ZERO DROP "All the Shoes That Fit"

2Jun/11Off

“Asics Have Really Dug in Their ‘Heels!’”

It's hard to tell the shoe brand here, but if Asics had its way, all runners should be perfectly content to continue as over-striding heel-strikers.

A friend just sent me the following post by Asics head of research Simon Bartold that recently appeared on a Podiatry Arena thread:

Well Dr. Kirby, A big thank you! Here was I thinking I was the only one fighting a rearguard battle to bring scientific debate to this nonsense!First we had to deal with barefoot, and now the so called Minimalist running debate. It just gets sooo frustrating.What I find fascinating however is that Joe Hammil was intimately involved in the NB minimalist project. A little bit of a pity they did not do this research BEFORE they designed the shoe.

We (ASICS) are now working on a training shoe that is less structure and lightweight, but still offering stability and holding true to a rearfoot srike pattern design. I have based this on the premise that, no matter what is being said about technical running footwear, there is no evidence that it really 'aint broken, so we will tweak, but no need to fix. The minimalist movement works on the premise that by reducing heel height, i.e. the overall gradient,by maybe 6 mm, it induces a midfoot or even forefoot strike pattern. I have ot been able to identify one single piece of credible evidence to support this.. so.. we will stick to our guns.Once more the ether is thick with unsupportable nonsense.. pose, chi, toning barefoot, minimalist....when will it end?

My friend then shrewdly commented to me, "Asics have really dug in their 'heels!"' In Zero Drop's humble opinion, Asics research head honcho sounds like one of those very-much-in-the-minority anti-climate change "scientists" who tries to refute global warming data, or a paid tobacco lobbyist who maintains that's there's no proof that smoking causes cancer. In the fast-shifting footwear biz, you either lead from the front or you stay back in the rear; Asics is obviously hanging out in the rear in more ways than one.

Comments (79) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Yeah our feet arent broken. No need to fix them with shoes. Definitely no need to screw them up with Asics.

  2. Interesting ….I guess they want fancy data that the Plantar Fascia and Achilles function like springs and should to be loaded to recoil in the anatomic position.

    Mark Cucuzzella MD
    http://www.trtreads.org

  3. First good sign is that he gets annoyed – that means he actually has to think about this stuff (even though it might take a while to sink in).

  4. In Zero Drop’s humble opinion, Asics research head honcho sounds like one of those very-much-in-the-minority anti-climate change “scientists” who tries to refute global warming data, or a paid tobacco lobbyist who maintains that’s there’s no proof that smoking causes cancer.

    Well I guess I have right of reply here. I wish I knew your name since you know mine! Firstly, your photo caption erroneously states ” if Asics had its way, all runners should be perfectly content to continue as over-striding heel-strikers.” Not sure where that came from, certainly not me. I beleive some runners should forefoot strike.. for example, if one has less than 10 degrees dorsiflexion, which many runners do, that runner cannot achieve heel srtike. But you know what.. humans are very varied, and lots of runners heel strike and run well and efficiently.There is no problem midfoot striking or forefoot striking in an ASICS shoe.. I recommend it all the time, especially if I think a change in form will help. But not to everyone. You all asserting that everyone must be a forefoot striker.. do you beleive everyone should run Pose? If you do, then you are at odds with Dr. Nick Romanov who invented the technique.. he specifically believes and has stated that it is NOT for everyone.
    Sorry Zero Drop.. you are misleading your bloggers.. you state” Most conventional running shoes have an average drop of 12 mm, which places too much impact and stress on the heel region”. Nonsense.. show me the proof.. published in a peer reviewed scientific journal.
    You further state “The runner’s cushioned heel strikes the ground first instead of the shoe landing on the more biomechanically efficient midfoot or forefoot”.. again.. show me the evidence.. let me save you time.. you will not find it because it does not exist. You then go on to say “Excessive heel-striking marks an open-invitation for potential foot and leg injuries. But minimalist and barefoot running shoes have a much less drop. Which means you are now landing on the midfoot or forefoot– the way nature originally intended us to run.”.. balony.. absolutely zero evidence of a connection between heel striking and injury.. and there is no evidence whatsoever that “nature” intended us to run on the forefoot. You see, you are completely missing the point.. every runner is different and has different requirements based on their biomechanics, their weight, their gender, their physiology etc. You are deliberately espousing a one size fits all approach and telling your readers that if they run barefoot or minimalist, they either will not get injured or will have injury rate grossly reduced.. are you kiding.. fact is, running is dangerous.. 65% of runners will get injured, but nowhere near as bad as the frightening sport of badminton, where 85% of players get injured. The fact is, it is not the shoes, or lack thereof.. it is sport. If you want to play sport, you will get injured.
    More from your website “Zero drop has become the ultimate goal for running shoe companies and runners alike.” Not for ASICS it has not, because it is not supported by the science. I challenge you to provide me with ONE single piece of evidence, published in a peer reviewed scientific journal to support the concept that there is a proven benefit to lowering heel gradient. Improved efficiency.. Nope.. Hamill et al 2009 “a 7% decrease in running efficiency in the barefoot group in a model predicting barefoot vs shod running”. Improved mechanics and muscle function? Nope.. Chockalingham et al 2011.. no change to gait kinematics or muscle function when changing from heel strike to forefoot strike. Improved strength going minimalist or barefoot? sorry, not according to the published literature “Effect of Minimalist Footwear on Medial Arch Height
    Justin F. Shroyer et al and Effect of Minimalist Footwear on Arch Rigidity Index
    Cory E. Etheredge et al. Hey .. check it out.. it out there in the public domain for all to see.. I am not making this up.. we deal with facts, not opinion, folklaw and myth.
    As for Minim Alister..I have been thinking about this for 20 years or more.. long before you hit the scene, and in fact it was me who went in print to say :motion enhancement is more important than motion control”, a coment based on scientific research and which led ASICS to destructure their shoes way before anyone else was brave enough to follow. We hae been building minimalist shoes forever. They are called racing flats, and we have been commited to quality science in footwear resaecrh in all of our endevours. The result of that is footwear with the athlete in mind, not the marketers or fads of the moment. this whole thing reminds me of the toning shoe craze of the last couple of years.. got hyped by the bloggers, now there are warehouseds full of toning shoes destined for landfill, because they were not based on science and they did not do what they promised. I have a strong feeling that is where the minimalist argument will be in a year or so.
    Finally.. I believe in climate change and it scares the s*#t outta me.

    Best
    Simon

    • I’m sorry, Simon, but the burden of proof rests with the new guys. That’s you heel strike, cushioned, supported lot.

      I run technical mountain trails with constant double axes neurological vertigo. I can’t take two steps without falling over wearing shoes like yours. Why? Because my feet can no feel the ground and tell my body where I am in space.

      Since I began going barefoot or in minimalist footwear spring, 2009 my posture and motion have dramatically improved among a plethora of other improvements.

      So for me, in the best proof that matters to me, my experiment of one tells me to avoid your shoes like the plague. Elsewise I’d still be a hunchbacked, mostly homebound bloke using huge bludgers to prop me upright as I lumber along.

      The burden of proof is yours, not ours. Our system has worked for millions of years.

      With abandon,
      Patrick

      • sorry Patrick.. that is not the way it works in the world of science.. you make a statement.. you HAVE to provide the evidence.. show me the evidence.. all you have is hearsay and conjecture.. the burden of proof.. unfortunately is absolutely on you.. show me the evidence..

        • Science builds upon what is known.

          We know humans went either barefoot or in moccasins/sandals for millions of years. Or do you disagree? Do we have proof they did not wear Asics shoes? Yes. Asics did not exist prior to 1949. Is there proof our ancestors did not run in high heeled, cushioned, supportive footwear shaped like a last rather than the human foot? No. But there is an absence of such footwear in the fossil and archeological record.

          Using logic and reason (a tool foundational to science) we can infer that when our ancestors ran, they did not heel strike as your shoes force the runner to (see Barefoot Ken Bob’s reasoning in his comment). Or do you jump up and down on your heels on hard surfaces thousands of times a day?

          Therefore, any shoe, Asics included, that is designed to promote a heel strike goes against a way of moving that is known and proven to have worked for millions of years. The burden of proof remains on you. You have to show more proof than the default answer, and you have not. That is how science works. It is answerable to the every growing body of knowledge using logic and reason. Your position, so far, seems quite unreasonable. Several million years of humans running barefoot style v. 60 years of some humans moving heel-strike style. Until you can overcome that proven evidence, I for one will not change from the way my ancestors moved.

          • great reply. i imagine if one went to the “creationist” museum in kentucky, one would see thick-sole, elevated-heel shoes on the cave people in the diorama, which for reasons that defy all darwinian logic, is shared with dinosaurs.

            the real irony is that asics dominated the running shoe market in the u.s. until nike aka blue ribbon sports leveraged their relationship and went off on its own.

            perhaps asic might even go back to its tabi roots;these pre-dated the vffs by over a half-century. a japanese runner even won the boston marathon wearing them in the early 50s.

            so with such a storied past, asics just might become a relic of the past. can’t happen? look at the computer industry, or the internet’s growth. atari or netscape anyone?

        • How need to provide evidence… Patrick or Simon?

          If profit-making companies were to introduce a category of pill to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and the pill became extremely popular, being sold to all hypercholesterolemic patients…
          And, a few years later, it became clear that not only was the pill ineffective in reducing blood cholesterol, but it also caused several unpleasant side effects such as muscle pain and digestive problems…
          What would you do?
          Pull the pill from the market, gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, …and, above all, no longer prescribe it to newly diagnosed hypercholesterolemic patients.

