Jan | 25
Run Happy Inspiration

Barefoot Running: An Open Letter from Brooks CEO Jim Weber

 

Brooks CEO Jim Weber

Brooks CEO Jim Weber

An Open Letter to the Running Community ,

For many of us, running is an inseparable part of our lives—we need it. When we run, we improve our health, relieve stress, achieve personal goals, compete, raise money, and have fun. On any given weekend, check out a running event in any city across the globe and you’ll be inspired by runners spanning ages, speeds, motivations, and goals—each with their own stories. At Brooks, inspiring everyone to run and be active is our reason for being.

Given the passion felt about our sport, it’s easy to understand how everything about the run is actively studied, critiqued, debated, and questioned—including shoes. People strive to run faster, longer, healthier, more efficiently, and injury-free mile after mile, and they’ve traditionally looked to their footwear to deliver that. But many people have recently questioned whether running barefoot is better, so we feel it’s time for Brooks to join the public dialogue.

Let’s call a spade a spade. We make running shoes: High-quality, biomechanically mapped, performance running shoes calibrated for runners’ unique needs. We hope runners buy our shoes and we’re confident they’ll enjoy them. But this isn’t about selling shoes. And, quite frankly, this isn’t even about running barefoot.

So what are we talking about here? First and foremost, we’re all talking about running, and that’s a great thing because we believe to our core that running is a positive force in our world. We want everyone to run and be happy. But to get there, whether you should run barefoot is not the great debate. We are all unique. The focus should be on how you run and train, and then finding the right shoe that addresses your unique biomechanical needs. “The Perfect Ride for Every Stride,” as we say at Brooks. Let’s look at a snapshot of the running population:

  • At one end of the spectrum, we know there are runners who lack foot strength leading to severe pronation. They may strike heavily and need a great deal of support to run injury- and pain-free. We hear repeatedly from them that the Brooks Beast “saved their lives.”
  • At the other end of the spectrum are the biomechanically blessed (and/or conditioned through training) who have natural healthy gaits and enjoy great efficiency. These gazelles may wear shoes, they may not.
  • The vast majority of runners (including this middle-of-the-packer !) fall in between. And for us, we strongly believe most of our mileage should be logged in a performance running shoe, not barefoot . For us, supportive, cushioned footwear is not only beneficial, it also plays an essential role in delivering a comfortable, injury-free running experience.

Elsewhere on our Web site, you’ll find a robust discussion on this topic (or you can view it as a downloadable PDF here ) from our Brooks footwear team. We also asked people we respect in the running industry to chime in with their perspectives on the barefoot running discussion. These experts include accomplished runners, coaches, researchers, doctors, and specialty running retailers, who see more runners (and their feet) each week than many of us see in a lifetime.

Join us in this conversation and be active in your decisions. We were all born to run. But the ultimate goal, of course, is to keep running for the long haul.

Run Happy,

Jim Weber

Jim Weber
President & CEO
Brooks Sports, Inc.

137 Comments
  1. Joseph Shearer

    Broad generalizations aren’t good in any scenario with regard to any topic. Barefoot running is definitely not beneficial to everyone, or even most people. Footwear not only corrects issues with pronation, stride, etc., but also protects your foot. I love running trails, and there is no way rocks and roots would be at all a good thing for me to run on without the proper footwear. My feet would end up cut, I would probably slip during a stream crossing, and I could easily break a toe. When it comes to concrete and asphalt I would still want the cushion from a shoe to reduce the impact on my feet, shins, knees, and my back. Perhaps it seems natural and free to run barefoot, and I have no argument to that, but there’s a reason the running shoe was invented, and why you aren’t going to see any professional athletes run without footwear.

  2. Lisa Gunnoe

    I have logged about 30 miles barefoot and I’m loving every minute of it. I do it 3 miles at a time. My running, in my Brooks shoes, both trail and road, is improving greatly because of my barefoot running. My Plantar Fasciitis is improving because of my barefoot running.
    I love Brooks shoes. I love barefoot running. I am going to move more and more to minimalist shoes, Vibrams, and barefoot as my weight goes down and my feet get stronger.
    I started out 1/4 mile at a time. My feet are stronger and my ankles are more fit for the trails because of my barefoot running.
    I would like everyone just to leave the BF community alone and respect their wish to not be shod!

    The sometimes shod Lisa Gunnoe

  3. Barefoot Rick

    At the other end of the spectrum are the biomechanically blessed (and/or conditioned through training) who have natural healthy gaits and enjoy great efficiency. These gazelles may wear shoes, they may not.

    Hmmmm … Well, I know I wasn’t biomechanically blessed because shoes always handicapped me from running properly. Don’t get me wrong … some can certainly run in shoes and not have problems. I consider myself a little more dense than most in that I needed to take my trainers off in order to receive proper feedback on what I was doing wrong. It’s been over 6 years and I haven’t had the need to put the trainers back on for well over 15,000 miles. I guess I am just one of those “conditioned through training” or possibly re-conditioned. Running 50 miles a week barefoot for the past several years and running 50 barefoot marathons in that time (Waco on 1/31 will be my 50th) has left me with minimal pains compared to severe knee problems pre-barefoot. Even the extreme weather we have here in Missouri has not kept me off the snowy roads in the winter and the blistering heat of summer. Maybe I am an anomoly. Not sure. I just know that once I ran stupid in shoes, and now I don’t. Is barefoot running for everybody? Not the way I do it. However, I do believe everyone can benefit from a barefoot run once or twice a week. Who knows, maybe they will find they can go the distance like I’ve been blessed to do for the past several years. More at http://barefootrunner.org

  4. David

    I too have been re-conditioned thanks to running barefoot. After a severe IT band injury 9 years ago I began barefoot running which has kept me healthy and injury-free. Over-cushioned and ‘supportive’ shoes act as a brace that weaken the muscles and tendons in your feet while distort the natural alignment of hips and knees. Go barefoot whenever possible and find minimal shoes for walking or running. Find out more at http://barefootrunner.com. Happy trails.

  5. barefoot jon

    thanks for your okay, albeit somewhat semi, for barefoot running.
    .
    I love wide-boxed Brooks footwear so much I still have the blue Vantage pair worn for my early marathons back in the seventies.
    .
    However, with shoes too hot for me in the 97 degrees predicted for the 1990 Goodwill Games Marathon in Seattle, I decided to see whether a regular runner could run 26.2 miles barefoot as I recalled Abebe Bikila doing in the Rome Olympics in 1960.
    .
    Although I have the high arches some “experts” contend are unsuitable for running barefoot, and having had only one barefoot test run four days before the event, I ran strong and have run barefoot as much as possible ever since.

  6. Andrea

    I think this whole barefoot/minimalist thing has a lot of merit, PROVIDED one starts slowly to give the muscles and other tissues a chance to adapt to the new demands placed on them after being used to supportive shoes. I’ll share my experience. At the end of the summer of 2008, I developed IT band problems from running and hiking (the 15- and 17-mile day hikes I had just done on consecutive weekends, after not having done any strenuous hiking in a while, were probably what precipitated it). I was wearing Brooks Adrenaline shoes at the time, which I had been fitted for in a running shop and had been using for about a year and a half without major issues. However, once the ITB problem started I just couldn’t seem to kick it–PT helped but I was still having some flare-ups. I had heard about barefoot running (this was before “Born to Run etc. but I had read some articles elsewhere) and was intrigued but had been afraid to try it. Finally, in January of 2009, in my frustration at not being able to get rid of my knee pain, I decided to experiment. I was at the YMCA and had run about 15 minutes on the treadmill before the knee started to twinge; I then decided to go run on the indoor track upstairs–barefoot. I only did so for about 5 minutes that day, but it felt much better than the treadmill run in shoes (and in fairness, I’m sure the treadmill part had something to do with it too). After that I was convinced and gradually increased my time running barefoot on the track. I did then get a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, as one YMCA kicked me out for running barefoot on their track, and when I started running outside again I mostly used these (and still do–I run a lot of trails, and New England trails tend to be pretty rough–though sometimes I do run barefoot outside in warm enough weather). Since the switch, I have only had occasional very minor incidents of lateral knee pain, and they have been at times where I felt my form was a bit off (and gone away once I adjusted it). I have now gone to minimal footwear whenever possible for all my activities in my everyday life (not easy when you’re a female who sometimes has to look professional, let me tell you! it’s almost impossible to find shoes without any kind of an elevated heel!). I even hike in my VFFs when it is warm enough (if it’s a little cool for these but not cold enough for winter boots, I wear Teva Proton water shoes with thick wool socks–these are also good for cold-weather running). Humans have only had “supportive”, thickly padded shoes for a short time–footwear before was things like simple sandals and moccasins which serve only to protect against rough ground and hot/cold temperatures, and people often didn’t wear any at all when conditions permitted. Doesn’t it make sense that this is still adequate for the vast majority of people, given time to properly strengthen the feet and legs and develop proper form? I think Brooks should come out with a truly minimalist shoe for those times when runners want/need a bit of protection but still want to feel the ground and allow their feet to function naturally.

  7. Max in CA

    I think the Brooks CEO is worried. Their argument is less than convincing. They want to sell you EXPENSIVE shoes. He talks about the shoes making up for bio-shortcomings. So they sell shoes to make up the difference. Only problem: The shoes make key muscles, tendons atrophy.

    The shoes cover up BAD form. For instance, you WILL NOT heel strike (for very long) if you go barefoot. You WILL learn how to run properly by going barefoot, your body will give you the feedback. Key: don’t over do it. You get soreness in odd muscles and places running barefoot. This is your body strengthening itself.

    He admits heel striking is bad, yet sells shoes that allow you to do it (until later you break down with multiple injuries). Brooks even suggests you go see a professional for proper shoe selection, then includes “Shoe Store Clerk” (ie: shoe sales force) as one of these “professionals” who will help you select the best shoe.

    In the pdf, even many of the “professional” opinions recognize the benefits of shoeless running. It teaches better form and strengthens muscles not used as much when wearing shoes. Some of the “cons” of barefoot running they state are pretty weak, such as “Requires a big transition due to a dominant shoe-wearing culture”- Yeah, the one pushed by billion dollar shoe companies. What are we, sheep? We want to be accepted that badly that stares from people because we run barefoot is “uncomfortable”?

    Anyways, I think they may be worried over at Brooks. I’m sure Nike and Reebok are too. Well, they’ll cash in. As the wave rises for barefoot running, they’ll all market to the “fad”, making expensive products they can sell to us all… Should be fun!

  8. David H.

    Glad to see you tackle the issue head on. I’m pretty indifferent toward the issue, but I’m glad to see the discussion being brought up. I hope it’s only a start.

  9. Steve Ansell

    As someone who has been including some barefoot running into my training long before most people had heard of the Tarahumara or Chris McDougall, I can certainly attest to the benefits of going sans shoes. However, I also think that some who have embraced this trend do come across as having an ax to grind. Of course companies like Brooks have an interest in selling you shoes, but I don’t think this is prima facie evidence tha

  10. Steve Ansell

    As someone who has been including some barefoot running into my training long before most people had heard of the Tarahumara or Chris McDougall, I can certainly attest to the benefits of going sans shoes. However, I also think that some who have embraced this trend do come across as having an ax to grind. Of course companies like Brooks have an interest in selling you shoes, but I don’t think this is prima facie evidence that they are trying to force an unnecessary product on an ignorant public. I applaud their willingness to have this open discussion directly with the running public. I have recently been trying their new shoe, the Green Silence, and while its not barefoot or even the Vibram Fivefingers, it does provide many of the benefits of these while still allowing me to run long distances.

