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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Barefoot Running Controversy... WTF?

There has been an interesting backlash against barefoot running in the recent weeks.  Matt Fitzgerald's article that apparently associated barefoot running with an increased incidence of plantar fasciitis seems to have been the impetus of this backlash. 

Months ago, we saw a sudden surge of anti-barefoot running propaganda.  That particular wave, led by Road Runner Sports, used a tired fear campaign to dissuade runners from attempting barefoot running.  It was an obvious attempt to sell shoes.

This new wave has taken a different approach.  It uses self-reported "data" from medical professionals.  Fitzgerald based his plantar fasciitis argument on one particular doctor's estimate on the rate of injuries he saw in his clinic.  Fitzgerald also made reference to his own failed attempt at transitioning to minimalist shoes.  

This article is a typical example of this new wave of anti-barefoot sentiment.  It relies on incorrect assumptions backed by non-research-based reports from supposed experts.  Most of these articles are not as blatantly anti-barefoot as the Road Runner campaign.  Instead, they suggest barefoot running may be acceptable in small doses for people that are physically superior.  

The truth is barefoot running is accessible to almost everyone.  The injuries that are found in the barefoot running population is almost always the result of an impatient transition.  If a runner can listen to their body, they can learn to run barefoot.  

At the heart of the matter is a simple principle- do what works for you.  Furthermore, do not begrudge others because you failed at something.  We're all an experiment of one.  We need to support each other, not cut each other down.  We all run the same races.  We are a community.  Let's start treating each other as such.


  1. my thinking is that if a person runs barefoot, that's their choice. Kind of like breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding - it's the choice that best fits you.

  2. I don't know what the most common injures are for barefoot runners, but PF wouldn't be one of them. I think Matt Fitzgerald just pulled crap out of his a$$ and wrote an article from it. He wrote a similar toned article a while back.

    Given the tiny, tiny number of runnings who run without shoes, you would think that Matt Fitzgerald would find something more interesting to write about.

  3. Dare I read the comments in the article? What bothers me is how some runners who otherwise seem very intelligent readily accept this as evidence. And of course, if you point out Fitzgerald's sillyness, you're dismissed as a wild-eyed evangelical cultist.

    But what really, really bothers me is that I give a rat's. What these people think is important because... why, exactly? I suppose it does one good to see their critics engage in numbskullery, though.

  4. I agree whole-heartedly. I myself have had knee surgery. The doctors told me never to run again. I did anyway with shoes on and had to take Advil every time. Now I'm in minimalist shoes (Vibrams) and transitioning to barefoot. I've had NO KNEE PAIN since making this switch. Yes, I switched too fast ... had some foot pain, blood blisters and tight calves. But stretching, time, consistency and letting my body guide me have gotten me past these issues. I can't even fathom going back to regular running shoes!

  5. Gather evidence, listen to wise council, and MAKE YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. Good post man - it'd be a shame for a shod runner to avoid natural running because of this premature 'counter-evidence'.

  6. My research indicates that barefoot running made my injuries go away. Maybe Matt and his friends are just doing it wrong? Maybe Matt is good at finding ways to keep relevant?

  7. I'll be replying to that article on my blog soon aswell

  8. Nice post and I totally agree. To be honest I always thought and read testomonies from others, that barefoot running actually helps fight PF.

  9. BFR actually HELPED me address my PF issues....and i tout it's benefits to anyone that'll listen...

  10. No hip, knee, ankle or low back pain since I transitioned to barefoot running. What's not to love?
    Glad you addressed this "research"..

  11. I don't understand. How does a failure to transition to minimalist shoes have anything to do with running barefoot...