You’re Incapable. Hail the Running Shoe!

I find it amusing yet disturbing how mainstream running footwear brands try to enforce their belief that there’s something wrong with your body. Somehow you’re born with deficiencies that prevent you to run, thanks to running shoes a remedy was found.¬†Too funny!

I pronate - BrooksRunning.com

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Author:David

An instigator and barefoot runner since 2002.

22 Responses to “You’re Incapable. Hail the Running Shoe!”

  1. DCfromSD
    August 3, 2009 at 8:41 pm #

    This stuff makes me crazy. I was once a “overpronator” looking for a cure to something that wasn’t broken- now after learning natural form, getting rid of insoles and big shoes, and barefoot running- all the problems seemed to have “miraculously” dissappeared. I guess I wasn’t broken afterall…

  2. dave from chicago
    August 6, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    that is a very bad adversitment by brooks,

    I’ve run in their shoes in the past and I’m disappointed to see that.

  3. August 16, 2009 at 6:40 am #

    I don’t know which way I pronated, but I do know that my last couple of pairs of high priced Asics did not help achilles tendonitis at all. The only thing that has done away with AT for me is barefoot running and walking, and spending as much time as is legally possible without shoes on!

    All hail the glorious design of the plain old foot.

  4. Howard Fore
    September 1, 2009 at 7:44 am #

    So your supposition is that despite all the studies that show small differences person to person in how we’re made, that these differences don’t require any supplementing to encourage or “allow” biomechanically correct movement?

    I started running in the spring in one of the bootcamp fitness programs. About 2 weeks in I started experiencing a lot of plantar fascitis pain in my left foot (but not my right). That pain persists, it is greater or lesser depending on how often I run and how much I stretch it. At the end of my first month I bought a pair of Vibram Five Fingers and I can’t say that it’s really helped.

    I don’t think that everyone needs a ton of support from high-end shoes but I also don’t think the oppposite is true. There obviously are people that can (an do) run barefoot (or nearly) with no problems but I don’t think everyone can.

    • Greg Luber
      August 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

      You can’t just “buy a pair of Vibram FiveFingers” and expect miracles. You need to train, adapt and work at barefoot striding. It takes a lot of time and effort, it’s not easy, so many people give up thinking its not for them… when in fact it may be just what they need.

  5. Sean McGrath
    September 7, 2009 at 5:15 pm #

    I am in a state of confusion and wonderment. I have been in the footwear retail industry for 14 years and I just finished reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougal. I am a runner and well read in the world of running and the footwear behind it and I can see the reasoning behind “barefooting”. What I am struggling with is how to address various foot issues that my customers come in to see me about and want to address with their footwear. In particular plantar fasciitis. I hear this problem with feet more than anything else. I was taught and read that the remedy is to “support” the arch which I have received positive results from my customers. Now what? Now I wonder if I have been wrong all these years. I guess I could say that supporting the foot is just like giving it a cortisone shot, just fixing the symptoms and not solving the problem… which is a weak foot. This conclusion maybe inaccurate or wrong. I need help with further discussion and input. To end, I am putting myself through a “barefoot” regime. Purchased some Vibram Fivefingers to walk and run in along with lightweight cross country running shoes for trails. I just purchased some Patagonia Pau loafers, took the footbeds out and put a more minimal liner in them to simulate as close to possible a barefoot feel so I can have an ever day shoe to wear to work. No more wearing arch supports in shoes either. Wish me luck!

  6. admin
    September 7, 2009 at 7:50 pm #

    @Howard, seems like you may have done too much too fast. Continuing barefoot will ensure that injuries such as PF don’t visit you again.

