Why Do I Run Barefoot…


Dr Stoxen, How Did You Discover the Human Spring Model and Why Do You Run Barefoot?

When I first opened my practice, I wanted to be able to heal people and, at the same time, train sports champions.

I went on a personal and professional mission not to only build a complete knowledge of the human body – the way we move and why – but to uncover the secrets of elite performance.

My first decade in practice, I volunteered to treat athletes at every possible sports event, including 50 national and international championships. I traveled to the former Soviet Union to study plyometrics and plyometric training (high impact training drills that enhance the effects of traditional resistance exercises). I also observed elite track and road training as well as competitions around the world. The athletes benefited from the on – site treatments and at the same time I was learning the secrets of how to achieve elite level performance from the best doctors, coaches and athletes in the world.

There is a large gap between what coaches require for athletes to perform at the elite level and what most doctors are recommending.

Many doctors tell us that high impacts are bad for us


When you ask a top coach what to do to achieve in sports they recommend plyometrics.

Plyometrics involves high impact drills.

Who is Correct?

This misunderstanding is easily cleared up with this statement.

If your body can resist the impacts then impacts are good for the body.  The whole complex design of the human body that allows you to absorb impacts is somewhat complex so I just call this an intact impact resistance or “spring mechanism”

When we discuss this impact resistance or “spring mechanism” (or Human Spring model) Looking at the body as a spring rather than the lever it makes it easy to understand better why in some cases impacts are bad and in other cases why impacts improve health and human performance.

Here are the important questions that needed answers:

  • If high impact training like running, plyometrics or spring training develops a stronger spring, giving athletes more speed, quickness, balance, coordination, agility and efficiency then – are reduced performance levels, loss of balance, poor coordination, less agility and an overall weakened performance the result of weakened human spring strength?
  • If the spring mechanism serves as a buffer between joints, protecting the body from injuries and allowing for stress – and strain – free motion, then could it be that the reason some patients have injuries that won’t heal is because they have a locked spring mechanism?
  • If spring strength is the secret to optimum performance then is the loss of human spring the secret to the decline of health?
  • If spring defines our youth then does a loss of spring in the step define aging?

The impact resistance or “spring mechanism” (or Human Spring model) can perhaps help to better understand or explain many mysteries about human suffering for us.

If we look at the body is like a giant spring composed of millions of springs which are muscles, ligaments, tendons and even spring mechanisms (the feet) that absorb shock and recycle energy through the elastic recoil mechanism. This elastic recoil spring mechanism allows sports to be more efficient in movement.  If we think of walking or running as a spring off the ground rather than banging into the ground then we can see how come plyometrics work for some and others it causes injuries.  For that matter we can see how even simple walking can cause joint pain as well.  The mechanism can’t even handle these light impacts.

Human Spring Model, click to enlarge

These studies, my observations and my hands-on work have led me to develop a new way of looking at the human body that I feel could help us understand why it breaks down, doesn’t heal and degenerates.

Simply put, every movement we make has assisted by elastic recoil mechanisms.  If two objects collide millions of times like the human body and the earth they should damage each other.  The ground is damaged.  We call that a path.  The body should be damaged but it somehow stays in tact even after 100 million impacts.  This is common to have this many impacts by your 30th birthday.

(The American Podiatry Association says the average person takes 5000 – 15000 steps a day x 365 days a year x 30 years is 54M – 150M impacts in 30 years)

How does it do that?  The footwear industry says we need a cushion or a shock absorber between us and the ground to absorb the impacts however there are people in third world countries that live their entire life barefoot or with no shock absorption.  So how do we absorb so many millions of impacts safely?

I theorized that one of the most logical explanations is that the entire body is engineered as a giant spring mechanism.  A human spring mechanism that runs from toe (the master spring is in the arch of the foot) to head.

How do you explain why we cannot run barefoot as easy as an adult as we can as a child.  When the supportive mechanism weakens it stiffens.  The stiffened spring mechanism is not so springy.  We need it to be springy so it can flex with forces of the landings.  If it cannot flex with the landings it makes sense that stress and strain free running is impossible.  Also a stiff abrupt landing causes a shock to the skeleton and stress and strain can interfere with the healing process.

By releasing this stiffness, and by strengthening and plyometrically training the impact resistance (spring) mechanism of  the body, we may be able to restore the ability to take impacts better.

What do I feel makes our body weak at resisting impacts.  I feel that there are many causes but I feel the main culprit is unnatural movement while we are walking and running. What causes unnatural movement? One cause could be ill fitting footwear which act as binding or restrictive devices on the body.