    Also, I want to say that Brooks is not Nike. They do not make expensive, functionless “fashion” athletic apparel. They are the ONLY company dedicated solely to producing shoes and other gear for the sport of running. Whether you agree with their designs or not, all of their gear is built with the goal of enhancing people’s enjoyment of the sport of running. Finally, since some people seem to believe that financial interest automatically puts one’s opinions under suspicion, I will say that I do receive a discount on Brooks gear as part of their ID program. However, I applied for that program BECAUSE I already was such a huge fan, not the other way around.

  11. Max in CA

    Hi Steve- Kudos! Good comments! I agree, I also commend Brook’s acknowledging the trend and opening a discussion. They should not be bashed for that. And I also agree, Brooks is not Nike or Reebok. Good points!

    However, I do believe companies WILL strive to do what is in their financial interest first. And ALMOST exclusively so. If you sell Cigarettes, you will do anything to keep that revenue stream going. If you sell athletic shoes, you will do what you need to do to sell that product.

    Now, we all will be the beneficiaries of big companies. I like big companies. I work for one too! (high tech, not a shoe or sporting goods company). As the barefoot trend continues, my bet is minimalist shoes like Vibram Five Fingers will come down in price, a benefit to all of us. Yes, I use VFF’s, I routinely run 4-7 miles in them. I did start out totally shodless, and liked that, but found the VFF’s so comfortable and nice on things like rocks and acorns…

  12. Todd Baum

    Jim is being responsible in addressing the barefoot issue. He wouldn’t be a CEO if he wasn’t a smart business shark that can make a business successful, but his open letter shows that he really does care, not about Brooks, but about runners. I like how Jim reminds us this is about running (Brooks love and our love), and speaks to the reality that runners need running shoes (except for a few decimal points away from the 1% of us that chose barefoot running).
    I just want to add that I think this issue is also about running injury. I would like to see medical research conducted that will help us understand a holistic approach (not just looking at our feet) to address running injury. This isn’t curing cancer, but often an area of research benefits the public in unforeseen ways. Sports medicine experts that have an evidence based practice are few and far between. Instead, injury is all too often treated with long held assumptions that are not preventing injury, and are not healing runners.
    As a result, runners have looked to the advice of their running shoe store- Much like a guy looks to his neighborhood barber shop for support during stressful times. The running shoe store is stuck in the middle. They too care for runners, and when asked to help, they try their best and have gotten quite good. Unfortunately, they are not health care providers and the runner’s answer to injury is rarely simple enough to be found in a shoe. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s late January in upstate New York, and someone had better be ready for a fight before they can get my Brooks Adrenaline ASRs off me.

  13. Joe the Convert

    Wow, this is interesting. Can you tell me how a biomechanically flawed person like myself(as opposed to “biomechanically blessed” as you stated so eloquently in the above article) can NOW do ultramarathons using the minimalist/barefoot approach because I am a more efficient runner without the over-cushioned shoes? Up to a point, with shoes, I was struggling to finish just a marathon while risking injuries. Now minimalist shoes have gotten me to run 50 mile ultramarathons comfortably with no injuries to speak of.

    Maybe your industry is very alarmed that the public can catch on to barefoot running without your “performance” shoes hampering them anymore?

  14. Travis R

    I’m a convert to barefooting and think it may be right for many people. However, I will buy products (like VFFs) to protect my feet and take me into the mountains.

    I think this discussion is terrific. Brooks, if you’re listening, let’s see some more minimal footwear! This is a growing market, and while it may not be for everyone as you claim, there are certainly many who will buy from you if they see products they like.

    I believe the evidence (granted, much of it anecdotal at this point) in support of barefooting is growing. I’d love to see more competition in the budding “barefoot market.”

  15. Camille H

    I’m a Brooks-sponsored athlete who has exclusively training in flats and barefoot for 6 years now. After enduring 7 stress fractures in trainers and orthotics (as prescribed for my flat, over-pronating feet), I decided I needed to work very hard at improving my mechanics and foot strength if I wanted to be healthy and reach my potential. Since switching to flats/barefoot running, I’ve gone from being a 19 min. 5K runner to running a 2:38 marathon last fall (achieving the A standard for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials). I am certainly NOT mechanically or anatomically perfect. However, getting closer to a natural state has allowed my body to move as it is intended AND most importantly feel better. I would hope that Brooks continues to strive to make their shoes better, moving WITH the feet/body. I would love to some day train and race in shoes that feel like a second skin, and not an extension of the body.

  16. DB

    I totally agree with Jim Weber’s statement,” we’re all talking about running, and that’s a great thing because we believe to our core that running is a positive force in our world. We want everyone to run and be happy.” Scientific studies have indicated numerous health benefits to humans who participate in a regular exercise program such as running.

    Testimonials are great, but have little meaning in the world of reality. Science can answer the questions of if shoes or barefoot running causing or preventing injury. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any published controlled experiments to address these questions. You might ask why haven’t there been any students. It takes money to do research. Without funding, these studies will probably never be conducted. So how can the running community get these studies funded? Two ways are possible. One way would be for the running community to write to shoe companies like Brooks or the USATF or RRCA to fund independent studies addressing these questions. The second way might be to write to your federal representative, NIH and NSF and request that the federal government support funding to address these questions. Can shoes correct biomechanical problems and reduce or prevent bone, muscle, tendon, ligament and joint injuries while actively engaging in a healthy lifestyle exercise program like running? Currently there is a study underway to address a related question to all that run, does stretching prevent running injuries. Just as research has been initiated on this topic, it could also address the questions of this blog.

    I would agree with Jim Weber’s assessment that shoes do protect your feet from sharp objects. There is no need to scientifically test this statement. We can pretty much consider this statement a scientific law.

  17. Andrew

    You contradict yourself. On the one hand you say that we are all broken and we need to buy your product to fix our bio-mechanical problems. But then you were quoted in Parade saying that you have been working on a barefoot like shoe for four years. Vibram proved that there is demand for minimal shoes since they can not keep then in stock.

    There are many things that nature still does better than us. We can not make a plane as maneuverable as a bird. Spider silk is stronger than any rope we build. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that evolution also got the design of our feet right too?

  18. Crystal

    I love my modern Brooks running shoes and I still enjoyed reading the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. The book is so much more than just a book about barefoot running. It’s a great story about discovering the thrill of running. McDougall’s adventure didn’t inspire me to give up my shoes. Instead, it inspired me to smile more when I run. When I do, I feel the thrill of running, too.

  19. LH

    I’m not in a tribe. I don’t live or run in the jungle. I live and run in towns, cities, on hills and trails in the Western world where dodgy terrain and broken glass are the norm. Barefoot running ain’t for me but running is. It’s running not rocket science. Whatever you put on your feet, or not, get out there and enjoy!

  20. Nick

    As a barefoot runner (when weather permits) I welcome this discussion.
    Protection on your feet can be needed at times but most of the time is is not.

    The vast majority of people (like LH) are herd animals blindly going where the flock leads them.

  21. Tuck

    Good for you for addressing the issue.

    And good for you for leaving the comments open!

    But please start developing some minimalist shoe options for us and our children. A lot of us are realizing that the sneaker emperors have no clothes, and are looking for viable options. I’ve been taking sneakers to cobblers to have the heel and cushioning cut off, but it would be easier to buy well-designed minimalist shoes from companies like Brooks.

    For myself, I won’t ever be wearing a traditional sneaker again. They’re bad for you, pure and simple.

  22. MK

    I don’t mean to come across too harsh, because I appreciate that a major shoe company has at least opened the dialog. And I’m not a barefoot runner – in fact, I have a pair of Adrenalines. But if shoes in general, and Brooks’ shoes in particular, really do play an “essential role” for an injury-free running experience (as you claim), then show us the studies and data that support this! We know that you have extensive R&D capabilities, so it really should not be difficult. And I’m not talking about studies that show how your shoe can reduce pronation, because not a single published study that I am aware of has supported the hypothesis that pronation leads to injury. Show us the prospective studies that show significantly lower injury rates in runners using your shoes versus control groups. It really shouldn’t be that difficult, especially if shoe technology is as beneficial as you make it out to be. You are trying to sell us a product, so the onus is on YOU to prove that your product works.

  23. Jon

    I’m one of those that was told I needed Brooks Beast. I wore them religiously for over a year, but continued to have injury after injury. Whether it was IT Band or knee problems, the Beasts didn’t do anything to help. Once I went barefoot (even before the whole Born to Run thing), all those pains went away. Before going minimal, I couldn’t go more than 30 miles a week without pain. Now I can do more than 50 miles a week without any issues. My feet that started out flat as pancakes are now starting to develop arches and getting strong. Nothing can be developed to work better than your already existing foot.

  24. Edster922

    I generally like Brooks’ products (most of my shoes have been Brooks), but clearly Jim Weber is doing his best to limit the potential damage to his bread and butter that the slowly growing barefoot running and (to a lesser degree) minimalist running trend poses.

    1. Claims that “the majority of runners” are not able to do BFR safely … and provides zero evidence to back up this claim, of course.

    2. Notes that there are no scientific studies PROVING that BFR reduces injuries…but at least has the decency to admit that there are also no scientific studies PROVING that *RUNNING SHOES* reduce injuries.

    3. Presents 9 supposedly “expert” opinions, of which maybe 2 offer qualified support of BFR and 2-3 offer hysterical and unqualified warnings *against* BFR, with the rest falling somewhere in the middle. (These are rough numbers, I haven’t sat down and done a careful analysis of all 9 “expert” opinions yet.)

    In other words, it’s a very clever PR piece. Cast doubt on something that could potentially threaten your current business model, subtly hint at hidden dangers, and swear that you only have the customer’s best interests in mind, as if you were NOT running a business. Right.

    In the PDF, Brooks admits that not all runners are heel-strikers … but why then does the company not offer ANY shoes DESIGNED for midfoot and forefoot strikers? Virtually ALL of their shoes are designed for heel-strikers, which is obvious in the 12mm midsole drop and the repeated references (in their sales materials for their trainers) to a “heel-to-toe transition.”

    Sure sounds like talking the talk, and not walking the walk.

  25. Michael Carroll

    I am a barefoot minimalist runner. When I saw your open letter I was like hey, maybe brooks has some new minimalist shoes, but after searching their site I was sorely disappointed. I have come to the realization that at times shoes make sense. Even the Tarahumara run in home made sandals. There is a market here for Brooks to create minimalist sandals, and shoes for trail and road racing.

    I am training for an up coming 50k race that cannot be done barefoot. I raced it last year in a pair of Vibram Five Fingers. The road base and ruble as I call it was quite a challenge in a pair of Fives. As much as I like Fives, I find that there are many disadvantages to them. So I will run the race in a pair of homemade Huaraches.

    There are other runs that I have done in the past that just cannot be done in Fives or Huaraches. The terrain is just too tough. Right now my only choice is to take a pair of Solomon Trail Shoes and cut them down.