    @Sean, congrats on embarking on your journey and taking the opportunity to try something new!
    With respect to the arch. If you think about one of the strongest shapes in nature, the arch (say hello to bridges and windows) imagine for a second pushing UP on the arch right at it’s peak… what would happen? Yup the arch would give in and collapse or break apart. The same thing happens to our feet. By ‘supporting’ the arch it’s causing it to collapse. Quick the vicious cycle huh? Only remedy: retrain and restrengthen you feet and body by tossing those over-cushioned and over restrictive and supportive shoes. Good luck and let us know how you progress. *remember: go slow, don’t don your regular mileage, listen to your body, have fun and experiment*

  7. October 7, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    @David I laugh at ads like this too. I currently work in a running shoe store, so I too have to diagnose, overpronator and oversupinators. I’m supposed to recommend a motion control shoe to flat-footed overpronators. What’s all this terminology you ask? Well, it’s needless terminology. Because the underlying fact is that if you are a so-called overpronator it’s only your shoes fault. Why? Because running SHOES CAUSE OVERPRONATION! Shoes make the heel touch down prematurely and then that cushioned forefoot collapses under the ball of your foot

  8. Jack from Michigan
    December 2, 2009 at 7:47 am #

    My mom was afraid of me having flat feet so when I was a child wanted to get me orthopedic shoes from the time I could walk. My Dad played hockey, but I couldn’t do it growing up because my ankles were always too weak. I’ve run most of my life and after the academy there was no forced physical training but in flight school we had to be able to do a 7 minute mile if requested or incur a court-martial. Running was fun and easy for me and turned out to be a requirement for me to keep my mind sharp. It also was a self-esteem builder. I was never any good at putting on muscle and the guys built like a fire-plug could muscle me around. However, I got the satisfaction of seeing them after their 7 minute miles when what they really needed was an ambulance and an oxygen bottle. Afterward I ran in shoes that were no more than a strip of thin, flexible, but durable rubber. I always bought the same shoes until I couldn’t buy them anymore, and I ran them until they had holes in them.

    I had learned during a health and fitness seminar that one should have the correct shoe for the sport. I bought ASICS gels for awhile because I liked the flexibility of one of the higher end models and the gel concept made sense. After that I frequently had trouble with my achilles which sidelined me a lot, but never considered it to be a shoe problem. After wearing through to the gel on about the 5th pair, I decided to buy some shoes made in the US, so I bought New Balance 992s. No more achilles problem.

    About a month ago I was running, and I was running across a side street and hit the ground. My ankle turned and sprained. I limped for half a block and ran another 4 1/2 miles. Everything was fine until night time when the pain told me the additional 4 1/2 miles was probably not wise and that I was going to out of running for awhile. After a little less than 2 weeks and took off again. About a mile out I hit the ground again. As I was getting up, I thought I guess I just didn’t wait long enough. Then I realized it was the other ankle this time, and I walked home. That got me to thinking there was something wrong. I looked at the bottom of the shoes. There were no holes yet, but on the outside I had worn through two different kinds of rubber while the inside tread still looked almost new. My shoes were worn on about a 5 degree angle, and the heel is about 1 1/2″ off the ground, and the inside is probably mashed down on the outside too, so I could see that holes or losing a gel might not work as a reliable indicator for 992s.

    I started looking for shoes and found a good deal on 992s, but during my browsing I came across a lot of 5 Finger advertising and barefoot stories. I learned I was a supinator. I decided not to pull the trigger on the new 992s just yet. I decided before I try something like a 5 Finger or barefoot, I should make sure it would work for me. I didn’t want to make fool of myself in front of the neighborhood so I reved up the treadmill. I read the article and they said start out real slow, 100 meters. I thought 100 meters? Whatever, so I tried it. It was nothing. I learned in a few seconds that I’ve been running on my heels and that I had to adjust because it is quite a jar when I ran barefoot. I waited a day. I felt fine. Then I decided to do a very fast 1/2 mile on the treadmill. That gave me time to work on adjusting my stride and getting my foot to the right speed so I didn’t wear all of my skin off. Again I waited a day. I decided those guys must be wimps. The next day I decided to just do 5 1/2. I got back and the bottoms of my feet stung a lot, I couldn’t believe I didn’t have blisters, and there was slight tightness in my calves but no pain. That was Saturday. Sunday morning when I went to bounce out of bed, I wasn’t sure if I should ask for crutches, a wheel chair, or just call 911. I took some time to come up with another stride to mask my pain. I settled on a stride that the highly sophisticated use because it was the only stride that would mask my limp so I wouldn’t have to ask any embarrassing questions at church. Things are getting better, and the past two days I’ve been back to 1/2 mile barefoot on the treadmill. Yeah I decided to be a wimp for awhile, but I do miss the heart and lung workout.

