You knew I’d get to this post right? It’s all the craze in the running world right now and being both a scientist and a runner, I had to come to this point eventually.
Before all the hype started, I read a paper, published by a reputable group of scientists on the biomechanics of running barefoot. I also read Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, before it became so inspirational and hence encouraging of all these barefoot runners. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a fantastic book, a brilliant story and there is definitely something to the idea that less cushioning will allow our feet to actually feel the ground and do what they were made to do. I’m always a proponent of the more “natural” way of doing things. However, barefoot running is not something one should just start on a whim. I occasionally run with a very flat trail/water shoe, when out on the lake for the weekend …on soft trails and it feels great! I don’t feel that on the sidewalks of my city for my distance runs that it would be a great plan. I need some cushioning. Correct shoe fit and the proper shoe choice for your usage are the sole solution here.
Never just assume that because something is published, that it is right. For many years, people believed the Earth was flat. For many years, we all believed that we needed extra cushioning and “sox” and all sorts of gels and bubbles and so forth, to help soften our pounding on the pavement. Now a book and a few radicals push this idea and we’re all on the wagon? Careful kids, everything in moderation. Every day in science, things that we previously thought were irrefutable, are proven wrong. The Nature paper, ‘Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners” (Lieberman et. al, 2010) makes a wonderful scientific study of the benefits of barefoot running which goes along nicely with Born To Run.
I like the concept of rebelling against shoe companies who play off our fear of injury by developing shoes that hurt us more than help us, however…and this is a big BUT…isn’t it awfully ironic that in rebelling against shoe companies we are pushing people to buy Vibram Five Fingers and Nike Frees? In reality, couldn’t this be yet another marketing ploy?
The bottom line is that no matter who you are, you are an individual with individual needs. Only you can know what your particular foot, joints, legs and/or body will function best with. Always use your own discretion and choose what works for you-don’t waste needless piles of money on the latest gimmick. And in my opinion, running with a minimalist shoe, rather than completely Barefoot or with the lovely gimmick of Vibrams, can be much safer for most and much more affordable. There have been countless articles published about how the best running shoes, can be the least expensive, due to the lower level of cushioning and bells and whistles. So if you want to try this trend…look in your closet, you may already have some cheaper, minimalist shoes in there.
Either way, keep on running!