knew I was going to encounter water crossings, soft sandy beaches, mud swamps, forests, creepy crawlies on my ankles etc. So I knew they had to be somewhat more resistant then the ones I use to run on normal roads and sand tracks. I went for the Lontra, which have the thickest sole, and extra protection over the toes, and are higher on the ankles (to avoid sand coming into them so easily).
The second photo shows Stefaine’s Lontras.
For a race like Jungle Marathon I really found my FiveFingers Lontra’s to be an advantage, especially at water crossings and soft sand. It was way easier because you can swim in them without feeling any kind of weight on your feet, and when running in soft sand, no sand came into them and my feet felt really light. Like with any other shoes you need to really be careful with cut off trees, to not step on one of them, but I must say the Lontra’s made me feel confident, as they are way more resistant then any other Five Fingers. One thing I did realize, is when I did the water crossings, as the fabric they are made of is meant to be water resistant the water didn’t escape the shoe so quickly like other Vibrams I have which are made of neoprene, but this didn’t make my feet suffer in any way.
The only problem I had (which I only realized on the third day what was causing that problem) were my big toe nail and my pinky toe nail, I felt some pressure on them and couldn’t understand why, after a lot of thinking I realized that it was my socks, when using five fingers you need to make sure that your toes fit perfectly into the sock (I highly recommend to use Injinji, I was wearing the Nike ones and those where not good for my toes). The image here shows her toes taped with StrengthTape Kinesio tape.
I don’t recommend anyone who is starting to use Vibram FiveFingers to do a race like this in them; it is essential to have a lot of experience, and test different styles on different terrains.
Vibram FiveFinger Lontras
Vibram Men’s Lontras are shown in the next photos. You can see in the first image how high they ride up the ankle and the strapping system. The next photo shows the more aggressive than normal tread.
Here’s Vibram’s website description: The all-new Lontra makes cold weather running in minimalist footwear a breeze. A multi-layer laminate upper with fully taped seams provides insulation and water resistance. The micro-pile fleece liner is soft against the skin while helping wick perspiration away from the foot. Other features include a neoprene heel cuff to keep out snow and debris, and a reinforced hook-and-loop closure for a snug and secure fit. Run safely at night with reflective surfaces for enhanced visibility. The 4mm EVA midsole provides insulation from frozen surfaces, and the TC-1 Dura outsole provides traction, durability and superior plating protection.
Stefanie made a good choice in the Lontra’s for her Jungle Marathon Amazon race. The shoes hardly showed any wear after her race. I could see these shoes working for similar events and trail runs. Considering the other shoes I saw runner’s wearing at the Jungle marathon, the Lontras performed well, did not fall apart, and did not become waterlogged. For an event where water, sand and mud, and streams or swamps are on the route, these shoes are worth a look.
For the record, the Jungle Marathon Amazon also had a marathon one-day race and the main event, a seven day 254km race.
The Amazon Jungle Marathon had 78 runners. Most of them did not have problems with their shoes – but some did.
Most shoes were trail runners with good tread. I saw a lot of Salomon shoes and a mix of everything else. At least one runner wore Hokas and another wore Vibram Five Fingers. Every day I tried to watch the runners and check with shoes.
There was so much water and sand that their shoes were always wet and covered in sand – with the exception of when we spent the night in the deep jungle camp. Even then, it was dirt that caked the shoes.
The afternoon before the race started, seven of us hiked three miles into the first day’s checkpoint. It gave me a taste of what the runners would start with the next morning. The jungle is unforgiving. Roots, rocks, and vines are everywhere. Leaves and ferns are on the trail and hanging over it. Low hanging branches and tree stumps line the trail. Inattention to the trail will lead to catching your foot on roots and vines, stubbing your toes, or turning an ankle. Inattention to the stuff alongside and up high on the trial will lead one into running into something hanging head height.
When they got to the checkpoint, they had their first water crossing, a deep stream that once they crossed, took them into a swamp. Two other days started on a beach where they had 200 to 300 yard plus river crossings – pulling themselves and their packs along a rope. You get the picture.
