Study: Barefoot Running May Improve Perception And Working Memory

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

ThinkBarefootA recent study (pdf) out of the University of North Florida is shedding light on the cognitive effects of running barefoot. Their study, which consisted of 72 fit and healthy students, tested how working memory is affected by running barefoot versus shod.

The results were rather interesting, and support the idea that barefoot running requires more attention and awareness to avoid treading on obstacles. The trial ran over 2 days, and participants performed several running sessions around a track, alternating barefoot and shod. While running they were tasked with trying to step on small targets strewn about the course, while also performing a working memory test (phew!).

The results showed that runners who had completed a barefoot run in an earlier session and were trying to step on the targets in a later session, had higher working memory scores than the the other groups. What this suggests is that running barefoot and trying to pick a particular route, can engage the working memory part of the brain more effectively than in other scenarios.

The paper suggests that this may be a result of increased proprioception from actually feeling the targets, and also from the need to be more aware of the route chosen when running. They go on to suggest that further studies are required, on larger populations, and that testing experienced barefoot runners could provide some more interesting and useful results.

It’s exciting to see creative studies involving barefoot running starting to emerge. This particular study seems to have been reasonably rigorous, well thought out, and conservative in its conclusions. Another small part of the puzzle of what makes barefoot running different from shod running has been revealed, which is great news for our sport.

What do you think of this study? Have you noticed any benefits from making the switch to barefoot? Let us know in the comments!

XeroShoes Umara Z-Trail: Yes, You Do Need Another Pair Of Sandals

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

Z-TrekThe barefoot running community is abuzz with excitement over the launch of the new XeroShoes Umara Z-Trail. But do you really need another pair of sandals? In this case, the answer is definitely a resounding ‘Yes’!

The past few years have given us some tremendous minimal footwear, so excitement over the launch of another sandal may seem surprising. The reason for it, however, is that finally XeroShoes have cracked the code and managed to produce the holy grail of minimal sandals.

Featuring a 3-layer sole that caters for abrasion, flexibility, and comfort, the Umara Z-Trail has all of the important areas covered. Add to this that they’re lightweight, expertly constructed, with a sensible, and very adjustable strapping system, and you have an amazing pair of sandals. Oh, and did I mention that they come with the XeroShoes 5000 miles guarantee?

“But”, you might be saying, “I’ve already got a pair of XeroShoes, why would I need another pair?”.  The answer to this is simple. The Z-Trails are better. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the XeroShoes family are excellent, but they each tend to be best used in one particular area.

For example, XeroShoes’ previous release was the Z-Trek. Like the Z-Trail, it’s a postless sandal that is very light. It differs in that is uses a performance sole, which, although ideal for running, and walking on relatively smooth surfaces, can be unfomfortable after many miles on a rough trail.

Ztrail_new

The case is similar for the Amuri Cloud, which is XeroShoes’ other ‘comfy’ sandal (it also uses a BareFoam layer on the footbed). It’s a very comfortable sandal, but uses a rope-based, huarache tying system. Huaraches are great, and are very adjustable, but the thick straps of the Z-Trail give the wearer just that extra little bit more width to spread out any rubbing.

And of course, we could compare them to other brands, but really, nothing compares in terms of weight and flexibility. Lunas and Shammas are great, but they are much heavier and use a 10+mm sole. Really, the Z-Trails are in a class all their own.

On top of all this, the Z-Trail are a relatively inexpensive sandal, which brings me to my final point. The Z-Trail officially launches today! And thanks to all of the early interest, the price has been reduced during the launch period, so now is an excellent time to grab a pair for yourself.

I would love to hear what you think of these sandals, so please comment back if you decide to buy a pair (or tell us why you didn’t buy them!).

 

 

Vibram’s Lawsuit Settlement: Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Written By Barefoot Dawsy

This past week, my inbox, Twitter account and Facebook feed have been inundated with the same article about how Vibram settled the class-action lawsuit against it, to the tune of $3.75 million.

Honestly, I think that there was a case against them, and that they may have been premature about making claims about injury prevention (check another interesting case for settlement and compensation, cancer-related, at https://mesotheliomaexplained.com/compensation/). However, there is one part of the case which has me fuming, and which is conveniently the core argument of most of the articles I’ve read. Note: I’m not going to link to any of these articles here, but Google “Vibram Class Action” if you haven’t read about the case yet. Otherwise check the similar class action lawsuit info about Xarelto.

What I’m referring to is the now famous Foot Bone Marrow Edema after 10-Week Transition to Minimalist Running Shoes (pdf) study published by the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Every article that I’ve read so far about this issue has held this study up as proof-positive that Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) are the devil’s work, and will cause severe injury to anyone who tries a pair on.

