The Fake Barefoot Running Debate

– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 107

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement about the fake barefoot running debate.

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

  • How minimalist footwear brands continue to increase sales every year.
  • How injury is common amongst all runners, not just barefoot runners.
  • How our feet weren’t designed to be supported and surrounded by cushion all the time.
  • How the largest shoe companies are trying to make a sale, not a better shoe.
  • Why it’s important to allow your joints to move how they were designed to. 

Connect with Steven:







Steven Sashen:

The debate about minimalist footwear, about barefoot shoes, about barefoot running continues or does it? We’re going to take a look at that in today’s episode of the MOVEMENT Movement, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body, starting feet first. Those things are your foundation after all. We break down the propaganda, the mythology, the lies and in this case, some other debating issues about what it takes to run or walk or hike or play or do yoga or CrossFit, whatever it is you like to do, and to do that enjoyably, efficiently, effectively, and did I mention enjoyably? I know I did, it’s a trick question because, look, if you’re not having fun, do something different so you are, you won’t keep it up anyway if it isn’t a good time.


I’m Steven Sashen from I’m your host of the MOVEMENT Movement podcast. And we call it the MOVEMENT Movement because we that’s you and me and everyone else, who’s listening and involved in what I’m about to talk about. We are creating a movement about natural movement, helping people rediscover. Letting your body do what’s natural, letting it move and bend and flex and things like the way it was designed is the obvious, better, healthy choice. The same way natural food is. And the movement part is easy. There’s nothing special you have to do. You can go to There’s no membership, all that means is that you share this information with people, that you imbibe it yourself, that you enjoy it and pass it on. So like, and share, give us a thumbs up, leave reviews and comments. You can hit the subscribe and the bell on YouTube, if that’s where you’re watching this. If you want to be part of the tribe, you know how, subscribe.


So what we’re looking at here is a Washington Post article. And you can see “It’s time to rethink cushion footwear for kids and seniors, this minimalist-shoe advocate says,” there’s actually two minimal-shoe advocates in this article, but before we dive into the article, I need to highlight the fundamental problem with this whole debate about minimalist footwear. And that is that what’s normally presented is research and then opinions and strawman arguments, and I’ll explain what that is in a second, and personal experience that’s extrapolating to all people in ways that aren’t really relevant. A strawman, by the way, is where you set up a fake person and argue with that fake person. So, somebody makes a point A plus B equals C and then you say, I disagree that D plus Q equals 14. It’s like, no one ever said that, but if you do it just right, it sounds like these are opposing points when in fact they’re not.


So let’s dive into this article and have a little bit of fun. Okay. So remember the maximalist versus minimalist running shoe debate, Irene Davis is trying to bring that back. Okay, let’s pause there. There was actually never a maximalist versus minimalist running shoe debate, really. Because the minimalist thing had its own heyday, then the maximalist thing came on the heels, pun intended, of that. And the real debate was not about the two of those. Although it’s interesting that there was conversations about that that are going to be referenced later on in this article that you’ll see where that lands. So Davis gained acclaim for her role in the Harvard research team, behind the rise of barefoot running 12 years ago. The swift arrival of barefoot or minimalist running was only rivaled by its rapid decline.


Let’s stop there. Complete nonsense. There was a rapid rise, that’s true. But the way people think about it is as if it did this went up and then came back down a giant hill, not the case. It went up really quickly. The only thing that changed is the angle of its continued growth. And all of those of us who’ve been making minimalist footwear in the last 12 years have never seen our sales decrease. Our sales continue to increase year after year after year after year. What happened was sales and stores decreased because the companies that were making most of these shoes, the big shoe companies, and we’ll talk about whether they were making real minimal shoes or not in a minute, they stopped making them so stores couldn’t sell them, so customers couldn’t buy them. So the report said people weren’t interested, but for those of us who were selling direct to consumer, never, never a steep decline.


All right, this next thing, after injuries increased, pause right there. So what people never talk about when they talk about barefoot running injuries is the fact that shod runners get injured all the time. 50% of runners, 80% of marathoners get injured every year. The rate did not go up because people took off their shoes. But even if they did, we’ll talk about what those injuries may have been, but again that no one ever compared the injury rates in regular runners versus the injury rates in barefoot runners, nor did they emphasize the important thing about what might be causing the injuries, which is about form, not footwear in it to a certain extent. And so the studies that came out about injuries increasing didn’t analyze running form and what they called injuries, very different for what they call injuries in shod runners.