At the end of the first day several runners had major problems with their shoes. As you can see from the first picture, the shoes were coming apart where the uppers meet the midsole. The mesh in the shoe’s upper was torn. Without repair, the next day the shoes would have fallen apart.
Mesh uppers have become popular in many road and trail shoes. In fact it’s hard to find shoes without mesh. Mesh makes the shoes lighter and cooler. Water typically drains better too. In the Amazon, these mesh shoes were worn by most all the runners. And they were filled with sand and trail junk. With the water, they became much heavier than normal.
In the Amazon, the vines, branches, rocks, and whatever else the jungle threw at the runner’s feet destroyed the shoes’ mesh. On a mountain trail race, the same thing can happen. All it takes is one swipe across a sharp rock or root.
Remember that mesh allows grid, dust, dirt and sand to get inside. The mesh is also susceptible to tearing, especially at the junction of the upper and midsole.
Fortunately, one of the runners was an expert with needle and thread. He expertly and patiently sewed the mesh back into place – more than once. The second picture shows a runner’s shoe that has been repaired. If you look closely, you can see the thread at the bottom edge of the mesh.
The last two pictures show how Roberto Domingues Areiro used dental floss to sew Jean-Paul van der Bas’ shoes back together.
Another runner wore Hokas and loved them. For the first six days they served her well. For the final day, she switched to a lighter pair of regular shoes. The reason was evident. She realized that her Hokas were waterlogged and each weighed two pounds. Hokas are larger than average shoes. Every pound on a foot is equal to five pounds on the back. For the runner, that meant carrying an additional 20 pounds in her pack.
Remember that while your shoes may be fine when they are dry, once they go through water, their weight can increase dramatically. All that weight is added stress on your legs and back.
Remember that where ever your race, consider the terrain and conditions when you pick your shoes. Making sure you have good shoes, as close to new as possible, but broken in to your feet. Don’t chance your race to a pair of old and worn shoes.
The runner who wore Vibram Five Fingers did well. She was used to the unique shoes and had trained with the miles necessary to do 142km in the minimalist shoes. She had minor problems with her big toes and pinky toes that we taped, but she managed to complete the race.
Remember that if you wear minimalist shoes in a race, make sure you put the miles on your feet with the shoes so your feet and legs are used to them.
The Amazon Jungle Marathon is a great event that promised runners an adventure. They got that and more. Their shoes showed the wear and took everything the jungle threw at them.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footcare, Footwear, Footwear Products
Vicky Kypta is the Medical Team Manager for the Jungle Marathon, which starts October 6 in the Amazon in Brazil. Last year she did an informal survey of the participants and the results are interesting. The race lasts seven days and goes through the jungle on pre-existing paths, trails, and tracks with natural obstacles to pass including streams and shallow rivers. This leads to feet that are constantly wet.
This is the race that I will be at in a few days.
Vicky shared the results of the questionnaire and commented it was quite interesting, although the sample group was quite small. There were about 30 participants.
Here are some of the findings:
- 77% of the respondents wore Injinji socks
- 100% of those NOT wearing Injinji sock got blisters
- 46% of those wearing Injinji sock got blisters: out of those 50% were on the balls of the foot and 50% were on the toes. Those who had blisters on their toes all wore shoes in their normal size.
Out of those with no blisters:
- 100% wore Injinji socks
- 100% wore shoes one size larger
- 75% applied some form of anti-friction compound to their feet; i.e. Body Glide, 2nd Skin or Zinc Oxide cream
- 75% pre-taped problem areas or hotspots
I find this interesting and wonder what we will find with the 78 participants next week. The Jungle Marathons are well run and the staff tells runners to train with wet feet. They have found this results in less foot problems.