          If profit-making companies were to introduce a category of running shoe to reduce skeletal stress (and therefore injuries) , and the shoe became extremely popular and was sold to all runners …
          And, a few years later, it became clear that not only was the shoe ineffective in reducing skeletal stress (and therefore injuries), but it also caused several unpleasant side effects such as increased strike force and weakened feet …
          What would you do?
          Pull the shoe from the market, gradually to minimize withdrawal symptoms such as pain in the Achilles tendon , …and, above all, no longer prescribe it to new runners !!!

          • I was forgotten the ‘evidence’ of what I was telling you Simon :)

            1. The running shoe market is worth multi billion dollars per year. (The National Sporting Goods Association’s – NSGA)
            2. The integration of shock-absorbing and pronation technologies into running shoes exploded in the 1990s. Shoes became bigger, thicker and more expensive. Modern running shoes are built with Pronation Control, Elevated Cushioned Heel (first described by Dr. Craig Richards as PECH technology).
            3. In the past 20 years, more than 95% of all running shoes sold in specialized running stores have been PECH-type shoes.
            4. The body of studies into the concept of shoe absorption has failed to confirm it as a reducer of skeletal stress. (Lieberman 2010, Squadrone 2009, O’Leary 2008, Divert 2005, Laughton 2003, Ekenman 2002, Milgrom 1998, Hennig 1996, Cole 1995, Bergmann 1995, Nigg 1987)
            The concept of biomechanical correction of foot pronation through shoe-integrated technology has also been questioned. (Stacoff 2000)
            5. A systematic review in 2008 mentioned that the integration PECH technology into running shoes to reduce the incidence of injury is without scientific basis. (2008-Richards)
            An increase in the incidence of injury over time has been observed in certain studies. (2010-Knapik, 1988-Marti)
            6. A systematic review has associated vertical loading rate with stress fractures. (2011-Zadpoor)
            Studies show that this vertical loading rate is increased by PECH modern shoes compared to barefoot running. (2010-Lieberman)
            7. Constant protection of the foot through shock-absorbing structures of PECH shoes causes less resistance to the stress of localized pressure. Weakening of foot tissue and barefoot sensitivity have been observed in patients.
            8. The tissues that are most at risk in the transition to minimalist shoes are the same tissues weakened by modern PECH shoes: the calves, Achilles tendon, plantar fascia and forefoot (metatarsal heads). Therefore, a gradual transition to a minimalist should is advised.
            9. In light of this information, even in the absence of a randomized clinical study to justify the prescription of minimalist shoes, I strongly advise against modern PECH-type shoes for anyone undertaking a running program, even for older patients, or those presenting a weight problem or excessive pronation or supination.

  5. Simon– your rather spirited comment has been posted here, and yet had you done a little more research, you would have been easily able to find out Zero Drop’s identity. click the staff button on top. i ain’t got nothing to hide. but i have to go– i have a date with some lawn-darts buddies; we all play barefoot and blindfolded. talk about a sport with a high-injury rate.
    Bill Katovsky, Zero Drop

  6. Yeah .. I’m bored too Bill.. pity you did not have time to rise to the challenge I set for you.. provide the evidence for your misinformation.. Oh yeah I know.. I’ve done all this before.. there will be no evidence.. because you have none.. no surprises!!
    See ya

    • you are beginning to sound a lot like former secretary of defense donald rumsfeld. there are many known unknowns, unknown knowns, unknown unknowns, but i am having trouble believing that man was genetically engineered to run, lope, amble, or trot with heel-jarring, repetitive ferocity. but wait, the fossil record only shows shoes dating to around 8,000 b.c. or so, and before then, god only knows. i guess we need more research to prove that pre-modern man ran improperly, just like so many modern runners do with their orthotics and crash-heel pads. call this misinformation meets marketing. but why criticize the tens of thousands of newly baptized runners who like running in minimalist footwear– because it feels fun, because they can run pain-free and injury-free.

      so, in your position at asics, you have the opportunity and means to serve the running masses something other than grape koolaid. as it were, you reacting rather than leading.

      • so you believe the modern descendants of ancient man.. the Kalahari bushmen run as you suggest during persistance hunting??
        ps.. who mis Donald RUmsfeld.. is he related to Marty ? I’m not from aroung here..

        • judging by the attenborough film, the bushmen run in cheap chinese sneakers.

          you need to read more closely since i already explained who donald rumsfeld is: “former secretary of defense”

          one question: how many runners have been injured in asics over the years? any facts here? the number must be astronomical. far greater than mountain-seeking unicyclists juggling plates.

    • Well Simon, I don’t have much to add technically that hasn’t already been said. But your attitude of disdain has guaranteed that after many years and dozens of pairs of Asics I, my wife and my 2 running children will never buy from your company again. While I haven’t made my mind up completely there is a reasonable discussion to be had on the benefits of minimal or barefooting; you have just chosen not to have it (where is the proof that having a big piece of brie under your heel prevents injury???) I planned on getting some Asics Piranhas but there are plenty of other light flats out there.

  7. Simon,

    To you, it may seem like a fad, but I disagree. First of all, minimalist footwear has been around far longer than cushioned, motion-controlled shoes. All you are seeing is a resurgence in the area of running. Take Russell Moccasin (http://www.russellmoccasin.com) as an example, they have been making zero-dropped, cushion free-footwear since 1898.

    What I find interesting about the minimalist shoe movement when it comes to running and fitness, is that it is being driven by a ground-swell rather than by some marketing gimmick. FiveFingers have been around for years now (I bought my first pair when all they had was one model, the Classic), and were designed as a boat shoe. It wasn’t until people started using them for other activities such as running that they started advertising them as such. People use them because they work.

    I am not a doctor or a scientist. I am just a guy who, until I discovered minimalist footwear, was unable to hike, run, or bike without pain. I was told I would have to wear expensive shoes and expensive orthotics for the rest of my life, and take it easy physically, because my body was not biomechanically “blessed”. Well, now I can do all of those things, and I am in better shape now than I ever was, pain free, and injury free – because of minimalist shoes. Not because of motion control shoes. Not because of orthotics. I am not the only one with that story, I am part of the ground swell pushing this movement forward. (You can read more about my story here: http:/www.adventureinprogress.com/minimalist-footwear)

    You may read the research and think you know what is best, but unfortunately, the shoes you produce will not meet my needs. I am not alone in that regard.

    My question for you is this: Why not give people what they want? You said it yourself, everyone is different, so if some prefer to have no heel or cushioning, why are you afraid to produce that for those who want it? Asics makes racing flats for racers, cross trainers for fitness, trail runners for off-roadies, and a whole host of different shoes to meet the needs of various sports and consumer groups. Do minimalist footwear users not qualify as a potential market?

    • Simon–

      Screw the studies (although there are many that show decreased impact of a forefoot landing, including Noakes’ study of the Pose method and barefooting vs. shod in 2004, you are right that a higher injury rate for heel-skrikers isn’t yet proven — only logically assumed can only be) . So, let’s look at how people are voting with their feet. Why would people be gravitating, starting about ten years ago, toward the Pose Method, then Chi Running, then barefoot and minimalist? Because the media is telling them to do so? Fact: Runners are getting hurt, and they don’t need a scientific study to tell them that. Fact: lots of runners are seeing injuries go away by adopting a forefoot landing. When I wrote my first story about the Pose method in 2003, I was stunned by the number of stories I heard from runners about how it “saved” their running careers. Some were at the point of tears, they were so thankful. When I wrote my books “Run for Life” and my new one “Barefoot Running Step by Step” with Barefoot Ken Bob Saxton, and interviewed dozens of barefooters, I heard the same thing: Thank god, I can run again.
      To ignore the fact that thousands of runners are being cured of injuries by a forefoot strike because you don’t have a study to verify it is ridiculous. Mark my words, Asics will have minimalist shoe — or maybe a whole line of them — this time next year.

      • fact.. no we will not!
        Fact runners.. and badminton players.. and fisher men.. and croquet players get hurt
        fact.. you are promoting your books.. when you have interviewed thousands of barefoot runners rather than “dozens” (the USA has a population of 330 million).. get back to me.. good luck!
        fact.. there are more peolpe riding a unicycles up.. and then down mountains than there are barefoot runners (really .. truly… this is a fact!.. am I getting through??).. this is a virtual argument, this is why we are having a virtual discussion
        fact.. lots of runners report injuries going away with “motion control “shoes and orthoses. I know you don;’t wanna hear that.. but.. fact
        Fact.. my friend .. who is a very good runner got injured, and powered through despite the pain. In agony and struggling with form.. he was stopped and congratulated by a fellow runner for ” prefecting the Pose technique”.. wow!.. c’mon guys.. really!!

