How to Avoid Injury Guide + My Stress Fracture Horror Story!

After seeing a quite few injury posts recently, I have decided to share my injury story with all of you with the hope that newcomers will understand the importance of not doing too much too soon or over training.I would like to start by saying that I absolutely love minimalist shoes, I started wearing them in the summer of 2010 and I will be wearing them for the rest of my life whenever it is possible to wear them.Over the past two years I have acquired Black Kso's, Brown Treks, 2 pairs of Komodo Sports, Trek Ls, Invisible Shoes Huaraches, Merrell Trail Gloves, and two pairs of NB Minimus Trails.I have also ordered some Seeya's and I'm currently awaiting their arrival.

Horror Story: My first pair of minimalist shoes were black Kso's, and from the second I first put them on I would wear them day or night, in the rain or sunshine. I had been taking boxing, kickboxing, and krav maga classes 6 days per week for about three months when I started wearing the shoes. I began wearing them to every one of these classes as soon as I got them. That was my first big mistake, I should have only worn them once or twice per week to class when I first got them, but I enjoyed wearing them so much that I couldn't help myself. I was able to do this for about two months with a lot of soreness, but never any sharp or lingering tendon pain. After about two months I decided that I wanted to add a running routine as well. I didn't practice good form and I didn't follow any specific training schedule. I would just go out and run as far as i could, which was usually 2-3 miles, whenever I felt like it. Sometimes this was twice a week, sometimes this was 4 days in a row, and the whole time I was still doing 12-15 hours a week, of martial arts training every day except Saturday's.

My running form was laughable. I knew that you were supposed to forefoot strike, and I had heard that "Heel Striking" was bad.So what I would do is this: I would never allow my heel to touch the ground, and I would treat every stride like it was a calf raise pushing off the ground with a huge smile on my face because of the great calf workout that I thought I was getting. After a few weeks, I jumped right into an actual running routine where I would run 5 days per week 1-3 miles. About three weeks into this new running routine, I started getting pain in the lower half of the inside of my calves/shin bones. I assumed that i had bruised that area in kickboxing since that is around the same area where a Muay Thai roundhouse kick makes contact, the lower portion of the inside of the shin bone, and I didn't think anything of it. I continued to train 6 days per week, and run 5 days per week. As the weeks progressed, the pain started getting worse and worse. When I was doing my martial arts classes the weight bearing/kicking exercises were killing me, and after a run it would hurt to walk. I started icing my shins, taking Ibuprofen a few times a day, wrapping my shins with a compression bandage, and I continued to train. No pain no gain, right?

Wrong! Finally after a few months of pain and trying everything I could, besides stopping all activities, I could barely walk. I went to my doctor and I was diagnosed with Posterior Tibial Stress Fractures in both of my legs. He said all I could do to heal them was to stop all activity, rest, ice, compress, and elevate my legs for as long as I could each day, and take NSAID's to bring down the swelling for the first week. I was told to do this for 6-8 weeks. I did this for 8 weeks, and it was torture. I had to stop going to my martial arts classes which was my entire life, and I couldn't do any type of training so I just sat around all day doing nothing and being miserable. When 8 weeks were up I jumped at the opportunity to start training again. I started my running routine over and I did two long hikes the first week. Everything was great for about 1 week. Then all of the pain returned and I was back in the doctors office. The stress fractures had returned and I was told again to stop all activity, rest, ice, compress, and elevate my legs for as long as I could each day, and take NSAID's to bring down the swelling for the first week. Do this for another 6-8 weeks. At this point I was totally crushed I felt like all I wanted in the world was to be able to work out again and run, and I had no idea how long this would take to heal. My best friend was getting out of the army and coming home in two months, so I replaced exercise with working more, tv, reading, and eating. When my friend came back I was so excited to get to start training again with him with my new legs. We started working out together, and we played basketball every day. It was a blast, but after a few weeks of playing basketball the sharp never ending pain came back, and I decided that I wasn't going to try any kind of high impact exercise for several months so I would never have to be disappointed by my injury coming back when I returned to training. I did no exercise besides an occasional slow hike once or twice per month. After 6 months, In September of 2011, I finally felt confident that I would be able to run again. I bought some Huarache sandals from Invisible shoes, and I started running 1 mile 3x per week. 2 1/2 weeks later the same pain started returning in the bone after each run and I stopped immediately. I had stopped exercising for 10 months, almost an entire year, in this time I had gone from being lean at 6'1 165 pounds, to weighing 202 pounds. I was fat, depressed, and I thought I would never be able to run again.

