Can you run a race faster barefoot than with shoes?

Discussion in 'Barefoot & Minimalist Running' started by LeadFootDave, Sep 18, 2018.

  1. LeadFootDave

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    Hi everyone, long time minimalist runner here. I had one of the first vibrams KSOs when they came out and I've ran in other other zero-drop shoes since. But recently I read 'Born To Run' and became inspired to ditch my running shoes altogether and do all my running barefoot - including racing.

    I currently run a low-18:00 in my Merrell Trailgloves in a 5k. I'd like to get to the same level or faster eventually after going barefoot.

    I would love to hear from those who has done barefoot running before - were you ever able to go faster than you did wearing shoes? And what are your favorite places to run barefoot in your town? Thanks!
     
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  2. Barefoot TJ

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    I definitely ran faster once I ditched the shoes. You will too. Just keep at it, and you will see.

    Welcome! :barefoot:
     
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  3. LeadFootDave

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    Awesome, that's what I was hoping to hear!

    If you don't mine me asking, what's the farthest you've run barefoot and how long did it take you to get there?
     
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  4. Barefoot Barefeet

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    TJ, I had a runner from South Africa tell me via Messenger( her name is Michelle Redelinghuys) that a teammate of hers in competition named Marne Mentz actually runs faster when she races barefooted than when she wears shoes. (Marne wears shoes on the track and on the road due to footing on the roads and a rule at her college prohibiting her from competing in her bare feet on the track)

    It's proof that it can be anywhere in the world.
     
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  5. trevize1138

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    Already answered this in the corresponding Reddit post but for the benefit of the forum: There are two ways to look at this question:

    1 - Is it faster to race in bare feet vs shoes?
    2 - Can barefoot running make you faster?

    The first question is certainly up for debate. If you're talking a 100m dash it's undoubtedly faster to race that in a pair of spikes because that extra traction makes a huge difference at those speeds in an event where time is now measured up to the thousanths of seconds. If you're talking marathon ... maybe it's faster for elites to run in shoes because they're going 13mph for 26.2 miles and that's a lot of friction for bare feet to endure? I honestly don't know as I'm not anywhere close to that fast.

    For the second question there's no debate in my mind. I'm a significantly better runner because I train 50/50 unshod/shod. Barefoot training makes me a faster runner. I run races either unshod or in sandals depending on how harsh the surface is and that tends to mean unshod for streets and sandals for long trail races. It's not a matter of whether I'm faster with sandals or faster with bare feet. I'm overall faster because I learned how to run long distances unshod.
     
    #5 trevize1138, Sep 20, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2018
  6. LeadFootDave

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    Well put trevize1138. You are right - the first part is up for debate. There aren't many elites running barefoot to be able to draw an accurate comparison.

    As for point #2, I completely agree running barefoot will you into a better runner. I just started doing short distance barefoot running a few days ago and I'm already seeing improvements in my form and stride. Also in Ken Bob's book on barefoot running, he actually recommended everyone learns to run barefoot before even wearing minimal shoes because it will improve your overall form.

    Unfortunately today, most runners still seem to prefer shoes. Do you think it's:
    1. Lack of knowledge
    2. Peer pressure - fear of looking silly
    3. Discomfort on the feet

    Or a combination?
     
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  7. trevize1138

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    It's certainly all 3 and more. There's a lot of cultural stigma around barefoot. It's usually assumed only poor people are barefoot and one way people try to help the less fortunate is often to just get shoes on their feet.

    And people are always looking for a quick-and-easy solution. The real way to run efficiently and prevent injury is through practicing good form. Running unshod really helps with that. Doing all that doesn't cost you a penny but it does take time and patience.

    On the other hand, you can go to a specialized running store where they'll analyze your gait and fit you with the perfect running shoes! Sure, it costs money but handing someone your credit card then lacing up a pair of shoes is a lot less effort than working on form.

    Then there's just outright disbelief. Several times on Reddit when I've talked about running a marathon unshod I've been straight up accused of trolling. Another reaction is "Oh, so you ran in those toe shoes?" It's become unquestioned "common knowledge" that you need shoes for everything. It's right up there with how we only use 10% of our brains or how men think about sex every 6 minutes or the blood in your veins is blue and only turns red when exposed to oxygen.
     