    • Damien.. you seem like a sensible fella, and you have some good points.
      Please understand this and only this. My responsibility is to understand the scientific basis of injury and movement. in no way do I or anyone else have all the answers. BUT, until I am confident that minimalist footwear does not have the potential to injure, which, basesd on the currently available i njury data and published research I catagorically do NOT believe.. I will not recommend it. The instant someone on this blog provides me with peer reviewed evidence.. that is EVIDENCE… that no heel or no cushioning is protective of injury.. I will be on the phone to get this product to market ASAP. Please provide the evidence for this

      • can anyone name some published, peer reviewed studies that show cushioning shoes with elevated heels prevent injury? i guess that’s my issue with simon’s argument.

        but i do not blame asics for taking their stand. it’s a bit less risky to “wait and see” when you are the market leader. that’s just smart business.

        companies do not have feelings or care about people, they exist to make money. so if it becomes MUCH more profitable to offer minimalist shoes than to ‘not’ offer them, asics will likely do so. right now, they are obviously doing fine without them.

        if you grew up wearing “modern” shoes (cushioned and supportive), it makes sense you would risk injury going barefoot. at least at first. so simon is probably right…there is probably a risk switching to barefoot/minimalist shoes.

        the question is whether the long term benefits (if there are some) are worth the short term risk (if indeed there is some), and for whom? only time – and good, quality studies – will tell.

        eric johnson

    • I agree very much with your 2nd paragraph, and so did a shoe designer from Saucony. I recently attended a barefoot/minimal shoe presentation at a Denver-area running store. The Saucony guy explained that the reason they’re offering minimal shoes is that they’ve listened to runners. A lot of them are asking for something different from our modern running shoes. Saucony became aware that for good or ill, science or no science–for whatever reason–their customers have asked for something less stable and less cushioned than a lot of what’s been available for the past few decades.

      Simon insists that peer reviewed studies are necessary to win this argument. It would be foolish though to ignore anecdotal observations. What’s experienced on the field or on the road isn’t any less valid than what’s observed in a study.

      Kyle Norman
      http://www.DenverFitnessJournal.com

  8. Simon,
    Some light reading for you: http://www.inov-8.com/research.asp?PG=PG7&L=26

    For those not aware Asics have released the ’33′ for ‘Natural Foot Motion’ – very similar in principal to the Nike Free. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8lz6zcx9Vs&NR=1
    Make of it what you will (I’m sure they’ll sell many units given the marketing push) but it’s not what your natural runner is after…

    Some runners heel strike without any problems, many do not. The problem we have here is that for the past 20 years companies such as Asics, Brooks, Saucony, Mizuno, Adidas et al have been painting Pronation as BAD (great marketing tool to buy their shoes).

    Research shows that pronation is perfectly normal – a necessary part of natural running motion. How do we best achieve this natural running motion? Run barefoot.

    Many companies such as Kigo, Altura, Vivobarefoot, Inov8, Vibram, Merrell, Skora etc are producing footwear which doesn’t interfere with your natural mechanics; it’s time the old-school approach evolves or dies.

    • get your facts straight mate.. ASICS has been telling the community pronation is good for 13 years

    • My family own a sport store and I have worked their for 5 years and have never been told by a Running Shoe company that Pronation is bad – don’t get confused with OVER pronation, confusing – yes, but so is the whole industry. A certain amount of pronation is normal – but over pronation is BAD!

  9. There’s also no evidence that we aren’t designed to slam our noses into trees, and yet, most runners avoid running into trees! Must be because they aren’t wearing enough padding on their noses…

    It hurts to heel-strike while barefoot, on most any hard surface (many of which are very natural – contrary to popular opinion, nature isn’t exclusively golf courses, and litter-free beach sand), and so barefoot runners avoid heel-striking, just like we avoid holding our hand in a fire long enough to burn the skin.

    There’s a very natural reason we have nerves all over our body, and for running, many in the soles of our feet, and that is to teach us not to do stuff that hurts, because in time and with constant repetition, those painful actions might very well lead to chronic damage.

    There’s no credible evidence that we are designed to run on any surface without the benefit of touching and feeling the terrain with our bare soles.

    If you want to know how you’re designed to run, walk, even to stand…

    … Listen to your body and soles.

  10. Simon is correct in saying that there is no evidence.

    No evidence that cushioning is good or bad.

    No evidence that heel raise is good or bad.

    No evidence that ASICS running shoes are good or bad.

    No evidence that barefoot is good or bad.

    Given the resources, I can answer those questions for you within two years.

    But does ASICS have the guts to challenge a minimalist running shoe manufacturer to a head to head clinical trial measuring injury rates and distance running performance to show that their shoes are superior?

    What minimalist/barefoot running shoe company has the guts to challenge ASICS?

    Until shoe manufacturers are prepared to stand behind their product and submit their shoes for independent testing, the entire running shoe industry will remain as it is- a drivel of marketing drive pseuodscience.

    • Hey Craig.. greetings form Orlando.. listening to Otis Reding and loving it.. Hey mate.. maybe ti me to tome down the attitude.. it is not a matter of guts.. it is amatter of asking a question and geting an answer. If you are up to that.. so am I. It is not about showing ASICS.. or for example the “barefoot on Grass Shoe ” you are attempting to market is superior, it is about asking a research question.. and getting an asnswer. I am not sure your your 1 review paper qualifies you as a bonifide researcher, but I am up to the challange.
      Tell me what you would like to do.. but not just on your terms mate. Would the University of Melbourne Centre for Health Exercise and Sports Mdicine, within the School of Medicine, be a suitable venue for a collaberative study between you and I?? Contact me privately by email and we can exchange phone numbers to set this up.

      cheers

      S

  11. PS I am drafting a proposal for a set of basic scientific standards for the running shoe industry.

    http://www.huntergait.com.au/blogs/news/3289112-proposal-for-comment-the-newcastle-accord

    Comments and expressions of interest from potential signatories welcome!

  12. Absence of proof not proof of absence. There might not be any min shoe studies but there are plenty of studies showing how supportive thick heel shoes negatively affect balance & proprioception. I don’t see where ZD says only go min & no injury. Actually Bill just posted my article supporting that diet is more of a cause than min shoes in regards to injury. What’s the best shoe for a person? It’s the one that allows their foot to function without outside influences. If your Asics don’t alter gait, balance, proprioception, or anything else then put my feet in them.

    • soc doc… “there are plenty of studies showing how supportive thick heel shoes negatively affect balance & proprioception”
      can you please refer me specifically to these published papers? Please!!

  13. Simon,

    At least one reader here is with you. I have been running for over 20 years, 10K, 1/2 marathon, marathon, trail and have done so as a heel striker wearing Nike, NB, ASICS, Pearl Izumi, etc. without incident. After buying into the hype, I slowly transitioned to mid foot strike in the last year and after only 10 months had major knee problems. I have switched back to ASICS Gel Nimbus and heel striking and I am back on the road to recovery. I also love my ASICS Gel Hyperspeed 4 racing flats with their 7 mm drop for tempos and race days.

    Keep up the great work Simon!

  14. Thanks Mike.. I really appreciate your comments in the firestorm. Interesting article in the June issue of Runner’s World.. or is that banned from this website too! 2 athletes both required to change their running style.. 1 did really well.. the other got injured. All athletes are not alike.
    It just goes to show.. everyone is different.. everyone has different requirements.. and for those of us interested in the care of the athlete.. one size does not fit all. Glad to hear you are injury free again in the ASICS product!

    • They changed their form. There is a difference between running barefoot, and “different running styles”. It is much easier to learn when you run barefoot. It is hard for me to know what my body is doing when I wear shoes. When I go barefoot, I feel as though I discovered good movement. But, I wear shoes to protect not correct. I agree with Ken Bob. You cannot run with bad form when you are barefoot, unless you want to hurt. Watch children when they run in shoes, they look horrible, because they cannot feel the ground. But, I agree with the athletics part, trying to perform at a super high level will probably lead to injury.

  15. I’d like to share a few comments here; hopefully they will shed some light on some issues and not point fingers. Obviously everyone comes at this from their own angle.

    I am first and foremost a clinician – I use all different types of methods to help the runners I see – and that about 95% of my daily case load. Every clinician out there will tell you the story about their patient that basically can’t run unless they are in a motion control shoe. Just as there are numerous reports about folks succeeding with minimal footwear. In my experience, I have found that most runners can improve with “less” shoe. This definition of improvement is defined as less time sidelined with injury and improvement of times. However, I will never say that one solution is better for everyone all the time. And it goes waaaay past a shoe. A shoe is an important factor, but its more how you run in a shoe than the shoe itself. Each runner is unique, and needs various pieces of the puzzle to perform at their optimal.

    I do not believe in coined gait styles. I believe in helping the runner find their optimal form. I have the luxury of measuring complete 3D joint kinematics and kinetics on each and every runner I see. I combine this information with their physical examination findings to determine their INDIVIDUAL needs for corrective exercise, soft tissue mobility, drills, and yes –> footwear. Obviously, this is rare, but examining the effects of objective data on an individual’s symptoms on dozens of “N of 1″ experiments each and every week sheds an interesting angle to this discussion.

    I’ll echo the comments of Craig above. We need better designed research that combines injury rates and technical measures. Lots of studies show X and Y, but this has never been correlated to actual injury rates. Example – Our paper on the comparison of joint torques between minimal and barefoot running showed significant elevation in various parameters that went well above and beyond the effects of landing rear foot in traditional shoes vs. a less heel-dominant contact style in barefoot. The increased joint torques seen at the hip and knee when running in shoes are clearly in the wrong direction when thinking about injury. Ex: Increases in varus torque of the knee has been strongly linked to development of OA in the medial compartment of the knee. Shoes increase this by 34% as compared to barefoot. Another example? Look at the overwhelming research out there showing that the ACL injuries, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and medial tibial stress syndrome are all associated with increased hip rotation torque. Shoes increase this by 54% when compared to barefoot. Let’s be VERY clear here so as not to mince words – NO ONE knows when these increases actually become significant to cause injury, however, they are clearly a step in the wrong direction. Maybe an 8% change is enough to cause clinical symptoms, perhaps it’s a 88% change – no one knows – but again, when looking at a given population, its a step in the wrong direction.