For the first time I decided that I wasn't going to focus on trying to be able to run again, I was going to get back in shape by working out at the gym, I would do cardio on my bike, or on the elliptical machine, and I would start eating healthy. After 4 months of working out at the gym and doing 3-5 days per week of low impact cardio on either my bike, or the elliptical machine, I am now down to 175 pounds. I am back to being lean and I am more muscular than ever. The weight training, and healthy eating has increased my bone density, and the 4 months of strengthening my legs without exposing them to high impact has made them stronger and healthier. I have had a lot of time to reflect on how I was training, and what I need to do in the future to avoid getting injured again. As a kind of new years resolution for 2012 I have decided to try running again. I did a couple weeks of research on barefoot running form, and I followed Barefootrunninguniversity.com's routine for running barefoot without injury which included running in place barefoot on concrete for two weeks to practice form before you try any running, which I actually upped to 3 weeks. Then when I was able to run in place 2x per day for 3:00, I started out with 1/8 of a mile slow jog, and over the past two weeks I have been upping my mileage by 1/8 of a mile per run, 2-3 runs per week. I have gone two weeks with no pain, and when I'm running I feel ridiculously light on my feet and I am confident that I will not be injured again.

Some of you may look at this and think "Of course he got injured, he did everything wrong!" And you would be right. But I am not the kind of person who has always suffered with injuries throughout my life. In fact, I have always been the type of person who could just jump into any kind of athletic routine/activity as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted, without a second thought. But this time i took it too far: I did too much too soon, I was over training my body, I was using improper form while running in minimalist shoes, and I wasn't getting enough sleep or eating healthy. These are the 5 things that will lead to you getting injured while barefoot running: Too Much Too Soon, Over training, Improper form, Not Getting Enough Sleep to Recover, and Not Getting Proper Nutrients From Your Diet. I am going to go into more detail on what each of these things entails.

R.I.C.E: Muscle soreness is completely normal when transitioning into minimalist shoes, but constant inflammation and pain in the tendons and connective tissue of your lower legs is not a good thing. If you are experiencing any kind of new tendon pain that doesn't go away within 3-4 days, you need to take a week off and rest in order to avoid a more serious injury that can set you back months. A great preventative measure for inflammation is R.I.C.E which stands for Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. This means you should rest your injured body part, ice it for 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off for at least 20 minutes after running, or 3-5 times per day while recovering from tendon pain, and elevate your leg and compress it with an ace bandage or some sort of brace while you are resting.

Too Much Too Soon: If you are already a runner, and you decide to start running barefoot or in minimalist shoes, so you just strap on some VFF's and continue your regular training routine this is doing way too much too soon. You should treat this as a completely new activity and you need to build up your foot, calf, and tendon strength which takes months of training specifically for barefoot running. Another example is a person who has never been a runner, but starts wearing minimalist shoes and decides that he/she wants to begin a running routine. You can't just go out there and run a few miles right at the beginning. Well you CAN, but your chances of ending up like me are very high. You need to go to Barefootrunninguniversity.com and try their running routine, or look around on the web for another barefoot running guide. Any routine that has running a mile or two at the start of it, or that increased mileage by more than 10% per week is not a good routine and it will get you injured.

Improper Form: Even if you find a good training schedule, and you don't do too much too soon, if you are running with improper form, you will still most likely suffer injuries. Proper form has a few key elements: Land on the outer portion of the midfoot and then roll your foot towards your big toe. When I started running I would land solely on the inside of my forefoot, and this puts unnecessary stress on the Soleus muscle of your calf, and the Posterior Tibial area of your shin bone which is where I got my stress fractures.However, you want your heel to make contact with the ground, it shouldn't land first and take all the force like a "Heel Strike," but you should be landing with your feet relatively flat and your heel will make contact every step. If you avoid touching your heel to the ground like i used to, this will put tons of unnecessary pressure on your lower calf/Achilles/tendons and will lead to an injury. Next: your feet should be landing underneath your hips and you should strive for a cadence of 180 steps per minute or higher. The song "Hey Ya" by Outkast is a great example of a 180 bbm song. Your steps should be light, and you need to concentrate on lifting your feet after you make contact. Focus and think about staying relaxed while lifting your feet after every step. Your feet should kick back quite a bit while you run, not all the way up to your butt, but they should form about a 90 degree angle behind you at their maximum height while you are running. This will help you to focus on lifting your feet. But you must land light on your feet, this is the most important factor to avoid injury. Proper form will not happen over night, or even in one month. I have been practicing my form on a daily basis for over a month and I am not even close to being perfect yet, but I am 100 times better than I used to be. The best way I found to learn proper form was what Jason from Barefootrunninguniversity.com suggested, which is to run in place starting with 15 seconds twice per day, and increase your run time by 15 seconds per day for 2-3 weeks until you build up to being able to run in place for 3 minutes twice per day without any pain or discomfort. If you feel any sharp pain, take a day or two off, use R.I.C.E and pick up from where you left off. The next step is to start a running routine of 2-3 days per week with at least 1 day off in between runs. I would recommend at least two days off between runs for the first month. You start running 1/8 of a mile, and you increase your run's by 1/8 of a mile every run. Eventually you will get to the point where you can increase it by more than 1/8 of a mile and still be under a 10% increase per week, but until then, stick to 1/8 of a mile increase per run.