    You posted a white paper that supports your position of selling casts to the masses. It took me 2 years of training to get my feet conditioned to run a marathon barefoot, and one year prior to that of running in shoes where I took out the insoles so that my arches and feet would get stronger. My first barefoot run was a quarter mile. Then a half, and so on. I massage my feet, stretched, and made lots of mistakes. In my opinion your white paper just gives justification to continue on in the status quo.

    There are a few companies that are striving to make minimalist trail shoes. Brooks is standing on the bridge waiting for their competition to do it, and in the meantime publishes white papers to scare their customers into drinking the overbuilt shoe Kool-Aid.

    Michael Carroll

    http://www.redrocksbluesky.com
    michael.vision360@gmail.com

  26. justin

    So this is about running. If that is the case, then shouldn’t the focus be on how best to get people running injury-free?

    Therein lies the rub and the evidence may soon be mounting (slowly) towards barefoot running. Like the recent study showing that torsional stress on hips and knees is higher running in shoes than running barefoot ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100104122310.htm )

    Anecdotally, there are many, many cases whereby individuals report going from being biomechanically cursed running in shoes (and getting injured) to running min-shod or barefoot and reducing/eliminating injury and becoming biomechanically blessed.

    Since wearing shoes is the default position, the directional flow here is typically from being a shod runner first and then later becoming a barefoot runner. Anyone out there gone the other direction? Anyone out there given a concerted effort towards barefoot running only to fail and have to get some biomechanics correcting shoes?

    You note:

    “We are all unique. The focus should be on how you run and train, and then finding the right shoe that addresses your unique biomechanical needs.”

    This is problematic for shoes for a couple reasons — but no problem for going barefoot.

    1) how do you focus on how you run and train (or how to run properly) if your shoes affect *how you run and train*? This chicken/egg problem isn’t trivial when the design of shoes directly affect how you run.

    2) a quick count of the men’s shoes offerings at Brooks brings up 31 styles. That’s 31 styles to for every unique runner out there. Even if we grant that all the unique variations in runners can be categorized to find the one correct shoe style out of 31 that will be the best, how is a runner to go about testing them each out to find the magic style that works — a problem compounded by 1) above, which is that the shoes affect the way you run.

    Contrast this against the automatically customized shoe — one built only for you, one that has built-in AI with a few thousand input receptors to provide instantaneous feedback, and a “shoe” that will rejuvenate *forever*. This shoe is so advanced that it has has an internal frame of almost 30 parts. Even still, this shoe is hardwired into the rest of the body because it’s built-in.

    Of course, I’m talking about our feet — unique to each of us and massively adaptable. Feet are our living shoes.

    Now sure, if you’ve been clunking around in dead-shoes (pardon the terminology), then your live-shoes may be a bit weak and need to be rehabilitated. We expect as much whenever we cast a bodypart for months, so we should expect the same for anyone who has been sticking their feet in “foot casts.”

    I don’t mean to come off so pejoratively towards dead-shoes, but they’re just so simple compared to our feet, and if you’re going to talk about uniqueness, then I think the default position should side with the innately unique solution — bare feet.

    I’ll wrap it up, but to me, your runner categories is off. It seems to me that the only ones whose default position should be to run in shoes (or non-minimalist footwear such as VFFs or otherwise), are those who’ve not sustained injuries — those who are “biomechanically blessed” to run in shoes! If this isn’t you, maybe you can spend an enormous amount of time and effort trying out all the shoe options out there until you find one that doesn’t injure you -OR- you could just go outside and run down the street barefoot.

    Disclosure: I’m biased as I run http://birthdayshoes.com, but even as I love VFFs, I still recognize that even they dumb down my feet. Their success is just a testament to how much better they are than your average shoe (And hey, for all I know, Brooks are way above average, so no dig there I swear!).

  27. Kelly

    Like Jon, I was severely limited in how far I could run, before I transitioned to running BF. And like Jon, it was years before McDougall’s book (which I haven’t even read). I’ve had plantar fasciitis FIVE times from my early 20′s to my early 40′s–sounds like the classic customer for your Beast shoe, right? I was told that I just wasn’t built for distance running. I’ve been running almost exclusively barefoot now for five years, and I’m up to distances that I hadn’t been able to achieve since my senior year in high school.

    I was a heel striker. Now I know how utterly silly it is to run like that, whether wearing shoes or not. C’mon, you guys sell shoes, yet you have ZERO studies showing that your shoes reduce injury rates. Don’t slam barefooters if you can’t back up your own claims.

  28. Neil RUggiero

    I’d like to just say thanks for bringing the topic up, and being the first major shoe company to REALLY address the barefoot idea with some objectivity and sincerity.

    I’m a Brooks ID member, and a barefoot runner and would love nothing more than for Brooks to come out with a very minimalist shoe so I can brag about it to EVERYONE I know. Above all else, I really hope you guys take barefoot running seriously, because there are a lot of people out there (myself included) who would buy nothing but your minimalist shoes for the rest of my life, if they come to exist.

    I do however, like many above me, disagree strongly with some of the ‘experts’ who discussed barefoot running in the linked PDF. One of the professors teaches at my school, and being a biomechanics focus of course he is going to look at just that aspect of things. But he however failed to take into account SO MANY other factors that come into play when running barefoot.

    And he goes on to claim that running barefoot is a hygienic problem and will lead to an increase in infections. The human sole can be (if developed properly) is amazingly strong and can even ward off punctures from glass if strong enough. Claiming that being barefoot is a hygienic problem is simply perpetuating a stereo-type that is completely false, because I promise you I wash my feet a whole lot more than anyone washes their shoes.

  29. Greg

    We don’t need studies to prove that shoes that reduce over-pronation help with injuries. We can use experiential data. Mark Plaatjes wrote about this using his own findings in his clinic, and his employees at his running store. This store sells all kinds of running shoes, not just shoes that reduce over pronation. They can make $ off of Frees, VFF, Ecco, low-profile racing flats, etc. I agree that barefoot runners seem way too eager to slam anyone who doesn’t agree with them. If you guys can use your experiences to promote barefoot running, why can’t people talk about how supportive shoes saved their running? I had problems wearing low-profile shoes, and my St. Triax (sorry Brooks I wear Nike’s!) helped me with those problems. You claim we are “sheep,” so how does it feel to be the same closed-minded people you are accusing us to be?

  30. justin

    @Greg,

    The old saying goes that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. No doubt people *can* work under a shod paradigm if they find the right shoe and/or have the right match of shoe and biomechanics. The question is: what’s the simplest way to get people running injury free? I think most barefooters or min-shod folk tend to be amazed at the simple solution that is running barefoot.

    It’s not that shoes can’t work, it’s that there seems to be an easier way (1). Two, the default position is to assume barefoot is best until proven shoes are better. Since this is the opposite of the existing paradigm, it’s pretty understandable why the barefoot crowd is so vocal — they believe they hold the high ground but are still marginalized.

    By the way, regarding the benefits of correcting overpronation, you might find this interesting:

    http://stevemagness.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-running-shoes-do-not-work-looking.html

  31. Matt

    I find it laughable the complaint of barefoot runners being marginalize when clearly they are the ones doing that here (and almost anywhere the discussion arises.)

    What we have is simply a collection of anecdotes about people personal success. I know many many runners who have been (running)injury free for tens of years running in *GASP* shoes. In fact, the only major injury I’ve had in 20+ years of running is when I switched to minimal shoes. Does that make running in shoes “right”? No and it shouldn’t prove anything about barefoot running either.

    I reject the idea that barefoot running is the simplest way to run injury free. There is simply no proof (and I’ll take educated experts over most of you any day-Sorry). It takes quite a bit of time and effort to build up to it. Hardly simple.

    Also Brooks makes more than shoes. Even barefooters need running shorts and shirts (at least until Chris McDougall writes about how going naked is the real way to run)

  32. Dave K

    Wow, the old “some people are weak and overpronate” vs “some people are biomechanically blessed” line. Brooks Beast for all you people with weak feet. Amazing.

    Years and years I followed this line of thinking – going to the specialty running shoe stores and progressively moving to more and more ‘stable’ shoes because I was overpronating more and more over the years.

    Eventually, I too was stuck in the beast after treadmill evaluations showed my pronation getting worse with each passing year.

    Along the way, my injuries got worse and my back was killing me. Well Jim, my feet were indeed weak, but sticking a person in these shoe coffins is NOT the answer.

    I began running barefoot on grass then progressively wearing more minimal shoes as I got stronger. I could feel the ground and my form adjusted and began to move the way nature had intended it to move. Funny thing. I pronate a whole lot less now and I run without injuries in shoes that way less than 9 ounces and have no stability control and I am not biomechanically blessed. I run now the way my body wants to run. A whole lot of people out there are discovering this approach as well.

    Most people do not want to do the work to overcome years of BAD HABITS learned in the running shoes of today and develop the foot strength and form they need to have to run injury free. The truth is, this is your target market. How can a high heeled running shoe like the ones made today help a person to run right? If a person is running against the way their body wants to move – what do you think will happen? These high heeled shoes prevent proprioception and throw a persons center of gravity off by causing them to want to lean forward in an unnatural way. So, in compensation – people do all sorts of things such as pull their shoulders back, lean their torso’s back (causing anterior pelvic tilt) among other things.

    Having something under your feet which masks proprioception and changes your center of gravity – this is supposed to be good for us? Over 20 years of doing it your way lead to nothing but injuries and constant soreness for me and for those who I run with.

    These over-built shoes are for people who do not know how or care to train their bodies to run right – to move the way which is best for themselves. These shoes with all of their gadgets is supposed to do a better job than a persons own proprioception? I don’t think so.

    No thank you.

  33. Brian

    Its just a fad ! The elite runners with the perfect gait cycles may have great success with bare foot running but at what cost down the road. Shoe companies would NOT spend millions to make us run the wrong way. Track stars have been wearing racing flats for decades. Its nothing new in this industry. Just a fad that is injuring most people and helping very few. Vibram is paying companies and magazines to promote it, but the foot doctors and surgeons are the ones making all the money. If you can run barefoot then more power to you but 95 % of runners need added support and as much cushioning as possible to prevent major foot problems. The real running industry is a multi-million dollar business and they haven’t made it this far by doing it the wrong way. This fad will go away just as quickly as it came.

  34. justin

    @Matt,

    Laugh away though the marginalization doesn’t happen on the internet over articles that discuss barefoot running. Why would it? Clearly barefoot or min-shod runners are going to come to defend barefoot running on a letter about … barefoot running.

    Beyond anecdotes, here’s some research for you — all of which either paints an ugly picture for shoes or supports barefoot over running shoes:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100104122310.htm

    http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/1987/04000/Running_related_injury_prevention_through_barefoot.14.aspx

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19387413

    That said, if you are able to run in shoes injury free, then why stop? I’m sure some hardcore barefooters would still “toe” the line that barefoot is better, but if the shoe fits, I say keep on wearing it.

    Do you realize that in the same breath that you decry anecdotes you cite anecdotes to support running shoes? You demand proof beyond anecdotes and fail to cite any proof that running shoes are better.

    As for the time to rebuild your feet — sure it takes time. It takes time to run faster and farther, too. Why wouldn’t it take time tot undue the effects of being shod all your life? As for simplicity, it’s hard to get simpler than going barefoot and letting your feet tell your body how to adjust biomechanics. Then, just keep at it and be patient.

    @Brian,

    “Shoe companies would NOT spend millions to make us run the wrong way.”