Having actually read the report, I find it surprising that anyone would use it as the basis for an argument, let alone a court case. Though it was carried out by a reputable organisation, with good intentions and, for the most part, careful measurements, in truth, the study falls down in several areas:

  1. Sample Size: There were 36 participants at the start of the study. 10 of these were used as a control group, meaning that only 19 runners were wearing Vibrams. This is a tiny sample size, which could very easily cause statistical anomalies to corrupt the results.
  2. Runner choice: The participants (men and women) were all running 15-30 miles per week for 6 months prior to the study. This shows that each runner was likely quite experienced, and probably used to a particular style of running. Transitioning to a new strike style for this group may have been more likely to cause injury than for runners with different levels of ability, especially beginners.
  3. Unclear Transition Instructions: The study claims to have used the transitioning guidelines published on the Vibram website in 2011 (or 2010, depending on where in the study you look). Unfortunately, these are not described, and not correctly/adequately cited. We don’t know what the guidelines were, so it’s hard to assess if they were followed correctly.
  4. Concurrent Running in Regular Shoes: As per the study, participants in the VFF group were also running most of their mileage wearing regular running shoes. It’s pretty difficult to determine whether or not the use of VFFs is the cause of the reported injuries, or the combination of VFFs and running. Eg it can’t be ruled out that a hybrid transitional period is more detrimental than a cold-turkey approach.
  5. Runner Nationality: From what I can tell, the participants in this study were all Haitians, and I assume the study took place in Haiti. There don’t appear to be any concessions made to the runners’ nationalities. The study cannot conclusively show that the injuries demonstrated are not exclusive to the Haitian population. Unlikely, sure, but there are significant differences in diet, fitness levels, environment between Haiti, and America or Australia.
  6. Uncooperative Participants: The participants of the study were required to record their progress in a journal, detailing their mileage in and out of VFFs. However, as the study states, “this did not happen for the majority of subjects“. A study is not a study when the subjects are not adequately supervised or their progress recorded. There have been several studies in the past that have made this same error, and IMHO it completely invalidates the research being performed.

What really worries me though is not the study so much as the media/blogosphere beatup that ensued. The study concludes with:

Thus, to minimize the risk of bone stress injury, runners who want to run in VFF should transition over a longer duration than 10 weeks and at a lower intensity (miles per week) than the subjects in this study

That seems to me a fair conclusion given the results of the study. Note that it is not said that VFFs are inherently dangerous or that running in them will always cause injury. As Vibram and countless others have done, the study recommends patience and prudence, building up mileage slowly and not pushing too hard. Sound familiar?

Studying running, and especially, it would seem, barefoot running, is tricky work. There are thousands of variables to be taken into consideration. There are ways of going about it, but unfortunately, this requires money, time, and willing participants, all of which seem sorely lacking.

What we need to do in the meantime, however, is look past the sensationalist claims of both sides of the argument, and do our best to make sensible choices. The jury’s still well and truly out on the barefoot/minimalist vs Big Shoe (you like that? I just made it up), so until we get at least 1 decent study (please!), we’re left to work it out for ourselves.

Ultimately, when making any major change in life, it’s important to do your homework, tread carefully and take responsibility for your actions. Anyone that’s taken up barefoot/minimal running since 2009 has no excuse for not educating themselves and learning about the risks of transitioning, which have been widely cautioned against.

So remember, take your time, listen to your body, and learn your limits. Switching from bulky sneakers to minimal shoes or barefoot is a big adjustment that shouldn’t be treated lightly. We’ve spent years getting accustomed to running around with marshmallows on our feet, and for most people it will take a long time to fix that.

Xeroshoes Amuri Cloud Launches Today

Video

Well, today’s the day!

As many of you who follow my Twitter and/or Facebook accounts may already know, Xeroshoes have been hinting at the release of a brand new shoe. After much speculation, it’s finally been released, and is on sale now.

It’s called the Amuri Cloud, and is a thinner, lighter, prettier version of the Sensori Venture (now renamed as the ‘Amuri’ Venture).

Have a look at the launch video and tell me these don’t look fantastic:

I can’t wait to review them! (shoes are on their way, so watch this space)

In the meantime, if you’re quick, you can grab a pair at 20% off by following this link

Just a heads-up: Beginning Barefoot is a Xeroshoes affiliate, but we’d still link to these shoes even if we weren’t! Don’t worry, it won’t cost you any more, and buy via our site helps keep the great barefoot running articles coming!

The Barefoot Running Society is back

Written by Barefoot Dawsy

Today, instead of a full post, I thought I might share some exciting news: After what seems like ages, the new Barefoot Runners Society website is finally up!

The transition to a new platform and look has been coming for a long time, and this process was made longer by a few legal issues that arose between some of the founding members. Finally though, we can see the fruits of all the hard work that TJ and the team have done!

So, why not wander over there today, have a poke around and make a few barefoot friends while you’re at it?