    So what’s the biggest problem with footwear? You know this as well as I. The “market” drives shoe trends and such. Innovations are typically created by designers (people with design degrees)- not engineers or biomechanists – to fill a gap in the market. Next year’s revision needs another 3 letter acronym to put on the store wall and a matching logo on the box. Typically, when a “new” idea IS found to be successful, it takes years to very very gradually transfer into a shoe – why? Because the shoe companies are nervous that it will be too “different” and make folks revolt against their best seller. Designing shoes to fill a market niche is BACKWARDS. Shoes need to be designed to provide various aspects to various individuals to allow their body to perform optimally.

    What needs to be done? We need someone (Asics want in?) to step up and offer funding to measure injury incidence and prevalence, and also objective o gait parameters to explain the changes we see in quantitative terms. This will provide us with answers, instead of interesting trends across populations. This is not cheap stuff to do. NIH is short on funds. The economy is in the hole. Shoe sales are strong. The private industry will have to step up and fund this type of work if we want answers. Till then, it’s just a good discussion. Wow. That was long.

    Jay Dicharry
    University of Virginia Center for Endurance Sport

  16. Simon – here’s a paper I wrote recently with some studies referenced. http://www.drgangemi.com/research/. It’s the first one listed. I’m actually presenting it in Orlando this weekend at a conference.
    As a side note in this heated discussion here on ZD, I’ll add that while everybody wants to say “show me the studies – show me the evidence” let’s not forget clinical observations too. For those of us who observe gait and muscle function, a lot of negative changes can be seen when an individuals heel gets further and further away from the ground. Look at an extreme case of a woman walking in high heels.

  17. Running colleagues,
    This is good thoughful discussion and glad we are having it. Lets keep it educational, scientifically skeptical (this is debate), and provide the BEST evidence we have when little exists. And as CR and JD suggest…design the study.

    Here is a database of resources and articles on the topic from our website

    http://trtreads.org/Articles_OWCO.html

    Jason Robillard also has dug into the literature.

    http://www.runnersworld.com/community/forums/runner-communities/barefoot-running/barefoot-minimalist-shoe-resources-research-articles-videos-websites/.0

    For an experienced N or 1 take my story. Horrible injuries like most runners including multiple surguries in a competitive running career.

    Now do almost all my running barefeet on pavement and grass surfaces. Use shoes for races and longer and quicker road work. i truly believe like Ken Bob does that it is almost impossible to hurt yourself running barefeet on hard surface if you use your brain. you self regulate in a way you cannot when in shoes. you land soft and if something shows even the slightest discomfort you stop. i’ve never seen a kid running around and playing voluntarily in summer in bare feet have an overuse injury. We are teaching the STYLE of bare foot running. I presented this video and some teaching techniques at the AMAA Sports Med Symposium at Boston Marathon this year. Dan Lieberman and Irene Davis had tons of science. Ran 2:37:00 at age 44 in shoes. Sweet bare foot one hour recovery on day after…amazing how i was post race sore before the barefoot run and afterwards this hit the reset button and felt great.

    http://youtu.be/kpnhKcvbsMM

    out for a morning bare foot run now after some coffee.

    Respectfully,

    Mark Cucuzzella MD

  18. Dear All
    As a researcher, teache and clinician I have been reading this discussion with great interest. The problem with research is when it supports our stance, the opposition can usually find it’s flaws and vice versa as there is little research evidence that is actually that good. Even the studies showing increased shock absorption produces increased ground reaction forces can be argued against for various reasons.

    So in the absence of evidence (unless it is excellent quality, so let’s for the sake or argument say there isn’t any as has been proposed earlier) can we use common sense and scientific knowledge and principles.

    My argument goes thus: if one were to wear a plaster cast on ones foot and ankle, I think we would accept that the result would be weakness – disuse atrophy is a well accepted phenomenon. If we train our muscles, they get stronger. Again, hopefully a universally accepted concept. Therefore I propose that if one were to chart from “total immobilisation” to “no support/immobilisation” then one would see a reasonable relationship develop between the points. If this all seems reasonable, and correct me if it does not. Then why (not how) would wearing motion support/control footwear be a positive thing other than as Simon said earlier making for an economy of movement, as the muscles do less when the shoe does more -7% was
    mentioned for one study. It is interesting (to me) that I use the economy argument as a reason to avoid “too much” footwear support/control, as i would like my patients/athletes feet to do more not less whilst running.

    So there is my simple call it scientific approach. Less shoe equals more work
    for the foot, which I have made the leap to assume (bad word) is better for the people who come to see me.

    Can someone, and sorry Simon if the onus falls on you, explain why it is a good thing to wear a shoe that helps to control your foot position/motion rather than strive to do this with your foot itself. Genuine question

    Btw my university would be delighted to be involved ina my research to answe the questions. We have a very well regarded sports science research programme so would be well placed, I think to help. Though how to avoid the perceived bias of having footwear companies pay/assist can be tricky. It’s kind of wrong how I’d we PROVED without a shadow of doubt that shoes were “best” and that ASICS had paining some way to assist the study then the proof would be invalid despite it being correct and that answer we had been searching for all this time sad isn’t it?

    So! Shoes to run in? Why? And no “evidence” please

  19. Hi Spender and thanks for your thoughtful blog. You asked “Can someone, and sorry Simon if the onus falls on you, explain why it is a good thing to wear a shoe that helps to control your foot position/motion rather than strive to do this with your foot itself. Genuine question”
    So my answer.. as have been all my comments on this blog, is my view.. not an ASICS view as has been eroneously represented!
    My answer to your question is an unequivocal.. “It is not a good thing”. And this is what’s killing me.. for 13 yeasrs I have been advocating a less is more approach. I just reviewed a lecture I gave to a bunch of physiotherapy Masters students in June 1998..in it I hammer home the point that less is more. From an ASICS perspective, we dropped the term “motion control” from our vocabulary in… can anyone guess?.. 2002, because the science did not support the notion that pronation at contact should be contolled, and anyway it is a nonsense to assume any athletic shoe can do this. In 2007 I had a discussion with Irene Davis, many of whom you know. In it I specifically, after one of my lectures showed a slide with the words “motion control” being flushed down a toilet (complete with sound effects!), told her I did not believe in this concept. She vehemently disagreed with me and told me, based on her extensive research.. and she has done lots.. I was wrong. I met her again 3 weeks ago at a conference we were both lecturing at in Melbourne. She now preaches and practices exlusively barefoot running! Now.. I am not having a shot at Irene, she is a great lady, and she is entitled to her view and has earned respect. BUT, man that is a big turnaround in 4 years, and all along I was trying to tell her, motion control ‘aint where it’s at… frustrating! I have been preaching the benefits of improved proprioception, reduced weight, increased flexibility, less structured footwear, since 1998. ANd that has been reflected in the ASICS product range since then. Fact is mate.. technology changes, and you can only work with what you have at that time. Let me reiterate what I have been saying all along.. I.. me.. believe there is a place for minimalist footwear.. I believe there is a place for barefoot running.. both as a part of a balanced, sensible training program for runners. I also believe there is a place for many athletes for conventional “heeled” running shoes. And by the way, just to set the record straight.. ASICS works off a 10mm gradient, not a 12mm as has been wrongly claimed many times.. and in our shoes, designed specifically for athletes who wish to run faster, or are biomechanically stable and not overweight, the lowest gradient we offer is 16mm under the heel and 6mm under the forefoot.. 16mm is roughly 1/2 an inch.. I would not consider this a huge slab of EVA under the heel.. would you?
    This discussion should all be about balance and choice.. the moment I say everyone must run in ASICS shoes, you all will lose interest! The moment this blog says everyone must run barefoot or in a zero gradient shoe.. I lose interest. Neither statemant can be scientifically supported.

    thanks again and regards
    Simon

    • Simon,

      The reason why people get offended is because you referred to minimalist running as nonsense and said you wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the way of toning shoes. Here you say you think some people will benefit from a minimalist approach. which is it?

      In a world of options and variability, a lot of people claim to have been helped by Pose, Chi, etc., yet you singled these out in your comments as well.

      You’ll have to forgive those who react strongly when on the one hand you dismiss these options, and on the other preach variability.

      Pete

    • Take toning shoes – I don’t believe the marketing claims about them, and neither do you. I’m glad to see them disappearing. But who am I to tell someone who has escaped injury through using them to stop?

      Pete

    • Zero Drop doesn’t run barefoot…yet. And he wisely rotates his footwear among Nike Frees, Keen A86 Trail, and VivoBarefoot Neo’s, which are zero drop. But I do envision the day when my aging body– I am in my early 50s– will make barefoot running a more integral part of my training when I am not exclusively shod in zero-drop shoes. Ever since i went from being a heel-striking klutz in my long-discarded, over-supported running shoes (i won’t name brand names here), to a more minimalist approach and regimen, I have found that my overall balance and agility on trails has vastly improved. I truly enjoy the sensation of quietly landing on my mid-foot, whether I am on trails or on the roads. Purely anecdotal evidence on my part. But my own take on empiricism is more experiential than scientific. Bottom line: Zero Drop eschews dogma, but does like holding those accountable who present contradictory information and bias, often without realizing it. Walt Whitman once wrote, “So what if I contradict myself, I contain multitudes.” But in the footwear biz, too many choices doesn’t always translate into smart choices. The consumer is confused enough. Let’s move away from Pronate Nation to Less is More.