    I can’t tell if this is written tongue in cheek, but I’m going to assume you’re being serious. Companies spend millions of dollars all the time to market their products. Sure shoe companies don’t want injured runners, but they do want to sell shoes. With that as their fundamental premise, you have to assume they’re going to spend lots and lots of money to market and sell ever fancier shoes.

    “Track stars have been wearing racing flats for decades.”

    Sure – compare racing flats to most of the running shoes out there. Note how different they are. What does this tell you?

    “Just a fad that is injuring most people and helping very few.”

    This would make sense except for a few problems. When was the last time you saw a paid-for advertisement by Vibram? VFFs practically sell themselves — they don’t have to pay people to market them. I mean seriously, my own site — a fan site for VFFs — is a testament to this as Vibram hasn’t paid me a dime! Meanwhile, you should surf the pages and pages of user stories — or hop over to the forums. The success stories probably outnumber the injury stories 50:1. If people were getting injured all over the place in VFFs, don’t you think you’d hear about it? Don’t you think existing VFF-wearers would be telling others how VFFs are dangerous? It’s not happening. Why?

  35. Robyn

    The day I see every Elite marathon runner, Tri-athlete, and weekend warrior successfully running in bare foot shoes is the day I will get rid of all the shoe companies in my store and only sell Vibrams. Until then I will stick to what works for 99% of runners out there who ” RUN THE WRONG WAY “. This industry is a multi-million dollar industry for a reason and I agree that this is nothing new and racing flats have been around forever. This fad will end soon and we can all go back to being safe and comfortable in our nice soft supportive Brooks, Asics, Mizuno, Sacouny, New Balance and Pearl Izumi running shoes. No disrespect to those who have successes with barefoot running. If anything you are in an elite class of people who can successfully do this but please realize most can not. Most run ” the wrong way ” because we have been running that way for thirty years and don’t have thirty more to break those habits. We need what has worked for decades. We don’t need to risk likely injury to shave off 3 minutes in a marathon. 90 % of this industry only cares about completing marathons and races not winning them. The elite are the elite and the other 90% need not change do to some fad. Good luck and safe running.

  36. Justin

    Yeah, that fad that’s been around for thousands of years, enabling the human race to hunt, survive, migrate to new food sources, and transport themselves across entire continents… It’ll go away in another 10,000 years or so, for sure.

    We were designed from the ground up to use barefoot running as our first and foremost mode of transportation and survival, and have been doing so for thousands of years. Now people think the burden of proof lies on natural movement? I think not. The human foot is one of the best designed pieces of bio-mechanical engineering in all of creation. Now, a little propaganda from shoe salesmen, and runners paid and contracted by shoe salesmen, telling us to box it up in a container made of cheap rubber from China makes doing that a good idea? Right…

    I’ve run extensively both barefoot and shod. I can tell you firsthand that the day I started barefoot running was the day I learned to enjoy moving swiftly and naturally over the ground, without injury, pain, or muscle soreness. It has been life-changingly liberating, and I don’t plan to go back to foot coffins any time soon. Feel free to buy into this shoe maker-authored fluff, I sure as heck don’t.

    To Brooks’ credit, they’ve established better customer-company dialog that any of their competitors, and the fact that this blog even exists, and that they allow comments from both sides of the fence, goes well in their favor. I just wish they’d open their eyes and admit they’ve been wrong all this time. A Vibram FiveFinger Moc or Bikila type shoe from Brooks would be a nice step in the right direction… Take the hint, guys.

  37. Matt

    @Justin

    a few points

    the first study you link to only shows increase of torque. It says nothing about injuries. The 2nd is a study of 17 runners- recreational runners at that. Not nearly adequate. I’m not sure the 3rd is relevant- I don’t make the claim that shoes prevent injuries.

    “Do you realize that in the same breath that you decry anecdotes you cite anecdotes to support running shoes?” – Yes that was EXACTLY my point. Anecdotal evidence can be found both ways. In fact, I rejected the idea that my being free from injury “proved” anything about running shoes. Try reading the post instead of assuming.

    Again, running with shoes is marginally more complicated than running barefoot. I think you overstate the simplicity. Running is not that complicated to begin with. Exaggeration is not required to make a point.

    In the end, if running barefoot makes you feel better than I am all for it. Just don’t act as if it is the only way to achieve joy or success as a runner. It’s not.

    * curiously there are some studies which show that the sensory feedback is diminished at higher speeds. I stumbled across them and will post when I find them

  38. Jason

    I don’t consider myself a ‘barefoot’ runner and have zero intention of EVER running barefoot. Those that decry companies trying to sell us ‘expensive running shoes’ I offer up the fact that I’ve spent $85 (x2) and $120(x2) buying Vibram Five Fingers KSOs and Treks. I have no issue with spending good money on a quality product that lets me do what I find enjoyable: running without discomfort or pain. As previously stated, I too hope that Brooks and others will someday realize that there is something to what us ‘barefooters’ are saying about unshod or minimal running shoes, and that they start producing shoes similar to what Vibram has done. With or without toes, I don’t care, just let the foot function as it should and let people learn a more natural running form, utilizing the foot as the lever it’s intended to be and not just something to land on.

  39. Steve Ansell

    I hesitate to get back into the fray of this discussion as some aspects of it are bordering on incivility. However, there is one point I would like to add. I am a trail/ultra runner and there is a saying that one hears often in the ultra community which is that “each of us is an experiment of one.” Basically, this means that, while there may be some general rules, the variety among individuals is such that everyone needs to experiment and figure out the exact formula that works for them. This is especially true in very long races run on trails where the number of variables increases significantly.

    It it no surprise, that ultrarunners were among the first to embrace and promote the current barefoot run trend. I would probably loose count if I tried to recall everyone I know who has at least tried running barefoot or in VFFs or other minimalist shoes. Many of them have had great success and have gone on to complete 50 and even 100 milers doing so. Others have integrated it into their training in one way or another. I know of a couple who have ended in injury (one stress fracture, another strained ligament). Most still wear shoes for the vast majority of their running. Personally, I running more than 6-7 miles in VFFs results in overly tight calves for me and I’m not really interested in reducing my training any more than my busy life already does (though I am hopeful about the Green Silence).

    My point in all this, is that I think the verdict is very much still out. If running shoes were the great evils that some people portray them to be then we wouldn’t have had the running boom of the 70s or the second running boom of the last decade when marathon finishers numbered in the 100,000s per year in the US. On the other hand it’s also laughably obvious that running barefoot is more natural. However, most of us spend the vast majority of our lives in very unnatural activities (i.e. sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day). Basically, I think that the barefoot runners are bringing an important dialog and I have no doubt that we will see more minimalist footwear as a result. I don’t think that Brooks or any of the other shoe company is “worried” at this point since the number of people running barefoot is still a minuscule fraction of the running community.

    My message to that small minority is this: even if you completely disagree with what they said, take it as a good sign–a very good sign–that a major footwear company thought this issue was important enough for their CEO to address it.

  40. Terry

    Maybe Brooks should consider making at least one shoe model that is flat. Currently Brooks doesn’t offer any shoes that are worth trying out since they all have raised heels…just one model would be a start in the right direction.

  41. OrionFyre

    “biomechanically blessed” and “biomechanical efficiency” are buzzwords you only see used by people in the shoe industry as subliminal way of telling people that not everyone’s feet are not ‘good enough’. That you have to be nothing other than ‘super human’ to do this amazingly inconcievable thing such as running barefoot.

    Mechanical efficiency is simply a phrase that means to do a job wth as little energy as possible. To increase efficiency in mechanical systems you reduce friction and utilize so-called “free energy”. The use of counterweights, pullies, lubricants and abstract concepts such as torque ratios all lead to increased mechanical efficiency.

    Mechanical efficiency in humans is demonstrated by a middle-aged average run-of-the-mill marathoner being able to outrun a horse. Humans are the only species on the face of this earth that can drive a living breathing animal to the point of exhaustion so far gone that death is inevitable with just the effort of an ‘easy sunday jog’.

    You mean to tell me that in only a matter of a handful of generation that the westernized society has REGRESSED in biomechanical “blessed-ness” on the order of millions of years?

  42. Dave K

    The fact that Brooks sells stability shoes to 8 year olds shows either a complete lack of understanding of foot development, or worse – a complete disregard.

    We can debate this thing all day but when it comes to kids shoes there Is no debate – kids need something MINIMAL that will allow the foot to develop naturally. Google foot binding to see what can happen at the opposite end of the spectrum.

    The footwear companies have done a good job creating a story and getting runners to believe it, however, that they sell this stuff to little kids is a huge mistake and will ultimately expose their ignorance and greed.

    Jim – if you truly cared about running, health etc you would sell funtional childrens footwear. Instead you sell take downs of adult shoes. The same can be said for all other companies, not just Brooks.

  43. justin

    @Matt,

    Torque adds stress to a system — yes, you have to make the mental leap from added torque to added stress on the system to injury, but I don’t think it’s a much of a stretch. The more you bend stuff, the more it tends to break.

    Again, running with shoes is marginally more complicated than running barefoot. I think you overstate the simplicity. Running is not that complicated to begin with. Exaggeration is not required to make a point.

    Have you gone on a barefoot run? Running barefoot will necessarily change the way you run — not only because you’re going to be exceedingly careful not to stomp down the street, not only because heel-striking is not an option, but also because your foot has a much tighter clearance gliding over the ground as compared to when wearing thick-soled shoes.

    This is where things get complicated, which is to say that it’s hardly an exaggeration to claim that running barefoot is simpler than running shod (in your typical running shoes). All the variables that get added to the equation when you add shoes drastically complicate how any *unique* individual will run.

    It’s not surprising, then, to see the huge variation in running styles in shod runners as compared to barefoot runners.

    In the end, if running barefoot makes you feel better than I am all for it. Just don’t act as if it is the only way to achieve joy or success as a runner. It’s not.

    I agree completely and haven’t acted that way at all. Though tone is difficult to glean from internet comments, my goal has been to present the other side — somewhat colorfully at times, but not in an angry way. Recall in my last comment my shameless use of the pun “if the shoe fits …”

    In the end, it’s not like anyone is calling for the end of shoes. But I’d echo the comments of many others here, which are that it’d be much more refreshing to hear Brooks say, “We believe in our shoes, but we also realize there is a great diversity of runners* — some of whom may benefit from more minimalist designed footwear — so we’re going to produce a line starting in 201X for that very purpose!”

    What do they have to lose? I’d love to see that happen — it’d be a step towards better covering the wide diversity of unique runners!

  44. Tim

    I have been running for over 40 years. Currently, I run between 20 and 40 miles a week, depending on the week and my schedule. The last 20 years have been 90% trail running, as I don’t like to share my workout with cars and trucks. A few years ago I rolled an ankle when I stepped into a hole that had been covered up with leaves. From that point forward, I seriously re-injured the ankle twice again. At 57 years old, I did not want to keep re-injuring my ankle, but really had no idea what was causing the problem. I sensed that it had something to do with the additional torque created by the height of the running shoe, but didn’t know how to fix that problem since “nobody” runs without shoes.

    Ultimately, I read about VFFs and decided to try them. The result was not good. I ran 6-7 miles on my first outing and boy did I hurt (calves and Achilles tendon). So I went back to basics, and stopped wearing the BFFs while I re-learned how to run. I won’t go into the details, but it’s hard work, and frustrating for an athlete like me who loves to work out. So. Barefooting around the house. Barefooting walking the dog. Running 100 yards. Listening to my body. Working things out from the feel of the ground. Pain was the best teacher, I reasoned, when something hurt, I had to slow down and fix it. I had to experiment using the natural feedback from the earth.

