Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My solicited opinion

Skora Running blog just solicited opinions on a barefoot running injury article.

I weighed in with the following, which I think sums up my opinions on running footwear pretty well:

This article seems to weigh on the side of anti-barefoot running by throwing around the word “epidemic” in an inflammatory and possibly inaccurate fashion. I agree that the “surge” of injuries claim lies on a shaky foundation. I’m not sure why proponents of either side of the argument feel so comfortable asserting such claims in the absence of sufficient evidence.
The unintentional thesis statement that jumped out of the article was “The more barefoot runners there are, the more injured barefoot runners there will be.” Barefoot running is a trend that is gaining popularity. More people are running (regardless of how) and more people are getting hurt. I am underwhelmed by this revelation.
That being said, I appreciate this article calling out the nonsensical arguments of the barefoot dogma, such as:
“It’s totally misleading to tell people that when they get injured running in shoes, it’s the shoe’s fault, and when they get injured running barefoot, it’s the athlete’s fault. It makes no sense. You’re going to have injuries either way. It’s running.”
Barefoot runners may guffaw at the final assertion of guaranteed injuries, but as someone who developed shin splints for the first time in my life after switching exclusively to Vibrams, I’m annoyed by the tendency to write-off mounting anecdotal evidence or to always blame injuries on the runner’s form.
Equally irritating is the false dichotomy created by barefoot dogma proponents and barefoot haters; that there are two ways to run and one is correct. Running for me is not a moral choice between two camps of thought. Can I be so bold as to point out that both sides stand to gain financially from convincing consumers that their doctrine is right and the other is wrong? Those peddling these ideas tend to fall under the following categories: podiatrists, PhDs, big shoe companies, start-up shoe companies, authors, gurus, etc. The blatant conflict of interest forces me to take this information with a hefty grain of salt and pay more attention to information coming from runners who have no strings (or laces) attached.
I think that an honest and objective runner will take a moderated approach and tend to stay out of this usually pointless back and forth between the sides. False pretenses are perpetuated by both sides of the “argument” and I can’t help but feel like I’m participating in an advertising campaign when I weigh in with either side.
Ultimately I don’t care how the scientific evidence pans out. I will continue barefoot/minimalist running because I enjoy it. I will also run with heretical cushioned moon boots from time to time. However, I will not pretend that running barefoot is a magical injury force field/fountain of youth/nirvana. Minimalist footwear and barefoot running are new, exciting options that allow runners to choose what suits them best for a given situation or a desired outcome.
Apologies in advance for the extended rant/gripe. I appreciate your steps toward an open dialogue by posting this article on your blog.

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