Over Training/Getting Enough Sleep: If you want to avoid over training you must give your body enough time to recover from your workout. Over Training will not only injure you, but if you are over training while working out you will lose muscle, and reverse progress. Over training of any kind can also lead to you feeling lethargic, or unmotivated to workout over time. This is because your body is trying to tell you that it needs more rest. Another key component that I don't think people talk about enough is getting enough sleep. In my opinion this is the most important part of preventing injuries in any kind of activity, and it is also one of the things people ignore most often. I know I used to sacrifice sleep if i needed to do homework, or if i just wanted to have more time to browse forums after a long day of busy activities, it is not worth it! The absolute minimum amount of sleep required is 6-8 hours of sleep per night, but everyone is different. The best way to know if you are getting enough sleep is to go to bed early and wake up on your own without an alarm, if this is not an option, aim for at least 8 hours. Sometimes it is impossible to get 8 hours of sleep, if you can only get 6 hours one night, then either take a 2 hour nap at some point during the day if you can, or get an extra two hours of sleep the next night to make up for it. Your body does 90% of it's healing/maintenance while you sleep. If you are cutting this short, you are limiting your gains from your exercise, and you are increasing your chance of over training/ getting injured. If are starting a running routine take at least 1-2 days rest between runs; aim for something like Monday, Wednesday, Friday if you are doing 3x per week. Or Monday/Thursday if you are doing 2x Per week. Once you have been running consistently for 6+ months while following a slowly increasing training routine you can work your way up to 4-5 days per week training if necessary, but a lot of people have had plenty of success running 3x per week.

Not Getting Enough Nutrients From Your Diet: This aspect of training is ignored even more than getting enough sleep, and it can play a key role in your progress, and injury prevention. You need to make sure you are getting enough, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium if you want your bones/ligaments to stay as healthy as possible. Eat lots of bananas, avocados, nuts, oranges, and fresh organic vegetables. Drink a glass or two of nonfat or 1% milk every day if you can, and make sure to eat at least a couple cups of vegetables most days.And eating an Iceberg lettuce salad with 1/4 of a tomato, 25 croutons, and a gallon of ranch dressing isn't what i'm talking about. Eat fresh leafy greens whenever possible. What I found to be the easiest is to just buy a bag of frozen mixed organic vegetables at Costco. They sell this big bag with Soybeans, Peas, Carrots, Corn, and green beans. The huge bag is $5 and will last you a few weeks. I just put a cup or two in a bowl, add a little salt and pepper, and microvave it for 3 minutes, stir it once in the middle. Bam it's quick, easy, and healthy. I used to hate vegetables with a passion. I was raised on a diet of cheese, milk, cereal, cheez-its, chips, butter, and bread, but I forced myself to eat them over the past 5 months and now I really enjoy them. Start out eating them just 1/2 cup at a time and slowly increase to being able to eat more. Cut out the processed junk foods, filled with trans fats, and simple sugars, and replace them with avocados, nuts, and complex carbs like oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, fruits and vegetables. If you can control the amount of simple sugars you eat, you will balance your insulin levels which will improve your mood drastically, and, since insulin is directly related to fat storage, keeping your insulin levels from going way up and way down will cause your body to store less fat. I promise that you will feel so much better, both physically, and mentally if you start eating more healthy. And above all else, eating healthy will help you to maximize your recovery, gains, and progress from your workouts.

This is the running routine that I am currently using and that I highly recommend: http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/barefoot-running/

Hopefully this post will help some newcomers who didn't realize how seriously you could be injured in minimalist shoes. They are great, and it is not the shoes that are doing any damage, but if you do too much too soon, use improper form, over train your body, don't get enough sleep, don't eat right, and don't take a break and use R.I.C.E when you start feeling lingering tendon pain, then you can really hurt yourself. I have experienced, first hand, the excitement and fanaticism associated with minimalist shoes, and barefoot running. It is so tempting to just go nuts and do whatever activities you want, as much as you want when you first start training. But I have gone through the most painful and miserable experience of my life because of my lack of knowledge and inability to stick to the basics and follow these guidelines. I could have been in much better shape, and could have been able to run marathons by now if i hadn't have gotten so severely injured. Instead I am much worse off then I was before I started wearing minimalist shoes. If you follow these guidelines, anything is possible and you won't get injured, i wish I could go back in time and show myself this post, but I have learned a good life lesson in moderation and I am treating it as a good learning experience which will hopefully save some people from making the same mistakes I did. Good luck to everyone, and have fun the right way.

