Barefoot Running, Milk, 100 Words by CF and Squats

Are humans supposed to run in shoes or barefoot? Are humans supposed to drink milk? What does Crossfit think about fitness in 100 words or less? Are your squats not improving? Today is a bit of a Strength, Conditioning and Health Mashup. Hope you like it!

Chris at Conditioning Research has been having a run of posts about the merits of running barefoot versus in shoes. Very interesting reading.

Foot Strike

Basically, when we run in normal running shoes, our heal strikes the ground first. This generates significant shock through the lower leg area and contributes to many lower limb injuries. The proper method for running barefoot style is where the ball of the foot

strikes the ground first, followed by the rest of the foot. This decreases the amount of shock placed on the lower limbs when running. In effect, the foot swinging off the ankle acts as a sort of shock absorber.

The problem is when people take off their shoes for the first time and run barefoot, they use supporting ligaments, tendons and the natural support provided by the foots arch, which they have not been using because their old shoes were doing the work for them. This can lead to pain and injury if too much is done too soon.

I personally have been using Nike Free's for 18 months or so now and will never go back to normal running shoes. I have done extensive cross country running and even a couple of short course, off road triathlons just for a bit of fun. I have had no problems with injury whether it be by twisting the ankles, shin pain, arch problems or under foot from rocky surfaces.

I am still only now transitioning to the forefoot style of running which is the correct method of running for the barefoot style. It turns out that through talking to a friend about types of foot strike that I do actually use a rather midfoot strike which I found interesting as I had not really made a conscious effort to do that. Perhaps it just happened as a result of using my Nike Free's?

Initially, I did experience some mild soreness on and off over the first couple of month or so, but over time, the weak areas strengthened and now I have no issues whatsoever. Indeed, my ankles and shins feel much stronger and sturdier now.

Chris also links to a site called Biomechanics of Foot strikes - Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear put together by researchers at Harvard University. It offers some advice for those considering starting with barefoot or close to barefoot running:

  • Begin slowly
  • Start by walking around barefoot frequently
  • In the first week, run no more than 400-1000m every second day
  • Increase distance by no more than 10% a week
  • Stop if you experience pain to allow for healing
  • Be patient and build up gradually. It takes months to make the transition
  • If you currently run a lot, simply substitute forefoot or midfoot running with your old normal running so you can still do your usual distance per week
  • Stretch your calves and hamstrings carefully
  • Listen to your feet
  • Many people who run very slowly find that forefoot striking actually makes them run a little faster

Here are a couple of very short videos showing the correct foot strike for barefoot runners:


Interesting stuff.


Mark Sisson over at Marks Daily Apple has recently done up one of his definitive guides. This time it was all about milk and if we as humans should be, or need to be, drinking milk.

Here are a few interesting titbits:

  • a relatively recent food chronologically
  • Is most assuredly and obviously a viable nutritive source in its raw form
  • You could conceivably survive on milk alone
  • Our bodies definitely recognise dairy as food, even foreign bovine dairy

Now for those that don't know, Mark (along with myself), is basically a follower of eating paleo. Which is what is commonly referred to as the Palaeolithic diet. That means only eating those things which one could find out in the wild such as all types of meat, berries, fruit, nuts and salad etc. The basic philosophy is that evolution happens very slowly and we have evolved to eat only those foods. 

New foods such as grains and processed foods have only been on the menu for humans since the agricultural revolution (grains) and industrial revolution (processed). These foods are obviously new (only 10000yrs or so) and our bodies have trouble digesting them and they also contribute to many diseases and ailments. That is a quick run down.

The subject of milk in the eyes of paleo eaters is disputed. For sure milk can be found in the wild. But did humans throughout our evolution climb down onto all fours and drink the milk of another animal such as a cow? Who knows?

Mark goes on:

The widespread presence of lactose intolerants, who still make up a majority of the world’s inhabitants, is somewhat compelling evidence that maybe dairy isn’t the ideal food many assume it to be.


Casein is the primary protein in dairy. It shares structural similarities with gluten, a highly problematic grain protein that can shred the intestinal lining and lead to severe auto-immune issues. Bad, bad stuff, and a big reason why grains are so unhealthy.


Low fat and skim milk appear to have associations with certain cancers (like prostate), while whole milk appears protective (of colorectal cancer) or neutral.


People with whom I normally agree on everything regarding nutrition have completely different takes on dairy. Some MDA forum goers report no ill effects, while others complain of joint pain and clogged sinuses from consuming even a single ounce of dairy. More than any other food, dairy seems to be entirely subjective.

The verdict?

Mark is still not sure even after all of his research. Milk really is in that grey area. There is evidence for it and evidence against it. Mark suggests for people who want to test how milk effects THEIR bodies, to simply cut it completely out of their diets for 1 month. This will give the body time to adapt to it being gone and note the effects and changes if any occur at all.

If you are still unsure, begin consuming it again and note any differences. I would suggest that consuming it again after cutting it out will yield the most noticeable reactions.

100 words from Crossfit

The following is Crossfit's idea of world class fitness in 100 words:

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.

Love it.

Squat like a Man!

Over at T-Muscle (the new T-Nation), there is a great article about mixing up your squats. They offer two variations of the squat to dramatically increase your strength in that most useful and functional movement. They are the Overhead Squat and the Zercher Squat.

These two variations of the usual back squat are an excellent way to push through plateaus.

On the Overhead squat:

Overhead squats are a phenomenal tool for correcting the imbalances that lie among the hips, glutes, and lower back.
They have a threefold benefit. First, the overhead position of the bar makes much of the stability work go to the core, most predominately the lower back. Since the bar is held overhead, for most lifters, it will severely limit the depth achieved in the reps, and rounding of the lumbar spine will happen earlier in the rep.
Having this weakness exposed can tell you just how much stiffening/strengthening the lower back may need, and on the other side of the body, it'll tell you how much blockage your tight hip flexors have over your hamstrings and glutes, limiting their flexibility.

That is some solid reasons to impliment the OH squat into your routine. They also detail how to do the movement properly and safely.

And the Zercher squat:

Ed Zercher, a strongman from the 1930s, created one of my personal favorite lifts, the Zercher squat.
The Zercher squat is simple to execute and its major benefit is the lack of compressional force on the spine due to the fact that the bar isn't axially loaded. Combine this with the fact that the bar is still loaded on the front of the body, and it makes for a safe, deep squat — meaning tons of posterior chain activation.
A man's lift. 'Nuff said.

Again, the crew at T-Muscle detail the movement and at the end, provide a sample workout to try. I know personally that the strongest I have ever been, was when I was doing squats regularly and seriously. The squats formed the basis of my whole program and everything else was built around them. The squats seemed to increase strength everywhere. Maybe it was just my imagination I am not sure but that is what I felt.

If you have never really developed your squats and you are after strength, you need them.

And that concludes this random Strength, Conditioning and Health Mashup. I hope you enjoyed it!

Image by cosmonautirussi