The results are striking in several areas (remember this is a seven day stage race):
- All the runners who did not get blisters wore Injinji socks and shoes a full size larger than their normal shoes
- All the runners who did not wear Injinji socks got blisters
- Runners wearing their normal size shoes all got toe blisters
- The majority of blisters were on the forefoot and toes
Over the past 17 years, I have worked a lot of ultramarathons and multi-day stage races. I can honestly say that overall, feet have improved. More runners are prepared and know how to manage their feet.
When I return, I will share what we found at this year’s Amazon Jungle Marathon.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Sports
In my last post, I talked about four ways to reduce shear and the likelihood of blisters. To recap, they were fit, cushioning, moisture management, and socks. Today’s post will cover a fifth way by using ENGO Blister Prevention Patches.
Tamarack Habilitation Technologies is well known for providing healthcare professionals and clients with innovative, value-added orthotic-prosthetic componentry and materials. Their ShearBan product is similar to the ENGO Blister Prevention Patches reviewed in this article. ShearBan is used in the orthopaedic and prosthetic industry on prostheses at amputation stump sites to reduce the incidence of skin breakdown.
Introduced in 2004, ENGO Blister Prevention Patches have radically redefined the way hot spots, blisters and calluses are treated. As a preventative measure, ENGO patches provide peace-of-mind that blisters won’t become a painful, debilitating problem. If a blister has already formed, applying patches to footwear, corresponding to the blistered area eliminates painful irritation and further skin damage, allowing continued activity. Friction forces are reduced by more than 50% when you apply an ENGO Patch to your footwear.
The patches are made from an ultra-thin Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) film and are 0.015 inches total thickness – a very slippery surface. They are very durable, lasting four to six weeks in most applications. The aggressively sticky patch peels away from the backing and is applied to dry shoes or boots. The PTFE ENGO Patch reduces the ‘stickiness’ between the shoe and sock so they can glide over one another. The foot, inside the sock, glides over the patch shear distortion and friction are reduced, and blisters can be averted, in spite of pressure.
Avid runners, hikers and sports players rely on their feet to reach performance goals; from day hikes to ultra marathons. But quality footwear and socks alone don’t eliminate the skin trauma your feet can experience from repetitive rubbing — building friction forces to levels that cause hot spots, blisters and calluses. While I use these patches in runners’ footwear at races, they can also be used in ordinary every day shoes to reduce calluses.
Similar to Tamarack’s ShearBan material, ENGO patches are applied directly to footwear and equipment, not to the skin. Outcomes of this unique application include ease of use, long-lasting and guaranteed friction relief.
ENGO Patches are made in several sizes and types:
- A large oval – 2 ¾ x 1 ¾
- A small oval – 2 x 1 ½
- A rectangle – 3 ¾ x 2 ¾
- Back of the heel patch – 3 ¾ x 1 ¾
- A cushion heel wrap – 3 ¾ x 1 ½
When I work a race I always have a bag with different sizes of ENGO patches. I have applied the ovals and rectangles and the back of the heel patches. The patches are applied to the shoes and insoles – not to your skin. This means wherever you are going to apply a patch has to be dry. My advice is to apply patches before your race when your shoes are dry. I have used them inside the shoes in the sides, in the heels, and on the insoles.
Typical problem areas in footwear are under the heel and forefoot, and at the side of the heel. An oval patch can be applied to overlap the side of the heel counter and the insole as seen is the photo. I often use a rectangle or large oval under the ball of the foot or an oval under the heel – applied directly to the insole. The patches are useful over stitching or seams in footwear that are rubbing the wearer. If necessary, a patch can be cut to shape for where it will be applied.
The patches will reduce shear and friction; provide relief from hot spot and blister pain, and can be used in any type of insole or orthotic and footwear, from sandals to running shoes, and any type of hiking or ski boot.
I like ENGO patches because they work. The patch is thin and does not alter the fit of the shoe. When properly applied to dry footwear, they stick.
Rebecca Rushton, a podiatrist in Australia, strongly recommends ENGO Patches. She discovered the patches after getting blisters herself and now represents ENGO in Australia. She has written several free reports on blister prevention available on her website, Blister Prevention.