-Vibramsoul

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Comments

  • I picked up on a guide that instructs a minimalist conversion.  It starts with 5 min. walking and 1min. jogging 6 reps for a total of 30 min. for the first week three times a week.  So that is 5 min of jogging and I cover about 3/8 of a mile jogging and 1.5 miles total.  Then it increases to 2 min. running and 4 min. walking but you only do this 4 reps 3 days a week.  I did not make that progression.  I made a modest increase of 1.10 min., 1.15 min., 1.25 min. and 1.30 min.of jogging and still 5 min of walking for my second week.  So in total I'm still only jogging for 5.20 min out of a 30 min. period.  Which I would say that I'm covering any where from 1.5 miles to 1.75 miles total and only 1/4 to 1/2 mile of jogging with high emphasis on form over speed.  I'm also repeating each weeks exercise twice instead of once.  So I will be starting my second rep of "week 2" on week 4 actual tomorrow.  I hope this isn't completely confusing.

    I grew up an active athlete and I'm trying to get back in shape.  Soccer and cross country among other sports. I have always had good running form but I recently jumped on the minimalist wagon.  So I want to take it slow.  My fiance is doing this with me and she has never tried a running routine before.  If I do any other activities I wear my regular nikes and I've stopped wearing my minimalist shoes everywhere.  However, I'm still worried that I may be moving too fast at this. 

    What do you guys think.  Is this routine too much or too fast for me or my fiance?  Any suggestions?
  • on 1329081805:

    I picked up on a guide that instructs a minimalist conversion.  It starts with 5 min. walking and 1min. jogging 6 reps for a total of 30 min. for the first week three times a week.  So that is 5 min of jogging and I cover about 3/8 of a mile jogging and 1.5 miles total.  Then it increases to 2 min. running and 4 min. walking but you only do this 4 reps 3 days a week.  I did not make that progression.  I made a modest increase of 1.10 min., 1.15 min., 1.25 min. and 1.30 min.of jogging and still 5 min of walking for my second week.  So in total I'm still only jogging for 5.20 min out of a 30 min. period.  Which I would say that I'm covering any where from 1.5 miles to 1.75 miles total and only 1/4 to 1/2 mile of jogging with high emphasis on form over speed.   I'm also repeating each weeks exercise twice instead of once.  So I will be starting my second rep of "week 2" on week 4 actual tomorrow.  I hope this isn't completely confusing.

    I grew up an active athlete and I'm trying to get back in shape.  Soccer and cross country among other sports. I have always had good running form but I recently jumped on the minimalist wagon.  So I want to take it slow.  My fiance is doing this with me and she has never tried a running routine before.  If I do any other activities I wear my regular nikes and I've stopped wearing my minimalist shoes everywhere.  However, I'm still worried that I may be moving too fast at this. 

    What do you guys think.  Is this routine too much or too fast for me or my fiance?  Any suggestions?


    This sounds like it may work for someone who is already a runner and is just trying to switch into minimalist shoes. For your fiance who has never tried a running routine before i think this is way too fast. 5 minutes walking and 1 minute jogging for 30 minutes ends up being 5 minutes of jogging and 25 minutes of walking on your first day. This is way too much for someone who has never tried running and especially someone who is new to minimalist shoes. The routine I recommend from Barefootrunninguniversity, here's the link: http://barefootrunninguniversity.com/barefoot-running/  has you start out with two weeks of casually walking in minimalist shoes during your daily activities, and walking barefoot around the house before you even start trying to do anything. Then after that you do two weeks of jogging in place barefoot starting with only 15 seconds of jogging twice per day. So to jump right in to running for 5 minutes and walking for 25 minutes three times per week is asking for an injury. I would suggest that both of you try the routine that I linked. It may take you a few extra weeks to start running, but your form will improve drastically and you will remove almost all risk of injury. Hope that helps - Vibramsoul
  • Thank you very much for this interesting write-up.
  • Thank you for the helpful info.  We are going to start over today.  We've had the shoes for well over a month and she wears them every where so she has alot of (short time/distance) casual walking experience.  Also, she only wears shoes when necessary.  However, she never goes barefoot.  She tends to wear sandals/slippers/flipflops around the house and everywhere. (until vff's)  She wears the cheap thin soled, non-name brand flipflops.  I'm thinking that she is more accostomed to barefoot activity than I am.  So today we are going to start with some walking/jogging in place for form and then go walk at the track/park depending on weather for about 15-20 min.  I plan to continue that 3 days a week for about two weeks and then progress into running.  Also, so far she hasn't felt or complained about any pain.  We are gonna start doing balance and stability exercises along with foam roller massage techniques.  If anyone sees anything wrong with this approach please give me your feed back.  I want to take this very seriously and avoid pain/injury at all costs.
  • on 1329151403:

    Thank you for the helpful info.  We are going to start over today.  We've had the shoes for well over a month and she wears them every where so she has alot of (short time/distance) casual walking experience.  Also, she only wears shoes when necessary.  However, she never goes barefoot.  She tends to wear sandals/slippers/flipflops around the house and everywhere. (until vff's)  She wears the cheap thin soled, non-name brand flipflops.  I'm thinking that she is more accostomed to barefoot activity than I am.  So today we are going to start with some walking/jogging in place for form and then go walk at the track/park depending on weather for about 15-20 min.  I plan to continue that 3 days a week for about two weeks and then progress into running.  Also, so far she hasn't felt or complained about any pain.  We are gonna start doing balance and stability exercises along with foam roller massage techniques.  If anyone sees anything wrong with this approach please give me your feed back.  I want to take this very seriously and avoid pain/injury at all costs.


