The Case for Flip-Flops!

August 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footwear, Health 

Last week I worked the Gold Rush Adventure Race. We had 11 teams working their way through paddle, trek, bike, trek, bike, trek, ropes, raft, and finally a last trek. The full course was 285 miles, although some of the teams were short-coursed because of time.

I started at TA2 (transition) where racers went from trek to bike, then TA3 – from bike to trek, TA4 – from trek to bike, and lastly, TA5 – from bike to trek. I saw the same teams, TA after TA.

I did not count the number of racers on whose feet I worked. I didn’t matter. My goal, as always, is to get the racer back in the race. I worked on some of the racers feet multiple times.

I quickly noticed a problem.

Racers would come into the TA and remove their shoes. They needed to change footwear – from bike shoes to shoes for trekking and visa versa – and change clothes too. TAs also meant dismantling and packing their bikes, or unpacking and assembling them. This was often done in the sun – and it was hot.

We had tarps set up for the teams to change on. It kept some of the dirt off their feet – but not all the dirt. The tarps were dirty and there was small twigs, bits of leaves, pinecone pods and seeds, and small stones. A lot of stuff to be walked on and stick to socks.

I usually patched blisters and applied tape as a preventive measure. I advised them to keep the tape as clean as possible and not get it wet.

Then I watched as they worked on their bikes, walked around, and sometimes went down into the river. They walked as gingerly as possible over the rocks and sticks. I don’t fault them; they did what needed to be done. I would have done the same.

The problem I noticed was that racers were compromising their feet, and any patch or tape job, by walking around without anything on their feet.

They had bike boxes for their expensive bikes and large gearboxes for their footwear, clothes, food, and whatever gear they wanted to pack. Of all the racers, I remember only a few who had the foresight to pack flip-flops. An inexpensive set of flip-flops might cost $5 – that can easily help your feet.

Flip flops can save your feet

Flip flops can save your feet

So here’s my recommendation. If you are involved in a multi-day race, any race with transitions, or even a one day event where you will have rest times, invest in a pair of flip-flops to protect your feet and any patch job or tape on them.

The same goes for hikers and backpackers. Lightweight flip-flops weigh next to nothing. Another option is to wear Crocs. They provide protection of one’s toes and tops of the feet, which flips-flops do not offer.

There is something to be said for taking your shoes and socks off when resting during a race, multi-day run, or long hike. Your feet like to be aired and if there is macerated because of water, airing them will help dry out the skin. But do yourself a favor and pack a pair of flip-flops or Crocs.

 

Study: Barefoot Running Less Efficient Than Lightweight Shoes 


April 7, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Footwear, Health, Sports 

Source: SportsOneSource Media

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado in Boulder, running shoes make running physiologically easier than going barefoot. The study, published online in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, began by recruiting 12 well-trained male runners with extensive barefoot running experience.

The New York Times indicated that a few previous studies have indicated that it’s easier to go barefoot in terms of physiological effort since more effort is required to handle the extra weight of a shoe.

In the new study, runners were asked to run multiple times on treadmills while either wearing shoes (the Nike Mayfly at 150 grams) or unshod. When unshod, runners wore thin yoga socks to protect them from developing blisters and for hygiene purposes for the treadmills. Next, according to the Times’ article, 150 grams’ worth of thin lead strips were taped to the top of runners’ stockinged feet. Adding an equal amount of weight to the bare foot promised to reveal whether barefoot running was physiologically more efficient than wearing shoes.

Researchers found that when barefoot runners and shod runners carried the same weight on their feet, barefoot running used almost 4 percent more energy during every step than running in shoes.

“What we found was that there seem to be adaptations that occur during the running stride that can make wearing shoes metabolically less costly,” Jason R. Franz, a doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado who led the study, told the Times. The researchers believe that when barefoot, forces generated by the collision of food and ground shift to the leg muscles absent the cushioning provided by shoes.

Moreover, the study found that even when unweighted barefoot running was compared foot-to-foot with running in the Mayflies, 8 of the 12 runners were slightly more efficient wearing shoes, even though they added more weight.

The study only looked only at the metabolic efficiency of wearing shoes, versus not. The scientists didn’t evaluate whether barefoot running lowers injury risk.

The Times article concluded, that “serious racers might want to mull over the trade-off between having less mass on their feet when barefoot versus having greater potential strain on their leg muscles.”

But for the average runner, Dr. Franz recommends that a more lightweight model might be better for many given that some cushioning spare leg muscles from extra train yet avoids the metabolic cost to wearing heavy running shoes.

Related Links: Making the Case for Running Shoes