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Barefoot Running

Humans have been running long distances for millions of years whether to catch prety or fight wars, yet the running shoe is a relatively recent development, only being designed in the 1970s. There are those who argue however, that the running shoe rather than prevent injury, can actually increase our risk of injury by causing us to land in an unnatural position over and over again. So is the multi-billion pound industry of the running shoe nothing but a money spinner and should we all go back to the natural barefoot running of our ancestors? Christopher McDougall, author of `Born to Run` and `Natural Born Heroes` argues that the secret to injury free running is all about technique, not the latest footwear, sports physician or podiatrist. He cites the Tarahumara, a Native American people who are known for running incredibly long distances (sometimes over 150 miles) in one go wearing nothing but thin sandals but with very few injuries ever occuring. Why? McDougall argues that long distance runners active before the invention of the running shoe knew that they had to be gentler on their legs and so landed more softly as they weren’t relying on air-injected foam to cushion the impact of their running. When we really think about it, how many other animals on the planet wear shoes? One, the horse, and that’s due to the fact we put them on the horse! Humans have been running barefoot for millions of years and evolution would suggest that we wouldn’t have survived if running barefoot was that bad for us. There is the argument that it is only the invention of the running shoe that has led to increases in injuries due to incorrect technique. Scientific studies have supported this view and a study by Harvard scientist Dr Lieberman compared foot strike and collision forces in barefoot runners with those running shoes. The study found runners who land on their forefoot land with far less force than those who land on the heel, and that while the running shoe provides cushion and comfort to the heel it does little to reduce impact or injury. The study concludes that the modern running shoe may actually increase injury as it promotes landing on the heel when running which produces far greater impact than landing on the forefoot. As the average runner impacts the ground over 1000 times per mile, these impacts if met incorrectly can soon cause injury. There is a danger of getting drawn into the hype of having the latest running shoe and fitness technology with air-injected foam or motion control when really what matters is technique while running. Running shoes can allow us to get into bad habits and mask our running mistakes as the foot has been developed to run barefoot. The foot contains the largest amount of sensors in the human body, is it right to stifle them with a running shoe? As the study suggests, the argument isn’t necessarily a barefoot running v shoe running debate but more about correct technique v poor technique. If you run gently and land on the forefoot, whether you run in barefoot or running shoes is really up to you! Sources – http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/Nature2010_FootStrikePatternsandCollisionForces.pdf http://www.chrismcdougall.com/born-to-run/the-barefoot-running-debate/

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