Shod runners get plantar fasciitis. They get stress factors. They get Achilles tendinitis, they get patellar tendonitis, they get hip pain, back pain, knee pain. Some of the injuries that were attributed to people running barefoot were things like calf pain, mild Achilles tendonitis, some edema, a little bit of swelling in the tissues, which happens when you use them. Like if I just did bicep curls, I’d have edema in my arm. Some of it was micro-fractures in the metatarsal, which is what happens when you put stress on a bone and it gets a little microfractures that when it heals, makes it stronger. But also again, those little microfractures, there was about form, not footwear. We can talk about that later, probably.


And then lawsuits punished claims of injury reduction, actually not the case at all. So the only lawsuit was the class action lawsuit against Vibram, the guys who made FiveFingers, because they made a claim that wearing those shoes would strengthen your feet. The only reason they didn’t have a scientific study back in that claim is a researcher, who was doing other research on those shoes, said why bother doing research about whether these things strengthen your feet? We know they will, because they let your feet be used more. Plus there was research on the Nike Free, an actual shoe, that showed that wearing that shoe made your feet stronger. So this lawsuit settled for pennies on the dollar compared to similar lawsuits about toning shoes. I hypothesized that the defense realized, or the prosecution realized, that you could draw enough dots and lines between that Nike Free study and just using your feet naturally, and research from Dr. Sarah Ridge at BYU, who showed that just walking in minimalist shoes does in fact build foot muscle strength. You could put enough connections together that there was really no case.


So Vibram, they didn’t care. They settled out of court for 3.7 million dollars, no admission of guilt, no admission that they did anything wrong, nor was there any from the prosecution, any claim about that either. So the whole lawsuit completely misrepresented, just like it was here. Okay. So minimalism lost that round again, based on what not based on the sales that we’ve seen, not based on people’s experience. Now, based on Irene’s research, she’s again advocating for footwear that lacks support or cushioning, this time with a focus on all people, not just runners, that’s important, but especially and especially children and seniors. Now, first of all, to say that she’s again advocating for footwear- she’s never stopped. So that’s sort of slightly misleading, not a big deal, but it’s important to put out that what seems to happen is people minimize the value of the ongoing research that Irene and many, many others around the world have done by just saying, “Oh no, we’re out again, just trying to prove that we’re right.” Not the case at all.


Let me read some more from Irene. Oh, this is great. This is brilliant hold on. There’s an ad here for Allbirds. Allbirds, if you don’t know, just recently filed to go public and they’ve been claiming publicly for the last, however many years, they’ve been around that since day one, they’ve been profitable, but now in their filing to go public, they actually revealed they’d never been profitable. They’ve been losing tons of money. Their rate of growth has slowed and their rate of expenses has grown over this time. And they are involved in a class action lawsuit from people claiming that their sustainability claims are not true. So somewhat ironic that that showed up here. But anyway, let’s back up to Irene. Irene says, we need to get this message out about what we’re doing to our feet.


I don’t think that our feet were designed or adapted to be supported or cushioned all the time. That’s a really important phrase, let’s harp on this one all the time. We’re going to come back to that in a second. She believes that 60 years of footwear modernization shouldn’t outweigh 2 million years of evolution. Minimal footwear’s where she came from. We said, “It’s true, footwear up until about 1970 was just basically something thin to protect your feet and something to hold that protection on your feet, and if you were somewhere cold something to protect you from the cold, that’s it.” Minimalist footwear is not the intervention. The modern athletic shoe is the intervention and ask them for the demonstration for the proof of how they improve performance and reduce injury, and you won’t find it. It just isn’t there. 50% of runners get injured every year, 80% of marathoners get injured every year.


And even here’s a fun one. Nike put out a study about a year and a half ago originally, and then they put it out again about six months ago, about a new shoe they developed, designed to reduce injury as if any shoe was ever designed to increase injury, but that’s not important. They compared their new shoe to their best-selling padded motion-controlled, elevated heel arch-supporting shoe. And that the way they positioned the article, the results was that there was a 52% reduction in injury in the new shoe. It sounds great, it’s true. But when you look at the numbers, the story’s a little more interesting.