    I learned quite a bit over the past month that makes a lot of sense. I learned that I probably could have been a skater boy like my dad if mom hadn’t tried to fix my feet. Looking at my ASICS I noticed they were for pronators and that my 992 New Balances were for supinators like me, so I lucked out when I switched, which may explain why the achilles problem went away. I learned that holes in the soles is not the best gage to use when deciding to replace the shoes. They say 200 miles on a pair of shoes, but with my normal 12.6 miles for 5 days and 16.6 on Saturday, I’d need a pair every few weeks putting shoe costs right up there with car payments. They say the 5 Fingers give the kind of mileage I’m accustomed to, so they are looking good. Barefoot is a very cool idea during the winters in Michigan, and while barefoot would probably work fine during all casual hours the rest of the year, it would get me thrown out of stores and restaurants. So it looks like I’ll need something like 5 Fingers when I go out, and non-skid hospital socks around the house. The winter I don’t have completely figured out yet. When I fall down 5 times on the ice in a mile, that’s my signal to transition to the treadmill, which I hate. That usually occurs late December through early March. I don’t envision 5 Fingers keeping my feet warm. Moreover I own an IT company so I have to look good. What I need is chukka boots with no heels for the winter, and wingtips with no heels for the rest of the year. Perhaps I can leverage this group for some ideas of how to look acceptable without risking time off from running due to injuries.

  9. Martin Carlton
    December 4, 2009 at 6:52 am #

    I had the same problem when starting……my calf pain was imense!
    Now up to about 8 miles in the VFF
    How do you find them on the treadmill? as I find my feet a bit sore and the soles get very hot!

  10. Jack from Michigan
    December 5, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    Your being up to 8 miles is very encouraging to me.

    >How do you find them on the treadmill?<

    I don’t own a pair of VFFs yet. They tried to get me to put them on a couple times at the sporting goods store, but I would feel compelled to buy them after having my feet in them without socks. My outside barefoot running was about over when I wrote this. Two days ago the heavy snow and below freezing temperatures triggered my annual transition from wingtips to chukka boots. Winters have been coming earlier and getting longer and colder over the past three or four years. I don’t see VFFs working for me while walking through the slush, snow, salt, and ice when I go shopping or out to eat, or while scraping ice and brushing snow off my car. Thus, I’ve been running barefoot on the treadmill, and wearing hospital sock-slippers around the house.

    I’m doing 8 tenths of a mile now. I’ve noticed with shoes, I naturally do a little skid and twist at toe-off. With barefoot, my mind is constantly engaged adjusting my stride to match my velocity to prevent skidding in order to save my skin. I have a deep down purple bruise laterally in the middle of my foot just behind my toes but I’m not sure when I got that. I may have gotten that with my long outdoor foray. I can feel it when I push on it with my finger, but not while running or any other time. Other than that, things are going fine and I have not had any more calf stiffness or pain.

    I plan to do a mile next week, and then hang there for a few weeks before going further in order to give me time to perfect my stride and rhythm. You would think the treadmill would be easier on everything than running outside, but whether physical or mental, I can run a lot further outside. I’ve reasoned that if I can work up to 8 miles through the winter on the treadmill, I should be able to do 12 outside. I hadn’t considered running VFFs on the treadmill because I don’t need protection there. I appreciate your been-there-done-that analysis of running VFFs on the treadmill. Huarache sandals and Injinji socks would breathe better but my thoughts are they would be less like barefoot because the sandal doesn’t follow your foot like VFFs, so one would need to compensate slightly for the unanchored front edges of the sandal.