  20. Thanks Simon
    I really appreciate your answer and also you clarifying some of those things I thought I knew about specifically ASICS and their/your shoes, and it is nice to hear your thoughts on the place for minimalism in the “mix” of options.

    While out dog walking an pondering, as is my way, I got to thinking: what would be the best “proof” that one way (shod v unshod) would be “better” – though of course neither may actually be “best”? In my opinion it cant be running economy, as each side would argue (probably) that more or less economy would prove their point. Muscle activation, probably not as EMG is that good and no one can reliably measure intrinsic function (the real key to barefoot running IMHO) anyway. So isn’t the holy grail injury severity/rate? You said 65% of runners get injured, and what a shame we don’t have before-after percentages for the arrival of the modern running shoe/trainer (do we?!) so it may be that we may never know.

    And so it’s back to science over evidence and the only question I have remaining unanswered is that when you said heel striking suits some people (apologies if that is not verbatim but am on a phone here!) I considered part of my little lecture on feet and running goes along the lines of:

    So one bit (of the foot) you can land on has skin/fat/bone in that order, the other and of the foot has more nerve endings in the skin, a wider surface area, more bones and joint to allow for movement and ligamentous tissue and muscle interconnecting all the bits ie a LOT more capacity to feel the ground, react to the surface, and absorb and indeed store the load for elastic recoil.

    So which “bit” looks better suited to land on? I really can’t see how it should be the heel for anyone. I appreciate you said that
    “I beleive some runners should forefoot strike.. for example, if one has less than 10 degrees dorsiflexion, which many runners do, that runner cannot achieve heel strike” but this appears to advocate forefoot landing only when the heel is not an option.

    So why are you “for” landing on the heel, when it does not appear to be a very useful/functional thing to land on? Again genuine question.

    Would love to have you over to give your lecture to our Masters students, or indeed maybe we could do it debate style?! Would make for an interesting session.

  21. Zero Drop alert: Dr. Phil Maffetone has also weighed in on the minimalist footwear debate. See his post here: http://zero-drop.com/?p=2748

    Quick excerpt from his response: “The key issue not yet mentioned in this discussion, as important as the published studies, is the clinical evidence. There are many practitioners—from podiatrists and medical doctors to chiropractors and physical therapists—who have long been in the trenches treating injured runners before the shoe companies changed their products from flat minimalist shoes to oversupported ones. We saw how significant a runner’s body responded to the increasing thickness of shoes, including which muscles are most damaged by oversupported racers and trainers. This is the ultimate scientific inquiry—years of flat shoes, then years of thick shoes, now years of modern minimalist shoes.Those who understand biomechanics could see the changes in the running gait as flat shoes got thicker. I treated thousands of runners, and often had them bring me their different shoes to evaluate how their body functioned in each pair. Finding the best pair usually meant flatter, less support.”

  22. If Simon and ASICS are up for the challenge, I am prepared to run the studies required at the University of Newcastle. Collaborators of all shapes and sizes welcome.

    Shoe companies provide the shoes to be tested. I will fund the running of the study out of my existing research funding.

    Due to the number of structural differences between shoe models/brands, we cannot isolate a single variable such as heel elevation, therefore we must necessarily compare products.

    I propose the following study population:
    -age 18+
    -run for at least 30 minutes three times per week
    -wear the same pair of shoes when training and racing
    -do not wear orthotics
    -do not intend to make any significant changes to coaching, training, equipment use, diet, medical or physical therapy, medication or supplement use in next 12 months
    -do not expect any significant change in their health or injury status in the next 12 months
    -have been competing in distance running events (5km or greater) for at least 2 years
    -season best time over their preferred distance has not varied by more than 5% over the past two years
    - are prepared to be randomly allocated between groups
    -do not have a commercial relationship with a shoe brand or manufacturer
    -do not derive either status or income from recommending running shoes to runners (eg shoe retailer, podiatrist)

    Simon you nominate the best ASICS shoe for this runner. If more than one shoe is required to suit runners with different sub-characteristics within this group you define how these shoes should be prescribed.

    Other shoe companies similarly prepared to stand behind their product nominate their best shoe for this population of runners. If no other company is forthcoming I will provide Dunlop KT-26s, Dunlop Volleys and bare feet as measures of whether shoe technology has actually improved since 1980, 1960 and pre-shoes respectively.

    We then run a series of head to head RCTs to identify the “Gold Standard” shoe. This shoe is then used as the testing reference against which all future studies are performed until a better design is identified.

    We will use a standardised testing protocol involving 6 monthly 5km time trials and 3 monthly injury surveillance questionnaires. We are already running a RCT using this protocol and preliminary results confirm our ability to detect a 2-3% difference in performance between the groups.

    • Craig…as you can see.. it has become very personal and I am not about to buy into that on this blog. Pity, it is always the way the evangalists go.. no ability for a balanced debate u nfortunately. Contact me privtely and we will work this out.. you have my details

      • Huh? No, it’s not personal. It’s simply a matter of pushing the debate forward. Runner’s World ran into this problem several decades ago when it first began testing shoes, and Nike balked at the “results,” yanked its advertising, and created its own short-lived running magazine. All runners really want is the “straight truth.” Will this shoe design hurt or hinder or me? Will it lead to injury, or not? Considering the amount of time and money runners devote to their favorite pastime, they aren’t looking for more hype; just hope…hope that footwear manufacturers honestly address their needs, and not be primarily focused on market-driven sales projections based on the latest souped-up models. The real push for running shoe change has occurred in the hearts and soles of runners who were inspired by Chris McDougall’s masterful book, and they simply don’t want to abandon the fight. Compared to politics and religion, the debate has been actually quite civil and not so much “evangelical” as involved, interested, and passionate by all the interested parties. Perhaps the “perfect” running shoe simply does not or will not ever exist; maybe it’s an abstraction, an idealized construct. And it’s one reason why runners have turned to nature, and their own genetic past on this planet, for answers. Runners simply want to feel reborn, not manipulated by errant claims. It’s a learning process. As well it should be.

      • Evangelical? That’s a personal insult to me and most open minded thinkers. If anyone on the ‘minimalist’ side took your insults personally it was probably because of comments like this: “fighting a rearguard battle to bring scientific debate to this nonsense!First we had to deal with barefoot, and now the so called Minimalist running debate” You’re a real class act Simon, and a great reason not to buy Asics.

  23. Great discussion guys, I especially like the lucidity of posts by Patrick, Sock doc and Spender. Craig and Jay as usual being way too scientific! (it’s a compliment) You know guys, as does Spender and of course Simon, that direct scientific evidence does not exist and as much as Craig would like to see this kind of study happen, we all know that they won’t (These studies have been done by shoe companies and not published because the results are inconsistant with the marketing). Simon’s last post is very consistant with what I have just stated, he is a very smart man and knows the indirect scientific evidence and undertands the logic behind everything that all of you are saying… but he works for a SHOE company, and has had to work very hard to make all the puzzle pieces in his head fit in a way that allows him to consolidate what he knows and what he can say. It can’t be easy, and we’d all do it if we were in his position!

  24. Picking up on a couple of earlier points, Simon Bartold said: “…and which led ASICS to destructure their shoes way before anyone else was brave enough to follow. We hae been building minimalist shoes forever. They are called racing flats…”

    It seems everyone went straight past that comment. We then got on to Pose. Well, the Piranha SP 2 is one of the Asics shoes officially recommended on the Pose Method website.

    What (most of) you guys seem to be ignoring is that Asics, like many others of the big bad shoe companies, have been producing “minimalist” shoes, as Simon says, “forever”. But you won’t use them, or even register that they exists, because they haven’t been hyped with the latest fad marketing label: “minimalist”. Or “zero drop” even.

    Doesn’t anyone remember the Onitsuka Tigers? 1960s minimalist racing flat – used at the Olympics – maybe the most famous Asics shoe ever. Adidas had a minimalist racing shoe in the 1960s designed by Gordon Pirie – who was banging on about barefooting back then, as was Percy Cerutty in the ’50s.

    Oh and minimalism IS a fad. There are already whole books written – some plugged on this very page – to “teach” people how to run barefoot. Yes really. We have “barefoot running” coaches, and even some clever fad-spotters who are going to certify people to become barefoot running coaches. Crazy but true. Apparently, running barefoot or minimalist is NOT as simple as taking your shoes off like millions of people do every day at the beach. No, they’ve got to be taught how to do it.

    Spencer says: “You cannot run with bad form when you are barefoot, unless you want to hurt. ” People can and do run with bad form barefoot; I’ve seen a bunch of them here in Boulder. I guess these are the people who need lessons.

    I’ve seen people injured switching to barefoot; injured from switching to Pose without being strong enough to cope with it; injured switching to Newtons – marketed as “better than barefoot”. Every year round about now when middle distance runners transition to wearing “minimalist” racing spikes with low heels for interval sessions on hard tracks, physical therapists see a new crop of Achilles tendon and calf injuries thanks to the sudden switch to near zero drop.

    I’m sure there are people who get injured wearing Frees and any other type of shoe or nearly-shoe you can imagine. I’ve been wearing minimalist shoes for 50+ years and still spend most oif the day barefoot. I have great biomechanics (so I’ve been told, repeatedly)… and yet… I’ve also had my share of running-related injuries. What I didn’t know until I took 6 different brands of minimalist shoes to a university performance lab for high-speed video analysis of my gait, is that just because a shoe is minimalist, doesn’t mean it can’t still screw you up.

