Vibram Five Fingers vs Running Shoes with Cushioning

It’s been emphasized many times that running
barefoot can be a force for progress when it comes to cleaning up your running form,
reviving your foot function and strength and help create an even more efficient forefoot
strike landing during running. This is important because sensory input optimized
through running barefoot may always play a role in helping improve your mechanics because
it’s easier to directly coordinate the mechanical attributes that result in a lighter foot-ground
exchange which is a necessary precursor for reducing impact on the body, but also barefooting
in general enables the highest levels of muscular engagement of the foot, helping dramatically
strengthen the feet. In this way, barefoot running can really help
the feet build up enough resilience to protect against foot ailments and balance impairments
because when the feet are strong, this will help feed more ankle stability, giving you
a stronger base for steady and secure balance control during running. However, many runners aren’t exactly thrilled
with the idea of running barefoot, so they look to minimalist running shoes that closely
approximate the barefoot experience. Barefoot-inspired minimalist running shoes,
like the Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa or the Sockwa X8s are a more satisfying alternative to barefooting
in helping recharge the feet in a restorative way and of course, they may help reduce impact-stress
because the outsole thinness of these shoes gives the constant sensory flow necessary
for helping you engage your leg’s withdrawal or your foot removal reflexes better, helping
you land lighter during running. This is why true minimalistic, barefoot-like
running shoes like most Vibram FiveFingers, Vivobarefoot’s, and Sockwa’s, sort of
get the most attention because they are proved to be very similar, not the same, but very
similar to the barefoot experience; these shoes really help you sense the terrain in
which are treading on, which can really make a big difference in bringing your mechanical
effectiveness into balance and can create overwhelming positive changes in foot function
and strength. One issue to be very weary of however, is
one potential general problem with some minimalist running shoes on the market is that many shoes
marketed as minimalistic, but they really aren’t minimalist at all, and are more structurally
similar to the standard running shoe. Some minimalist running shoes are far from
actually being minimalistic and aren’t minimalistic enough to enable the formation of stronger
feet and some minimalist running shoes certainly don’t provide enough sensory influence which
may consequently translate into less optimal improvements in biomechanics during running. These not-so minimalist running shoes I’m
referring to, in my opinion, are the Nike Frees 3.0 and 5.0 and the Saucony Kinvara
2. Some studies suggests the Nike Free 3.0 and
5.0 as well as the Saucony Kinvara 2 may be the wrong idea in helping you organize safe,
efficient running mechanics in a sustained way and the mechanical hazards associated
with these running shoes are well-documented whereby some studies, which I’m going to
talk about in just a moment, found a connection between running in the Saucony Kinvara 2 and
injurious risk factors similar to those observed in many runners who run in the traditional
running shoe, suggesting that running in the Saucony Kinvara 2s, which again, are marketed
as minimalistic, may actually provide a similar running experience and may evoke the same
unfavorable, forceful biomechanics to that of running in traditional running shoes. But overall, sadly, these running shoes are
famously marketed as being minimalist and with that, its presumed that these shoes,
the Nike Free 3.0 and 5.0 and Saucony Kinvara 2, should encourage positive changes in biomechanics
associated with a minimalist shoe, or a true minimalist shoe I should say, and running
barefoot. Such changes in running mechanics include
a shortened stride, no over-striding, a higher cadence or a higher step frequency or step-rate,
lighter footsteps, forefoot striking, greater hip extension, increased knee flexion or knee
bend, all of which are mechanical traits associated with running barefoot, but are also essential
mechanical mediators for funding better running economy and pushes harmful impact away from
the lower leg, especially the knee-joint, not to mention there’s a lot of scientific
conclusiveness showing that true minimalist running shoes, like most Vibram FiveFingers,
encourages these kinds of positive changes in biomechanics, similar to that of running
barefoot, that lead to better injury prevention outcomes for running. However, experts have cautioned that ‘minimalist’
running shoes, like the Nike Free and Saucony Kinvara just aren’t getting the job done,
like the Vibrams are, in helping runners adopt more ‘barefoot-like’ mechanics, which
to quickly reiterate, includes a higher step-rate, shortened stride, a higher back-kick, greater
knee bend or knee flexion, a non-heel strike landing which all adds up to softer, lighter
footfalls and thus, less impact production. As I said, evidence has linked ‘minimalistic’
running shoes like the Saucony Kinvara 2 to promoting less optimal, almost reckless running
mechanics very similar to how many runners run in the traditional running shoe, which
