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Professor Harvard university Daniel Lieberman, studying the effects of running on health (and especially on his knees), came to the conclusion that turns everything around on this issue: running is useful, but only barefoot, or in shoes with a minimal sole (1).

The basis of modern advertising-driven perception of running is to run, we necessarily need a pair of sneakers and a special coating. But Dr. Liberman's research shows that running barefoot does not need anything.

How did the human foot develop?

According to the Darwin theory of human development, initially the legs were mainly used for walking and climbing trees, and then, with an increase in the need for meat production and hunting animals, people had to run more.

Many large animals cannot run for a long time - for example, after 10-15 minutes of fast running, the gazelle loses its strength, reduces speed, and it is easy to hit with a spear. That is why a person is primarily characterized by marathon rather than sprinting (2).

When did the sneakers appear?

As already mentioned, people have been running since the beginning of history, and this is at least 2 million years old: nature and evolution made sure that our legs and feet were optimally arranged for the mechanical process of running, and the load on our knees was minimal.

Modern running shoes appeared not so long ago - only in the middle of 1970. Under the influence of advertising, the idea was popularized that without special shoes running is simply impossible. Moreover, every year the next "fashionable" sneakers are produced.

Research by Dr. Liberman

Using the time-lapse technique, fixing the touch points of the foot of the surface and analyzing the load created at that moment, scientists compared professional runners, ordinary people, as well as African Aboriginal people who always run barefoot (2).

Studies have shown that barefoot running is significantly different from running in shoes, which creates cushioning of the foot and additional support for the heel. The running technique is gradually changing, moreover, it becomes more traumatic for joints and ligaments.

How do people run?

According to this study, when running, the foot touches the ground in one of three ways: heel, heel and toe at the same time, toe. Most sprinters when running first touch the ground with their toes, and 75-80% of marathon runners first touch the surface with their heels.

The running technique of African Aborigines, who always ran barefoot, is that the ground first touches the pads of the outer toes, then the toe and then the heel are lowered. In fact, the foot itself absorbs the impact of the foot on the surface.

Health and medical consequences

In the 1980s, a South African runner, Zola Budd, ran barefoot in both training and competition. She won the 1985 World Cross-Country Championships and participated in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Kenyan runner Tegla Lorupe barefoot ran 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) to and from school every day at the age of seven. She performed well in school competitions, and in 1988 won the prestigious barefoot cross country competition. She continued to run, both barefoot and in shoes, in several international tournaments, marathons and half marathons. She won barefoot at the Goodwill Games and was the first African woman to win the New York Marathon in 1994, and again in 1998.

At the beginning of the XXI century, running barefoot received a strong impetus in popularization. The organizers of the 2010 New York Marathon observed an increase in the number of barefoot runners participating in the event. The surge in popularity is observed after the publication in 2009 of the book of Christopher McDougall "Born to run". In the United States in November 2009, asBarefoot society"(Eng. Barefoot Runners Society). By November 2010, the organization had announced 1,345 members, nearly double the 680 members that were founding members.

One barefoot runner, Rick Ruber, has been running barefoot since 2003, and has run more than 50 marathons, 2 ultramarathons 40 miles each, totaling more than 17,000 miles (27,359 km) - all barefoot.

Health and medical consequences [edit |

The pluses include:

Cost-effectiveness - Good running shoes now you know how much they cost.
Safety is a safer running technique. While moving barefoot, you stop landing on the heel of your extended leg, since the soft sole of the shoe does not absorb it, and you start to touch the ground with the toe or middle part of the foot. Thus, you transfer the shock load to the muscles and tendons, which from training only become stronger, instead of exposing her to the joints, which from the impact quickly become unusable.

Limited load - due to the fact that when you run barefoot, your foot muscles get tired much faster, you have to run less and not so intensively. However, with a gradual increase in the load, you will train your legs to ideal indicators and prepare your heart and lungs for serious runs.

Acupressure - any reflexologist will tell you that there are about 100 thousand nerve endings on the foot. And here the coverage that you run on is important: ideally, if it is the surface of the earth, the irregularities of which will constantly massage the nerve points, positively affecting both the nervous system and internal organs.

And here are the cons:

Serious Health Requirements - if you recently broke leg bones (this applies even to the little finger), running barefoot is absolutely contraindicated for you. And also if you suffer from diabetes, varicose veins, diabetes and other diseases that affect blood circulation in the legs and feet. In all these cases, the connection between the nervous system and the nerve endings of the legs can be broken, and you can, without noticing it, overdo it with zeal during training and, in addition to existing problems, get additional injuries.

Excess weight - if the number of your kilograms seriously exceeds the norm, it is better to forget about running barefoot, because, despite the safer landing technique, your muscles and joints will still be subjected to too much shock, which will certainly result in injuries.

Prerequisites for training - agree, in early December, you can only go for a run barefoot through the streets of Russian cities to argue about what will happen before: freeze your feet or break your foot with a piece of bottle glass. In fitness clubs, barefoot runners are also not particularly favored - in some institutions, the prohibition on barefoot training is explicitly spelled out in the rules. Perhaps only the treadmills of the stadiums remain. However, only their indoor options are available year-round.

If you don’t stop, and you decide to master barefoot running, here are some tips on the right barefoot running technique.

Do not run, but walk

Begin to master the technique of walking barefoot in order to prepare your feet for unusual sensations and loads - suburban field paths or paths in your country house are ideal. Follow them in the usual step daily for 30 minutes for 2 weeks. Then start light jogging, gradually increasing the distance to a maximum of 2 km per day.

Now run, but exactly

The easiest way is to track how smoothly you land (which means you load muscles, joints and tendons) with a baseball cap: put it on while running and watch for the visor that is in front of your eyes. Ideally, he should not jump up and down, but remain virtually motionless while running.

Running foot load

When running with the primary touch with the heel, the foot does not depreciate, and the entire load falls on the foot: this is equivalent to hitting the heel with a sledgehammer weighing two times the body weight. Naturally, such a run is disastrous for both the knees and legs in principle.

A comparison of runners who always ran barefoot and leaned on their toes and those running barefoot, but used to running in sneakers and leaning on the heel or side of the foot, showed that the latter put a sevenfold load on the foot.

How to run?

When running with the first touch of the ground with the toe, the vertical load exerted on the foot, knees and entire leg is about three times lower than when using other techniques. But it is important that this applies only to those who have always run barefoot, because sneakers are changing the technique.

By cushioning the shock when touching the ground, sneakers, in fact, are likely to only partially reduce the damage that they themselves create. Running barefoot is much safer and more natural. Moreover, on any surface: both hard and soft (3).

According to recent studies, most of the damage done to the knees and joints by running comes from the wrong running technique. In turn, it is likely that the wrong technique is formed under the influence of modern running shoes - sneakers.

  1. Biomechanics of Foot Strikes & Applications to Running Barefoot or in Minimal Footwear, Daniel E. Lieberman, Madhusudhan Venkadesan, Adam I. Daoud, William A. Werbel, source
  2. New Study by Dr. Daniel Lieberman on Barefoot Running Makes Cover Story in Nature Journal, source
  3. Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes, source