    The great unknown for me at spring time is how much VFFs will run like the barefoot I will have grown accustomed to over the winter….maybe. I say maybe because I’ve only done one long foray outside, and 8 tenths of a mile 4 times on a treadmill. I don’t know if I will be able to work up to a consistent 8 miles on a treadmill without some kind of artificial sole barrier. My treadmill belt is the roughest treadmill belt I’ve ever seen. Tribal people see the need to invest in sandals or moccasins, thus it has become my expectation that I may need something at some point as well, and perhaps before spring. Perhaps I can learn from you and other people who have been-there-done-that before I re-discover what everybody else here already knows. :)

  11. Martin Carlton
    December 15, 2009 at 7:44 am #

    you will findthe treadmill very different from outside as the belt drags your foot back slighjtly when the foot hits the floor thus altering your gait, I stay away from it now but I suppose it beats giving up throuigh out the winter. I will see how the vff’s cope with the ice here in uk when it arrives!

  12. Annika Olsson
    December 29, 2009 at 2:08 am #

    Jack from Michigan
    I had th same problem with VFF. But I found that Feelmax panka worked for me. I bought them to have at the office but they turned out to be a lot warmer than VFF so I use them for my runs now. You can waersocks in them. I have tried them in -10C and they work fine.

    Annika from Sweden

  13. Martin Carlton
    December 29, 2009 at 6:35 am #

    The snow has come and VFF’s have been really good….did 4 1/2 miles christmas day in the snow when it was fresh and I coped far better than my girlfriend in her brooks! Then did 7 miles yesterday in the ice and once again no problem…… never felt cold at all

  14. Rich
    December 30, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    These companies want our money at the end of the day !

  15. May 22, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

    @Barefoot Rad

    I work at a running specialty store as well. You might want to reassess how you fit people in shoes when it comes to flat footed over pronators; I think your fitting logic might be just a tad too simplistic. I tend to base things off of how bent the medial portion of the ankle become during the pronation phase of the gait (since EVERYBODY pronates to some degree, pure supinators are very rare). If a flat footed person’s ankle is relatively straight as the body weight is passed over the foot, I would simply fit the person in a very stiff neutral (Mizuno Creation) or a straight-lasted neutral (Saucony Echelon). Since I’m progressing toward more and more minimal shoes myself, I tend to reserve the Brooks Beasts/Ariels and Grid Stabils for the customers whose ankles bend excessively. To be honest I haven’t pulled out a motion control shoe in over two month, except for the odd customer who is looking for an exact replacement.

    My theory is that arch strength and ankle strength/stability go hand in hand, but their weaknesses are somewhat independent of one another. Again, I’d say it’s the really special cases that would call our for a motion control shoe, like say for example: Elderly lady with a collapsed arches and severe over-pronation, had history of ankle injury, and is looking for a stable yet cushioned shoe for walking. Out comes the motion control.

    And ‘stability’ shoes cause supination, not pronation (to ‘correct’ for any over-pronation). I think you’re mixing up heel strike and pronation, as someone can still heel strike and supinate. And is the flexible midfoot of soft neutral cushion (eg. Nike Zoom Vomero) that promotes the pronation you speak of. I hope this helps your fitting.

  16. May 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    @Rich

    Sure, the ‘high performance’ shoe companies might be just trying to find ways of emptying out wallets, but there must be a reason why Ecco decided to make their’s $250 CAD too. Successful shoe producers are large corporations, not charities. Even if BF running because main stream a few from now, the prices will still be around what they are now, simply because of market competition.

    @David

    The Brooks ad is only funny (I guess?) if it’s your understanding that pronating is the running equivalent of having a malignant tumor. Everyone pronates, and people just have to be educated this fact along with the the whole concept of differing levels of pronation. That’s why they go to running specialty stores and have the clerks inform and reassure them. Would the ad have been as bad if it read instead: “I under-pronate. Find out what you don’t do.” which sounds more like an ad for a barefoot running shoe. I guess ‘mid-foot land’ doesn’t have as good of a ring as ‘pronate’

  17. Ralf
    August 17, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    I’m a overweight person… 300 pounds to be more exact.
    I’m currently having HORRIBLE experiences with the expensive shoes i’m purchasing from New Balance, Asics or Sauconi.
    every time i go to their store, they clearly say, u’r a pronator or overpronator, u need Nb 1225 or Asics Evolution 5. Even if i use these shoes, it creates a horrible pain on my feet.
    i’ve been thinking on using some kind of a simple shoe for running, since is something i’ll be doing at least 2 to 3 times a week just to start loosing weight. i’m completely new at this, and i’m tired of the propaganda i receive on the running stores.