If you understand that the body is a giant spring like I suggest you do, you will now see the cause of some very common unexplained conditions and afflictions in a different light

  1. When we look at the body as a impact resistant (spring) mechanism rather than a (push) lever mechanism it allows us to understand why I recommend barefoot running vs shod or restricted spring running (shod running).
  2. What is even more exciting is it allows us to have a rationale explanation for why many have unexplained chronic pain as it relates to a break down of the spring protective mechanism that protects us from the landings not allowing our bodies to heal. The abnormal foot landing with the different arrays of footwear styles start to take their toll on the muscles and joints leading to stress and strain, wear and tear, the release of inflammation and pain.  Lets face it, we seldom select shoes based on their ability to provide us with a precise foot plant to maintain stress free walking.  In my opinion so many people have misdiagnosed fibromyalgia because the doctors don’t do gait studies on you while you barefoot walk.  I recommend you get a second opinion on conditions that do not heal after 2-3 weeks of progressive therapy and especially on a quick diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
  3. The human spring model could provide a rational for why so many have chronic fatigue.  If it is true that we are a giant spring then we know springs recycle energy when the impact force is loaded.  The spring deforms its shape, stores energy then reforms back to its exact original shape releasing the energy.  That storing and releasing recycling of energy with every step happens with some allowing them to have energy and with those who have a stiff, weak or locked spring they don’t recycle energy.

If your blood work and all other tests are normal and the doctor cannot find a reason for your chronic pain go to an expert on gait and have them do a gait study on you.  Your doctors have to watch you walk to see if you bounce off the ground or bang into the ground.  This is an oversimplified explanation.  This is called a gait analysis.  Not all doctors have expertise in this area so maybe it is best to seek out a specialist for this study.

The elite level sports training world changed their protocols back in the 70’s with the advent of plyometric training.  This involves training with high impacts to bolster the ability to spring off the ground better.

Plyometrics, in my opinion, is training the human body as a spring mechanism.  This method of training invented by famed Russian sports scientist, Yuri Verkhoshansky involves high impacts into the human spring to bolster human performance by creating a positive adaptation of the spring mechanisms in the joints, ligaments and tendons.  I met and studied his ideology directly with him during with several trips to Moscow back in 1987-89.   This human spring training is currently the most widely accepted approach to high level training in the world.

The founder of this approach to training Verkhoshansky talk about Hookes Law of physics when referencing the training approach.  This is a law of physics related to the function of a spring.  

Dr James Stoxen DC at the 1988 All African Track and Field Championships

In 1988 I was invited to work at the fifth All African Track and Field Championships in Annaba, Algeria. The most extreme difference between the African athletes and my patients back home, I found was the spring in their feet and legs.

Their tibialis posterior, tibialis anterior and peroneal muscles (I call the landing or spring suspension system muscles) I noticed were highly developed. What I discovered was that some of these athletes trained at high speeds in shoes that were more like slippers with no cushion and many trained barefoot.

That fueled my desire to change my approach to care for patients suffering from a wide variety of ailments. I believe the reason for why my patients were not performing at optimum potential and why their bodies were not injury resistant was attributable to a weakness in these musles. Lets face it, how many training programs involve specific training of the tibialis posterior, tibialis anterior and peroneal muscles without shoes on?  You cannot even go to a fitness center and take off your shoes without getting kicked out.

After reading every piece of relevant scientific literature I could find and years of clinical studies with thousands of patients, I hypothesized that walking and running with footwear without balanced training the tibialis posterior, tibialis anterior and peroneal muscles without shoes on was one of the main causes of the acceleration of the aging process in the musculoskeletal system.  It is the foundation of the body from which all movement is determined as it is interconnected. 

Invitations to lecture

I was invited to address the Tenth International Congress on Anti-Aging &. Biomedical Technologies, in Las Vegas entitled Faulty Biomechanics of the Lower Extremities, A Presentation of how Simple Biomechanics Dysfunction Accelerates the Aging Process. This same lecture went through an evolutionary process through my clinical experiences and scientific studies, while preparing for lectures such as “walking biomechanics, how abnormal movement patterns accelerate the aging process” at the Royal College of Physicians in London England, medical conferences in Bali Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,Tokyo Japan, Hangzhou, China, Cape Town, South Africa, Monte Carlo, Principality of Monaco, and Guang Zhou, China.

Dr James Stoxen DC lectures at the World Congress of Anti-Aging Medicine and Regenerative Biomedical Technologies in Chicago 2007

This evolution of my theory and approach compelled me to submit an abstract for a lecture entitled Elastic Recoil Mechanisms – How Footwear Accelerates Aging Process. In August 2007, the medical commission of the 15th Annual World Congress of Anti-Aging Medicine and Regenerative Biomedical Technologies in Chicago approved the abstract.