    Before the winter set in, and when it’s above 40 degrees or so, I have run maybe a few hundred miles barefoot. When it’s cold, I prefer leather moccasins constructed with no “support,” and very thin soles. I’ve done a couple hundred miles in these now, too. There have been many, many times when the feel of the ground has allowed my brain to compensate while I run in circumstances where I could easily have rolled my ankle again.

    This isn’t a mystical thing for me. It’s about running for decades to come. Bottom line is that I have much, much, much better proprioception and have little fear of re-injury. Incidentally, for those who are afraid to try this, pavement is actually a lot easier than trails. In fact, if I could have the roads to myself, I would rather run on pavement any day.

    I am only one runner. I have my unique circumstances and objectives. But I predict this is not a fad, and that unconstructed “minimalist” shoes will become increasingly popular and companies will adapt. VFFs, for example, separate the toes and, for me, are way too cold when the temperature falls below, say 15-20 degrees. They also really stink badly if you use them for trail running. My moccasins have a bit of slippage given the loose fit, but keep my toes warmer than the VFFs and allow more ground feel. I mention these differences simply to show there will be a market for shoes that allow the runner to feel the ground and stay warm. I’m not worried about Brooks. They will come around when enough of their customers seek better products that contribute less to injury.

  45. Hank

    Learning to run barefoot last year was the best thing I’ve ever done. It took me six months before it all clicked and it was worth it. It forced me to change my stride to one that is light and comfortable. It strengthened my feet and lower legs. Although I haven’t heard claims it makes you faster my mile pace has improved by 30 seconds, from 8:10 to 7:40 for five miles.

    I can now run comfortably with shoes on and I do when conditions call for it. But I prefer not wearing them.

    The main difference for me, though, is that running is now fun. I’m not killing myself with the constant heel strike and my quads aren’t sore from stepping out. I run more efficiently and comfortably.

    And I’m having a blast.

  46. Paul Brycki

    “At one end of the spectrum, we know there are runners who lack foot strength leading to severe pronation.”
    How does one develop foot strength if we are never using any of the muscles in our feet because they are clad in shoes? Why do these runners lack foot strength while others do not?

    “For us, supportive, cushioned footwear is not only beneficial, it also plays an essential role in delivering a comfortable, injury-free running experience.”
    Could you please cite studies or evidence that clearly shoes that running in cushioned shoes prevents injuries? That a heel strike gait with cushioning is beneficial to runners.

    Thank you,

    Paul

  47. Colin McEnearney

    After switching from my Brooks Defyance to VFFs four months ago, my feet, ankles and calves are stronger than I ever could have imagined.

    Thank you for entering this “conversation”. Brooks seems to be more earnest than many other manufacturers when it comes to genuinely helping runners.

    I have to echo comment 51 though – if you know that foot strength is a factor, why not tell people to do some exercises?
    Also, what’s going to happen to someone wearing motion control shoes if their muscles and alignment improve over the period that they’re wearing them? Won’t the shoes then become an impediment at best, injurious at worst?

  48. DB

    I would like to address #31, Neil RUggiero’s comments, “And he goes on to claim that running barefoot is a hygienic problem and will lead to an increase in infections. The human sole can be (if developed properly) is amazingly strong and can even ward off punctures from glass if strong enough. Claiming that being barefoot is a hygienic problem is simply perpetuating a stereo-type that is completely false, because I promise you I wash my feet a whole lot more than anyone washes their shoes.”

    There are two types of human skin, thick and thin. The feet have thick skin. the outer most layer,thickest layer and protective layer is the stratum corneum. This layer can vary in thickness and increases in thickness when continually exposed to friction. Layers of the skin protect the body from out side invaders like microorganisms, small parasitic organisms, toxins, etc. Once the skin has been breached, the doorway is open to invaders. Even the thickest human skin can be breached by sharp objects like thorns and parasites. Parasites like hookworms, Strongyloides stercoralis, Sporotrichosis, and many others can enter the body through barefeet. Shoes significantly reduce your changes of infection from these organisms.

  49. Nick

    @DB

    “Shoes significantly reduce your changes of infection from these organisms”

    True statement.
    Where we might not see eye to eye however is how likely we are to react to unlikely events.

    I personally am not one bit concerned about catching a bug being barefoot, being struck by lightning or killed by a terrorist.
    Yes, these examples sound ridiculous, but I imagine they statistically are more or less equally realistic.
    I personally will not be governed by fear of a rarity.

  50. Jim Weber

    Thanks, everyone, for your spirited responses to our perspective on barefoot running. We hope it’s been helpful and thought-provoking, and we value all of your feedback. Be on the lookout for commentary from our Footwear team members, who are eager to respond to some of your questions. Keep the comments coming, and Run Happy!

  51. Jamoosh

    The problem with science, statistics and opinions is that these days you can find plenty of each to support your position on virtually any subject from global warming to running barefoot or running shod.

    If you sell shoes, you have

  52. Jamoosh

    Finishing my comment…

    If you sell shoes, you have to be in the business of promoting shoes, which is fine. But I would argue that barefoot is part of the spectrum just like every podiatrist I have visited has argued that I need orthotics. I run barefoot, minimalist, and in running shoes. Each has their benefits and I think that is where runners are missing out. There is so much propoganda on both sides of the fence that messages which could benefit a runner are lost in the dialog.

  53. Jon

    One more comment. There’s no scientific evidence that says shoes prevent injuries or barefoot causes injuries. So it seems to me that the only valid argument against barefoot running is the very rare possibility of cuts and even extremely rarer, an infection. Put that aside and debate something like a VFF versus a motion control shoe (the Beast). It really does seem silly that we should enclose our feet in a cast, causing muscle atrophy, when we can run with a thin layer of rubber on our feet and build up our foot muscles. Brooks would do wonders in my mind if they put out a VFF type of shoe. If they’re worried about runners getting hurt, market it as something else, like a water shoe (Vibrams), or recovery shoe (Inov8). Tell people they shouldn’t run it. Do whatever they have to do to keep their bottomline. But do something to help us out. If they market it right, they can increase profits. Why alienate us? They have a much higher R&D budget than Vibrams and could put out a nice minimal shoe.

  54. Doug

    Jim

    I think you should do your own personal study and run barefoot for the next 6 months and comment back to this forum on your thoughts.

  55. Thick McRunfast

    I really wish people would stop with the barefoot evangelism (to be fair, there’s some shoe evangelism too, but I see most of it coming from the barefooters).

    If you want to wear shoes, wear shoes and if you don’t, don’t. Either way, if someone does the opposite of what you do, how does it hurt you? It doesn’t.

    Worry about your own feet and never mind what someone else chooses to put or not put on theirs. Good grief.

  56. Jon

    Reply to #61

    I totally agree with your comment about wearing (or not wearing) what you want. We’re all an experiment of one and we should do what works.

    But I also feel that the barefoot runners have every right to come and defend their barefoot running. I can guarantee you that every barefoot runner that is posting here has run in shoes before. They speak from experience and know what shod running has done to them and what it could potentially do to other runners. What isn’t fair is when someone that hasn’t run barefoot comes out and denounces it with nothing to back it up.

    The reason I mind so much is that I’d love for a major shoe company to come out with a minimal shoe so we have other options besides Vibrams and Feelmax. That will ONLY happen if we speak up and evangelize our barefoot running as you say. The squeaky wheel gets the grease…or the dirty foot gets the protection.

  57. Gavin

    I have been converting to barefoot running and have had much less pain and discomfort. Although there is a paucity of direct scientific evidence about whether barefoot runners truly have fewer injuries than shod runners, the anecdotal evidence is almost overwhelming. There is much scientific evidence to support that an unshod foot has increased strength, proprioception, shock absorption than a shod foot. Both sides of this issue can at times be dogmatic about their beliefs which can be detrimental to the furthering of scientific evidence about shod vs. unshod.

  58. Eric

    Brooks is right in that runners fall into different categories. There may be those who may not be able to run barefoot again. They will have to fall back to specialized shoes that support how they run. However, barefooting is not a fad. It was not until the last 10,000 years when the very first shoe appeared. Millions of years of evolution into developing the human foot has created a marvel that houses 25% of the bones in the human body. They each do something like the well design workings of a machine. What happens when that machine is muffled from functioning to its full extent? Atrophy. We need to protect our feet from this.

  59. Jeremy

    Shoes resembling the Brooks Beast are the reason I have never purchased shoes from Brooks. I am not bio-mechanically blessed but, with experience I have figured out I get fewer or no injuries if I avoid shoes offering things like; cushioning and “pronation control”.

    So after reading your letter, I can sum up this debate up by asking you to cut the crap, and put a little more flat in your flats!

    Sincerely,
    A “-long haul” runner

  60. Greg

    @Justin – We get it: Barefoot running good, shoes bad. You’re an avengelical fanatic who won’t tolerate the idea that some people might benefit from shoes and refuses to acknowledge that millions of people who currently run injury free in footwear might actually be worse off running barefoot. MILLIONS of people run who would never have done so were not for running shoes. You and others barefoot avengelicas take a tiny set of annectodal stories and weave them into a great running shoe conspiracy (yeah, that’s what shoe companies want — people to get injured and stop running; makes sense). I wonder what the preponderance of running related injuries would be if the numbers were reversed and the vast majority of people had been running barefoot all this time. I suspect the numbers would be the same or worse, just maybe different people getting injured. The thing is, of COURSE those who break with convention are going to report great results, because they are the only ones sticking to it! If they didn’t have great results they’d stop and you’d never hear about it. But foist it on everyone and see what happens. Just because it works for you, don’t belittle those for whom it may not work or try to shame them into conforming to your ways.

  61. DBP

    Re: Everyone saying Brooks is -just- trying to make money

    What do you think Vibram is trying to do? Their shoes were initially made as watersocks. When Born to Run came out they used it to capitalize on barefoot running. How many people at Vibram do you think run actively? It is all but required to be a runner to work at Brooks. I work in a running store, and anytime I talk to a company’s representative they do nothing but stress the importance of finding the right shoe to stay healthy. And that’s the most important thing in the business: keeping your customers healthy. If they’re healthy they come back to buy again; it’s far more important than getting new customers.

    What bothers me most is how inaccurate the book that started this all (Born to Run) truly is. He mentions nothing about the bad problems of the Taramahura. He makes up bullshit like “Alan Webb once wore a size 12 stability shoe and is now a size 9.5 neutral shoe.” Even the best runners shouldn’t run barefoot more than 5-6 miles a week, especially in suburban America.

    I’ll believe training only barefoot has much more merit when a professional does it and does well with it. And I don’t care about elites in other countries where they aren’t forced to train on pavement all the time. Especially don’t argue that professionals only wear shoes because of sponsorships, cause they don’t make that much money and I’m fairly certain they care more about winning than anything.

  62. DBP

    Also anyone who argues that people were running barefoot for millions of years doesn’t appreciate the sport. No one ran nearly as much as they do now until Roger Bannister. Before him people were afraid of running more than a few miles a week because they thought raising your heart rate increaed the chance of a heart attack. Before him people trained by walking long distances. If you’re going to argue for barefoot running, and I do think there are benefits of it in a controlled setting, then at least do some research on your own and come up with a solid argument, not the bullshit you read from people trying to sell Vibrams.