in turn, may shift threatening impact on the lower leg and the knee, therefore making the
Kinvara 2 an somewhat of an invalid minimalist running shoe. For instance, a 2014 study published in the
Journal of Sports Sciences, set out to test whether the Saucony Kinvara 2 would prompt
immediate adjustments in biomechanics similar to that of barefoot running, with a comparative
study of other minimalist running shoes, such as the “Nike Free” and the Vibram FiveFingers
SeeYa. The researchers found that the runners who
ran in the Vibram SeeYa’s engaged their mechanics in ways very similar to that of
running barefoot, and from this, these runners could make a lot of progress in finding relief
from a lot impact related injuries. However, the researchers found that the Nike
Free and the Saucony Kinvara 2 failed to reproduce or encourage barefoot-like biomechanics during
running –remember the Nike Free and Saucony Kinvara 2s are marketed as minimalist shoes,
therefore they should help lead you in a more positive direction in helping you make the
mechanical changes necessary to ensure safer running, like when you run barefoot. A closer inspection on why the Nike Free and
the Saucony Kinvara 2 could be a losing strategy in helping bring together safe mechanical
actions, similar to running barefoot, is that the researchers discovered that when runners
ran in the Nike Free and in the Saucony Kinvara 2, the runners showed strikingly similar hazardous
biomechanics to that of most runners who run in traditional running shoes whereby the Nike
Free and Saucony Kinvara 2 runners had increased knee extension at touchdown –meaning that
the knee-joint of the landing foot was more unbent, inflexible and stiff. Increased knee extension, or unbending of
the knee at touchdown during running, can be thought of as unnecessary use of the knee-joint
during running because increased knee-extension at touchdown often leads to over-striding,
causing the foot to fling out way ahead of the body, and land far in front of the body
which creates a long distance between the body and the landing foot and its this positional
arrangement that is primarily responsible for a more brute brake force which can have
an enormous mechanical burden on the shins and the knee-joint. I did a video, and the link to that video
is down below in the description; in that video I define over-striding during running
in more detail, along with its implications to injury. Getting back to the study, the Saucony Kinvara
runners also had increased dorsiflexion of the foot/ankle complex at touchdown, meaning
the forefoot, or the front of the foot, lifted up at touchdown which may increase heel strike
potential. When the foot/ankle complex is in a dorsiflexed
position at touchdown during running, there becomes a greater chance of heel striking
because lifting the front of the foot (aka ankle dorsiflexion) at touchdown, not only
repetitively pulls and strains the front of the shin, a risk factor for anterior shin
splints, but may certainly overshoot landing forefooted first; you may miss landing with
a forefoot strike altogether because pulling the forefoot back at touchdown easily exposes
the heel to the ground; you end up with a greater likelihood of landing heel first at
touchdown during running. This could be problematic from an injury prevention
standpoint because oceans of studies have shown that impact forces are highest in runners
who heel strike, especially when the knee of the landing foot is completely straight
at touchdown, this is when the body is most vulnerable to higher levels of impact. Just for a side note, I also did a video,
which is linked down below in the description about how too much ankle dorsiflexion at touchdown
during running may get you into some trouble in terms of injury. The researchers also found that the runners
who ran in the Saucony Kinvara 2, in particular, had a much longer stride length whereby, like
over-striding, a longer stride length during running, especially during heel strike running,
tends to be more associated with a longer brake force duration where higher amounts
of compressive forces tend to infuse the knee-joint, and that mechanical stress in general is well-known
to increase the risk of runner’s knee because it’s hard to avoid a high brake force when
the foot is planted way out in front of the body, there also requires more mechanical
pull from the knee of the support leg to tug and move the body up to initial foot strike
position; this is one key spot where runners knee may emerge. The Saucony Kinvara 2 runners also had a longer
step time duration, or longer ground contact time which means that they had reduced cadence
or reduced step-rate/step frequency meaning that their foot spent more time on the ground
at each step, which may ratchet up impact production because when the foot spends more
time on the ground during running, it may open up more time for impact to produced and
accumulate and longer ground-contact time of the foot could also amplify over-pronation
or under-pronation and other various forms of abnormal foot motions when the foot is
stuck down on the ground for prolonged periods of time, which in turn, may create a wide
open slot for injury to potentially develop. Now, the fun just doesn’t stop there. The Saucony Kinvara 2 runners had greater
vertical hip displacement which means the runners had higher bounce heights at each