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  8. Tristan

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    Well it depends on the surface and what kind of speed we're talking about. As already said, for elite sprinters going crazy fast on a short track I think track spikes are going to win. On a rugged trail race... I probably couldn't even attempt barefoot (though I love hiking barefoot at a slow place). Its everywhere in between where barefooting excels, not so much for the extremes. Personally I am no elite runner, and at my 5k pace around 6 min/mi I have no problems barefoot on road or paved bike path. I haven't tried running fast in shoes since my transition really so hard to say if I could do it in shoes. I know often when I wear shoes now I get terrible foot cramps so unlikely I could run that fast.
     
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  9. Jaap Francke

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    The same question has been wondering me. I started running barefoot last year after reading Born to Run and guided by Bob's book.
    I think my form has improved. So recently it was time for me to put it to the test.
    My PR on 10 miles is 1.13, which I ran shod 4 years ago.
    I tried to meet that PR a few weeks ago and did 1.15. To me it was satisfactory. I've gotten a bit older and it was a awrm day, but black&white: I did not get faster.
    For the race I choose to wear my skinners, by the way.

    So for me the promises of getting faster didn't materialize yet.
    I'll continue running barefoot anyway, I think my form is still improving.

    Next month I'll be running my first half marathon barefooted. I won't go for speed, I'll just be enjoying the sensation of running those 21km barefoot: no skinners, no vibrams, no nothing.

    :)
     
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  10. trevize1138

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    Good luck in your 1/2!

    It can certainly take time as you continually improve your form before you start seeing that translate into faster times. For me it took unusually long because I was stubborn and disbelieving the idea that "tough feet" wasn't important. I continued pushing off too hard and beating up my feet thinking eventually they'd get tougher and that would be good ... for some reason ...

    The real breakthrough came when I realized I had to always run gently on my bare feet. The long miles unlocked and speeds improved. It can happen like that when you really put form #1. Progress starts coming in major steps rather than gradually over time as you figure things out.

    Based on my own experience I'll never even bother thinking the words "My form is perfect" or even "My form is good enough." I've seen there's always something that can be improved.
     
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  11. Barefoot TJ

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    That's a shame that some schools prohibit bare feet. It's ridiculous, and I don't get it. You would think that the coaches are witnessing their runners running faster barefooted and would promote that in every way possible.
     
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  12. Tristan

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    I'm sure it's all the above plus other excuses. Many seem overly concerned about stepping on glass or rocks. I have a few personal friends who have witnessed me really transform my running with the barefoot method, yet are entirely not interested in even attempting it. Other runner friend is mildly interested, but not very good at putting effort into things and this is something you can't just do a 5k race once a month as your only running which is what they do, no real training.

    Also another big one is that people don't believe it is better, there is of course lots and lots of reports of people trying barefoot running and hurting themselves, the VFF lawsuit didn't help either. People always refer to me as the exception (saying its just a fad and not really better) they say it just happens to work for me but would never work for them. Of course I'll usually say it can work for you if you do it correctly and make an effort.

    That's one reason I've really tried to get faster, I hope to better prove the benefits of barefooting even for racing. I'm still getting a little faster each year up to last year, but I may be reaching the limit of what I can do with my current lifestyle and work schedule. Unfortunately 72 hr weeks and flipping days/nights sometimes multiple times a week takes it toll on the body. But even I lack discipline and often don't train like I should... this was the very first year I ever followed any kind of training plan, and felt like it was really helping except I strained my calf the last week - the week of the race :banghead: I learned I cannot do a speed day after a 12 hr shift sitting in a chair. Maybe next year I'll try it again, and I'll have to rearrange many of the days to avoid doing anything rigorous on my day shifts.
     
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    #12 Tristan, Sep 21, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
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  13. dutchie53

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    About 28 years ago while training to be competitive 10k runner I did all my speed work and training on a track barefoot. I was definitely faster but with that comes a warning. I did my training at Bear Creek park in Surrey, B.C. It was a rubber, cushioned track that caused me blisters a time or two until feet got used to running on this type of track. Running fast barefoot calls for feet that should be well seasoned to barefoot running, if not you’ll windup with some awesome blisters as one tends to push of harder when racing.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
     
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  14. Christian Lemburg

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    Short term, shoes allow for harder abuse of your body to reach your goals. That is why nearly all elite athletes compete in shoes, even if they were raised barefoot or train barefoot. For any form of trails or so, you will be much faster in shoes, probably at higher risk to your ankles.