Close to 2000 doctors and scientists heard the scientific rational argument for why walking and other forms of exercise, including running, should be performed barefoot. To my knowledge, this was the first time the concept of ‘shoe-less’ exercise including barefoot running had been presented to an international audience of physicians. (Pre-dating Born To Run and the Harvard Barefoot study published in Nature).

If you could run barefoot as a child but cannot do it now, is this the first sign of aging?

Some doctors advise against striving for a barefoot lifestyle.  Why do they hold you back from striving to do the activities you could easily do as a youth?

That lecture evolved through preparations in 2007 for lectures in Florida, Columbia, Germany and Japan. Certainly, at the time, it seemed as though I was the only one telling the medical establishment that footwear should not be worn during walking or running and the body should be trained while barefoot.

In 2008-2009, it gained speed when I switched the focus of the biomechanics from walking to running speeds with the lecture series Run For Life! New Innovative Examining Procedures to Determine the Effects on the HUMAN SPRING from Variable Forces on Lower Extremities during Multiple Speed Ambulation for lectures in Beijing, Dubai, Seoul, Sao Paulo, Cambridge (SENS), Frankfurt and in Mexico City (2010)

In spring of 2010 I took the next logical step in developing my theory – I prepared my body for the cardio workout that was optimal for my health, barefoot running.

I released, strengthened and trained my body like a spring mechanism in preparation for the experience. My first run was a route on concrete pavement on the Chicago lake front – and because I had prepared my body for the impacts, studied and practiced the proper form and technique, I eased into running 5 – 7 miles, 3 days a week with no complications whatsoever.

I finished off 2010 barefoot running in the AIDS Walk Run 10K and the Susan G. Komen Run for the Cure in honor of my mother, Lydia Stoxen, who died of breast cancer in 1995.

By the end of the year I had run 350 miles and experienced all the predicted improvements in my health. . My goal is to compete in a half marathon and possibly a marathon for 2012.

In September, 2010, I launched my next lecture series around the world, Run for Life, Barefoot at the 2nd annual Bangkok Congress on Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.

Dr James Stoxen DC Running Barefoot

The following day I ran barefoot in the 14th Annual Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s Minimarathon (10K) held on the streets of the Ministry of Health in the Thai capital.

This lecture was also presented in Mexico City in February and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I have been invited to discuss the Human Spring Approach to preventive medicine in Shanghai, China in 2012.

I am honored to have been able to spread the word regarding the benefits of barefoot running to medical physicians and scientists at ACME medical conferences as part of detailing my theories and practices.

How I Got My Wiggle Back

In February 2012, Anthony Field from the famed ‘Wiggles’ children’s group released the book, ‘How I Got My Wiggle Back’, A Memoir of Healing. Chapter Seven is entitled Barefoot and Lovin’ It.  In the book Anthony discusses the barefoot lifestyle that I recommended for him in 2007.

Shoe companies say we need an artificial spring between these two colliding objects, our human spring bodies and the earth.

In reality, all we really need to do is find a way to absorb the impact into our human spring that the cushion represents and we can do away with these artificial supports and protective devices and run barefoot for life.

Thank God I found a way to do this for myself at age 50.  I don’t want to be on the path from barefoot to bedridden by constantly adding additional supports to my body to help it to function.

There is no challenge to that!

Challenge your doctor and trainer to help you reestablish the human spring you had in your youth.

Raising Awareness Of Barefoot Training and Running

I plan on giving away all my knowledge, advice and self – help tips here in this blog site. I look forward to addressing visitors questions to the best of my ability. If I cannot provide the appropriate answer I will find the leading experts in the world who can.

I know some people live to run. We all should be running, barefoot – to live a long healthy, active and fulfilling life.

Dr James Stoxen DC

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About Dr James Stoxen DC (282 Posts)

Dr. James Stoxen, D.C., owns and operates Team Doctors Treatment and Training Center. and Team Doctors Sports Medicine and Anti-aging Products. He has been the meet and team chiropractor at many national and world championships. He has been inducted into the prestigious National Hall of Fame, the Personal Trainers Hall of Fame and appointed to serve on the prestigious, Global Advisory Board of The International Sports Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the American Board of Anti-Aging Health Practitioners. Dr. Stoxen is a sought after speaker, internationally having organized and /or given over 1000 live presentations around the world.(full bio)

  • What a great body of work to have been at the forefront of this new approach to health and vitality!

    • Anonymous

      Thank You Jeff, I appreciate your comment and welcome any thoughts you might have. Feel free to come back and share again.

  • Diamond Baier

    Very interesting! I know that I have been doing everything barefoot around the house, but living here in Phoenix the ground get’s pretty hot! I was given the 5 finger toes by vigram for my birthday and I’m loving them. What do you think about the five finger shoes?

    • Hi Diamond! I actually don’t use the Vibram shoes electing to do barefoot running bare. I started bare and ran for 4 months without any covering on my feet on solid concrete and asphalt of the Chicago lakefront path and streets.

