A Return to Old Form, The Revitalization of Barefoot Running
There’s an old saying that goes, “what’s once was old is new again.” This statement holds true for the sudden revitalization of barefoot running. You may not even go so far to see someone running barefoot; but you may have seen those weird looking five-fingered shoes such as those from Vibram or Fila, essentially a rubber foot glove with no heel cushion or arch support. These “barefoot-running” style shoes are now part of a $1.7 billion dollar industry.
New research supports the benefits of barefoot running. Scientists have found that running on barefoot or minimal footwear tends to avoid “heel-striking”. Instead, runners land on the ball of the foot or in the middle of the foot. This, in essence uses the architecture of the foot and leg; as well as Newtonian mechanics. All in all, runners can avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts equaling up to two to three times the body weight that heel-strikers routinely experience. This force that happens when we land on our heels and the ensuing shockwave that travels up our legs eventually hits our head. This feeling is something we have grown accustomed to when we go running according to Harvard evolutionary biology professor Dr. Lieberman. This leads to an alarming statistic, “79 percent of all runners are injured every year… What’s more, those figures have been consistent since the 1970s.” says Stephen Messier. Messier is the director of the J.B. Snow Biomechanics Laboratory at Wake Forest University.
In what is considered to be the bible of barefoot running, “Born to Run”, the author Christopher Macdougall researched the Tarahumara Indian. Macdougall noticed two things. First, many of the Tarahumara Indians were, “running well into their geriatric years.” Second, he noticed their “whisper-soft stride”. Macdougall then ditched his shoes, adopted the Tarahumara barefoot form, and participated in 50 mile run through the canyons. Before the experience, Macdougall was a self-described, “middle-aged, ex-runner”. After the switch to barefoot running, Macdougall has been running injury free.Continued on the next page