Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is Barefoot Really Better?

The June/July issue of Men's Journal featured an article about barefoot running.  That its not really a question whether shodless is better but we should focus on one's stride technique

Here's some for your consumption:
My friend Christoper McDougall has really nice feet.  "Here, feel them," he said recently, proferring a meaty sole.  This was a big jump for us, friendship-wise, but he was right: His feet were smooth, supple, and surprisingly clean, given the fact that he runs 40 to 50 miles per week, predominantly on pavement - and barefoot

We'd been meaning to go for a run together for a year now, but he'd been a little busy.  Last May, he published the surprise bestseller Born to Run, which popularized the barefoot-running craze and made him the most controversial figure in running; every time we were supposed to go, he'd get called to New York for the The Daily Show or something to explain why, as he wrote in his book, "running shoes may be the most destructive force ever to hit the human foot."

That sentence attached the way we run and touched off heated debate on internet message boards and in shoe stores

All the debate lacked was scientific evidence: No studies have conclusively shown that running in shoes is somehow better than barefooting, or vice versa.  But fascinating new research suggests that McDougall may be on to something - just not quite what he thought.

"The wrong debate has been promulgated by journalists," says Daniel Lieberman, a professor in human evolutionary biology at Harvard whose January study in Nature sheds a different light on the potential benefits of barefooting.  "It's not about barefoot versus shoe running - that's a lifestyle debate.  It's really a debate about stride technique."

McDougall had been preaching the barefoot gospel to me for months.  His own "conversion" took place over the past couple of years, after he investigated why he - and more than half of all runners - sustains so many injuries from simply jogging.  Despite all the high-tech innovations, like gel-filled insoles, air cushions, and midfoot plates, built into today's near orthopedic shoes, research suggests that 40 to 80 percent of runners will get injured in any given year.  So he was excited when he stumbled upon some loose research about the potential benefits of running barefoot, with one particular study citing the way the Tarahumara, an indigenous Mexican tribe, run (in leather sandals) without getting hurt
Still skeptical?  Try it!  You will notice that you will run differently.  And don't forget to share your experience.  I believe that it will only be a matter of time that barefoot running, and everything that comes with it, will be fully understood (and embraced) in the running community


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