      There were times when it was hot and I remember running in 98 degree heat 9 miles barefoot and coming into some hot ground. I just got through it staying in the shade as much as possible without direct sunlight.

      One day while shopping I saw the Vibrams so I thought well I should see what they are like as Im lecturing on barefoot running and people are using them for minimalist running. When I tried them on I got my big toe and second toe in the big toe space. Ugh! Then I had to shove the foot into the shoe as I have a cavus (high arch) foot and that was not so fun. I worked it for 7-8 minutes until I got them on.

      Then when I got them on I pulled the velcro across and the feeling of binding seemed worse than shoes. I did not like how it restricted my foot so I took them off and will not go back to them again sorry. Once you go bare you cannot go back or something like that 🙂

      I found something interesting in my research. While looking at slow motion video of running I noticed that as the foot leaves the ground the forefoot continues to plantar flex beyond the 180 degree mark as in the image I attached to this post.

      What that does is increase the natural arch depth and it also builds strength at this depth unlike just stretching to this position.

      As you know the Vibrams inhibit this natural motion not allowing the forefoot to go beyond the 180 position. I would prefer that you try to run in the early morning or late at night. I think it is worth it to go completely bare.

  • Embee62756

    You said you trained to run barefoot before doing your first run in Chicago. What was your training regimen? Specifically, what did you do to add strength and flexibility to your “spring mechanism”?

    • Hi Embee62756 Thank you for asking. I started running barefoot. I studied what I needed to have as far as

      1. A fully released spring with virtually no joints in the feet or kinematic chain up the floors stiff or locked with spasms of any kind. I also knew I could not have any locking in joint play at all in the feet. This is something you may not hear of because it is my focus but not necessarily the same focus of other doctors. Everyone focuses on different things. I have been studying how the body handles impacts since the late 80s when I visited Yuri Verhkoshanski, the father of modern plyometrics at the Central Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow.

      2. I realized all of my muscles of my feet had to be strong to handle the impact loading. That is why I did barefoot drills like side shuffle, zig zags, circles and figure 8 running drills and trained the landing muscles or what I call the spring suspension system muscles that land the foot saver when barefoot.

      3. I did not transition from shoes to minimalist shoes to barefoot. I think that is a mistake. When people put on so called barefoot shoes they think it is “like” running barefoot when it is not.

      a. There is the psychological thought that you are running barefoot but with more protection and neither are true. You definitely feel a different sensation when you run barefoot rather than with minimalist shoes.
      b. When habitually “bare” barefoot runners put on those minimalist shoes they have remarked to me that they felt their feet were bound and squeezed. That is how I felt. I tried them when the weather got cold in Chicago below 40 degrees. I refused to wear them.

      4. I worked on stretching my feet and deep tissue 30 minutes to 1 hour before every training session. I had no iPods or any other music or distraction. I wanted to hear how my foot was hitting the ground and work on lessening the sound of the impact. There was an extreme focus on form and technique.

      5. I filmed myself running and played the video back on my computer in slow motion to see if I was 1.) Heel landing 2.) if the second toe was pointing to the target 3.) if my foot and legs were totally relaxed on impact to take the force of the impact into the foot that was not stiff so it could load the impact in. If you are stiff you will bang the impact into the body.

      6. I started by running very slow in zig zag patterns the entire way to force the development of the muscles that maintain the body in the safe range. I noticed that if I stood on my feet for a long time with shoes at the office it would take at least a mile for the spring of the foot to release. I ran hard for the first mile in comparison to the remaining 5-6 miles that day. That is why the zig zags (relaxed) were essential to release the stiffness in the feet.

      7. I ran every 3 days for the first 6 weeks as the bottoms of my feet were not as tough as they should be so they were a little tender for a day and a half. After the 6 week mark I ran every 2 days. That seemed to work well with recovery.

      8. If I felt a tiny tenderness anywhere in my muscles or joints I immediately stopped running and sat down and stuck my thumb into the sore area and pressed down until I could not feel a thing. I searched around for other tender areas and made sure there were none before I started up again. After a while I realized I was fine tuning my biomechanics to near perfect. That is how you really get this down.

      I set a goal to do this and nothing was going to get in my way. I don’t know if someone has the conditioning to run barefoot but setting a goal to be able to do it safely and effectively is a noble goal. if a doctor just flat out says you should not do it and you are already running 10Ks then find someone who will encourage you and will help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

      Gymnasts bound off the mats in tumbling with incredible force on their bodies and they are barefoot. Maybe you should show your doctor that says barefoot sports are wrong this video of athletes taking incredible impact forces into their bare feet and see what he thinks.

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  • Its a very interesting article

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