There is a nice CNN iReport that talks to Julian Romero about barefoot running. It hits all the usual high points about how it is better for your feet, and that it doesn’t make your feet all ugly looking (which seems to be a common misunderstanding). Julian does a very good job.
Now, iReports are created by average people, not reporters, but if CNN likes them, they will “vet” them, and add the CNN logo to the ones they have vetted. This video is one of those.
While the video is fine, the accompanying text suffers from the usual defect that reporters indulge in. The final paragraph of the text says:
What would a Doctor say about the health risks of running barefoot. I spoke with Doctor Fred Nicola, Orthopedic Surgeon and team physician for the Oakland Raiders. Dr. Nicola said, “Barefoot running is acceptable when running short distances on dirt, grass, or track. Long distance running, especially on payment, is not good. It can cause long term damage” Long term damage can include; “plantar fasciisitis, ankle and mid foot arthritis, and serious tendonitis, which can lead to severe foot problems” He also said, “as you get older you loose the natural cushioning on the sole of the foot, and wearing an adequate shoe with support and cushioning will protect the natural foot arches, and protect against damage caused by repetitive impact”.
Dr. Nicola does not agree that it is better for the average runner to go barefoot, but,” for some subsets of runners it may be acceptable.
It’s the usual entrenched podiatrist position, offered without the podiatrist having any experience in the subject matter.
I have no idea, because of the iReport format, whether Julian would have had any chance to sway such a comment, so this is not intended as any criticism of him. But what I’d like to do is offer to folks some suggestions for something to do if you are ever interviewed by a reporter.
You have to keep in mind that “journalism” these days suffers from “he said, she said” syndrome. That is, the reporter seems to think they are doing their job if, after talking to one person, they find another person with an opposing point of view. The reporters make no effort to find out which person has the facts on their side (much of political discourse seems to be driven by this lack of fact-finding).
Thus, I’d like to offer the following points to bring up when talking to a reporter:
- Tell the reporter you know that they are now in all probability going to go ask a podiatrist about going barefoot.
- Have the reporter ask the podiatrist what studies back up any claims of “pavement damage”. Specifically bring up the Lieberman study that shows no difference between grass and pavement.
- Have the reporter ask the podiatrist about the studies showing how barefooted populations have healthy feet. There is Conclusions Drawn from a Comparative Study of the Feet of Barefooted and Shoe-wearing Peoples, by Phil. Hoffman and Survey in China and India of Feet That Have Never Worn Shoes, by Samuel B. Shulman. This is particularly important if the podiatrist burbles about “support.”
- Give the reporter the name of Dr. Michael Nirenberg over at America’s Podiatrist. That way, if the reporter does a “he said, she said,” it will be between two podiatrists, instead of the way it appeared in the article, a barefoot runner against a podiatrist.
Just a couple of suggestions that might improve the accuracy of these media stories.