In the 12 week study, in their best-selling motion control shoe, over 30% of the people got injured. In their new shoe only 15%, 15% about one out of seven that, over 30% let’s call that two out of seven so we can do seven days in a week. So I can ask you which restaurant would you like me to take you to every night, this week, the one where you’ll get food poisoning on average twice, or the one where you most likely only get it once. Of course the answer is neither. And the other question to Nike would be if that shoe is so much better, why are you still making this other one? Why isn’t everything just like this one? And even more, why was that shoe better?


And the answer is because they took out most of the protective features in the shoe. They made it more minimalist. So let’s move on. Irene believes it’s especially important to remember, in the case of children, that, we grew up minimalist. Her new research suggests that bracing and supporting young feet with orthotics or cushioned shoes, doesn’t allow the foot to develop normally, with weaker muscles and a lower arch the result.


Okay. Very interesting. But again, it just kind of makes sense. If you don’t let a joint move, the muscles and tendons and ligaments around that joint get weaker. You put your arm in a cast, it doesn’t come out stronger, it comes out weaker. She’s just saying you do that to kids, that weakness becomes problematic. According to Irene Davis’s earlier research, years of running barefoot or minimalist footwear as with African runners cited in the book that popularized the choice, “Born to Run,” builds up the resiliency of the calf and foot muscles, Achilles tendon and bones of the feet that bear the load of running style. Jay Dicharry, who’s another wonderful advocate, “we know tissues adapt to load and the environment they’re in.” It says Jay, he’s a physical therapist and running injury expert. If you put them in less shoes, they tend to adapt and become stiffer and stronger. Dicharry has kept his own children in light, flexible footwear for that reason.


If you give your kids that gift now, he says, when they’re our age we won’t be having this conversation. This is something that Irene Davis said to me years ago. If we just got kids in truly minimalist footwear, in 20 years we wouldn’t be treating adults for the billions of dollars of problems they currently have. Now here’s my favorite thing. However, Stewart Morrison, an expert in pediatric foot development at the University of Brighton in England, isn’t so sure. So you’re about to hear a strawman argument. And this is interesting because it’s subtle, so walk with me through this. The interaction he says between the child and their environment is complex and studies often reduce development to a single variable.


I’m not sure that this study does, and in fact, he didn’t say that this study does that. He just say, studies often do that, but he’s not necessarily talking about this study. This is misleading, reducing development to a single variable. And there are more prominent influencing factors. For instance, says Morrison, “I think genetics do play a considerable factor in determining foot shape, as supported by the evidence linking genetic predisposition to some foot deformities.” No one was talking about deformities, that’s the strawman. No one was saying that genetics aren’t a factor in foot-shaped. That’s the strawman. We know that arch height is predominantly genetic, but arch strength impacts arch height. Weaker arch muscles reduce the height can reduce the height of the arch, stronger arch muscles can make you have a higher arch, but you’re never going to go from a flat-flooted person like me, I had comedy-level flat feet my whole life, to having a super high arch just by strengthen your feet because of the genetic component.


So this is a strawman. He’s not actually criticizing Irene’s argument at all. And yet this article includes it as if it’s a valid argument against Irene’s point and against Jay’s point. It’s not. Strawman. Okay, let’s move on. Now. Here’s where it gets funny. Indeed, the debate is not really about whether walking barefoot or wearing minimal shoes strengthened the feet, Most experts readily agree that it does. Well that was the point that Irene and Jay made. So why are you putting this thing from Stewart in there that has nothing to do with the critical point, because they want it to be fair and balanced. Instead of reporting something valuable for human beings to learn without undermining it with strawman arguments. Okay, now here’s where it does say something undeniably true. The issue is that no one can say yet what improved foot strength means for the future orthopedic health, though Davis and her research team believed that putting children in incorrectly footwear can lead to a whole slew of future problems, notably deformities, such as flat feet and bunions, there aren’t longitudinal research studies to reinforce that claim.


Undeniable. Now the more interesting point would have been, about what it’s going to take to do a 40-year-long study or 20-year-long study to demonstrate this, whether it’s true or false, to find out the truth about this once and for all. But again, if you just use a little logic, it seems likely to be the case and what’s needed is research to prove it, not there aren’t studies to reinforce the claim. Subtle, but really important difference in the way you frame that. Nor are there studies that minimalist shoes prevent injuries, now we’ll come back to this, despite that Davis sees the argument this way: a logical approach is, if you take the support away the feet get stronger, adding support makes the feet weaker. There’s research behind both of those. Weaker feet tend to be associated more pathology like plantar fasciitis.