  63. Andrew

    I had recently discovered running recreationally, and had been at it for about 4 or 5 months before I started to feel knee pain and other joint discomfort. I also had severe shin splints constantly thanks to heel strike. Two months ago I bought some VFF’s and have not had knee pain or even a sign of shin splints since. The only thing that has gone wrong since I started wearing them is that where I work the are not VFF friendly, and was asked by HR to not wear them to work. I can’t wait for the day when this idea of “foot bad – shoe good” is finally gone away. I understand that VFF’s are technically shoes but not to many accept them as such! Pull your head’s out people!!!

  64. jon w

    For the past 10 years, brooks beast has been the only running shoe that works for me. I’m very flat footed. For the past 6 months, I have run barefoot or in five fingers and it works better. My feet are stronger. I am not a “natural gazelle” but just a normal guy. CEO, if you want my business sell me something that is light and cheap and keeps thorns out of my feet. Dont sell me a “performance running shoe”

  65. Elaine

    The problem with barefoot running is that we don’t live in a barefoot society. I’m kind of annoyed at how evangelical barefooters are, because they make it sound like a) it’s all or nothing, and b) it’s ridiculously easy. Guess what, when you’ve worn shoes with heels your whole life, the structure of your leg changes. It’s very difficult to throw out orthotics and stability shoes (the equivalent of a two-inch heel or higher) and go run barefoot, even if you take it easy at first, because your achilles is shortened from wearing heels! There is simply nothing wrong with taking it down one notch at a time and letting your body readjust to a healthier position after years of foot abuse. You don’t have to run barefoot NOW, you can run barefoot in a few months… in a year… whenever your body is actually ready for it. Barefooters say that you’ll continue to run wrong until you ditch your shoes, but that’s simply not true. There are tons of running clinics geared towards teaching you how to run correctly — run like a barefooter — while wearing SHOES. It’s entirely possible.

  66. Greg

    I must say it is really gratifying to find out (from experts!) that I am a rare genetic anomaly gifted with “perfect biomechanics.” Fact is I’ve always hated to run, with knee pain and numb feet after short distances in running shoes of all sorts. Lets just say I’ve never enjoyed the sport.

    Since picking up a pair of Feelmax Niesas last summer, I find myself running for fun and transportation, in all weather. I’m no athlete, but if I can pound out 7 miles on pavement or trails with a minimalist shoe (after a few weeks running much shorter distances), well then it could only be my unique and exceptional genetics :) Wish the running shoe store clerks could have spotted my talents earlier.

    Mr. Weber, I can almost see the grin on your face as you wrote your last post. It is obvious you have something in the works and I’m sure we are all very interested to see what it is. At least one potential customer who would never have taken a second look at a Brooks shoe is curious. (and please, can we have something without the high heels?)

  67. jarviscera

    3 years ago I couldn’t run more than 1 mile without my precious (and heavy, and expensive, and thick, etc.) orthotics. Now after slowly building up barefoot over months and years, I have no more need for my much-detested orthotics whenever I do use shoes. I have very high arches and had been told by a doctor I was getting arthritis in my foot (at the age of 25!). Now the swelling in the joints in my feet has gone down and I run 4 mi to work and back every other day in VFFs. As beneficial to foot strength as it may have been to grow up playing shoeless, I know that you don’t have to give up hope just because you’ve worn casts on your feet all your life.

    …And shall we mention fun? It is so much more fun to run with no extra/minimal extra weight on your feet. It is fun to feel the ground, uninsulated from reality. For the burned out runner, that is gold.

  68. Jon

    I ran my first marathon in Brooks, Maui 2007. Post-race, the dreaded PF showed up, then achilles problems, then knee problems. My mileage dropped way down. I managed to slowly work up to another marathon in June ’09. But again, pains and injuries were slowing me down. I was ready to stop.

    Then I switched to minimal shoes in August ’09, slowly. By November I was 100% minimal/barefoot. I haven’t run in any normal shoe since.

    I PR’d a 10k in late November. On 1 week’s notice, ran my 3rd marathon in early December for a new PR. The recovery time from this race blew away the previous 2, and I was back on the road within 48 hours. I ran my 4th marathon in January, and plan on doing 1/month for… I dunno. As long as I can.

    Minimalist running transformed me from broken down runner on my way out of the sport into an aspiring ultra runner– visions of 50′s dancing in my head.

    More options in the minimalist arena would be a Good Thing(tm). Why are shoe co’s so slow and/or reluctant to see this?

    Where do I get my barefoot name assignment!?

  69. Jay

    Brooks does sell a pretty good flat – Brooks Mach series (spikeless). I’ve found these to be a pretty good trail shoe. The sole is more flexible than some. The price is reasonable for a running shoe ($40-$50).
    If you want a good minimalist shoe though with a flexible sole and at a reasonable price, try watersocks without the insole ($20) or moccasins from Tandy Leather Company ($35).
    However, if you really want to enjoy yourself, go run barefoot in the grass at the park. I did a 1/2 mile today with shoes and my knee started hurting. So I took the shoes off and ran 9 1/2 miles in the grass when I had planned to run a total of 7. It had just been raining with a lot of standing water. This of course would be a real pain with running shoes but was just part of the fun with bare feet. This is an urban park folks – yes with a little broken glass, sticks and rocks on the ground. It’s really not that much of a problem.
    If Brooks wanted to come out with a minimalist sort of shoe, I’d recommend they start with watersocks, develop a lightweight mesh top and trim down the rubber sole a bit. They could probably come out with a 3 oz shoe that would fit like a sock. You wouldn’t need laces with that light of a shoe.

  70. Wear Tevas

    The most sensible comment made so far is #61; advice that we should follow in discussing a variety of subjects. You do what you want, I’ll do what I want, and if we don’t do things the same way, it’s ok. However, I have been entertained by some of the things written. My favorite bit of nonsense so far is “I’ll believe training only barefoot has much more merit when a professional does it”. What percentage of the running population is “professional” or “world class”? 1 or 2 or even 5%? So why would you base your choice of footwear on what a “professional” wears? The same person goes on to say “Especially don’t argue that professionals only wear shoes because of sponsorships, cause they don’t make that much money”. That is a poor argument for exactly that reason; they don’t make much money. Many of these “professional” runners barely scrape together enough income to be able to continue to train full time, and would gladly take any sort of sponsorship they can get.
    I personally find running shoes way too expensive and horribly uncomfortable.I am able to run 5 days a week with no ill effects with a combination of bare feet and cheap sandals, even though I am flat-footed and weigh 200+ lbs.

  71. Howard L.

    I would have to say that this is by far one of the most political responses I have seen in a while. He gave a lot of nonanswers and made assertions based on assumptions.

    Jim, just because someone has a NATURAL gait, doesn’t mean that they are blessed- it is N-A-T-U-R-A-L!! I breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon monoxide naturally, that doesn’t mean that I am blessed not to need an external respiratory system. How long have people been running? And how long has your company been around? How long have shin splints and other runners’ injuries been around?

    Jim you are not dealing with dumbasses here… well… for the most part. We know that being barefoot is better, if not we would be born with shoes. Technology was not meant to replace our muscles and natural abilities to improve our bodies.

    I will remain barefoot until I die and Vibrams in places that require shoes. At most I will be in Inov8s when doing trail runs. My feet, ankles, and calves are stronger. My times are better and I am happier as a person that is liberated from the capitalist lies fed to him from a shoe company desperately trying to maintain their constomers by telling them that they are not “blessed” and need their shoes to help protect their feet and to keep them running.

    I worked in a shoe store, I sold people the “BEAST” and I other Brooks. I knew about the rollbars and the other bs in the shoes, but was only concerned about 1 thing; making money. (I was 17 at the time). If a person was willing to pay 139.99+ tax, then they pronated (which most people do anyways) and needed to buy the EXTREMELY heavy shoe to help correct their feet movement. If they were not willing to pay that, then I would try and sell them the next expensive shoe, and so on and so forth. It was NOT about the runner. It was NOT about the shoe, it was ALL about the money I made. We were forced to sell accesseries; cleaners, water-proofers; etc. But the one that killed me, was the insoles. We would sell Orthos and other inserts for the shoes, to people that didn’t need it for two reasons; kept the bosses off our backs and it made us the most commision. I sold people inserts for the “BEAST” (the “BEAST” came with it’s own), the only way that was possible was because I lied and fed those inoccent sheepish people bs so they would eat it up and think they needed all the extra protection.

    I am now a running coach and sell people the truth. I am shameful of my ignorant past of selling bs in the shoe store, but I try to educate my clients now as much as I can to somehow make up for my past lies. As I said earlier, I will be a minimalist until the day I die, we were created to run and we were born with all the tools to just that. The only problem is people like you do not get rich off of telling the truth.

  72. Howard L.

    I think you all need some NEW and more intellectual “experts” when you have one saying stuff like this:

    “I don’t think it benefits any type of runner to run barefoot on hard surfaces. There are so many negatives, like glass, rocks, uneven surfaces, and weather conditions.”

    You’ve got to be kidding me, are we too stupid to avoid glass and rocks? Are we to uncoordinated to run on uneven surfaces without shoes? How do shoes even help uneven surfaces? And what the hell does weather conditions have to do with running? Does running in shoes keep you dry when it rains? Again, how long have shoes been around and how long have people been running?

  73. readthis

    Read “Running to the Top” by Lydiard. P. 70-77 has a nice discussion about shoes. He stated “construction of many of the shoes immediately alters the natural movement of the feet…”. He talks about the importance of exercises to strengthen the foot instead of simply just wearing orthotics (or corrective shoes). He also said, “If you could just attach a rubber sole to your foot, with nothing to the top, you’d have the perfect running shoe.”
    It would be great for Brooks to provide some more options for people who think to some extent that “less is better”, both in the design of running shoes and (may I dare day) cost.
    Hopefully all the barefoot running articles and such will challenge Brooks to continue to prudently think about shoe design (not color and fashion design, but functionally relevant design).

  74. Carri Craver

    Brooks running shoes have one huge advantage over my VFFs. They attract many less stares.

    Otherwise, I am sorry guys but for running, less is more. In order to avoid pain, I’m sticking with my VFFs. If you want me back as a customer, you are gonna have to make a FF.

  75. Bransby

    You say in your “perspective on barefoot running”

    “Currently, there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating barefoot/minimalist running reduces injury or that running in running shoes causes injury in every runner.”

    So running in shoes might not cause an injury? Not a massive vote of confidence is it?

    Would really like to see some evidence of expensive running shoes reducing the risk of injury, rather than just a letter from the head of a running shoe manufacturer telling us that we should buy running shoes.

  76. Unshod Ashish

    Podiatrist after podiatrist told me I needed stability shoes, inserts, and orthotics. The last one took a look at my feet and said I needed to wear stability shoes even at home, on the carpet. Yet the injuries – achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, runner’s knee, ITB Syndrome, back/neck pain – were a constant, over twenty years.

    Finally, in desperation, I tossed my shoes (Brooks Adrenalines, if you must know), and I’ve been essentially injury free since, in almost two years of running on city streets. I’m older, heavier, and I ran an 11 minute marathon PR in December.

    If I am a “biomechanically blessed gazelle,” then only barefoot running made it so. And anyone can be one.