  18. Jack from Michigan
    August 31, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    I haven’t posted since December. They had a barefoot race in the snow. I heard about it too late, but I tried running in the snow barefoot to see what it was like. Snow was pretty abrasive on the sides of my feet so I don’t believe anybody could do it day in and day out. Packed down or slush maybe, but it was too cold to suit me. Some guys say once you get going, they don’t get cold, but then they show me frostbite areas and tell me how to avoid it. I came to the conclusion that they had a need to impress that I didn’t have and don’t feel the need to acquire.

    Once my calves recovered I had problems with bruised medial heads due to the naturally strong, rigid feet that come with high arches. At the end of 3 months, I wasn’t making progress and quit trying. I’d try once in a while. I slacked off on my running and started to bulge. I knew I had to get back to the gym and sometimes when you walk in, the trainers will pounce on you and want to see where you are on bodyfat percent, and then test your core strength and cardio, so that fear got me back into the running again. My New Balances were beyond shot, so I ran in hospital socks because I didn’t know where I wanted to go with shoes yet, but I couldn’t do it more than once a week. Then it seemed like two things happened about the same time. My medial head problems went away, and my dress shoes got tight. I thought that I just must have noticed they were tight before.

    Starting out I was convinced that I would lose speed going to barefoot because a foot is shorter than a foot with a shoe and you have those sharp edges on the heel that add more effective length. At first I did lose some speed, but surprisingly not for very long. Barefoot has been OK on asphalt, but not cement sidewalks. The problem I have with cement sidewalks is approximately a third of the sections around here have a rough surface. When I get back, I have tiny pieces of skin protruding from the normally smooth leathery skin on the bottoms of my feet. If I do it very often, they get raw. So I either needed to run in the street, or come with another plan for running sidewalks.

    I was on line one day looking at Vibrams, Nikes, New Balances, etc. The Vibrams had no concept of size, so I had to measure my foot according to their on-line instructions. I thought that was a peculiar way to measure a foot, and seen it sort of cross-referenced to size 10, but I wear size 9D. Then I made the connection to my tight dress shoes, which also needed to be replaced. I went to a big box store near us and measured my feet. They went up a full size. I did the wet foot test and noticed that I no longer had the high arches, they were normal. I thought I had made a mistake and went back to the big box store and measured my foot again. It was 10D. That saved me from buying the wrong size dress shoes on line. Not sure I wanted to jump into a set of Vibrams with both feet yet, I went on e-bay. I found Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas for $42 but as I was about to buy, it bothered me that the colors were nicer, but not what they had on the Vibram site. I e-mailed the vendor, but he didn’t return my e-mail. His reputation was good, but none of these shoes were listed. It took a month to get them. As I looked closer, I realized the Vibrams on e-Bay were fakes. They had a zipper. There was a nice used pair of real ones on eBay, but I didn’t get them as I watched bid go flying past the local shoe store prices for new ones. After that, I went to Gazelle Sports here in southwest Michigan, who said they had Bikilas in my size. When I got there they measured my foot with a regular shoe thingie and said I needed a size that was larger than the 42 size that Vibram’s on-line method showed. He tried them, and said, too big. He ended up using the exact size the Vibram on-line chart said to use. I mentioned that it was hard to get my toes into them. He said it will get easier.

    When I got home and went through the crap as to why I bought those, and what I was going to use when I went away. I told them, I’m going to wear these. (I do wish they came in black like the treks. Mine are navy blue and white, and yellow inside) It took them awhile to get over it. After I had them, I thought maybe they were right and I had made a mistake. It was tough to get my toes in, and sometimes they would hurt only to realize that my little toe was pushing on the divider, and not really in like it should. Then I thought about what I’m going to do when I go to someone’s house where you need to take your shoes off. Then I found that toe socks will work for that. Also, the guy at the store was correct. It takes awhile to learn to get in and out of them. The tightness goes away over a period of about two weeks of daily usage, and you get better at knowing when you are in right and when you aren’t.