    If you take into account opinions and experiences from both sides of the fence, and then stir in the available research, the only logical conclusion to draw is that runners get injured whatever they’ve got on their feet. Even when they’ve got nothing on their feet. The reason is probably less to do with footwear and more to do with the fact that the type of running we do these days – the way in which we train and compete, the durations and speeds we indulge in, the surfaces we run on (not to mention the poor physical condition most runners are in as a result of all that) could hardly be described as anything approaching a “natural” activity. So we pay the price.

    However, the implication on these pages is that barefoot running and minimalist footwear is somehow going to “vaccinate” people against injury and the shoe companies are conspiring to keep their customer base off their feet (with injury) as much as possible. Jeeze. A sub-plot is that there is a Ideal Style of running that suits every body, and that this is best accessed by running barefoot, because, as everybody “knows” you can’t heel strike when you run barefoot without badly hurting yourself. Well, of course you can, as anyone who has run barefoot on sand or soft earth will have experienced. (I’m a midfoot striker, BTW).

    The idea that any of this is objectively “true” or that it can be decided once and for all by a scientific study or two is ludicrous.

    To answer Spender’s question: “Can someone, and sorry Simon if the onus falls on you, explain why it is a good thing to wear a shoe that helps to control your foot position/motion rather than strive to do this with your foot itself.”

    As a Simon I’ll take this on. The reason is that the VAST majority of the running population – these are the “recreational” runners who believe things like “finishing is winning” – have no intention whatsoever of doing anything like drills, exercises, strengthening work, stretches, whatever – oh and include barefoot running as well – that would correct any deficiencies they might have in their feet. They are NOT interested. They want shoes that “correct” and/or “support” them so that they can do their 20 miles a week and still finish a marathon. I’m exaggerating, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

    As the other Simon said somewhere along the line, the running shoe industry is about “balance and choice”. If the entire industry switched overnight to minimalist and/or zero drop shoes you would have an awful lot of people who would not be able to run any more. Take a deep breath. Minimalist and.or zero drop shoes have ALWAYS been available – from Asics and from almost every other major manufacturer.

    • thanks.. good post.. not ever head of research for ASICS.. just elevated to that grand position by error… sounds good though!
      fake Simon..

    • You make some interesting points simonm. Loving the mention of Aussie coach & legend, Percy Cerruty btw.

      The claim that Asics, and other running-shoe companies, has been offering simple, minimal-style shoes for a number of years is fair enough.

      And I agree, there seems a reluctance within the BFR/MR community to include these racing flats in the ‘minimalist’ category.

      Part of this is possibly to do with:
      #1- the way these shoes have traditionally been marketed.
      #2- the apparent lack of education/guidance given regarding the way they should be used.

      Looking at #1- the term ‘racing flats’ has possibly given the impression (especially to many recreational runners), of an exclusive shoe that can/should only be worn by elite, light-weight ‘racers’.

      The target market does not appear to have been your average 20mile/week plodder who might be looking to try a more efficient, natural running style.

      Looking at #2 – most minimalist shoe companies/stores that exist today go to great lengths to inform and educate runners on the way the shoe should be used (for example, offering protection while allowing the foot to function as naturally as possible). This, I believe is part of the ‘minimalist’ approach to a more natural style of running.

      Interestingly, my recent, personal journey of exploring minimal running-shoe options includes, among many others, the Piranha SP3′s, which as you know are very light, responsive, simple shoes.

      The basic premise – shoes should be seen as tools, to be used for the varying conditions we as runners are faced with.

      The thing I love most about this debate is the interest and passion that has been sparked not just on this blog but around the world, for running. This has to be seen as a good thing! Exciting times ahead.

      Dave Robertson
      Physical Therapist,
      Hunter Valley, NSW Australia

  25. All of this is extremely interesting to me and it’s a great discussion.
    I feel like the easiest way for me to personally settle to the argument in my head is to just try the different techniques. I’ve ran in ASICS and Nikes for years as a heel striker and have always had issues with shin splints. I’ve recently began running in Vibram Five Fingers and changing to a forefoot strike. So far I have had no shin pain and my runs have become very efficient(Less effort, further distances, faster times). Personally I like the feel so far. The best part is that’s the only thing that really matters, is how I personally feel better one way. If it continues that way then great, if not then oh well at least I tried it out for myself rather than relying on hearsay.

    Now the one problem I had reading this discussion was with “simon bartold”. I have a really hard time believe that is actually the head of research from ASICS writing under that name. His typing is that of a 12 year old that just found the internet deciding to play devil’s advocate. That’s where I want my evidence.

    I want evidence that that is actually Simon Bartold, not a fake.

    • Ask him for his long-form birth certificate…

    • Gotta agree w/JB. I find it hard to believe the head of research at a major shoe corporation would engage in a blog flame war. It’s would be very unprofessional and, I too, would be surprised if this is said executive. Any vetting of the identity?

    • I also found it hard to believe that the fairly erratic comments by the “simon bartold” appearing here is that of a head of research. The quality and tone of the writing contrasts quite dramatically with most of the other comments on this page. Particularly ones like this responding to Dr Craig Richards proposal to hold a collaborative study:

      “Craig…as you can see.. it has become very personal and I am not about to buy into that on this blog. Pity, it is always the way the evangalists go.. no ability for a balanced debate u nfortunately. Contact me privtely and we will work this out.. you have my details”

      Especially when he suggested he was up for a “challange” earlier by saying:

      “I am not sure your your 1 review paper qualifies you as a bonifide researcher, but I am up to the challange.
      Tell me what you would like to do.. but not just on your terms mate. Would the University of Melbourne Centre for Health Exercise and Sports Mdicine, within the School of Medicine, be a suitable venue for a collaberative study between you and I?? Contact me privately by email and we can exchange phone numbers to set this up.”

      Or is it likely that the head of research for ASICS doesn’t know who Donald Rumsfeld is?

      “ps.. who mis Donald RUmsfeld.. is he related to Marty ? I’m not from aroung here..”

      Something doesn’t ring true to me.

  26. The proof will be consumers. We live in a world of viral marketing. Since large corporations like Asics no longer have the ability to monopolize advertising channels, the consumer has the power now.

    Looks to me like minimal footwear is here to stay. Scientific evidence falls into irrelevance. People will buy what they like and what feels good to wear, and recommend the products to their friends.

    Every day I see more people wearing Vibrams. Either get on board the minimalist bandwagon, or lose profits to companies that do. Simple decision.

  27. This debate is interesting. I guess since I work at one of only a handful of strictly minimalist running and walking stores in the country, I oppose Simon’s viewpoint. My proof, published in a scientific journal or not, is that for the last two years of training in minimalist footwear, and midfoot striking as opposed to heal striking, I can now run 50 mile races, and go out for an easy 8 miles the next day. Where as two years ago, as a heavy heel striker in shoes with more than a 12 milimeter drop from heel to toe, my running career almost ended because of a tilted pelvis, IT band syndrome, swollen knees and the ability to run an 8 mile long run on Sundays, without ending up on the couch the rest of the day because I was too sore to do anything else. I turned 50 yrs old last September, and now run twice as many miles as I have for the 12 years before beginning my midfoot striking, minimalist approach. I eagerly look forward to my weekly 20+ mile run on the weekend, and almost always have time to go for a bikeride with my kids and play catch with the football after my run. I don’t need any scientific evidence to proove anything to me. I proved it to myself. I don’t think Simon is waiting for scientific proof of anything. He is just stalling for time. Once the minimalist reality hits home with runners like it did for me, and all the major shoe companies offer minimalist shoes as their major running line, then he can shop his expertise around and go to the company with the highest offer to develop scientific data on how great minimalism is for the human foot. Just give it a little more time Simon. I know you’ve got a great scientific article on the benefits of minimalism in you. I eagerly await it. I just wonder which of the giants you will be working for. my guess is it wont be ASICS.

  28. Interesting discussion here. And worthwhile going back and reading through all of posts again.
    The biggest issue I have with both sides of the debate is “one shoe does not fit all”. The trail runners on here are absolutely correct, you should be running in ‘minimalist’ shoes – it helps you adapt to uneven terrains, rocks, roots etc like the foot should be.
    But lets take a 40 something office worker who wants to run 3x week for fitness, doesnt want to strengthen any muscles, not really interested in flexibility, and doesnt want to be injured.
    This is the market for ‘heeled shoes’, or ‘supportive’ or ‘controlling’ shoes or whatever you want to call them. And there will always be this market.
    For others, every major shoe brand has ALWAYS maintained construction of racing flats and lightweight trainers – ‘minimalist shoes’.
    Then we need to take physical, bony stuctures in to account. People arent the same, and its not necessarily ‘pronation’ and ‘supination’ – i am talking about bony torque/torsion – in the femur, the tibia, varus angles of both bones, that have far more influence on foot mechanics and muscle activity then shoes ever will. How are we going to change this – osteotomy’s for every person that falls into these categories??? Of course not. And this is why orthoses and supportive shoes will always have a role for some people.
    For people who are blessed with good structures – train well: maintain muscle strength and range of motion. See a coach for good technique – if you dont run well through the hips, your feet are at a huge disadvantage anyway.
    This is a terrible debate because everyone IS built differently and everyone HAS different needs. Your standard masters and even phd theses using relatively healthy university students or injured people through ads in running magazines do not reflect the MILLIONS of people participating in what we all love doing.
    Even some people who do get injured, may need to change their footwear or use orthoses for a short period, then return to other more ‘minimalist’ options when recovered.
    Even look at Salazar and how he manages the use of Nike Free with his athletes – cool downs, warm ups and occassional sessions.
    The evidence and proof we all want will never ever reflect individuals and even the best research WILL NOT change this.

