The Benefits of Barefoot Running
When you last went running, did you wear shoes? Sounds like a silly question, but the latest research from Harvard University casts doubt on the need for running shoes. In fact, researchers found that wearing running shoes can actually lead to more injuries than running barefoot.
In a groundbreaking research study, Harvard professor Daniel E. Lieberman studied the effects of barefoot running in Africa. He and his research team found that when people wear running shoes, they tend to strike with the heel. In contrast, barefoot runners have a springier step and tend to hit the ground with the middle or front of the foot.
The problem with running shoes, it seems, is not the shoes themselves but the heel-strike movement that they create. When runners hit the ground heel first, they experience a sudden and large impact on the ankles, knees and other joints. Hitting the ground with the middle or front of the foot is much easier on the body.
It seems crazy to think that humans don’t need running shoes, but in terms of human evolution, running shoes are a relatively new invention. For most of history, runners went barefoot or wore simple shoes such as moccasins. It was not until the
1970s that the modern version of the running shoe was created. Several tribes across the world still run barefoot or wear very minimal footwear. Unfortunately, the prevalence of running shoes in modern society has millions of heel-strikers. Lieberman says that more than 75% of Americans strike with their heel when they run, creating the potential for injury and joint pain. Each kilometer run creates an average of 600 painful heel strikes.
The good news is that barefoot running is not as difficult as it seems. There are no fitness requirements for barefoot running other than a few calluses. However, frequent runners should not ditch their running shoes immediately. Barefoot running uses different muscles than running with shoes, so runners should slowly incorporate barefoot mileage into their routine to ensure that the calf and foot muscles are in shape for longer runs.
Of course, runners that live in urban areas or densely populated cities might fear running over glass or other dangerous objects. Many shoes companies are now manufacturing barefoot-style running shoes. These products are meant to mimic the barefoot running experience while protecting the feet from outside elements.
It’s too early to tell whether or not runners will embrace Professor Lieberman’s research. Barefoot running provides an interesting alternative for runners looking to avoid high-impact injuries and adds a new twist to one of the most popular fitness workouts in the world.
Our advice to you… barefoot running is not for everyone but if you are keen to try it out then be smart and make a slow transition to this new style.
- Barefoot Running: 5 Ways to Do It Right (health.usnews.com)
- Marathon Footwear: How Minimalist Is Too Much? (geteconow.com)
- Are you better off running without sneakers? (ctv.ca)
- Is Barefoot Running Good or Bad for You? (mikereinold.com)
- Barefoot running gains a following (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Health Buzz: What Being Obese Will Cost You (health.usnews.com)
- Running barefoot (healthsass.blogspot.com)
- Saskatoon people trying barefoot running (cbc.ca)