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running barefoot February 2, 2010

Posted by t-maker in Miscellaneous, Science.
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girlrunning

More people are running barefoot these days, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Some athletes train and compete shoeless, like South African runner Zola Budd, a former Olympic track and field competitor.

So why do they do it?

budd

Now there’s a scientific answer. Scientists have found that those who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience.

“By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world’s hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes,”

says Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University.

The differences between shod and unshod running have evolutionary underpinnings. Homo sapiens, in contrast to our early Australopith ancestors, “has evolved a strong, large arch that we use as a spring when running”. Authors of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature write:

“Humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s. For most of human evolutionary history, runners were either barefoot or wore minimal footwear such as sandals or moccasins with smaller heels and little cushioning.”

It is an impressive investigation though. But I wonder why it took so long to discover that humans didn’t evolve wearing running shoes?

Technorati Tags: Zola, Budd, Olympic, scientist, Daniel, Lieberman, Harvard, Homo, Australopith, Nature, human, barefoot, people, footwear, shod, heel, foot, runner, shoes, human, evolutionary

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