  29. this is a good discussion here that has been entertaining and heated from both sides. good points brought up by both. i am currently a student and have a very unscientific response here.
    this thought came to me in anatomy class while the teacher was showing a slide of the foot and talking about bf running and how ridiculous it sounded. the foot to me appears to have a variety of structures and functions built into one device. the front, to me, resembles a suspension bridge. it looks like it can handle a lot of weight and distribute it. the heel looks, to me, like an anchor. designed to stop motion. this should make sense even to laymen.
    when you heel strike you take what looks like an anchor and change it to function like a hammer. a sudden change in direction drives most of your force into your heel. the reason you are able to keep going forward is because you push off with your other foot.
    the forefoot on the other hand, or foot, is able to load energy and return it. you don’t need any scientific study to prove or disprove this. just bounce on your toes. it’s quite easy. now bounce on your heels. oh, yeah. you don’t bounce on your heels, you stop.
    go ahead and continue debating and asking for proof. you have it right underneath you and only need to try it for yourself. i myself know that i live in the real world and not in a lab and i will go by my experience more than what someone else says was done in a lab.
    its good to be skeptical. debate is a good thing. to be skeptical though means to keep an open mind and not get angry when someone presents you with an opposing view. you should research it for yourself.
    i love to run bf and will continue to do so. it was going bf that made me fall in love with running. before that i hated doing it no matter how fat i was getting. there was no joy in it but there is great amounts of joy now. i only use shoes when the feet or terrain are asking for them.

    Mike

  30. Very lively discussion and we are looking into taking said challenge! Technically we did coin the term Zero Drop and we will stand by it’s benefits.

    Altra Footwear- The FUTURE of running shoes is here!

  31. Me again

    It would appear that time and time again, I am seeing people say things like “runners have different needs” and “one method does not necessarily suit everyone”. Can I throw another question out and ask why you feel this is so? Clearly there is no evidence for this stance, so can we have science/mechanics based answer please.

    In a pre-emptive strike, let me remind the forum that almost everyone has basically the same foot structure (number of bones, ligaments, muscles etc) from birth, so essentially feet are “the same”, so why do they have different needs? And when I said needs, I suppose I mean the “need” to land o nthe heel when running.

    I would contend that when we learn to swim and learn to cycle (back in the day?), that someone on the whole probably taught/guided us. Yet who teaches us to run? No one showed me how, I kind of made it up myself – until recently when I re-taught myself. Have we not all sat watching a “runner” and thought “Man, that looks awful/uncomfortable/painful etc” or indeed that someone looks like they are gliding past. So people run differently, but is that an argument for giving them a shoe to match “their” style? Possibly. But that does NOT (in my opinion) mean they are running properly or well and could not benefit from being taught a “better” technique, if one existed.

    Here is the rub. I run “barefoot style” – and it fixed my plantar fasciitis (lets say for argument it did), and when its wet I run in trainers – but I still run with a barefoot style (despite that being harder to achieve). To me, the barefoot “style”, for sake of science lets call it “reduced heel strike running” is what makes sense in terms of how my foot and its attchments are put together, and as an aside I actually like it, as it feels less “pounding” on my legs than otherwise.

    For those of you who think barefooters are nutters, there is a piece of research about to be published by one of the UK armed forces who have put a lot of effort into reducing shin splints, which they have done using cameras, force plates and compartment pressure monitoring (ie done well) and their results in reducing SS have been excellent. I have seen their post research recommendations to their subjects, and it reads like a “how to barefoot run”, and yet when I pointed this out to them, they had genuinely not considered that. the end result was to run like “this”, and “this” just happened to be the same as a barefooter would run. Coincidence? Possibly, but I dont think so.

    Have enjoyed the debate, but not as much as I am looking forward to telling my next group of doubters to run on the spot and ask how many are landing on their heels? I love that, and am going to rip-it-off/use it if that s ok.

  32. It’s been said, above, but let me highlight something:

    Do not confuse the shoes with the form.

    That is, many of us who teach barefoot running, or sell minimalist products (disclosure: I’m the CEO of http://www.InvisibleShoe.com) will say that it’s not simply BEING barefoot/minimalist, it’s the change in form that *can* result from being barefoot/minimalist.

    And I highlight the word “can” because I’ve now seen HUNDREDS of barefoot/minimalist runners who still heel strike, still overstride, still paw at the ground until their feet are blistered, and will ASSURE you that they’re doing nothing of the sort. I’ve even seen a well-known barefoot runner try to assert that he didn’t heel strike… while WATCHING A VIDEO of him heel strike!

    I’ve also watched high-speed video of nationally and internationally ranked runners as they ran in various shoes as well as in Invisible Shoes and barefoot. A good proportion of these highly skilled runners had the exact same form (great, BTW) no matter what they wore. You could have put bricks on their feet and they wouldn’t have changed their form, it seemed.

    So, while there’s definitely more research to be done — and I want to be a part of it — we have to be VERY careful of not forgetting what the real cause of alleged benefits is.

    Further, we have to be extremely attentive to study design.

    For example: if you select experienced runners to test, you’ll get different results than if you get casual runners, or even non-runners (or a good mix). You’ll get different results if some of the runners know anything about what barefoot running is SUPPOSED to do. You’ll get different results if the some of the test subjects have better proprioceptive skills than others. You’ll get different results if any/all of the test subjects get any coaching at all (I’ve produced dramatic changes with runners by just giving them a simple cue to think about… takes 30 seconds). And, of course, your results will change depending on what shoes you label “minimalist”.

    It seems likely (though only testing will tell) that running in sandals will deliver different results than being in, say, a Newton, or even Payless’ new minimalist shoe.

    In other words, there’s a LOT to study, and it’s not easy to design, let alone conduct (or finance!) the kind of research that would lay this question to rest.

  33. I’ve never liked the look of Asics and now have every reason not to give the company a second thought. Not that I don’t find the barefoot community cultish and a little creepy. I corrected my form and eliminated chronic pain through chi running and carefully selected shoes. Interval work in a minimal shoe is now advancing my running even further. Technology, not religion, wins the day.

  34. I just started blogging and ironically, without knowing about this thread, wrote a post pertaining to this topic (http://oeshshoes.com/blog/). I’ve devoted my career to studying gait and footwear first at Harvard Medical School where I received my M.D. and set up my first gait laboratory and then at the University of Virginia where I set up another laboratory now run by Jay Dicharry (who nicely reviewed in this thread a study we did showing that traditional running shoes increase knee and also hip joint torques). For over a decade I’ve been publishing papers showing that virtually any shoe with cushioning in the midsole increases joint torques. But the increased joint torques are just the tip of the iceberg of how the current shoe designs are flawed. Shoes have been constructed to cushion impact (and they don’t even do a good job at that) but the major stresses that cause injury, including osteoarthritis and all the common stress fracture sites, occur well after impact, when the foot is fully planted. And so, for a shoe to actually reduce injury, its midsole would have to provide physiological compliance (compression and release) at the precise time that the joint torques and stresses are at their peak. Yet, as simple as that sounds, no shoe has ever been demonstrated in a laboratory to provide compliance at this critical time. So, over the last 10 years, I’ve been developing a radically different shoe that does this and two years ago put my money where my mouth is, giving up my tenured position to make it – see http://www.OESHshoes.com.

    It has not been easy, which is why I’m sure no other athletic shoe company would even attempt it. E.g. the midsole involves long filaments of carbon fiber, not some injection molded plasti-goop made in Asia. Just as funding is extremely limited for all the research I did, so is the funding to develop something so very far from the status quo. The NIH could support only so much. OESH Shoes is definitely David versus Goliath all over again. I designed the manufacturing equipment (and built a lot of it myself) and set up a factory here in Charlottesville, Virginia. Now with a technologically advanced, computerized automation process that rivals anything in Asia, we’re making and assembling midsoles that actually do for the first time, what a midsole should do – protect the body beyond the foot. Right now, we have a durable all purpose training shoe available in all women’s sizes (up to men’s 9 1/2!). Business has been super so we are planning to develop the rest of the men’s sizes soon. Next will be some specific running shoe designs but for now this all purpose shoe is perfectly great for running. I’ve been running in OESH prototypes for the past six years (3-4 miles a day) with no injury (prior, I was plagued with the usual plantar fasciitis). And two of my daughters have been running in them for the past year, one of whom is pain free in them after a stress fracture in her foot that occurred prior to her wearing OESH (she had been wearing a minimally cushioned racing flat). The current OESH design is heavier than the typical running shoe, but for a training shoe, a fair number of people running in them now like that, along with all the other very different things about OESH.

    This thread and Zero Drop are right on — keep it going! I’m happy to contribute with my thoughts (and yes, Asics, my peer reviewed research) anytime.

    • Dear Dr. Kerrigan,

      In your research, did you test barefoot and simple moccasins or huarache sandals? My bottom line question is how do you know your innovation is better than barefoot or minimalist?

