Running Sandals for Health!

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running, Running Sandals | Posted on 25-03-2010

Yet another study showing how running sandals and barefoot running could be better for your body!

Flip-flops and sneakers with flexible soles are easier on the knees than clogs or even special walking shoes, a study by Rush University Medical Center has found. And that’s important, because loading on the knee joints is a key factor in the development of osteoarthritis.

The study has been published online in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

“Traditionally, footwear has been engineered to provide maximum support and comfort for the foot, with little attention paid to the biomechanical effects on the rest of the leg,” said Dr. Najia Shakoor, a rheumatologist at Rush and the primary author of the study. “But the shoes we wear have a substantial impact on the load on the knee joints, particularly when we walk.”

“Our study demonstrated that flat, flexible footwear significantly reduces the load on the knee joints compared with supportive, stable shoes with less flexible soles.”

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and a significant source of disability and impaired quality of life. A higher-than-normal load on the knees during walking is a hallmark of the disease, associated with both the severity of osteoarthritis and its progression.

Shakoor and her colleagues analyzed the gait of 31 patients with symptoms of osteoarthritis in the Rush Motion Analysis Lab while they walked barefoot and with four popular shoe types: Dansko clogs, which are often worn by healthcare professionals who have to be on their feet much of the day; Brooks Addiction stability shoes, which are prescribed for foot comfort and stability; Puma H-Street shoes, a flat athletic shoe with flexible soles; and flip-flops.

The loads on the knee joints differed significantly depending on the footwear. For the clogs and stability shoes, the loads on the knee joints were up to 15 percent greater than with the flat walking shoes, flip-flops or barefoot walking. Knee loading was roughly the same whether the subject wore flips-flops or walked barefoot.

“Currently, knee braces and wedged orthotic shoe inserts are used to relieve the load on the knee joints of patients with osteoarthritis, but everyday footwear is also a factor to consider. The results in our study demonstrate that the reduction in load achieved with different footwear, from 11 to 15 percent, is certainly comparable to reduction in load with braces and shoe inserts ,” Shakoor said.

According to Shakoor, several aspects of footwear affect the joint loading.

“Heel height is one factor, and may explain why the stability shoes and clogs in our study, both of which had higher heels, produced greater knee loads,” Shakoor said.

“Stiffness is also a factor. We’ve shown in earlier studies that barefoot walking is associated with lower knee loads than walking with conventional footwear. It may be that the flexible movement of the bare foot is mechanically advantageous. The natural flex of the foot when it contacts the ground probably attenuates the impact on the joint, compared to the artificial ‘stomping’ movement created by a stiff-soled shoe.”

In the present study, Shakoor said, flip-flops and the walking shoe were flat, flexible and lightweight and seemed to mimic the mechanics when walking with bare feet.

“Clogs and stability shoes, conventionally believed to provide appropriate cushioning and support, actually increased the loading on the knee joints, as opposed to shoes with less ‘support,’ flatter heels and more flexibility,” Shakoor said.

Shakoor cautioned, however, that knee loading is not the only consideration in any clinical recommendations based on her study.

“For the elderly and infirm individuals, flip-flops could contribute to falls because of their loose-fitting design. Factors like these need to be taken into account,” Shakoor said.

Other researchers at Rush involved in the study were Dr. Mondira Sengupta, Dr. Kharma Foucher, Markus Wimmer, PhD, Louis Fogg, PhD, and Dr. Joel Block. Funding was provided by a grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois

The Tarahumara Go Running for DAYS

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running, Huaraches, Running Sandals, Tarahumara running | Posted on 24-03-2010

About once or twice a week, someone emails me and asks:

Doesn’t the string between your toes hurt or cause blisters?

After crafting a number of long-winded answers, I finally realized the simplest one:

Remember, the Tarahumara Indians run in huaraches for hours and hours… sometimes for DAYS at a time.

Clearly, you couldn’t spend hours, or days,  in barefoot running sandals if they caused damage to your feet.

That said, it doesn’t mean you can just put on some Invisible Shoes and go for a 24 hour run without a problem.

In the same way that you wouldn’t wear a new pair of running shoes for the first time on a 20 mile run, you don’t want to wear your huaraches too much until you know you’ve adjusted to them.

And “adjusting to them” means:

  • Finding the right tension in the lacing
  • Adjusting your stride since you can’t land hard on your heel
  • Remembering that wearing huaraches is a LOT like being barefoot, but with a surface that’s really comfortable

What allows the Tarahumara (or anyone who is comfortable in huaraches) to go for a long time without any issues is a combination of factors. Since I’m in the mood for a list, let me list them: ;-)

  1. With proper barefoot running form, you don’t put a lot of horizontal force on the ground. You don’t “pull” with your feet the way you can do with running shoes, or even with something like flip-flops. So, you don’t create the kind of force that leads to friction and abrasion.
  2. Since huaraches don’t offer the kind of padding that shoes or flip-flops or other sandals do, you’re less likely to overstride (whether you’re walking or running) and, again, you have less horizontal/abrasion-causing force. Oh, and you’re less likely to do it, because overstriding HURTS… so you quickly get the hint to CHANGE SOMETHING! ;-)

I’m sure I left something off the list… suffice it to say, there’s nothing inherent in huaraches that should cause you any pain. Like most things in life, the problems arise when we overdo it, don’t listen to the signals from our body, or choose to argue with reality instead of adjusting to it.

Huarache Running Sandals – Free Instructions

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Running, Huaraches, Running Sandals | Posted on 20-03-2010

I’ve taken the “how to make huarache running sandals” instructions from this site and turned them into a PDF file which, for some will be easier to print.

Remember, once you make your running sandals, send me pics and videos so I can feature you (and your bare feet) on the site!

Right click on the link below to save the PDF file to your computer:

Huarache Running Sandals Instructions – PDF