If you are unclear about shear and blister formation, here’s a link to my article An Introduction to Shear and Blister Formation.
The Technical Stuff
JM Carlson, in a 2009 report wrote, “The measurement of friction is the ‘coefficient of friction’. The coefficient of friction (COF) is a number that represents this slipperiness or stickiness between two surfaces and is generally below 1.0. Within the shoe, the COF between the foot, socks and insole can range from 0.5 – 0.9. In contrast the COF between a sock and a polished floor is around 0.2.” Tests have shown PTFE patches to reduce the coefficient of friction (COF) in the shoe by up to 80%. The COF is in approximately 0.16, which is significantly lower than all other in-shoe materials. Importantly, the low COF is maintained even in most and wet conditions inside the shoe.
Check out GoEngo.com for more information about ENGO Blister Prevention Patches. They also offer a money-back guarantee.
Disclaimers: I support ENGO Patches and am supplied with whatever I need for the events I work. I am an affiliate of Zombierunner and make a bit of any sale made through the link above.
Back on June 17 I introduced the concept of shear with a post by podiatrist Rebecca Rushton from Australia who has studied blisters and identified shear as a major factor in blisters.
It’s best to start by refreshing our memories about what was shared on the previous article. Here’s the link in case you want to see the full post: An Introduction to Shear and Blister Formation. Otherwise, here’s a short piece from that post:
Poor blister prevention outcomes are due in no small part to the misunderstanding of the cause of this obstinate injury. The force that causes ‘friction’ blisters is not friction. And it’s not rubbing. It’s shear. But if you ask 100 people the question “what causes blisters”, nobody would answer “shear”. Shear is the sliding of layers across one another – internal layers that are structurally connected. Those connections can break and when fluid fills that cavity, you have a blister! What Does Shear Look Like? Try this … Step 1: Place the tip of your right index finger on the back of your left hand. Step 2: Wobble it back and forth but keep it stuck to the same bit of skin. Notice how your skin stretches? This is shear and this is what causes blisters. Shear might look like rubbing but it’s not. Notice how your finger tip has not moved relative to the skin of the back of your hand? But your hand skin has moved relative to the underlying bone. This is shear. Your skin doesn’t need anything to rub over it for blisters to form. It just needs shear (this stretching of the internal tissue layers) to be excessive and repetitive.
Managing shear is key to managing blisters. Let’s look at several ways to reduce shear.
The first way is to make sure your footwear fits. Many people buy shoes that seem comfortable in the store but don’t make sure they feel ok by wearing them around the house for a few days. Make sure they have enough room in the toe box both in height and length. Make sure there is not undue pressure on soft tissues over any bony spots (sides of the forefoot, ball of the foot, sides and back of the heel, over the instep, etc.). Make sure they are not too loose, allowing too much movement leading to skin abrasions, hot spots, and then blisters.
Using a cushioning product is a second way to reduce shear. This might be a gel pad under the ball of the foot or under the heel bone, or a replacement insole meant to pad and cushion.
A third method is to manage skin moisture. This can include skin-drying strategies and skin lubrication. Studies have shown that you can reduce the incidence of blisters by keeping the skin either very dry or very wet. Drying the skin can be done with powder, benzoin, alcohol wipes, and antiperspirants. Lubricants can include SportSlick, BodyGlide, BlisterShield, and other popular products. Zinc oxide is also effective at controlling moisture. The method of having runners train with wet feet has been successfully used by Shirley Thompson and Vicky Kypta of the Jungle Marathon Amazon. They have found that the feet of their race participants have been better with this suggestion given to runners before the race.
The fourth method of controlling shear is with socks. This may include double layer socks or wearing two pairs of socks – a thin liner and usually, a thicker second sock. This allows movement between the two sock layers. Injinji toe socks are great for those with toe blister problems.
Next time, we’ll talk about a fifth way to reduce shear – Engo Blister Prevention Patches.
In the mean time, check out ZombieRunner for many products that can help with cushioning, skin-drying and lubricants, and socks.
