Why does the barefoot running community continually fall for this nonsense?

by admin on February 21, 2010


I have already gone over how the barefoot running community generally misrepresented and misreported the Liebermann research and how they misrepresented and even lied about the Kerrigan research, so now let’s take a closer look at the online article that they all seem to quote as ‘evidence’ (and we all know that the barefoot running community does not even really know what evidence is).

The article I am referring to this one by Michael Warburton that was published online as part of the online journal, Sports Science.

Lets look at it. The article starts off with:

“Well-known international athletes have successfully competed barefoot, most notably Zola Budd-Pieterse from South Africa and the late Abebe Bikila from Ethiopia”

Off to a really bad start there, as we know that Abebe Bikila could run faster and break a world record when he started wearing running shoes and Zola Budd is now running in shoes!

“in this review I will show that wearing running shoes probably reduces performance and increases the risk of injury”

You will soon see that the author failed miserably in achieving what he claimed.

“Where barefoot and shod populations co-exist, as in Haiti, injury rates of the lower extremity are substantially higher in the shod population (Robbins and Hanna, 1987).”

This study on injury rates in Haiti does not actually exist. It was made up. Surely the fact that Robbins and Hanna did not cite a reference for it should have been a give away? Never let a little thing like this stand in the way of those who have an agenda.

“This association between injury and wearing shoes is consistent with the possibility that wearing shoes increases the risk of injury”

There is NOT one study that shows that. The ones cited by the author did not show that. Anyone reading those studies with the blinkers off can see that.

“However, there have been several studies implicating footwear in the etiology of injuries in runners”

Again, there is not one study that shows that. The author is being dishonest. He does present some studies that he claims support that, but they do not. Let’s look at them:

“It is claimed that footwear increases the risk of such sprains, either by decreasing awareness of foot position provided by feedback from plantar cutaneous mechanoreceptors in direct contact with the ground (Robbins et al., 1995)”.

Robbins et al never showed that, they just CLAIMED that in the editorial like conclusion to their research which not even on ankle sprains!

“or by increasing the leverage arm and consequently the twisting torque around the sub-talar joint during a stumble (Stacoff et al., 1996). “

That was a good study, but did not actualy show an increased risk for ankle sprains (it wasn’t even about ankle sprains!) and shoe design in the heel has changed significantly since the late 90’s, so this study is irrelevant to the authors argument.

And besides, since when has ankle sprains been an issue for runners? It makes up less than 1% of injuries that runners get and I bet in the vast majority of those the shoe would not have been a factor, so the author really is barking up the wrong tree here.

“One of the most common chronic injuries in runners is planter fasciitis, or an inflammation of the ligament running along the sole of the foot. There is some evidence that the normally unyielding plantar fascia acts as the support for the medial longitudinal arch, and that strain on the proximal fascial attachment during foot strike leads to plantar fasciitis (Robbins and Hanna, 1987). Barefoot running may induce an adaptation that transfers the impact to the yielding musculature, thus sparing the fascia and accounting for the low incidence of plantar fasciitis in barefoot populations (Robbins and Hanna, 1987).”

Robbins and Hanna did NOT do a study on plantar fasciitis and there is NO evidence that there is less plantar fasciitis in barefoot populations, so I have no idea what the author is talking about here. If you look at all the prospective studies on what causes or increases the risk for plantar fasciitis, NONE of them have shown that this is a factor! The author is barking up the wrong tree again.

The rest of the section on chronic injuries is equally nonsensical as it all focuses on the changes in impact moderating behaviour allegedly induced by running shoes and impact related injuries. The flaw is that there are NO injuries caused by impact. Not one study has shown that high levels of impact increase the risk for any overuse injury in runners (see this for more). So who cares if the shoes induce some sort of sensory illusion and affects impact moderating behaviour or not? Its not an issue, except in the minds of those with an agenda.

The next section looks at performance:

“Wearing shoes increases the energy cost of running”… “Flaherty (1994) found that oxygen consumption during running at 12 km/h was 4.7% higher in shoes of mass ~700 g per pair than in bare feet”

Anyone see a problem with this? Running shoes now weigh half that amount, so the performance argument can’t be used anymore. Why do the barefoot running community continually trot this one out? Again, barking up the wrong tree on this one as well.

So now lets look at the conclusions:

Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of ankle sprains, either by decreasing awareness of foot position or by increasing the twisting torque on the ankle during a stumble.

Wrong (see above).

Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of plantar fasciitis and other chronic injuries of the lower limb by modifying the transfer of shock to muscles and supporting structures.

Wrong (see above).

Running in bare feet reduces oxygen consumption by a few percent.  Competitive running performance should therefore improve by a similar amount, but there has been no published research comparing the effect of barefoot and shod running on simulated or real competitive running performance.

Wrong (see above). However, I agree with the bit I put in itallics, but we do know that no elite runners choose to run barefoot.

Research is needed to establish why runners choose not to run barefoot. Concern about puncture wounds, bruising, thermal injury, and overuse injury during the adaptation period are possibilities.

Surely research into why the barefoot running community continually promote bad research and get it wrong so often is more important?

In the introduction to his review, the author claimed:

“in this review I will show that wearing running shoes probably reduces performance and increases the risk of injury”

Did they achieve that aim? Of course they didn’t!

Why is it that the barefoot running community are so gullible that they continue to repeatedly fall for this kind of intellectually dishonest nonsense?

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