  77. really...really...

    Let’s see here: there are millions of people on this planet, over different continents, and from different races, that go barefoot their entire lives. Men, women, & children. Not just the “biomechanically blessed” but every man, woman, and child go barefoot. They also play soccer barefoot, walk barefoot, etc. etc. Saying that only a small proportion of humans can go barefoot when 99% of people from these populations go barefoot as I type this is like saying the Earth is flat when we have satellites orbiting the globe.

    Like the South Park song goes: dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb. You could design shoes that have no elevated heal and allows the foot to work naturally, or you could deny common sense and lose me, and many others, as customers. Just plain stupid

  78. Ed

    I have spoken to runners, elites, collegiate and recreational on this topic since I have my own “shoe” challenges. It certainly is a polarizing issue! While I certainly think there are a population of runners that can, and maybe should run minimalist or barefoot even I have not seen that it is the vast majority of runners. I too have run barefoot, on grass, after workouts etc and a good number of upper level runners I know incorporate this into their training. They don’t however go sans footware for races,long runs or or the majority of the time. I coach recreational runners and I can say that it’s hard enough to get them to spend the time stretching, following good pre and post run habits and so in my view, trying to indoctrinate them into barefoot running will end up with them leaving our sport in frustration rather than embracing it. I applaud anyone who finds a means, or a shoe, or lack thereof that enables them to run and achieve their goals. I wear Brooks (Adrenalines) because they work, and because the company is responsive and focused on runners and running shoes. My view from the cheap seats is that the vast majority of us need to have performance footware to enable us to run pain and injury free. If you fall into that happy group that doesnt require shoes, fantastic, just don’t denigrate me or others that RunHappy just fine. :-)

  79. aaron

    I have one question for Brooks: no one has been able to give me a logical or convincing reason for why running shoes have an elevated heel. After learning to run barefoot, I still like shoes, but the elevated heel makes it very hard to transfer my barefoot running form over to shoes. Why oh why can’t you make a shoe that is same height throughout, and what is your reasoning for making shoes with elevated heels??

  80. Thick McRunfast

    Jon@62: “But I also feel that the barefoot runners have every right to come and defend their barefoot running.”

    Yes, you do. And shod runners have every right to come in and defend their shod running when you get up in their faces about their shod running. It goes both ways, you see.

  81. Chris Walquist

    Thanks for joining the discussion, Jim. I don’t buy your running-community “snapshot” at all, however. The “biomechanically blessed” don’t need shoes, and the rest do? Really? Your assertion for “the vast majority of us” that “cushioned footwear…plays an essential role in delivering a comfortable, injury-free running experience” is highly questionable, given the findings quoted in “Born to Run” for instance. Just because you put such an unsupported belief in bold type doesn’t make it more true. I wonder if you’ve read the book. I find it hard to believe you’d say that if you had. Shouting such things in print doesn’t do much for dialogue.

    My best friend had just tried on VFFs at a running store, but his toes felt ‘way tight and there are no toe diameter options with the VFFs.

    I came to the Brooks site with him, looking for a barefoot shoe, but was sad to find no viable options–and this article instead, shutting off hope for the foreseeable future from Brooks.

    I have a new pair of VFF KSOs, have gone whole-hog forefoot-running since 1 Jan of this year and LOVE it! I’ve been running a few hundred miles a year for 10 years, and am rediscovering running. Definitely takes some time to recondition, but SO worth it.

    My Dad has run 45,000 miles since he started keeping track. If anyone’s feet should be strong, it should be his…yet his recent chronic knee pain was diagnosed as weak arches. Why didn’t his high-priced running shoes protect him? Where is the “comfortable, injury-free running experience” for him? Granted, his latest pair of shoes are not Brooks, but I don’t think that’s the answer.

    It’s a shame and rather odd that more shoe companies aren’t picking up the slack that Vibram is leaving in the market. There are so many possibilities for models that put your toes on the ground, get the chunk of heel rubber out of the way, AND offer options for width and toe diameter. My impression is that Vibram is churning VFFs out so fast that quality is suffering–another opportunity for competitors. I’ve tried multiple pairs, and each one had significant differences between the right and left shoe (that were not due to my feet).

  82. aaron

    I think the previous poster says it all: The big shoe companies are so stubborn they’re missing a huge opportunity. Are you listening Brooks!? The last two times I’ve gone running I’ve seen people with Vibram Five Fingers. I would rather run in a closed toe, slightly padded shoe with no heel rise, but my only option is the $160 Terra Plana Evo. Brooks could make the same shoe for 50 bucks, but instead I have to take my money to Terra Plana.

    For the record, I used to struggle to run over 40 a week and every shoe store said I over pronate and need a stability model. Now I run 50-60 a week at a faster pace with better form, feel fresher, the wear pattern on my shoes has changed, and all my mileage is in VFF or 4oz racing flats, or completely barefoot in the summer (about 20-25 miles a week completely barefoot in the summer).

  83. DB

    In response to #29 and #64
    Articles by Lieberman et al. (Nature and ScienceDaily Feb. 1, 2010)are not scientific controlled experimental studies and show an inherent basis toward Vibram (one of the contributors to his propaganda).

    Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of a paper appearing in the journal Nature and ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2010) states, “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.” By his own data presented in figure one of the article published in ScienceDaily (Feb. 1, 2010), his statement is false. The force and duration of force is the same for both the heel striking shoed runner and barefoot midfoot striking runner.

  84. BarefootJesse

    I find it amazing how inflamed this discussion has become. Everyone relax! We’re all runners here! I’m reminded of the fights I got into with people when I first went vegetarian. Vegetarians are naturally defensive of their decisions and those who eat meat are naturally defensive of those who say it is not the right way to go, so it takes very little prodding on either side to get into a full blown argument. Clearly the same thing is happening here.

    I’ll defer to barefoot Ted (yes famous due to McDougall’s book) who says that he is not dogmatically barefoot and also admits that if somebody’s shod style is working for them then there is no necessity for them to switch. I began running barefoot as a novice runner because I wanted to run in a more “natural” style. I had not experienced great injury due to shoes, I just wanted to avoid it. That said, when I switched to barefooting my feet hurt because I’d spent my whole life in shoes. Those who say it isn’t the simplest way are right. For most of us it will take some work to get into barefoot running, but that is a GOOD thing. Running is all about work in many ways. Its about setting goals a meeting them. Many are unwilling to backtrack to lower mileage and slower paces in order to learn to run barefoot. If there is anything I learned from being a vegetarian (and I truly do think that barefooting is a sort of running analogue) its that other people DO NOT WANT TO BE TOLD THEY ARE INFERIOR OR WRONG.

    So to those out there trying to show the shod world how much gratification you have gotten out of your unshod practices, please be nicer about it! And to those of you in your shoes: if its working stick with it, if you are hurting, there is another way!

    As for this blog post and the accompanying PDF file, I think it is quite obvious to anybody who reads it that the shoe companies are worried. I understand their desire to make money, but please treat barefooters/minimalists as an emerging market rather than a hindrance to your bottom line. We’ll be interested in minimalist products if you make them, but much less so if you patronize the runner community by telling us that most of our bodies were made defective.

  85. aaron

    “I understand their desire to make money, but please treat barefooters/minimalists as an emerging market rather than a hindrance to your bottom line. We’ll be interested in minimalist products if you make them, but much less so if you patronize the runner community by telling us that most of our bodies were made defective.”

    I couldn’t say it better myself. Brooks, I have money and I buy shoes. You make a shoe that’s low to the ground with ZERO heel-to-toe drop – same height from the big toe to the heel – and I’ll give you money. To clarify, you make a barefoot friendly shoe, and I give you my money. Lots of it. (Just one model for people that know how to run, I could care less if the rest of your product line is high-heeled, over-cushioned trainers for “defective” runners).

  86. Jay

    For all of you that cannot read the evidence on both sides and still see that bare foot running is only a fad and that the shoe companies wouldn’t spend billions of dollars to promote products for us to buy, “if they weren’t bad for us” I would ask one thing.

    Do you honestly believe your own dribble? Using your line of reasoning I guess I shall take up smoking because the tobacco companies wouldn’t spend all that money promoting a product that is bad for me or maybe start drinking more because it must be good for me since the companies all spend so much promoting it. Hey, how about I get one of those machines that you put the belt around your waist and it vibrates you into perfect shape, yea. It is all clear now.

    I am not saying running shoes are going to kill you, or that the running companies all know that minimalist running might better for you, hey, maybe they don’t know. I do know at some studies I have found show that there were lower injury rates among runners before the advent of the the modern day running shoe, which promotes heel first running, than were after.

  87. Cloxxki

    We should not forget that 99% of all runner could improve their running form, and their running body, to get stronger, and be able to suffice with less shoe. If you always wear military boots, you’re not going to be a very good ballerina.

    I’m a 33y/o former MTB racer. 6’4″, and 10kg over(race)weight now. Not exactly a born runner either, so I didn’t do much of it. Bad heel striker until 2 years ago I just decided to try front foot strike. WOW, 2kph extra at the same effort!

    I got back into running, joined the track club. Soon, developed painful ankles. Bought all the stability shoes in the world, specialists’ consults, none helped. All I learned is I had collapsed, flat feet. Then tried some orthotic insoles, and EUREKA, pain gone.

    I then started trying some limited minimalist and barefoot running. It was enough to help, because the fat old fart was messing with the youngster, more than when I was a youngster myself.

    Got me some Brooks spikes shoes :-)

    Now, after almost a year since finding the orthodics, pain is back. Just can’t hold the right ankle stable enough to run properly, hurt like heck.
    Out of frustration for not being able to participate the track practice, I threw off the shoes, and jogged on the grass. Pain gone! Tried some (ouch, stingy) runs on the track. Better than with shoes.

    So, I have a problem. Not naturally gifted, and anti-pronation shoes or insoles alone won’t cure me.

    I believe in the self-healing and self-correcting nature of the body. I think I may need to start hurting it again by running barefoot. Build that back up, and go further than before.

    IMO, barefoot should be implemented in everyone’s training scheme, to match their capabilities. Shoes will nog make you a better runner by offering more support. That trick will only work for one run, because by the next, the body sees no rason to keep support certain high-maintenance tissue anymore.

    Vibram has the market cornered it seems. Very hard to make a nicer non-shoe than that without infringin their patents.

    My advice to people : get some walking and running in, on footwear with a limited or no raised heel. I’ve found that doing a significant amount of steps on water shoes and barefoot, helped me strengthed the calfs more than hard trach taining ever could. You need the angle/calf range, but without the intense counter strain.

  88. Justin

    I disagree with the notion that a runner with a weak foot needs more support from their shoes. That runner needs to gain foot strength which is not achieved by wearing a cast. The foot has 19 muscles that can and will atrophy just like any other.

    Those who wish to become better runners and endure less pain and injury need not run barefoot (though I do enjoy it) nor do they need to spend ridiculous amounts of money on a shoe that has never been shown to prevent injury. They need a shoe that allows their foot to be protected from harsh surfaces and dangerous materials but does not interfere with the highly evolved mechanics of their feet.

    Some 3% of the population may benefit from orthotics, but that is not the vast majority.