    That sounds like a good plan. I would suggest playing music that is 180 bbm while you jog in place so you can establish some muscle memory for your cadence speed. When you jog in place you should be leaning forward slightly and try to focus mostly on keeping your lower legs/feet relaxed, staying light on your feet, and picking up your feet quickly after you land. You should feel a slight muscle burning sensation in the outside portion of your lower legs, your hip flexors, and your hamstrings once you start jogging for a minute or two if you are doing it correctly. Remember to take a day or two off if any pain other than slight muscle soreness develops. Good luck to you and your fiance!
  • on 1329131523:

    Thank you very much for this interesting write-up.


    You're very welcome, I'm glad you liked it.
  • An enormous thanks for sharing your story. It spoke to me vividly with images of my future injuries if I don't slow down and eat my veggies.
  • on 1329174727:

    An enormous thanks for sharing your story. It spoke to me vividly with images of my future injuries if I don't slow down and eat my veggies.



    That's what I was hoping for :)
  • Good article.

    Here's my thought lately...

    Having to take 6-8 weeks off should be viewed as a good thing, just part of training, and not a step backwards or torture. Use the time to focus on other areas like diet, reading, rest, etc.

    An injury due to overtraining is your bodies'(?) way of saying take a break...just my way of dealing mentally with the couple times I've had to take a rest (due to foot pain...not a real stress fracture like I thought).
  • on 1329335595:

    Good article.

    Here's my thought lately...

    Having to take 6-8 weeks off should be viewed as a good thing, just part of training, and not a step backwards or torture. Use the time to focus on other areas like diet, reading, rest, etc.

    An injury due to overtraining is your bodies'(?) way of saying take a break...just my way of dealing mentally with the couple times I've had to take a rest (due to foot pain...not a real stress fracture like I thought).



    Having to wait 14 months is not a good thing. Even having to take 6-8 weeks off is way too long to be considered "Just a part of training." That's the amount of time it takes to heal a broken leg. I can understand needing to take a few days off or a week off in order to let your body heal up, but we should all try to avoid getting injured in the first place. But yes, if you do get injured, you should take the time to reflect on what you did wrong, and try to figure out how you can improve your training method in a way that will prevent that injury, or any other injuries, from slowing you down in the future.
  • on 1329387084:

    on 1329335595:

    Good article.

    Here's my thought lately...

    Having to take 6-8 weeks off should be viewed as a good thing, just part of training, and not a step backwards or torture. Use the time to focus on other areas like diet, reading, rest, etc.

    An injury due to overtraining is your bodies'(?) way of saying take a break...just my way of dealing mentally with the couple times I've had to take a rest (due to foot pain...not a real stress fracture like I thought).



    Having to wait 14 months is not a good thing. Even having to take 6-8 weeks off is way too long to be considered "Just a part of training." That's the amount of time it takes to heal a broken leg. I can understand needing to take a few days off or a week off in order to let your body heal up, but we should all try to avoid getting injured in the first place. But yes, if you do get injured, you should take the time to reflect on what you did wrong, and try to figure out how you can improve your training method in a way that will prevent that injury, or any other injuries, from slowing you down in the future.


    Thanks for your story.  I can relate to a lot of it.  I, too, overdid it to the Nth degree when I first got vibrams and ended up hurt for a long time.  And I agree that 6-8 weeks off is NOT part of training or a good thing.  You should never need more than a couple of days off unless you just feel like it or you've done something really wrong.

    This whole transitioning thing is still an art, not a science, and it takes an enormous amount of patience.
  • Just finishing my 4th week of my running routine and I still haven't experienced any pain or discomfort. I have made it over the hump and I am looking forward to being able to run even more in the weeks to come.
  • on 1329004223:
    Your feet should kick back quite a bit while you run, not all the way up to your butt, but they should form about a 90 degree angle behind you at their maximum height while you are running.


    Nope. You should not be back kicking, or allowing your foot trail way behind. The more you allow your foot to trail behind, the more out of balance your form will be. This is because the trailing foot will cause a imbalance that requires you to over lean your upper body to compensate. In addition, if your foot is trailing behind, then this means your foot pull is late. A late foot pull means you are on support for too long and lose a lot of efficiency. A late pull also results in the complete loss of the energy returning mechanism of ground force reaction. Lastly, if you allow your leg to kick back far enough to form 90 degrees, you'll never be able to hit your cadence of 180. It's simply too much range of motion to cover in a short amount of time.
  • I think it's funny (and quite arbitrary) that people think there is a way ALL of us "should" run.  I'll agree that if you're running barefoot or in very ultraminimalist shoes then yes, you probably need to be as efficient as possible to avoid injury. 

