Barefeet May Spare Feet

by Bea | February 2nd, 2010 | Running

A recent article in the Boston Globe re-sparked my interest in the benefits of running barefoot.

On January 28th, 2010,  new research was published about the study of running barefoot that is being led by Harvard scientists. This research showed that people who run with minimal shoes or barefoot usually land on their feet, so as to avoid any jarring impact. Most runners who wear shoes land on their heel first and then roll to their toes because that is what is usually advised. It turns out that this crashing movement is actually very unhealthy for your body. As Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, would say, “It’s as if every time you land on the ground, someone hits you on the heel with a hammer.” Lieberman is someone who runs barefoot and who is studying the biomechanics of running at his laboratory. Landing feet first usually means that the heel feels an initial impact of two or three times the person’s body weight–how’s that for a hammer?

However, the question is not really about whether or not running barefoot makes a person run differently than running with shoes on. It has been known that barefoot runners tend to land on the ball or middle of their foot. What is more interesting to researchers is whether or not this variation in landing actually decreases injuries. Scientists want to know if wearing shoes has become an adaptation that actually has an impact on feet injuries. To research these questions, scientists are now studying the runners in the United States and Kenya who normally run barefoot with the people who run in shoes.

Some people run completely barefoot. They love to feel the ground beneath their feet and they try to avoid pebbles as much as possible. Others wear a pair of socks and use Duct Tape as their protective layer. Some people, to protect themselves from the cold and abrasive terrain, wear Vibram FiveFingers. You can read about these “shoes” here. Our feet have adapted to become accustomed to the modern shoe, but that doesn’t mean that they should be.

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