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christopher mcdougall
biology professor
harvard university
shoe companies
running shoes
forefoot
Should You Be Wearing Shoes When You Run Or Not: The Debate Continues
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Should You Be Wearing Shoes When You Run Or Not: The Debate Continues

The debate continues. Should you be wearing cushioned, modern shoes when you go out running or should you be barefoot instead? While some nation's runners have historically ran all their races and day to day running barefoot, others have come to the practice in more recent years, including those who took to the trend after reading the Christopher McDougall book, "Born to Run".

At the forefront of the debate is the premise that running shoes, which are cushioned and often have supports and elevated heels change the way that the runner's foot strikes the ground during a run which may or may not increase the risk for injuries. A barefoot runner, on the other hand is more likely to hit the ground in a more natural foot strike, landing with the soft, padded part of the forefoot rather than the thinner, bonier heel area. That gives the runner not only a more comfortable foot strike but may also give the the additional bounce to propel them forward.

Daniel Lieberman, an evolutionary biology professor at Harvard University published a study in 2011 in the journal, Nature. That study looked at how ancestors ran, often for many miles per day. In most cases, they were either barefoot or wearing thin soled shoes like moccasins or handcrafted sandals. In the study, Lieberman and several colleagues from Britain and Kenya studied a wide range of runners including barefoot runners, shod runners and those who had recently made the switch from running in shoes to running barefoot.

Lieberman's research showed that the barefoot runners always landed on the forefront of the foot, where there is more cushion and spring which reduces the risk of injury, even on hard surfaces like cement or paved roads. The shoe wearing runners, on the other hand, land with the rear of their foot, striking heel, ball of the foot and then toes in a rocking motion that increases their risk of a multitude of foot injuries.

As could be imagined, several experts, including many with links to the big name shoe companies have disputed the study, saying that there was no actual conclusion about injury risk and no proof offered that running in shoes was dangerous. Still, those big name shoe companies are working to cash in on the trend by developing barefoot shoes- which have a more traditional looking sole and five individual spaces for the toes. It may come down to running with or without shoes with more careful attention paid to the foot strike.


Street Talk

Makes sense. I figured the shoe companies would dispute the findings.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Of course they did. They came out with their own version of the barefoot shoes - which are currently being reviewed for safety. A few of the brands are being sued because they are expensive and because they made false claims in their advertisement.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Interesting! My physicians took me out of the ordinary shoes and into Mephisto shoes long ago. The different design, heavy "last" and all do change the way of moving. Informative article, thanks.

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Amie, around our neighborhood, I've seen a man running without shoes. It was fairly cold out when I noticed him doing this; I had to look twice. Now I understand a bit better, from your article, that this is perhaps a new thing coming to our area (though, I'm not sure that many do it).

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

I run on my treadmill barefoot, I also do it at the local track. I started doing Insanity and everyone said you HAVE to wear shoes. I tried for one session but could not stand it. I am barefoot when I am doing that and much much happier. (and more insane) !!!

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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