Filed under: blister care, Foot Care, Footwear, Health, Sports, toenails
Which is more important, blister prevention or blister treatment?
For more than 17 years, I’ve taught foot care techniques to anyone who will listen. I have taught classes at running stores, REI stores, events, and more. In addition, I have worked medical at many races, helping provide foot care to participants. These races have been in Death Valley, Chile, Costa Rica, BC Canada, Colorado and Washington, and many in California. This year I will be at Western States 100, Badwater, the Gold Rush Adventure Race, the Jungle Marathon in the Amazon, and hopefully at races in Colorado and Namibia.
I have never counted the feet I have worked on but I would put the number well over 3000. I remember one race in Colorado in 2010 when I saw the same lady 10 times. It was a six-day stage race and she’d come in every evening and morning! I’d patch her feet in the evening and she’d take it off when she went to bed in her tent. She had foot wear issues that gave her blisters on top of blisters. She was never into prevention mode – only treatments.
In this picture, taken from the cover of the 5th edition of Fixing Your Feet, we see treatment taking place. I love the picture. I even know whose foot it is. What I can’t tell you is what he did for prevention. I wish I knew.
My question in this blog post is what should we spend more time on, blister prevention or blister treatment?
Prevention can take many forms: good choices in footwear, the right socks, lubricants and powders, toenail care, skin care, taping, Engo patches, correct lacing, the right insoles, and training and conditioning.
Treatments likewise offers many options: blister draining, many different types of patches, taping, ointments and salves, a multitude of tapes, wraps and straps, silicone pads, Engo patches, toe caps, and lubricants and powders.
So here are a few questions:
- Does prevention last only until the race starts?
- What are your best prevention options?
- How much do you count on aid station personnel to manage treatments?
- Do you know how to treat your feet?
- Do you carry materials to treat your feet?
- What are your best treatment options?
- How well do you understand blister formation and prevention?
For 17 years, athletes have had Fixing Your Feet as a resource to learn important information about foot care. As I patch feet at races, I try to educate the athletes about what I am doing and why, and what could have helped in their feet. If crews come to me for advice, I try to help them too. I have watched athletes and crews work on feet with materials and using techniques I have long preached.
In general, foot care has advanced over the years. Shoes, socks and insoles have become light years better. Lubricants, powders, blister patches, and our tools are better. People interested in foot care are trying new blister patching techniques.
All this is good because every day there are new athletes coming into running, adventure racing, hiking and thru-hiking, walking, and other feet stressing sports. Let’s make sure they understand the importance of prevention before treatment.
Filed under: Foot Care, Foot Care Products, Footwear, Footwear Products, Health
Generally foot odor and athlete’s foot do not come from sweat, which surrounds your feet. It comes from bacteria on the skin, which is decomposed by the sweat. The waste product of this decomposition leaves a very unpleasant smell and is an ideal breeding climate for athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
The Zederna Insole is a 100% natural product from thin cedarwood. The back consists of a stabilizing cotton layer. The sole is flexible and adapts to your foot form after a few steps. It gives you a very comfortable feeling (even if you carry orthopedic inserts). Your feet can take a deep breath nearly as liberating as walking barefoot.
Here’s how Zederna Insoles work:
- The natural suction force of Zederna cedarwood absorbs the sweat effectively
- The Zederna Insole and its antibacterial effect work where foot odor and athlete’s foot develop
- Smell and fungus creating bacteria are eliminated
Here’s my take on the insoles. I wore a pair in my work shoes for months. My old insoles were a regular stock style and I used them because they were already in the shoes. I immediately liked the Zederna Insoles. I felt my feet were cooler and more comfortable. I liked the wood feel – my feet were not stuck to a fabric synthetic insole, but could move around on the cedarwood. Between my commute and work, I had my shoes on for 12 hours straight. The insoles were pleasant. They are perfect to use in your shoes after training.
Because they are thin, I think they could easily be used in running shoes or boots. I would wear them in training, and then, depending on the feel, I’d make the decision to wear then in a race or not.