    Just go to any running event anywhere and you'll find folks with all kinds of crazy form, all types of shoes (or no shoes) and by and large everybody gets by.  I know injuries occur but that's running; it's tough on the body no matter how you run; the effects are cumulative.  Depending on how you run you'll be more susceptible to one type of injury over another which is why all this talk about "good form" makes me sort of chuckle. 

    I think our form changes depending on the terrain, duration of the run, etc...  and our amazing human body has the ability to adapt to these changes.  It's for this reason why, really, we can wear just about anything we want on our feet and not get injured as long as our bodies adapt. 

    I think it's more about how many miles you've put in your legs than what's on your feet that really makes all the difference.
  • on 1330523173:

    I think it's funny (and quite arbitrary) that people think there is a way ALL of us "should" run.  I'll agree that if you're running barefoot or in very ultraminimalist shoes then yes, you probably need to be as efficient as possible to avoid injury. 

    Just go to any running event anywhere and you'll find folks with all kinds of crazy form, all types of shoes (or no shoes) and by and large everybody gets by.  I know injuries occur but that's running; it's tough on the body no matter how you run; the effects are cumulative.  Depending on how you run you'll be more susceptible to one type of injury over another which is why all this talk about "good form" makes me sort of chuckle. 

    I think our form changes depending on the terrain, duration of the run, etc...  and our amazing human body has the ability to adapt to these changes.  It's for this reason why, really, we can wear just about anything we want on our feet and not get injured as long as our bodies adapt. 

    I think it's more about how many miles you've put in your legs than what's on your feet that really makes all the difference.


    This statement is both true and false.  I tend to think of it like a baseball swign and stance.  If you look around the MLB there are 200 different stances and swing styles but at the core of every good swing there are a few key points... load, foot down, level head, level bat through the zone, palm up/palm down and at the moment of impact every swing is nearly identical.

    Running is much the same.  There are three or four well publicized bareoot running style, but the truth is, the most effective runners are all near identical in certain aspects.  landing, cadence, stride, and body lean.

    Yes you run differently based on different terrains, but (in sticking with the baseball analogy) thats the difference between fastball and curveball.  But as far as running any way we want and letting our bodies adapt, that's not really true.  Muscles adapt, bones and joints don't.  You may be able to tolerate heel striking for a while, but it is not sustainable.  You can't say all running styles work based on what you see at the local park or local race.  Look to the elite's and you will see they all run similar if not identical.  I've witnessed a little leaguer take a huge step, lunge at the ball, and swing with his hands in the wrong position (bottom hand on top and vice versa).  Just because he got a hit does not mean it is an effective style or sustainable when competition becomes better.

    I agree with your last statement except that the core basics of form is far more important than how many miles you have logged or what you have on your feet.
  • The thing is, current shoe technologies LET us adapt to an extent.  I know plenty of career heel strikers that are still going strong.  Obviously the outliers; huge breaks in form, will be more injury prone and that isn't just heel strikers; it could be forefoot strikers, excessive pronators, etc...  But just to say heel striking = bad, midfoot striking = good is deceptive at best.  I think that as long as you're not excessively overstriding then it doesn't matter too much where the first point of contact underfoot is. 

    Sure it's easy to maintain "good form" on a short run and for perhaps 90% of folks that's enough.  But the longer you go the more likely your form is going to drift and you'll end up overstriding, heel striking etc... (I know I do!)  Just watch people in a marathon to witness this.  This is why I refuse to believe there is any particular one "good form" or that just because your form changes it's necessarily a bad thing or that you WILL get injured.  That's total BS.  I've been running long enough, a lot of long miles to know that the human body can sustain a lot of abuse and punishment and still persevere. 

    It's been too easy these days since the publishing of "the book" to criticize the traditional shoe companies for promoting "poor form" and unnecessary shoe technology.  However, the thing is while "the book" might have made a splash with a lot of new runners (and perhaps a few vets), for the most part, the vast majority, continue to run in what they've always run in and had the problems they've always had or have continued to run blissfully unaware that here is some ideal "good form".  That's the power of the shoe technology.  I'm not saying it's necessarily a good or bad thing.  I'm just saying breaking down running into simple analogies such as baseball or others is far too simplistic. 
  • I suppose we agree to disagree.  I don't see coincidence in rising injury rate since shoes started promoting heel striking.  But I will give in that more recreational runners means the more probability of injury.  I watched the marathoners competing for their spot in the olympics last month and I can tell you that watching them over the course of an hour and a half, all that led both the men's and women's group had the "proper" form we all speak about and I never once witnessed a misstep or a heel strike.