step as compared to the Vibram SeeYa runners. Here’s what a greater vertical hip displacement
looks like based on an illustration from the study*. Greater vertical hip displacement during running
is a metric indicating a greater landing force, or a greater downward force of the foot with
the ground during running, and we well-know that that bone injuries tend to result from
excessive impact during running. A greater vertical hip displacement is also
an indicator of the ankle being forced into a stiff, unstable, mechanically-overloaded
position which may translate into less optimal balance. The researchers also noted that increased
vertical hip displacement during running corresponds to a straighter support leg, which means that
the knee of the landing foot is typically more unbent or more straight which can create
a lot of mechanical stress and strain on the knee as previous research has found a link
between an unbent knee of the support leg and increased knee excursion during running
which means a lot of abnormal twists and rotations of the knee joint whereby increases in knee
excursion during running is associated with runners knee. Overall, what this research hints to is that
your mechanics may fall apart in running shoes, like the Saucony Kinvara 2s, or that look
and feel similar to these shoes, and these mechanics spurred on by such footwear aren’t
the mechanics you want to be sustained during running because of their involvement in unleashing
deep currents of mechanical stress on the knee. What is more, if you look at the Saucony Kinvara
2s, which look like this: the shoe, in my opinion, doesn’t meet the structural criteria
and requirements for being considered minimalist, which raises the question: why are such shoes
marketed as minimalist in the first place, when realistically, they are more structurally
similar to the traditional running shoe, which is unsurprising that the study I just discussed
revealed many major mechanical differences between runners who ran in the Saucony Kinvara
2s and runners who ran in true minimalist running shoes, like the Vibram FiveFingers
SeeYas. The take home message is that when it comes
to shoes marketed as minimalistic, but look and feel like the Saucony Kinvara 2, there’s
some research showing that all efforts of these shoes to serve as a true minimalist
shoe has so far failed, probably because they are more closely related in structure to traditional
running shoes. AND, its also worth noting that here, we see
yet another example of imperfect correlations between running shoes with cushioning and
safe running mechanics, which helps seals the case that increased shoe cushioning doesn’t
always mean reduced impact generation during running. However, the study brings into focus the corrective
effects on biomechanics and thus protective effects on biomechanics of true minimalist
running shoes, like the Vibram FiveFingers See Ya probably because true minimalist shoes
that really do closely approximate barefooting provides a good supplyline of sensory input
which has a strong involvement improving your mechanical control circuits and that mechanical
reset has been shown to be more successful in shoes that give exceptional ground feel. So, if you are looking to strengthening your
feet, improve your running form, but prefer not to run barefoot, your next best bet may
be to run in truly more barefoot-feeling shoes, like the Vibram SeeYas (Down below in the
description box, i posted a link to a blog post I did on the top-rated barefoot-inspired
shoes for running); The architectural mobility of true barefoot shoes and the outsole thinness
really gives you a better shot at enabling you to make full use out of your feet, enabling
you to make efficient use of your feet, too. In contrast, I think the manufacturers at
Saucony missed the greater importance of sensory feedback when they designed the Kinvara 2s;
because to a new runner, a lack of sensory and tactile clarity at the feet may translate
into less optimal mechanics, and if your running mechanics aren’t managed carefully, you
can of course get hurt. SO again, the implied lesson here is that
when it comes to form-fixing running shoes, thinner may be better at fixing mechanical
impediments faster because you are more self-aware, more branches of motor nerves are activated
and by virtue of that, will help strengthen the position of your forefoot strike, achieve
better landing stability and prompt closely coordinated movements that may lay the mechanical
groundwork for improved efficiency during running. I hope you’ve enjoyed this video. To stay updated on the latest research regarding
the health and performance benefits of barefoot running and minimalist running, hit the subscribe
button below. Thanks so much for listening and watching. Have fun out there on the roads and trails. Bye for now!

One Comment

  • Is this really posted in 2018? Kinvara 2? They are on the 9. And the barefoot running, honey, was gone years ago. All those followers are hurt, went back to cushion. 2017/2018 is maximalist, get on the right bandwagon

  • The more videos of her I watch,the worse she gets…you show your medals..what about your racing personal bests…and when where you ran them??? Add some credence to your babbling.
    How many times can you say HOWEVER???

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