Now there’s not a study that showed that minimalist shoes prevent plantar fasciitis. Guess what else there’s not? There’s not a study showing that any modern shoe prevents it, one of the most common injuries from shod runners. It leaves that line out. Plantar fasciitis, one of the most common injuries runners in regular modern running shoes. But that’s right, there’s not a study showing that minimalist shoes prevent that because the study hasn’t been done, not because there’s not a study, this study proves anything opposite. Again, subtle way of changing the language makes a very big difference. Even people who have conditioned their feet to the stresses of barefoot running- Okay, I forgot. So here’s one where we’re going to be talking about someone’s personal experience that they try to use to extrapolate to other people who are nothing like this person.


We’re talking about a world champion runner Lopez Lomong. If you’re not a world champion runner, let me ask you two questions. One, why do you care what he’s doing? Because he’s going to try to do things to maximize his time as a professional runner, to maximize the value of that. And secondly, he’s a genetic freak, as am I, I’m a masters All-American sprinter. I’m 59 years old for men in the 55 to 59 age group, I’m one of the fastest guys in the country. I’m a genetic freak. I didn’t have to do anything to be like that. I was always one of the fastest kids. People knew, just the way it is. And Lopez is going to be talking about his personal experience, which doesn’t necessarily extrapolate if you’re not a, thin, super-fast runner. So, that’s another point. But anyway, let’s read what he has to say.


Lopez didn’t wear shoes until he immigrated to the U.S. At age 16. He believes you can benefit from wearing more structured shoe, though he values the foot strength he gained from walking and running barefoot. Quote, “I don’t believe that a 14+ year professional career would have been possible without the support of shoes on paved roads and through thousands and thousands of miles of training in a season.” Okay, it’s another strawman argument. First of all, like I said at the top of this article, this is also about not just runners. So here we’re bringing in a runner, not necessarily relevant, this guy who puts in thousands and thousands of miles and training, most people don’t do that.


And the strawman is also no one said, and in fact, at the very top of the article, Irene said you shouldn’t be wearing cushion shoes all the time, no one said don’t wear cushioned shoes or specialized footwear under specific circumstances. Like if you are a professional runner who got used to wearing a certain product and are, by the way, getting paid a lot of money to wear shoes from footwear companies that make that specific product. Now he says, plus the conditions in Kakuma and South Sudan, where he grew up were more conducive to running barefoot with sandy soft ground and grasslands. The conditions that amateur and professional athletes face in developed countries are not conducive to barefoot running. Tell that to Abebe Bikila who won the marathon barefoot, to Zola Budd who won, I think it was 5K or 10K I always forget, to Ron Hill who ran a 10K in Mexico City barefoot, tell it to the tens of thousands of runners that we know in Xero Shoes and barefoot who are totally fine on roads and trails in bare feet.


This idea that we evolve to run on soft ground and sandy surfaces and not hard ground, completely not true. It’s a naturalistic fallacy. And even if we evolve to run in one condition, that doesn’t mean we’re not able to run in other conditions that we didn’t evolve in. I’m a former All-American gymnast. We didn’t evolve to do double-twisting double backflips, but guess what? We can do them. Not everybody of course, if you train to do them. And that raises the same point as someone who could do something like that, that doesn’t mean if I do it, that doesn’t mean you can emulate me. You might not be the kind of person who can do it. You might not be the kind of person who can run like Lopez. So listening to him, you got to put a grain of salt in there.


Part of the problem with, backing up the article, with the initial foray into barefoot running was this very issue. The science made sense, but its application was less surefooted. Again in large part because A, the big shoe companies were terrified that once the idea of barefoot running took off, people were never going to wear another running shoe again, so they were putting out articles that were saying, never run barefoot, you’re going to step on hypodermic needles and get Ebola and your kids won’t get into college and your mortgage rates are going to go up. It was insane. And the application was less surefooted. Again, if you look at the people who made a transition to natural movement and minimalist footwear or barefoot running, they would argue with that vociferously. Thank you, SAT prep course.


Quote, when minimalism came around, it’s big flaw- by the way, this from Jeff Dengate, the editor-in-chief of Runner’s World. And there’s so much to unpack in what I’m about to read here. When minimalism came around the first time, let’s pause there. No. The first time minimalism came around was with the advent of footwear. The earliest known archeological find for a piece of footwear is roughly 10,000 years old. It was a Sage Brush sandal found in Oregon. And it looked a lot like our Genesis sandal actually, and footwear for the first 99.95% of human history, the first 9,950 years that we know of humans wearing footwear, it was just something to protect your foot, something to hold that protection on your foot, and if you live somewhere cold, something to insulate your feet a little bit. That’s it. So when the minimalism first came around, this is actually the second time.