Zederna Insole Advantages:
- Foot odor disappears immediately!
- Athlete’s foot disappears after a few days.
- The new formation of athlete’s foot is permanently prevented.
- The treatment of existing nail fungus with conventional methods is accelerated by more than 50%, because of the dry and antibacterial foot climate.
- The new formation of toenail fungus is permanently prevented.
- Plug & play: Just insert the insole in your shoes and start. Annoying treatments with gels and powder belongs to the past.
- Naturopathic treatment: The effect is purely based on natural power. No chemistry.
- As a result of the polished surface and the flexibility of the Zederna Insole, pleasant feeling arises also when wearing without socks.
- The Zederna inserts provide a pleasant and dry climate in your shoes. Comparable to walking in a forest: in summer it is relatively cool and in winter it is always warmer.
- Long durability of the Zederna Insoles.
- Reliable quality – Made in Germany.
- Comfortable subscription available.
- Fast delivery within a few days.
- More than 9.500 satisfied customers.
- Money back guarantee, if you are not satisfied with our product.
Disclaimer: I received a pair of Zederna Insoles to try. Beyond that, I have no financial investment in Zederna.
Some of you may have heard of Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter is a crowd funding website where people pitch ideas and others pledge to fund them. I follow the ideas and have pledged on a number of ideas. Yesterday I found Lace Anchors 2.0.
Lace Anchors are a plastic strip that goes onto your shoelaces and secures them so you don’t have to tie them. No bows means no laces coming untied.
Here is some of the text from their Kickstarter project.
Are you tired of your shoelaces? It seems as if it’s a never-ending cycle of tie and untie. How about those of us that double knot, that makes for some fun challenges sometimes doesn’t it? Usually it’s my kid’s shoes. Shoelaces also have a mind of their own, coming undone at some of the most inconvenient times possible. It’s fun to know that you can cheat the system of tying your shoes and never have them come undone again. You may be thinking I can just tie a knot and slip my foot in and out without untying my shoes every time, while this is true, you won’t have the same consistent solid fitting shoe day after day that Lace Anchors 2.0 provides!
It seems to never fail. Just when you get warmed up and your going strong, it happens, your shoe comes untied! I may have put on a few pounds over the winter so far, but I’m a fairly frequent runner. I have put over 250 miles on a pair of my running shoes with Lace Anchors installed and the results are flawless. Your shoes always have the same consistent fit and your laces never come undone!
Installation is so easy! Our packets will include step-by-step instructions with pictures on the back, or to make it even EASIER just watch the video below! Make sure to install the Lace Anchors 2.0 with your foot in your shoe as shown in the video, that will allow you to find the perfect fit that your looking for. This is the type of product that you will use not even realizing how simple and comfortable they make everyday life with your shoes, until you go without them. Once you use them in one pair of shoes, you’ll be hooked!
Two questions in their FAQ section are important. First, can I run with Lace Anchors 2.0 installed? Absolutely, I ran 2-4 miles everyday for 2 months straight with my Lace Anchors 2.0 installed. For those of you that have struggled with heel slippage problems throughout your life, watch the “another option” video in the above section.
Second, are Lace Anchors 2.0 adjustable? Yes, they allow you to find the sweet spot when installing. This means you will be able to find the fit you desire and how tight or loose you decide to make your slip-ons. For my regular everyday use, I like my shoes to slip on and off extremely easy, for my running shoes I prefer a snug fit.
Whether for you or your children, check out this Lace Anchor Kickstarter project.
I spotted a small ad in one of my magazines that looked interesting. The product was IceSpike. They are a system of patented composite-material, cold-rolled tool quality steel, heat hardened ice spikes, which provide superior grip and long lasting durability. Their tagline is, “The ultimate non-slip shoe system, for all outdoor activities.” Of course, since it relates to footwear, I had to check it out.
