Running Form at the 2010 Boston Marathon: Slow Motion Video of Barefoot, Minimalist, and Traditionally Shod Runners at sub-3:00 Pace

Barefoot Shod RunnersEarlier today I was going through some video I have from the 2010 Boston Marathon with a goal of finding a clip of a barefoot runner (I knew I had one, but hadn’t put in the effort to sift through long stretches of video to find him). After a bit of searching, I found the video I was looking for (the picture above says a lot in and of itself – look at those feet!), and I decided to edit together a few clips that will give you a good sense of some of the variation we see in form as you move away from the elites.

All of the runners in the videos below were running at sub-3:00 pace at this point in the race (~mile 17.5, just before the turn from Washington St. onto Commonwealth Ave.), so all are very strong runners. Note that I intentionally cropped the videos so that heads would not be visible. I’m going to leave my commentary here to a minimum – just watch the videos and feel free to share your thoughts about what you see. I’ll follow up with similar video from a recreational level 5K in a few days. Have fun!

First, a clip showing a variety of shod runners, and one pretty darned strong barefoot runner (make the video full screen for a better view):

Next, a clip showing a variety of shod runners (make the video full screen for a better view):

Finally, a clip showing a runner in Vibram Fivefingers (make the video full screen for a better view):

For comparative purposes, here are the top six men passing the camera at the same race location (make the video full screen for a better view):

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.



Comments

  1. Marcus Forman says:

    I’m certainly no biomechanics professor, but it seems as though there is a LOT of energy being lost when the shod foot comes crashing down on its heel.  I myself have an impossible time doing anything but heelstriking in those types of shoes; even in my Kinvara’s it was tough to run with my midfoot strike.

  2. Brad Patterson says:

    It’s also interesting to note that the top six finishers never completely straightened their leg (i.e. locked the knee), as compared to many of the runners straightening their leg in the first video.  I wonder if this is due to the higher speed/cadence of the elite 6 or perhaps just better form than the runners in the first video?

    • Skeks99 says:

      To me, it looked like they were wearing flatter, less cushioned shoes and doing less of a heel strike and almost more of a forefoot strike. (except the third and last guy)

  3. Shelly Latsha says:

    The thing that is most striking to me is that those who are heavy heel strikers are landing with their knee locked, leg fully extended.  Those landing in the midfoot or forefoot region all have a bend at the knee.  Whether or not this has anything to do with injury pattern is still up for debate.  I would love to study this long term!

  4. D. Casey Kerrigan, M.D. says:

    Honestly! All the other runners just look like they’re running in high-heeled shoes… which brings it all back for me to one of my first studies on footwear published in the Lancet in 1998 showing that high-heels increased knee torques — link to ncbi.nlm.nih.gov… — I see no real difference here. 

  5. Paul Henry says:

    I think the videos of the barefoot and VFF runner show that their toes/forefoot is reaching for the ground as they end the foward swing of their lower leg, whereas in many of the shod runners the toes are not reaching, in some cases they may even be being flexed away from the ground.

    Looking foward to the videos of the recreational runners now

  6. Cole Townsend says:

    laughed out loud as the bike rolled across the screen. great post!

  7. David Steinberg says:

    The videos don’t seem to be up.

  8. briderdt says:

    Just a quick question — from the looks of the road in the video, it seems that this was slightly downhill. Yes?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Mostly an artifact of the camera not being level. If there was a downhill, it was pretty slight.

  9. Charles Therriault says:

    MY favorite video is of the VFF runner and the guy who is just looking straight at the guys feet and nothing else.

  10. RunningPT12 says:

    I think that the most interesting thing here, the bigger difference with those running at sub-5 minute pace compared to those running slower is the amount of power and motion driven through the hips- much better hip extension, overall stride length, inter-thigh angles during float phase. The float phases are much longer than the stance phases.

  11. I think it is also worth putting this years Boston Marathon women’s finish up with these videos.

    link to youtube.com

  12. Richard Ayotte says:

    As I’m watching these videos, I’ve realized that it’s become pointless to look at where the foot strikes when the runner is wearing shoes to determine good form. Large padded heels on a shoe make it almost impossible to land on the forefoot because you’d have to really point your toes down to an unnatural extent. I’ve tried forefoot striking in high heel shoes and it just didn’t work. I’m afraid that without pressure sensors, we’ll need to look at the rest of the leg to see if the forces are distributed evenly.

    • Brad Patterson says:

      I was thinking the EXACT same thing, Flammon! If you look at a lot of the “heel strikers”, it appears that a lot of them might be landing on their forefoot if they were running in a more minimalist shoe. 

  13. Hey thanks for posting this. I haven’t the technology to film myself while running. I do have to say that training for a marathon barefoot in April, in Michigan was difficult and I was just starting to fall apart at that point. 

  14. Ruben Berenguel says:

    Awesome. In the top 6 video, looks like they are (almost) mid-foot strikers, don’t you think?

    Cheers,

    Ruben @mostlymaths.net

    • Just A Lurker says:

      Hard to say without force plates (I can’t tell anyway).  A little less leg straightening and heel hammering than the other shod runners, but nothing like the BF dude and the VFF runner, both of whom did not straighten at the knee and clearly landed flat and not on heel.

      • Ruben Berenguel says:

        I was just concentrating on the striking to the ground, compared to the first video. But as you say, the BF and VFF are more clearly hitting just different.

  15. Pete-These bring back great memories of when you first posted them and makes me think about how much I have learned since then.  When I see this, I see a really simple solution to the problem that running injuries create in the lives of far too many runners.  It would be interesting to see a 3 hour group video from 30 years ago.  Well done brotha!

  16. Katovsky Bill says:

    you gotta wince each time those slo-mo heel strikers come crashing down on the ground. you can almost hear the runner’s knees howl in protest. “why are you doing this to my joints, dear runner in your big-heel shoes? haven’t you heard about the forefoot.”

  17. This is BEAUTIFUL Pete!

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