  • Right, but those are the "best of the best".  These folks have probably run 40k miles over the past 8 years (something I heard in the pre-race commentary); they were primed, trained and peaked for that day; that race!  But I promise you that if they'd showed some of the rest of the field at the Trials, not just the front runners, you'd see plenty of breaks in form and they're still running super fast.  I don't have the references, but I thought I read some study that videoed the finishers at some big, elite marathon somewhere and found that a lot of the elite guys were heel striking at the end.

    I think it's only natural.  When you're racing and tire you have two options to maintain your pace: Either quicken your cadence (very tough) or you overstride (easier). So what you see is folks starting to overstride in order to maintain pace or accelerate at the end.  I know I do this too, it's natural and I don't believe it's a bad thing.  Maybe it it's not what our ancestors did barefoot or in moccasins or huaraches but who cares?  Sometimes going back to "our roots" isn't the way forward for all things; all approaches.

    I do agree with more recreational runners we see the rise in more injuries but that's true in anything; the larger the crowd the more likely somebody there is going to die of a heart attack; it's just statistics.  For every runner who's getting injured by running in a traditional running shoe I'm sure you could find somebody else who's injured from TMTS syndrome wearing VFFs or other super minimal shoes (perhaps more).
  • That was my point about the professional baseball players and hitting.  Yes there are other methods of getting the job done, but you shouldn't try to emulate that style or try and go out to prove you can be the exception.  If the best of the best get things done a certain way and they ALL do it, well that is waht you want to emulate.

    Like the saying goes.  The exception proves the rule.
  • I agree that "good form" is important and probably in the long run (no pun intended) will lead to fewer injuries and set backs that say the "outliers" in the sport.  However what is meant by "good form" I don't necessarily 100% agree with; seen far too much variety to say "this is absolutely the way you MUST try to run."  Thankfully we do have a lot of shoe technology out there to cover everybody; those with good form and those who need some help; the "outliers".
  • Not quite sure I follow your logic in this thread. I think it is a difference of reference points. You see what is generally considered 'good form' as something you have to learn or force to do. Where I come from it is more common to leave shoes at the door and be barefoot at home. My kids usually wear sandals (like Crocs) until they are of school age where they start wearing shoes consistently. My toddler just started school so he hasn't been in shoes for an extended period of time. I look at him (and in fact most kids) run and I am amazed how much they are following what is taught by the Evolution, Chi and Pose method. They obviously have not been taught those methods or even know anything about it. So why do they seem to know how to do things like lean, forefoot striking, short stride and cadence (well that one could just be that they have really short legs)?
    I realized looking at them that we actually had to "learn" what is generally considered "bad form" .. ie heel striking, overstriding etc. I am basically trying to unlearn bad form and relearn good form again but I would much rather not have learnt the unnatural form in the first place.
    I agree that technology is there to assist us to accomplish some task but we can run with good form regardless of what shoes (or none) we are in. I don't think we should go round tabooing technology .. they are of immense help to us. But I would like not to have to depend on technology to be the ONLY way I can accomplish a task. I could get from A to B in a car or roller blades (adding wheels to shoes is technology right?) but that sort of defeats the purpose of running doesn't it. This brings to mind the movie Wall-E .. where humans escaped a polluted Earth into spaceships where there are floating chairs that let people lounge in them and they bring you everywhere. But after generations of depending on these floating chairs .. the people have pretty much forgotten how to even walk.
    In any case, I have had more fun running the right way than before. I am not struggling to run by running with midfoot strike and bent knees etc. In fact I frequently forget myself and do TOO much having just started. I was struggling to finish 1.5 miles before and now I routinely do twice that amount .. because I don't even realize I have gone that far.
    I follow the guidelines of good running and it seems to help me be more efficient and consequently allow me to do more of something I enjoy .. running.

    on 1330528753:

    I agree that "good form" is important and probably in the long run (no pun intended) will lead to fewer injuries and set backs that say the "outliers" in the sport.  However what is meant by "good form" I don't necessarily 100% agree with; seen far too much variety to say "this is absolutely the way you MUST try to run."  Thankfully we do have a lot of shoe technology out there to cover everybody; those with good form and those who need some help; the "outliers".
  • It is true that everyone has their own style of running. What I wrote is not different than what the original poster wrote in regards to specifying a particular form to everyone. Where what I wrote differs is in my description there are irrefutable facts based in physics and human anatomy.

    1.) It is a fact that it takes more time for a limb to swing through a longer range of motion than a short range of motion given the same muscular effort. Thus my warning about long kick backs making it much more difficult to obtain a high cadence. In addition, it takes fewer resources (oxygen, ATP, etc.) to move a limb a short distance than a long distance so efficiency is higher.

    2.) It is a fact that an extended and elongated limb position has a leverage disadvantage compared to a compact and shortened limb position. Long and extended is weak and slow, short and compact is quick and powerful. Tell anybody to get into an athletic position and they will instinctly position their selves into a slightly recoiled stance. Hold a 15 pound weight extended out in front of your chest and see how long it takes for your arm to fatigue. Next hold the same weight only 1 inch away from your chest. The leverage advantage of the compacted arm position will instantly be obvious. Not only is there less of a leverage disadvantage, more muscle groups can get involved to spread the load.