    Long term, training barefoot will give you better technique, and probably prevent most overuse injuries.

    Personally, I was never faster barefoot than with shoes. OTOH, I ran with minimal shoes - cross country trainers - Nike Zoom Waffle Racers spikeless version - for about 10 years before converting to barefoot running.

    My favorite places to run barefoot in my town? Hm ... everywhere near to where I live? No, actually my favorite places are out of town, on trails, in the woods.
     
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  15. LeadFootDave

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    Thank you everyone for your replies. It's great to see a wide range of experiences.

    To summarize, here is what seems to me the take away:

    Although barefooting is superior to shoes in many ways, no one is saying that you should barefoot 100% of the time, due to rules, safety, terrain, etc.

    Whether you decide to race better with shoes or not, it depends on the individual and should be a personal decision. I agree that at faster speeds, there is significantly more friction on the feet. And if your feet are not used to that, you will run faster with shoes.

    Even with the book - born to run and the popularity of minimalist shoes in recent years, I think most people still fancy barefoot running as a fad that they would never try. However, I think that may change if barefoot runners start making up the majority of fast runners.

    I personally hope to change this trend which is why I've set my goal of becoming the fastest runner in my city - not just barefoot.

    My city is not super competitive but I think if I can run a consistent low 16 minute 5ks barefoot, I will be able to claim that title. Right now, I run a low-18 5k in Luna Mono 2.0 so I still have some ways to go. If anyone has already achieved something similar to this, I'd love to hear your experience. Or, if you'd like to do the same thing and would like an accountability partner, PM me.
     
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  16. Barefoot TJ

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    Excellent subject, Dave. Excellent thread.
     
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  17. Tristan

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    An awesome goal Dave! I'd share the same goal but think I'm pretty maxed out in the upper 18's. Might be very different if I could actually train well for speed and perhaps had a more running-friendly job (current job is not good on my health, doing shifts flipping night and days and sitting for 12-14 hours) but that's life as they say! I worked a few years towards beating a 20-minute 5k since I had been on the forums, down from 22-24 minute I think around when I started barefoot) a few of us had that goal and I'm not really aware of anyone else here that had gotten down into the teens, at least they have not talked much about it on the forums since. But very few people put up race reports so maybe there are a few faster ones here that never speak of it? I think many here have come to barefooting running for happiness and to avoid injury, increasing distance, but not necessarily to become elite fast runners. My goal this year was to break 6:00 min/mi on a 5k but I am really struggling getting those last few seconds that I am over. I did a 5:38 first mile in my last 5k, but couldn't hold it! Not bad without any speed training I guess, so maybe there is hope. At the same time I planned on a marathon this fall, so the goals are somewhat contrary. Also would love to do ultra marathons but again I think my job is limiting my training too much to be able to adequately train for a 50 mile or longer race. Its pretty rare for me to get a 40+ mile week in, which is what I figure the bare minimum training would be for a 50 miler or even 50k. But I have been knocking a lot of time off my half marathons, I think that is where I excel.
     
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  18. Davy Dove

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    Wish to run a moab 240 someday barefoot and win!
     
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  19. trevize1138

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    Re-reading through the replies here got me wondering: how many people go barefoot for a while to help improve their form and performance only to go back to shod? I'm sure just like Kenyans who grow up running unshod only to race in shoes it sort of hides to the general public how beneficial unshod is. If you always see race winners in shoes and almost never unshod it's understandable that people would conclude shoes=faster. Perhaps more people would be open to unshod if they started seeing more unshod race winners or at least unshod runners going fast.

    Personally, I avoided unshod at first partially because I assumed "I guess these barefoot people just run slow." I didn't even realize until after-the-fact that I had this bias.
     
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  20. Barefoot TJ

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    And if only people would know that the Kenyans and Ethiopians don't run in shoes because it makes them faster but because they get a nice fat shoe contact from companies like Nike to feed their families back home.
     
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