IceSpikes are rated to last 10 times longer than commonly used sheet metal screws. Average runners will get 500 miles out of a set of IceSpikes. The terrain and conditions will affect the life of the spikes. Unlike other traction products, these are low profile under the shoe. The thread design is fine and sharp. The design has a wider and deeper slot to promote self-cleaning of ice and debris. Extra wide washers offer better stability on the sole of the shoe and their locking serrations that firmly anchor them to the rubber of the sole to prevent loosening of the spikes. They will not break or crack with intense cold or use.
The suggested installation is three on each side of the heel and three on the inside ball of the foot side of the shoe or boot. A tool is available to make installation easy or use a ¼ inch hex bit in your drill.
A package includes 32-patented IceSpikes. The deluxe package includes the installation tool. With each shoe getting 12 spikes, you’ll have eight extra spikes for replacements. Heel spikes tend to wear faster.
You’ll find that IceSpikes are a semi-permanent traction system that can be mounted on any running or walking shoe, hiking or work boot.
In case you are wondering why not just use sheet metal screws, think about this. Sheet metal screws are made of a softer material and will wear out many times faster and decrease their traction ability. The slots in sheet metal screws fill with ice and debris faster and are not self-cleaning, which affects traction. Sheet metal screws have a rough thread design.
This is the kind of product that makes me want to find snow and ice for a run. Unfortunately, California’s central valley gets neither. If you live in a region where they make sense, I encourage you to give them a try.
The Washington Post article caught my eye, “Minimalist running style may be undermined by new findings from Kenya.” The January 21 article by Lenny Bernstein on the web was about a new study published at PLOS One.
Bernstein starts the article with a figure that catches your attention, Americans spent $59 million on “minimalist” running shoes last year, on the premise that the most healthful way to run is the way people have done it for thousands of years: barefoot.
Years after runners everywhere were introduce to running barefoot in 2009 in Born to Run and a 2010 study of Kenya’s famous Kalenjin distance runners, the new study may cause some to rethink how they run.
In the new study, a group of George Washington University researchers tested a different population of barefoot African runners and determined that most of them naturally strike the ground with their heels.
The study at PLOS One is Variation in Foot Strike Patterns during Running among Habitually Barefoot Populations.
The study measured subjects running along a trackway at least three times at their self-selected (comfortable) endurance running pace, and three more times at a faster pace. The track had a plantar pressure pad placed midway along its length.
The article quotes Kevin Hatala, a doctoral student in anthropology at GWU, and how they expected the group’s study of 38 Daasanach subjects of northern Kenya to support Harvard researcher’s Daniel Lieberman’s conclusions about the Kalenjin. Hatala said, “Instead, we found the opposite to be true. In the group we were looking at, the majority of them were rear-foot striking at their preferred endurance running speed.”
Bernstein wrote, At higher speeds, some of the Daasanach switched from a heel strike to a forefoot strike, but even then, heel-striking was more typical. Hatala was reluctant to speculate why his findings differed from the prevailing wisdom. In addition to the effect of speed, running style could be the result of information that is culturally transmitted from generation to generation. Or it might have something to do with the predominant surface where each group lives. Hatala and Lieberman are at the early stages of comparing their data.
“I guess what we found really interesting about this is it directly shows that there is not one way to run barefoot,” Hatala said. “We have a lot more to learn about how people who are barefoot run and what might be the best way to run barefoot.”
The abstract for the study says, “Our data supports the hypothesis that a forefoot strike reduces the magnitude of impact loading, but the majority of subjects instead used a rearfoot strike at endurance running speeds. Their percentages of midfoot and forefoot strikes increased significantly with speed. These results indicate that not all habitually barefoot people prefer running with a forefoot strike, and suggest that other factors such as running speed, training level, substrate mechanical properties, running distance, and running frequency, influence the selection of foot strike patterns.”
Sales of minimalist shoes are up 303 percent between November 2010 and November 2012, compared with a 19 percent increase in running shoe sales overall in the same period.
Are you a barefoot runner? If so, what is your foot strike pattern when running – forefoot, midfoot, or rearfoot? And importantly, does your foot strike change as your pace changes?