Curious About Shoes
What shoes do elite runners train in, do they run barefoot? 9/5/2009 3:20PM Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I have been reading a lot about barefoot running recently, including the book "Born To Run." I understand both the standard arguments for and against supportive running shoes. But it seems like most people in this debate are completely dogmatic in their opinions, while the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. So I'm curious, what sort of shoes do elite athletes train in? Do they do substantial training barefoot?

I know that many of the current elite runners grew up running barefoot, but what do they do now that they have the option for whatever footwear they can use? Do they do some barefoot running to maintain the stride they developed in their youth? Do they wear minimalist shoes that are similar to being barefoot? Some combination of these?

What about racing? Are there any elite runners that race in anything other than lightweight flats? I know that Bikila won the Olympic marathon barefoot, but four years later he was wearing shoes. It seems clear to me that runners (Bikila, the Kenyans) can run very fast barefoot, but it also seems like as soon as they have the option, they are at least racing (usually a bit faster) in lightweight shoes.

I'm really hoping for insight into what elite runners and coaches do in this area. Please don't fill this thread with the standard dogmatic stuff about how starting to run barefoot was the greatest decision of your life, or how the shoe companies are responsible for a giant conspiracy that has led to all injuries, or all how 90% of runners would immediately be injured if they took off their supportive shoes. Instead, what do we know about where the optimal middle ground lies between our evolved barefoot biomechanics and technology of shoes?
wick
RE: What shoes do elite runners train in, do they run barefoot? 9/5/2009 3:45PM - in reply to Curious About Shoes Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
What's best for elite runners isn't necessarily what's best for you. Elite runners have near perfect biomechanics, and so can get away with much less support then most runners. Thousands upon thousands of miles also toughens up their legs a good bit, so it would be risky to jump right in to whatever they are doing.

And now the minimalists will descend upon me in a fit of rage and rant about how support and cushioning are a lie.
chikago12
RE: What shoes do elite runners train in, do they run barefoot? 9/5/2009 4:12PM - in reply to Curious About Shoes Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I actually have been wondering about the same thing for a while now. I've always used trainers, and my thought was that wearing heavier shoes will make running with spikes that much more psychologically beneficial.

However, one of my teammates encouraged me to try lightweight flats and since he's a pretty smart guy I tried it out. I got a pair of Nike Streaks and actually did my first run in them today, an 18ish long run, and it felt amazing. Your stride is a lot longer and you get much better extension, so if nothing else it will help correct your form. And at the end of the run I wasn't as tired as usual, and my IT bands, which usually give me a lot of trouble, we not nearly as strained. I really enjoyed running in flats and I plan on continuing to do it. I don't know how this will work in the long run, but based on today's run, I'm sold. Hopefully this little anecdote helped.
BobKK
RE: What shoes do elite runners train in, do they run barefoot? 9/5/2009 4:22PM - in reply to chikago12 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Let me say this:

It depends on the person. Humans went hundreds...thousands...of years without shoes and were able to get away with it. In the last "mere" 35-50 years we have developed "shoe technology" and have actually increased injury rates.

Some people can not run without support due to the fact that their feet do not do well in shoes and their form is shit.

I know of huge amounts of great runners, including teammates and elites that I know and work with, that do barefoot running. That does not mean run exclusively barefoot, it means they do some runs barefoot. for instance they may do 3 morning runs a week barefoot for 3-4 miles. they may do 3-4 cool-down miles after workouts barefoot as well.

Countries that do mostly barefoot running have much less injury rates than we do in America where our footwear is supposed to be "superior."

Start small and increment slowly with the barefoot.
Playaaaaa
RE: What shoes do elite runners train in, do they run barefoot? 9/5/2009 5:03PM - in reply to Curious About Shoes Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Zola Budd didn't do too bad
wick
RE: What shoes do elite runners train in, do they run barefoot? 9/5/2009 7:23PM - in reply to BobKK Reply | Return to Index | Report Post

BobKK wrote:

Let me say this:

It depends on the person. Humans went hundreds...thousands...of years without shoes and were able to get away with it. In the last "mere" 35-50 years we have developed "shoe technology" and have actually increased injury rates.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marathon_world_record_progression

(I understand that there are other major factors in play, especially training, but if you can isolate shoes as a variable, I guess I can too)