      • Patrick,

        Thank you for this question. Yes, I studied barefoot and in fact typically included that as the gold standard control in my studies. E.g. see in my recent post http://oeshshoes.com/2011/06/the-rest-of-the-story-conclusion/ graphs of elevated joint torques. The dotted line is barefoot. You can see with that graph why running barefoot is superior to running in a traditional shoe.  A lot of so-called “minimalist” shoe designs still increase joint torques that are linked to osteoarthritis and though I did not do a formal study on any particular minimalist shoe design, what we saw is that the least impact cushioning a shoe has, the smaller will be the amount of increase in joint torques compared to barefoot. I have to think that a simple moccasin would not increase these torques at all compared to barefoot. But another revelation from my research is when in the gait cycle these peak joint torques actually occur. They occur not at impact but when the foot is fully planted – this is a consistent finding whether you are barefoot or in just about any type of shoe. So, what my shoe (OESH) does that is unique to any footwear, is provide measurable compliance (compression and release) through the sole at the precise time that these torques reach their peak. That’s the key benefit.– Casey
         

        • Thank you, Casey. I appreciate the writeup and further explanation. Unfortunately the graph does not show, so I could not see it, but I do get the idea.

  35. I read most of the comments here in their entirety. I skipped the last few inches of posts to get here, so sorry if this was already covered.

    There seems to be a perception that no one needs to be taught how to walk or run. Just a few minutes observation at a mall or supermarket anywhere in the world will see people with flat feet or people walking pigeon toed. The worst offenders and incidentally the best observed are those wearing flip flops.

    Walking is not perfect for most people. We get along okay, but nearly everyone could use some education and improvement to their walking gait. If you can’t even expect people to walk correctly, with proper form, without education or training, then why is it a point against the barefoot/minimalist movement that they educate and train people how to run barefoot (or even minimally shod) correctly?

    We all know the answer. Education IS key, but as others have pointed out, the average joe or jane could give a care less that they don’t walk or run correctly, and if you tried to educate them or train them, even for free, they’d look at you with pity or disdain and go away. Guess that even if we could find the perfect balance between shod/unshod, if we need to train people to run correctly, much of it will be for naught since too many are looking to just buy the equipment and will ignore the manual that came with it.

  36. In defence of Asics (yes, I do wear their runners, but yes I do wish they would attempt a more minimalist model), the notion that large manufacturers don’t want to switch to a more “barefoot” technology for fear of losing revenue, is ludicrous. I just went online to research “barefoot” runners because well, Asics doesn’t make any, and I want to try some. Almost every company I found charges significantly more for shoes that are supposedly made with less material and less technology! Talk about gauging the consumer. Merrell Glove retails for about 124 CDN, Vivo Barefoot is 160 CDN, Newtons are 150 CDN and higher, and the list goes on and on. It seems a whole new crop of manufacturers is ready to sell us the Emperor’s New Clothes.

  37. wow – took more FOREVER to read all this.

    My only Asics experience is the Pirahna line of racing flats, but the sp3s changed so much from the 2s, I bailed for the Mizuno Wave Universe 3 and never looked back.

    waaaay up in the comment thread there were examples of “experience of one” and “some pople…blah blah blah” – and I believe these are really the best answers to all of this.

    Individual physiology dictates whether or not a runner can handle minimalism or not. It seems logical that for little, light dudes, with strong bones, muscles, and tendons – and a good stride – should be better off with less shoe; while stocky, clumsy or weaker athletes may benefit from more shoe.

    Problem with more shoe is that it prevents the weaker athlete from getting stronger …but I digress.

    Serious athletes should simply experiment with both – see what works best. No one mentioned Hokas, but there’s a zero-drop shoe WITH a bunch of fluff, so where does that fit in?

    EXPERIENCE OF ONE seems to be the best indicator of what “the right shoe” style really is.

    Christian
    (for whom clunky shoes were the nemesis, and for whom minimalism is the better way to go — but not sure that means it is for everyone)

  38. I got ALL my first major running injuries when I switched to Ascics gel Katano (or some sort). Gray, with thick, horseshoe-shaped heel, rocket-shaped toes, very rigid. Ligaments, arches, bunion type deviations on the big toe, swelling… Switching to Vibram FF Classics saved my feet. I still like ‘em better than the other VFFs. I’ve tried Sprints and KSOs, including with individual-toed thermoplastic cushion inserts at various points, but the Classics seem to work the best for me. Maybe the Treks and Bikilas would be good for me around graveled pavement issues. You need to start out slow no matter what due to the middle of your forefoot bones and middle little toes being too weak coming from shod. I sometimes alternate with tabis (review of them on Amazon), and the Air Rifts, but the latter I mostly only use for walking, especially with a weight vest or dumb bells (might as well do something with your hands!) Not trying to be a jerk about it, but Asics seems to have royally screwed up my feet, and that was with me running far less than I had in Vegas in some old North Face trail shoes round and around Tam o’ Chelle Apts next to UNLV. Can I get a refund? Heh heh. Seriously, though, your shoes really screwed up my feet. If I lived near the beach, I’d just run barefoot. I would certainly be interested in the re-re-revival of the Onitsuka Tiger Running Tabi. -Ben

  39. Dr. Kerrigan, your shoes are really interesting, but I’d be worried about the motion control effects of the side edges as they would only work securely on the flattest, smoothest pavement, and that the toe area is still way too tapered. If anything, that point needs to be right where the 1st and 2nd toes are, not in the center. Build your shoe around the molds of an actual, un-deformed American foot. Also, why is the mid-sole so thick? I understand there’s zero-drop cantilever action going on in the space, but since you’ve got carbon fiber composite available, why make it so thick on the solid portions?

  40. Many thanks for your comments. Allow me to correct your assumptions… There is no motion control in OESH. The carbon fiber cantilevers work with the foot’s intrinsic foot pronation /supination movement which accommodates naturally to all different surfaces with approximately 5 degrees supination / pronation in either direction — the natural physiologic range of motion of the foot during gait. The sole has been extensively tested on canted surfaces in the lab as well as in the field on uneven terrain in all weather conditions. The last shape is based on a natural, undeformed woman’s foot — it has a substantially wider forefoot than the standard last as well as a toe box that is not only wider but much higher so as to expand medially when there is a foot actually inside the shoe. The foam that you see above the carbon fiber is actually very thin in the footbed itself – its purpose is only to hold the shoe together. It only appears thick on the sidewalls because it curves up to allow bonding to the shoe upper.

  41. Interesting. I wonder if that’s what Nike did with the foam on the Free Run 2+. Looks like elevator shoes, but I thought lower numbers on the free were supposed to be lower drop.

  42. Wow. Took me a while to get through these comments. Interesting debate.

    The one thing for sure I got out of all of this…

    I am never buying another pair of Asics, especially if Simon Barthold represents the culture and mindset of the company in regards to the evolution of running shoes. In fact, I’m pointing everyone I know to this blog and debate so they can see how a representative from Asics conducts himself.

  43. Glen – I don’t think Simon’s behaviour warrants your reaction, – but each to their own. I quite enjoyed Simon’s openness and willingness to engage the discussion, and he did mention a few times – he has been advocating the less is more approach for many years – so not quite sure what you see wrong with his mindset.

    I can understand that mid – to – forefoot striking in most cases is better for the body, and totally understand that it probably was the way humans ran many years ago – but many years ago i’m guessing – humans ran/exercised every day – did not eat processed food – and for most of us today – did not sit at a desk. It seems very hard for us all to follow our ancestors with one aspect (barefoot running) if we do not follow all aspects – as all contribute to each other. For most – one cannot work without the other. The change is here, traditions have been broken, changed and reformed and running shoes have the answer for those who follow the ‘new’ traditional lifestyle, which of course is not everyone – as I am sure I’m already outnumbered by those who have posted and who are reading this. But for anyone to push their view unto another – is human nature – but unfair. Everyone is different – and there is no one solution for everybody – we each were dealt a different gene pool / lifestyle and must play too it – as it is foolish to bluff, because your injuries will give you away.

    I have tried barefoot running for a long period of time – and it is simply not for me – it seems my bio-mechanics, notably the range of motion my ankle goes through (crappy terminology….. i know – sorry!) causes too much rotation or something for the rest of my body to handle. Injury after injury, until I finally returned to my running shoes for longer runs and racing flats for shorter speedwork, I can exercise in comfort – yes I still get injured now and then – but they are overuse injuries as I get lazy not having variety. And besides I actually prefer to be protected, for the shoes to feel cushioned and responsive and they look better than anything barefoot/minimalist have come out with! :)

    Run100Miles – for me – has summed it all up.
    “Individual physiology dictates whether or not a runner can handle minimalism or not. It seems logical that for little, light dudes, with strong bones, muscles, and tendons – and a good stride – should be better off with less shoe; while stocky, clumsy or weaker athletes may benefit from more shoe.”

    Each to their own!

    • Jack-

      Unfortunately, in my opinion, Simon conducted himself in a defensive, dismissive manner from the beginning. Fortunately for me, there are a dozen competitors to Asics that I can choose from and Simon’s comments here helped me reduce my options by one. I’m not going to support a company where their head of research wants to “stick to his guns”, dismissing minimalist footwear and reduced heel to toe drop as a “fad”. I want companies, especially when my health and livelihood is concerned, that are open-minded and progressive.

      I’m glad that his comments didn’t strike you the same way. To each their own.

      Cheers!
      Glen

  44. http://womens-fashiontrends.com
    – as I am sure I’m already outnumbered by those who have posted and who are reading this. But for anyone to push their view unto another – is human nature – but unfair. Everyone is different – and there is no one solution for everybody – we each were dealt a different gene pool / lifestyle and must play too it – as it is foolish to bluff, because your injuries will give you away.
    nice


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