  89. Detlef Schrempf

    Still transitioning — I participated many sports – baseball, soccer, track & field, tennis, but most of the wear and tear on my body was from basketball.
    I played basketball for 27 years and this past December, had severe pain in my left knee that wouldn’t go away. So I had an MRI and was diagnosed with a torn meniscus (no big deal) and an 8mm hole in the weight bearing portion of my knee (pretty big deal). I had surgery over the next few days and the surgeon performed a bone graft, taking bone from the non-weight bearing portion of my knee and placing in the hole. After six miserable weeks on crutches, I was headed to rehab. I was determined to return to basketball, but it was so slow going that I started looking into alternative sports/running methods. After reading about barefoot running, I ran barefoot in my brother’s back yard for a few hundred meters just to get the feel. Then I hit the treadmill wearing my regular running shoes, but running as if I were barefoot (landing on the ball of my foot and not touching my heel to the ground). I did 2 miles in near record pace. Previously, I had done about 3 miles, but it always followed with intense knee pain. Well after my 2 miles of front foot landing, both my calves were screaming at me and continued to do so for about 5-6 days. I knew I was overdoing it just after the first mile. Oh well. So now I’ve been running on the balls of my feet for about 3 months and have competed in a few triathlons. My run is improving – 8:45 pace to 7:22 pace and the calf soreness only lasts 2 days after a really hard 3 mile run. 2 days of soreness is acceptable to me. When I lift hard, I’m sore for at least 2 days, so why would running be any different? As for footwear, I have 3 different shoes. I started with regular running shoes with very built-up heels (Addidas) and a slightly less build up pair (Saucony). They were both fine, but I wasn’t using the built-up heel and they were kind of heavy. So I bought a couple pairs of cross country racing flats. They are really light and really cheap. You can get them on clearance for less than $30. Every athletic footwear company makes them and they come in some really wild colors – that could be why I got the clearance pairs for $30. I couldn’t be happier.

    As for the next step – going from a 5k to a 10k. I’m sure the only body part holding me back are my calves and that will just take time. I did spend a better part of my life heel smashing when I ran and I’m not sure if one could actually play any court sport without landing on his or her heels. So I’ll be patient and slowly increase my runs from 2-3 times per week to 3-4. I’m getting faster so I’m not as concerned with the miles yet. Feel free to email me at patrickbateman321@yahoo.com.

  90. Rojd

    I’m a competitive runner who runs marathons, half-marathons, and the occasional ultra. I happen to have very low arches and serious overpronation. I run in the Brooks Addiction and it works very well for me.
    I think barefoot/minimal running can work very well for some and for others it doesn’t work. I say experiment wisely and do what works for you, whether it’s barefoot or with running shoes.
    Cheers.

  91. Andrew

    I have been a minimalist runner for the last three years. And, after being on crutches about 8 times due mostly to injuries that I received because I could not feel the ground under my feet and respond quickly enough to it. There is so much babble floating around about how the shoe companies would not spend billions of dollars promoting something “that is bad for you”. Of course they would because they are making money on it from people who are to skeptical about barefoot running or too brainwashed into thinking that running with shoes is the only “correct, sane, safe, logical, etc…” way to run.

    I have seen the benefits of minimalist and barefoot running in myself and many others. I have yet to see someone change from running in standard running shoes to minimalist or barefoot running and sustain an injury of any kind. The only problem is getting the muscles reminded of what they are supposed to be doing and that is supporting the foot, ankle and body instead of relying on a controlling brace (shoe) to do the work.

    I love running the way I do now. I am not going to change. If you don’t like it just shut up about it and leave me in peace.

  92. Erick

    I have tried the barefoot running thing and it didn’t go to well for me. I know others that it worked great for. For me, it caused some serious outer heel pain wher the peroneal tendons wrap around. Yes, I started out slow. I actually started with barefoot walking short distances until I could walk a couple of miles barefoot wtih no problems. Running barefoot was a different story and just isn’t for me, still dealing with the injury that it caused. As for hiking, wearing Vibrams works fine. As for running, I’ll stick to my Brooks Adrenaline and Mizuno Wave Riders.

  93. Andy

    I’m 41 and have been a runner since age age 7, with Little Athletics in Australia. Back then and through till about age 12 we ran mostly barefoot, or in what is now termed minimalist shoes. Around age 10, I began to get consistent achilles problems from distance running. Looking back at photos, I can see that even then I was a pretty heavy pronator as a child.
    Then came wedge heeled shoes and no more achilles problems….
    Then came the Nike Terra TC age 15(most unsupportive shoe ever invented, but Seb Coe wore them so I had to have them = severe knee tracking problems. Then orthotics= instant no knee pain. Ran to age 37 pain free. Head-on collision car accident. Left knee posterior cruciate and lateral collateral stretched= mildly universal joint. Running really hurts now. I’m getting some Five-Fingers and giving it a last crack, before I start cycling like all the fat bankers I know.

    I already encourage all my patients to mid-foot strike, and have been able to reduce the severity and need of orthotics and shoes for many patients. The only problem I can see with Barefoot is that many proponents assume that nature gives us all the tools we need. Things like leg length differences (mine is 13mm), tibial torsion (twisted shin bones, often only one), tibial varum (bowed legs), hypermobility, short and long metatarsals are pretty common, and mess people up when the workload increases. I’ll admit that our patient exposure is skewed, as generally people are already injured by the time they come in.

    I’ve already seen a few stress fractured mets come in from VFF wearers. The argument seems to be “You don’t get injured barefoot, so you must be doing it wrong”. I’ve also noticed that the VFF runners I’ve seen seem to be going really, really slowly. Can many of you guys keep up a 3 to 4 min pace on concrete for 10K’s in them ?

    But, I don’t have any options left so I’m off to buy some VFF’s and see what happens. If I rupture my achilles, you’ll be hearing about it.

    I’d be most interested to hear from Barefooters with moderate to severe hypermobility- has it worked or not worked for you, particularly asian females, as hypermobility (loose ligaments) are the main reason people walk in our door.

  94. beef stroganoff recipes

    We should not forget that 99% of all runner could improve their running form, and their running body, to get stronger, and be able to suffice with less shoe. If you always wear military boots, you’re not going to be a very good ballerina.

    I’m a 33y/o former MTB racer. 6’4″, and 10kg over(race)weight now. Not exactly a born runner either, so I didn’t do much of it. Bad heel striker until 2 years ago I just decided to try front foot strike. WOW, 2kph extra at the same effort!

    I got back into running, joined the track club. Soon, developed painful ankles. Bought all the stability shoes in the world, specialists’ consults, none helped. All I learned is I had collapsed, flat feet. Then tried some orthotic insoles, and EUREKA, pain gone.

    I then started trying some limited minimalist and barefoot running. It was enough to help, because the fat old fart was messing with the youngster, more than when I was a youngster myself.

    Got me some Brooks spikes shoes :-)

    Now, after almost a year since finding the orthodics, pain is back. Just can’t hold the right ankle stable enough to run properly, hurt like heck.
    Out of frustration for not being able to participate the track practice, I threw off the shoes, and jogged on the grass. Pain gone! Tried some (ouch, stingy) runs on the track. Better than with shoes.

    So, I have a problem. Not naturally gifted, and anti-pronation shoes or insoles alone won’t cure me.

    I believe in the self-healing and self-correcting nature of the body. I think I may need to start hurting it again by running barefoot. Build that back up, and go further than before.

    IMO, barefoot should be implemented in everyone’s training scheme, to match their capabilities. Shoes will nog make you a better runner by offering more support. That trick will only work for one run, because by the next, the body sees no rason to keep support certain high-maintenance tissue anymore.

    Vibram has the market cornered it seems. Very hard to make a nicer non-shoe than that without infringin their patents.

    My advice to people : get some walking and running in, on footwear with a limited or no raised heel. I’ve found that doing a significant amount of steps on water shoes and barefoot, helped me strengthed the calfs more than hard trach taining ever could. You need the angle/calf range, but without the intense counter strain.

  95. Cedric Fischer

    I wasn’t shocked to see a company that makes money selling shoes discredit people who don’t want to wear shoes. Hello, this is capitalism. The cologne companies tell you that you will be sexy in their perfume, and the car companies tell you that you will be cool in their car. As a consumer we are able to see through this. Why not admit that running shoes have never been proven to prevent injury? Or that our bodies evolved to run without shoes, or with minimal sole protection? Duh, this would cut into profits. It’s all about $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to Brooks.

  96. Josh

    In case anyone’s wondering, Warren Buffet (one of the richest billionaires in the world) directly benefits when you buy a pair of shoes from Brooks. Send him a bill for the heel strike injuries caused by your Brooks Monsters.

  97. Nj personal trainer

    “injury free experience”? I would like to see a study that shoes prevent injuries.

    I do think they provide comfort when standing a long time, but that may be because I haven’t been barefoot enough.

  98. Indian Handicraft

    I was thinking the same thing but about new business generation the other day. When I’m short of ideas, often the best solution is just to get away from the desk, take a walk, take bath.

    A relaxed state of mind is much more creative.

  99. T

    There are undoubtedly a lot of benefits to running. I’ve been advised by my doctor to slow down to a brisk walk though due to certain complications. Allows me to appreciate the surroundings a little bit more. Won’t do it without the shoes though. Not in the great outdoors.
    Joe
    http://www.wildplanettours.com/

  100. Ken Tan

    Question Reference #110705-000069
    Summary: Brooks Launch

    Hi,

    I’m from Singapore. Kindly advise how can I get the latest colour model of Brooks Launch online? I’d like to get a pair for myself (Colour: Men – Olympic/Silver/Lime Green/Black/White) and my wife (Colour: Womens – Alaska Blue/Silver/Deep Royal/Black/White). I’ve tried Amazon.com but they have run out of stock for the Women US size 8 Launch.

    Hope you can help me with this, please. Thanks.

    Fond regards
    Ken Tan
    Singapore

  101. Luke

    I think it speaks volumes that you as the CEO of a running would take the time to address a matter such as this, and more so do it publicly with the opportunity for people to publicly reply.

    I have been researching barefoot running lately with a lot of our clients coming to us with questions on the matter. I agree with your stance that some people will always need the support and cushioning of a well designed running shoe and we should use current technology to make life easier for these individuals.

    By the way… I love your shoes!

  102. Bridget

    I sell running shoes 24/7. I sell Brooks and other brands. I had nagging back pain until I started paying close attention to my running form and striking the ground gently. I transitioned from road to mostly running on trails.
    I stretch well after every run and use a foam roller and the stick to create elasticity in my muscles. I keep myself well hydrated at all times. I don’t do well in racing flats and I don’t run barefoot, I wear light neutral shoes even though I mildly, mildly overpronate.
    I cringe at the silly Vibrams and the other minimal footwear. It is just re-marketing the racing flat. If you are a heel striker you will not suddenly become an forefoot runner. I see far too may folks coming down hard on their heels in their barefoot running shoes. I have also sold several pairs of “traditional” running shoes to barefoot runners after their stress fractures healed up. Barefoot running is not a magic cure. Balance when running is; getting the proper shoe for your arch type/biomechanics, stretching, hydrating, running with proper form, paying attention to your body, that is the key. It takes more effort. There are no shortcut folks…it is not just about the shoes!

  103. Mariadelmar

    I bought a pair of Brooks Addiction and they are so good that I am unable to wear any other shoes. Please do a dressy shoe with that technology so I can attend weddings and parties,or shall I be wearing sports shoes everyplace I go? This is an S.O.S. Thanks,

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