    After a week, the stink set in, and the yellow inside turned black in the toes, medial head area, and bottom of the heels. I went on line and learned this is a common problem. The only people that don’t have this problem are the ones that use socks. Out of all of the wild and crazy cures, I came across one that made sense. It said that the black is dead, rotting, skin for the most part, and to rub the bar of soap on the bottoms, work it into the toes, with your fingers, then put them on. Take your shower, and scrub the insides with your feet. I do it once a week on the day I don’t go to the gym, and after my run. When finish, the black areas are gone, they are nice and yellow again inside, and they smell like rubber, not like vinegar, Efferdent, or whatever. I just hook them up with the Velcro over the line and cross the big toe around the one next to it around the line to keep the toes up. They dry way quicker than normal running shoes. Perhaps the only reason this method works is instead of having a war of odors, you are removing what the bacteria feed on.

    The shoe store people are at least as hot on the racing flats as the Vibrams. Racing flats would be easier to use as an all-around shoe. I went with the Vibrams because I wanted something that simply wrapped my foot so I could run cement sidewalks, nothing that hangs out in front, back, or sides. The Vibrams also last a ton longer. If I could have my way, I’d have black Bikilas, but I’d stick with the yellow inside so I can see when they are clean.

  19. marci romig
    September 2, 2010 at 1:57 am #

    Love the website, love the idea of barefoot running, but hate doing it so far. I am only acquiescing after eighteen months and counting of every leg injury possible, including fractured toes, cartilage lesions in knees, hip bursitis…

    After running happily for twenty five years in Sauconys, without injury, even through five pregnancies all the way to delivery, I was down for months with PF, Achilles,etc. I just tanked. Tried barefoot a little, but healing only came with custom orthotics. All the ancillary tendons on the inside of the left heel into the arch start to scream shortly into a run without those orthotics. Problem is, only one foot likes(needs)the orthotic.

    I am now in trouble with a frustrating calf injury on the other side. Ran too fast up a hill. I am walking around the house barefoot, going minimalist in public, but have not tried much barefoot running. Every other day, I hop on the treadmill, yuck, and shuffle fast in my Sauconies on an incline, just to to get a taste of running . After all this down time I can’t bear any more withdrawal, especially in the early fall; are you barefoot runners suggesting stopping all running in shoes as you build up 5 minutes at a time barefoot?

    Do I undo all the barefoot good if I run in shoes, and just begin or end with a bit of barefoot? It just seems that I have gone too far–I’m in late forties–with all this dysfunction to heal it with barefoot. I am worried about more calf issues creeping up.

    Any thoughts? Thanks

    PS: the last bigtoe fracture did me in as far as my gait. I do not think it healed properly and I wonder if barefoot can correct the toe-off.

    Thanks

  20. Rapid Rick
    November 26, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    Greetings,
    I’ve got the FF KSOs. Had them for a couple months. First run in them (park grass) was really cool. After 1/2 mile I was wondering why I was running on my heels! Started running naturally and was almost sprinting with delight. Then my right calf locked up. Like a fool I ran through the death pain to finish the run. Couldn’t run for a week. Tried them again and my left calf locked up, death Charlie horse again! Same heal up and tried again and then first right, then left calfs locked up! Excrutiating.

    Anyways, am working at breaking my calfs in way slower now. Lots of walking and short slow runs on grass only. Was almost there when I did some running on pavement and good o’l rightie locked up again. Will keep at it, ’cause I agree with the theory. For now…

  21. February 1, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Ironic how her T-shirt says “Bare your sole”. Almost too good to be true.

    Pronation when running isn’t necessarily a deficiency, it can be perfectly healthy. I have been labeled as an overpronator myself and I’ve run several half marathons without any problems, earlier as a heel striker, but now on the forefoot and in flats. Only time i get knee pain is if I wear stability shoes.

    Also a lot of top athletes pronate a lot. I’m not denying excessive pronation is a problem for some, but don’t let a salesman define what is excessive. Try out as many types of shoes as possible.

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