Should We Be Running Barefooted?

Image Source: Frugivore Magazine

The $20 billion running-shoe industry has come a long way since Spalding developed basketball shoes all the way back in 1907. As the 20th Century moved on sneakers became increasingly popular around the world. Every sport eventually had their own sneaker and they became a part of pop culture. And, with advancements in technology, sneakers began adding more cushioning and everything from thrust enhancers, roll bars, and microchips. The interesting thing is that all of this technology and comfort found in today’s running shoes may actually be doing more harm to people’s bodies.

Christopher McDougall has been warning people of the dangers of modern running shoes for years. In 2009, the author and journalist released his best-selling book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen which supported the idea of barefoot running. While some people in the world literally run barefoot, the idea behind this trend is that modern shoes with all the cushioning and gadgets are causing more injuries. In fact, it’s been suggested that about 65 to 80 per cent of all runners suffer an injury every year.


What’s even more interesting is that these injuries have been increasing since Nike unveiled the modern running shoe in 1972. Before then, “people ran in very thin-soled shoes, had strong feet and had a much lower incidence of knee injuries”.

But, is there any truth to this, or is it just a guy who can benefit from this theory since it would help book sales? It turns out that McDougall is backed up by a number of scientists and doctors. For example, there’s Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, who has found that: ‘’A lot of foot and knee injuries currently plaguing us are caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate (ankle rotation) and give us knee problems.

There’s also Dr. Craig Richards, a researcher at the University of Newcastle in Australia, who discovered that there is no evidence that running shoes make you any less prone to injury. Even the so-called father of modern fitness running Arthur Lydiard, and mentor to University of Oregon coach and Nike founder Bill Bowerman, has said that that he and other runners used to run in canvas shoes. ‘We didn’t get plantar fasciitis (pain under the heel); we didn’t pronate or supinate (land on the edge of the foot); we might have lost a bit of skin from the rough canvas when we were running marathons, but generally we didn’t have foot problems’.

There are even Olympic runners who have gone barefoot during sprinting and long distance competitions. Obviously this is a trend that is catching on amongst runners.

Image Source: Barefoot Ted

In short, humans are meant to run barefoot. So next time you’re shopping for a new pair of training shoes perhaps you should look for some cheap trainers. Or, you could cough up the money for barefoot or minimalist shoes. Then again, you could always just run barefoot and save some cash and maybe even a serious injury. Regardless, if you are running with shoes on it’s recommended that you change your shoes between 500-1,000 miles, based on the individual’s size and running surfaces/conditions.

If there are any runners out there reading this, let us know if you’re tried out barefoot running and how it worked out for you.

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