The intervention was the modern athletic shoe. So we should be talking about that. It says when minimalism came around, the big promise was that if you went to a minimalist shoe and ran on your forefoot, you wouldn’t get injured. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that basically the promise that running shoe companies keep making over and over and over and over and over that with their new padding and cushioning and motion control arch support you’ll run better, faster, and with fewer injuries, despite the fact that that’s not what happened? So it was shoe companies making the same promise, but more importantly, no minimalist shoe company ever made the promise that if you just switch to your shoes, you wouldn’t get injured. Never happened. What we talk about is that if you switch to minimalist footwear, you can’t have the form that you have in traditional modern footwear with padded elevated heels, motion-controlled arch sport.


In other words, most runners in those shoes, they overstride, which is landing with your feet too far in front of your body. So you’re putting the brakes on every time you land and they heel strike with a relatively straight leg with their ankle in front of their knee, which research from Harvard’s Daniel Lieberman shows, puts a rapid force spike through your joints instead of using your muscles, ligaments and tendons, the way they’re supposed to as spring as shock absorbers and protectors from your joint. So the first thing is that it’s not just about putting on the shoes. It’s about the form because when you run either barefoot or in a truly minimalist shoe overstriding and heel striking, you just can’t do it, because it hurts. And so what you tend to do is adapt to getting your feet more underneath your body, using those muscles, ligaments, and tendons, and using the structure in your feet, including your arch to support you.


So then on this next line, if you went to a minimalist shoe and ran on your forefoot, you wouldn’t get injured. So what I saw many people do is they switched to a minimalist shoe, which by the way, we’ve got to back up to this. When the minimalist thing kicked in, the big shoe companies worked first, again, terrified that no one would ever wear their shoes, so they made what they called minimalist or barefoot shoes. Research from Irene Davis breaks up shoes into two categories, minimalist and partial minimalist. I interviewed her on my podcast and I asked her if she was being politically correct, and if it would have been okay to say true minimalist and fake minimalist, she didn’t disagree. Let’s just leave it at that for now. The quote, “fake minimalist shoes,” that she researched, are worse for you than either barefoot or padded motion-controlled shoes. Why?


Because they got rid of much of the padding, but not enough. There’s still enough padding in there that people were wearing these and continuing to overstride and heel strike. But without the other things that you need to accommodate overstriding and heel striking to the best of what shoe can, which by the way, is not very much like motion control because your heels a ball, if you land on your heel, you’re unstable, so now you do motion control, arch support. Because if you land on your heel, by that time your foot comes down, your arch is in a weak position under a lot of strain. But if you provide quote, “support for your arch,” then the strain isn’t there, but it also weakens your foot. That’s research from [Proto Pasta 00:00:22:37] that Irene Davis mentioned earlier. So the partial minimalist shoes, the fake minimalist shoes, are worse for you than either end of the equation. And that’s what most people were wearing.


In fact, if we talk about running barefoot, I met so many people in that era that, 2009 to 2011, who called themselves barefoot runners, but never had their bare feet on the ground. So there’s a lot of conflation going on there. We all said it’s about the form, not the footwear. It just so happens that the form is informed by the footwear. Let’s see, moving on. This is interesting. Maximalist shoes is with a thick sole of cushioning under the foot and a lighter upper feel good. Great. Interesting way of putting it, but it would been good to not have a period at the end of that sentence, and just go to the comma, because the next line is however, when it comes to injury, thick-soled cushion shoes, don’t appear to be any more protective than their thin-soled rivals.


Now here’s a really, subtle, interesting editorial thing. This needs to be spun around. The point is that it says previously was an argument in this article that there was no proof that thin-soled running shoes were better for you, but here at saying that the big thick ones aren’t better for you, which means they’re basically equal, which means there may as well be proof that they’re not worse for you. So they’ve turned the whole equation upside down in this situation in a way that’s kind of funny. And by the way, just because something feels good, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you, or good for you in a different situation. You try and issue in a shoe store and it feels good. Great, but what’s going to happen when you take it for a run? What’s going to happen when that cushioning starts to wear out, what’s going to happen when the sole starts to wear out, what’s going to happen after time if you’re not using your feet naturally and your feet get weaker? So the fact that it feels good right now, not important.


