Does Running Barefoot Make You Blind?

by admin on August 10, 2010

I am really starting to wonder about this. It’s is the only explanation I can come up with to explain what I am seeing. First, we had all the barefoot websites claiming that running shoes cause osteoarthritis based on a study that was not even about osteoarthritis. Then we had them all claiming that barefoot runners get less injuries based on Liebermann’s study that got published in Nature when the study was not even about injuries. I even had barefoot runners email me the Kerrigan et al study and say things like “this is all the proof you need”, when it did not prove anything. I even got an email last week asking what I thought about the Liebermann study and why would I not accept the proof from that. I have already discussed the Liebermann study and there was no proof in it that barefoot running was better (even Liebermann had to put a disclaimer on his website to distance himself from those sorts of conclusions being made of his research). I was really starting to wonder why these people were so blind and making all these kinds of conclusions when that was not what the research was showing.

Now I finally have some proof that barefoot running does indeed make you blind:

I was reading the self proclaimed America’s Podiatrist’s (Dr Michael Nirenberg) blog, who is a barefoot runner and read this:

A stunning medical study has reversed conventional wisdom on runners who pronate moderate to severely: The researchers found that it’s actually preferable to ditch your athletic shoes!…

It has long been believed that athletic shoes can provide additional stability to a running foot due to cushioning and binding, therefore controlling excessive pronation: but that erroneous common belief was turned completely on its head by this study!…

Barefoot running now has the weight of clinical evidence to conclusively prove that it lessens over-pronation.

Interesting claims. I thought I had been asleep at the wheel and missed some new amazing research on this. I am normally good at keeping on top of this. I will always go where the research evidence takes me. I would also have thought that a medical professional who has to make clinical decisions about people’s health would be good at analyzing the veracity of research and its applicability. I thought I had better go and look at the research he was claiming showed all this. I already had the research in my files and it certainly was not ‘stunning‘. All I can conclude is that he just proved that barefoot runners really are blind. The research did not come close to supporting the claims he was making. I fail to see how someone who you think you could trust with clinical decisions to treat patients based on research can get it so wrong when reading research.

Let’s take a closer look:

This is the publication that he was refering to: Joanna B. Morley, Leslie M. Decker, Tracy Dierks, Daniel Blanke, Jeffrey A. French, Nick Stergiou:  Effects of Varying Amounts of Pronation on the Mediolateral Ground Reaction Forces During Barefoot Versus Shod Running. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 2010, 2, 205-214

Here is the abstract:

Despite extensive research on running mechanics, there is still a knowledge gap with respect to the degree of relationship between mediolateral ground reaction forces (ML-GRF) and foot pronation. Our goal was to investigate whether differences exist in ML-GRF among runners that exhibit different degrees of pronation. Seventeen male and 13 female recreational runners ran with and without shoes while ML-GRF and frontal kinematics were collected simultaneously. Subjects were divided into groups based upon their peak eversion (low pronation, middle pronation, high pronation). Discrete parameters from the ML-GRF were peak forces, respective times of occurrence, and impulses. No significant differences were found between groups regarding the magnitude of ML-GRF. Based upon the relative times of occurrence, the peak medial GRF occurred closer to the peak eversion than the peak lateral GRF. Findings support the idea that the ML-GRF have less to do with pronation than previous research suggested.

Notice that there is nothing in the abstract that supports the ‘stunning‘ claims made by Dr Nirenberg. If you read the full study, it’s clear that the researchers showed none of what ‘Americas Podiatrist’ was claiming and no where do they even state what he was claiming. I am sure the authors of the study would not be impressed knowing that this sort of intrepretation was being made of their research. And this interpretation came from a medical professional who should know better when it comes to reading and appraising research! If you do not believe me, read it yourself and please show me where any of this was shown by that research? It wasn’t even ‘clinical evidence’! I would have though that a medical professional would know the difference between ‘clinical‘ and ‘labartory‘ research, but apprently not. There are even comments to the article that Dr Nirenberg wrote praising what he wrote. Did those barefoot runners even read the study that he is quoting or is this blind praise?

Why does barefoot running make people so blind? If it does not make them blind, then why is it that when they read research they reach conclusion that no one else does, let alone the study’s authors? Does anyone have another explanation?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: