On Friday April, 9th, Chris asked me if I would be willing to go on his radio show to participate in a roundtable debate of shoe running versus barefoot running. I said I would and decided to do some internet research to see if there was any new data out there. I was surprised at how many people are now talking about barefoot running now. The majority of it is about Daniel Lieberman's study and writings from Chris McDougall.
Armed with printouts of my research I went to the Trent Radio studio on Wednesday afternoon. Joining me on the show was Dr. Brian Lindsay, who was going to be arguing on the side of running shoes and Chris who stated that he "strongly sided with the shoe side of the debate". I knew this would be challenging, but I had done my research and was confident with the information I had.
Chris started out with a list of topics we would cover, although I think it was pretty much free-flowing once we got going. The topic we started on was Injuries. Both Chris and Brian felt that running barefoot was a dangerous undertaking due to injuries from cuts, scrapes and puncture wounds. Brian felt that there are some people with conditions that should never attempt this due to increased risk of infection including "to some extent obesity". I agree that these people need to do what is best for their health for their conditions, but they also need to live their lives without over protection or becoming overanxious. Chris and Brian both felt that parents would not let their kids run/go barefoot because of the (perceived) risk of sharp debris (i.e. glass) causing injuries. I told them that the risk was over exaggerated and that in the 2 years of barefoot running, I've had more cuts on my hands from everyday activities than on my feet (wearing shoes doesn't ensure healthy intact skin as there are many open blisters from running in shoes), but that doesn't mean I am going to be afraid of not wearing gloves everywhere. Brian asked me as a microbiologist how I reconcile the risk of infection by going barefoot. I told him I don't believe there is an increase in infection by going barefoot and than in my opinion the cause of a lot of foot infections and ailments is the shoe itself by providing a warm moist place for harmful organisms to grow.
We also talked about how barefoot running would affect typical running injuries. We agreed that there is not enough data since very few studies have been done. Brian suggested that there aren't a lot of studies out there because there is no interest in it from the shoe companies who are the ones that have spent the vast amounts of money on research. I questioned why the shoe is always the default and barefoot is not when barefoot running is what people have been doing for 2million years and the modern running shoe has only been around for 40 years and the injury rate in running is 60-80% for the last 40 years and hasn't changed even though the shoe companies have added all of this technology to their shoes.
At one point Brian said he felt that barefoot running seemed like a complete fad to him and if it was not going to effect performance or participation, then he didn't really see the point of it. I had to say that I was somewhat surprised when I look at Nike's website and saw that they had on their Nike Free shoe page for the Free 0.0 a bare foot. They also had written there "Barefoot running isn't just a fad; it's proven fact that it improves strength, flexibility and balance." So it was strange to use a quote from Nike to support my position. We agreed that shoe companies really just want to sell a shoe to everyone.
At the end of it all, I said even if you believe barefoot vs. shoes debate is a draw at least I don't have to pay the money every so many months to buy new shoes and if I decide to go running no matter where I am I always have my running shoes.