Cheez Whiz tastes great in certain recipes, not the kind of thing you want to make a diet out of. Anyway, moving on. In fact, because the body automatically adjusts the springiness of the leg muscles, according to the level of cushioning of the shoe and the ground under foot, some research shows that maximalist shoes actually increase the impact to the leg with running. This is almost hidden in this article. This is basically talking about research that shows that the maximalist shoes are bad for you. So again, the debate is a fake debate. There’s research showing that maximalist shoes are bad for you, and there’s not genuine research showing anything about whether minimal shoes are better or worse for you.


There’s actually shoes, research showing they’re not worse for you, but that research hasn’t been done very well, very conclusively with the best design study you could think, of because it would cost millions of dollars. And guess what? The only companies who would benefit from it are those like Xero Shoes, where we don’t have millions of dollars to spend on this. And I have to tell you, this is hearsay, but I know that the big shoe companies know that if that research was done, they would lose. Because I’ve had CEOs from two major footwear brands and a senior vice president of another basically say exactly that to a good friend of mine. So anyway, moving on. For seniors, ultra-cushioned shoes might lead to a different danger, the risk of falling. That’s what happened to my dad six years ago.


Davis hypothesizes, and hypothesizes is a very interesting word to use here, that shoes with an extra thick layer of foam can filter out sensory information, diminishing balance and stability and increasing the likelihood of falls, a significant risk of the health and the largest cause of injury-related deaths in older adults. Hypothesizes is a funny word to use there because, think about it logically. It’s the Princess and the Pea, except that princess could feel the pea no matter how many layers of things you put between her and the pea. But with footwear, the thicker you get the less feedback you get. You’re not using those 200,000 nerve endings in your sole. The stiffer the sole gets, which happens with thickness, the less feedback you get. It’s not a hypothesis, it’s just screamingly obvious. Anyway Dicharry agrees, cushioned high-off-the-ground, maximalist shoes, mute the feedback you’d normally get between transitions and surfaces, especially those that are hard to distinguish visually, such as the transition for wood floor to a beige carpet, and that’s when falls can happen.


What’s more, he emphasizes such shoes are inherently unstable. This is again, almost hiding in here. The debate about maximal and minimal. You may have gathered there’s already more things against maximal than there are against minimal. Thin-sole minimalist shoes are lower with better ground feel, says Davis, it’s been shown that elderly people in minimalist shoes have better balance and coordination. Chuck, another one out for a minimalist footwear. So where does that leave parents and seniors. We have the ability to give our kids more than just one foot wear style says Dicharry. It’ll give more than just footwear style, the opportunity for good biomechanics and a strong and robust skeleton. Putting them in as little shoe cushioning as possible, with a wide toe box for their toes to spread out ensures they build proper coordination and stability for now and later in life.


Here’s a line, if you could go back and make a simple change to your footwear 25 years ago for better functioning now, wouldn’t you change your kicks? We don’t have to go back in time, you can start at any time. Just like research showing how 90 year olds can engage in a strength training program, weightlifting program, and get stronger, you’re never too late to switch, never too late to build up as much strength as you can, starting from where you are. Irene said something like this to me years ago. She said if we just got kids in minimalist footwear, we wouldn’t be treating them as adults for the billions of dollars of problems that adults currently have.


For the elderly, everyone ages and our parts get old. Some people’s feet and ankles move pretty well, others don’t, Dicharry says. If you can’t move properly because of a stiff joint, you may need some specific foot wear to assist in proper movement. That can include a heel lift, wider versus narrower shoe, etcetera are more or less of a rocker soul. So this is a really interesting point. No one is claiming that there’s one thing for every person. In fact, it’s what it says next. That’s why Dicharry believes we can’t say everyone over 65 must be in this one shoe, or the same thing for kids, really. We’re not saying everything. If you have a genetic deformity or a physical deformity for some reason, or there’s some other reason that you need a specific intervention, do it. But what we’re talking about is most people in most situations, and that gets overlooked. This is another thing to close this article by kind of getting into this idea about problematic situations, where he would need another shoe.