    It took me over a year to unlearn bad running form from years in “normal” running shoes. Going to minimalist shoes was not enough to bring forth good running form. I got professionally trained in Pose Method. I’m not here to pimp for the Pose Method, but once you take into account the obviousness of the truth in the two facts above, you do end up with something that looks a lot like Pose Method. I’m all for people having their own personal style and form. However, advocating a long back kick is just wrong.
  • on 1330602774:

    1.) It is a fact that it takes more time for a limb to swing through a longer range of motion than a short range of motion given the same muscular effort.

    2.) It is a fact that an extended and elongated limb position has a leverage disadvantage compared to a compact and shortened limb position.


    You've just described the "ultra shuffle".  Watch just about any ultra distance runners; eventually this is the running mechanics that you see.  Why? Because, as you say it is the most efficient over the long haul.  However, not every run or race may be run the most efficient way possible.  I can think of numerous situations where you trade a bit of inefficiency for increased speed at a cost of excess energy expenditure.  In particular I know from running fast on trails that this is quite often the case.  Another reason why I still say that there is more than one way to run and sometimes the most efficient isn't necessarily the "best". 

    I also agree that you can't just learn good form by going to minimalist shoes.  While I never took any formal classes, I did have awesome Highschool and Collegiate track/XC coaches who had us do barefoot "striders" on our grass football field after every practice.  Doing these taught us good form that we then used to mimic (at first) while running shod. After a while we didn't even have to think about form except late in tough races when our form would start to go.

    I'm just saying there isn't as much education or incentive out there these days. Folks just go out and buy some running shoes and go out and run; often with wicked form; a lot of them never learn good form or make any attempt to.  Why should they? They have beefy, over structured shoes that pretty much lets them run with their goofy form!  I'm not saying this is good, I'm just saying it's what I see.  I know, I know the incentive to learn good form may come eventually after series of injuries but then again it may not; they may just quit!

    Huge kudos to those of you who've taken the time to learn; we need to pass the knowledge on!

    Rob
  • on 1330485895:

    on 1329004223:
    Your feet should kick back quite a bit while you run, not all the way up to your butt, but they should form about a 90 degree angle behind you at their maximum height while you are running.


    Nope. You should not be back kicking, or allowing your foot trail way behind. The more you allow your foot to trail behind, the more out of balance your form will be. This is because the trailing foot will cause a imbalance that requires you to over lean your upper body to compensate. In addition, if your foot is trailing behind, then this means your foot pull is late. A late foot pull means you are on support for too long and lose a lot of efficiency. A late pull also results in the complete loss of the energy returning mechanism of ground force reaction. Lastly, if you allow your leg to kick back far enough to form 90 degrees, you'll never be able to hit your cadence of 180. It's simply too much range of motion to cover in a short amount of time.


    Actually, you're wrong. It is considered better form to have a kickback of around 90 degrees. It doesn't throw you off balance, and your upper body actually should be leaning forward while you run so this wouldn't be an issue. When you make an effort to kickback your feet, not only does it help force you to be light on your feet, but it creates a springy pendulum like momentum in your legs which actually increases your efficiency. I can easily kickback to 90 degrees and maintain a 200 cadence.

    If you don't want to take my word for it, here's a clip of Usain Bolt running in slow motion during his world record setting sprint, notice how during sprints the kickback is nearly 180 degrees: 100m USAIN BOLT SLOW MOTION ART OF SPRINTING FASTEST MAN

    And here's a clip of elite marathon runners at the 2010 Boston marathon running in slow motion, notice how all of them have a kickback of at least 90 degrees, why? Because it's the most efficient way to run: Elite Male Runners in Slow-Motion from the 2010 Boston Marathon

    I'm not sure, but maybe you just felt like nit picking? You didn't say anything about my rather lengthy post besides an attempt to point out some little thing that you thought was a flaw, but in reality was good information which I researched before I made this post.
  • I still don't think it's all as simple as this.  These examples are for relatively high speed (sprint) and fast running.  I think the amount of kick back is probably more relative to pace than anything else.  Probably has everything to do with body lean and balance.  I think it would be difficult to get the kick back like Usain Bolt while running an 8:00 mile! :) 

    At the same time there may be a "most efficient" way to run but that way may not always be the fastest over a given distance.  Sort of like how your car is theoretically most efficient going 55 mph down the highway but you'll still be left far behind somebody driving 65-70 mph (or faster).  Sure you'll get to your destination (eventually) and probably had the best fuel economy compared to the speeders but is it always the best trade off in all situations?  I don't think so.  If you desire to race fast you've got to run fast and that can mean breaking out of the "most efficient" form and so that probably does mean running shod with enough protection to do it.  But I understand running doesn't always mean racing so there are different tools for different reasons.
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