It’s leaving a bad taste in people’s mouth. And the reason that’s important is there’s interesting psychological research that shows that the last thing that you hear, the last thing that you learned, the last thing you experienced influences the way you think about everything before that, if you have a crappy last day of a vacation, the whole vacation is going to feel bad in your mind. Even if the first few days were great, conversely, you can have some crappy vacation days and for the last one’s great. You’ll remember the vacation as being better than the average of those crappy days, plus one good day. So that’s somewhat unpleasant to leave it off this way. Jay says, “we can’t say everyone over 65 must be in this one shoe, but because of fall risk is critical that the elderly has some ground feel that awareness and sensation of what’s underfoot. We want to make walking more comfortable and safer because the reality is we want seniors to stay active.”


So kind of a weak ending to the “debate,” I think if we go back and tally it up, minimal won in this situation with a strawman argument, a personal argument, I don’t remember the rest of them, some misrepresenting of reality and put all that together, and chock one up for minimalism. Thank you, Jay Dicharry and Irene Davis for contributing, not only to this article, but to the growing body of evidence about how natural movement is the better obvious, healthy choice, the way we currently think of natural food. I can’t wait to hear your comments by the way, for those of you who are going to comment and tell me, I have a case of cranial rectal reorientation syndrome AKA, I have my head up my butt, please don’t just give me your opinion.


Show me the research. Show me why you believe what you believe, not just that you believe it. And then we can have a conversation because by the way, some of the research “against natural movement, against barefoot,” you got to look at it really closely. And even more, sometimes you have to dive way deeper than what’s printed. For example, there’s research that someone quoted to me not too long ago, that was about how people switching to Vibram FiveFinger shoes got injured. And what was fascinating is if you look more carefully, the injuries were a whole different set of injuries between barefoot versus shod. I think I might’ve mentioned this before, but barefoot injuries were things that are actually adaptations to stress that can make you better. Like a little bit of edema, a little bit of swelling, which happens when you stress your muscles, ligaments, and tendons.


If you do bicep curls, you get edema, you get swelling, you get a pump that lasts for a little while. You can get stress fractures or microfractures in your bones when you put them under stress. That’s the thing that initiates healing that makes your bones stronger over time. So I had a DEXA scan. It’s a low dose x-ray, basically. My bone density from being a sprinter from the hips down, like rocks. That repeated impact is what builds bone density. So they didn’t show the long-term implications of the edema and the microfractures. More, there was a study that said the VO2 max was better in runners in padded shoes than running barefoot, which is interesting because A, it’s a strawman argument. No barefoot runner ever said your VO2 max was better when you’re running barefoot. Besides the barefoot runners in this study, this is where you’d have to call and find out about the study, I said to the person who ran that study, I know the barefoot runners in town. I’m one of them. And neither I, nor anyone I know was in your lab for this study.


So I know the people that you studied, there are runners who do some barefoot training, not habitual, barefoot runners. So not surprisingly, they’re doing something a little unusual for them. And so with a new movement pattern that’s going to probably decrease their VO2 max. But again, no one actually ever said running barefoot would improve your VO2 max, and more importantly, something this same research here conceded later when he did research on these new maximalist shoes, VO2 max doesn’t equate to performance. Maybe a correlation, but it’s not like whoever has the best VO2 max wins, otherwise we’d line people up at the start of a race. We test their VO two max and give out awards. That’s not what we do.


So why are we studying VO2 max? It’s not really that important. So you need to dive into the research more carefully. And I’ve done that over the last 12 years. Many people who try to criticize some of my arguments here have not. And that’s cool, but let’s just try to have an argument about things more than just individual opinions. Because as humans, we like to extrapolate from our own experience. First we’d like to come up with beliefs to justify our experience, and then we like to assume that what we experienced is true for everybody else, and probably not the case. I like to refer people to a to read the, I think by now almost, or even over 40,000 reviews with an average rating of 4.8, and these are not solicited, they’re not edited. So this is people’s actual experience when they switched to Xero Shoes.


I don’t say that anecdotal information equals scientific data, but it is a data point. And you can’t ignore when you have that much anecdotal information from people. So anyway, I hope this article was interesting to you. I hope the conversation about it was useful for you. I can’t wait to hear your comments. You can leave them all the different places that you’ll find this podcast. And if you have any recommendations of people that you want to be on the podcast for when I have conversations with people, rather than just ranting or any other requests, drop an email to me, [email protected] Again, go to the website, to find previous episodes and all the different ways you can engage with the podcast or with us on Instagram and Facebook and YouTube, etcetera, etcetera. And most importantly, regardless of what shoe you’re wearing, regardless about what you think about what I just said, go out, have fun, and live life feet first.



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