You remember Bruce Springsteen’s classic song “Born to Run?” Of course you do. The chorus of the song had the lyrics, “Baby we were born to run.”
I’ve amended it to include the word “barefoot.” Cause baby, we were born to run barefoot.
And let the truth be told – it is. You could also say it’s the Low Density Lifestyle way to run.
Which means we were not born to run with the latest in foot apparel. Yes, you can now ditch your Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Converse, Saucony, etc. Just think of the money you will save.
The reason I say this is that a growing body of research says that barefoot is the way people should run. And so, many runners are doing it.
Strong evidence shows that thickly cushioned running shoes have done nothing to prevent injury in the 30-odd years since Nike founder Bill Bowerman invented them, research says.
Some studies show that running in shoes may increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Runners who wear cheap running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers. Meanwhile, injuries plague 20 to 80 percent of regular runners every year.
Chris McDougall, who is featured in the above video, and is the author of the recent book Born to Run, goes further. “If this were a drug, it would be yanked off the market,” he said of running shoes.
McDougall, as he states in the above video, says that years of running in shoes caused him injury, and it wasn’t until he started running barefoot, after learning of a tribal people in Mexico that did this, that his problems cleared up.
“People have been running barefoot for millions of years and it has only been since 1972 that people have been wearing shoes with thick, synthetic heels,” said Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University.
Lieberman’s research into human and early hominid fossils suggests that the human body, including the foot, is well-adapted to long-distance running without shoes. He theories that early humans didn’t need speed so much as endurance — just enough to run down herd animals until they collapsed from overheating.
He’s sure that running barefoot or with minimal footwear is the way to avoid injury. After all, we evolved without shoes.
“If a third of runners had gotten injured in the Paleolithic era with runner’s knee or plantar fasciitis, you can bet that natural selection would have weeded them out,” Lieberman says.
If you’re interested in trying out barefoot (or nearly barefoot, meaning very thin soled shoes, such as flip flops) running, here’s a common sense approach to beginning, as it may take your body a little while to get used to it.
Start slow, with quarter-mile runs at most, and build up very gradually.
Listen to your feet. Don’t try to run with the same gait you use in shoes — shorten your steps and land on the forward part of your foot.
Keep your head up and your body vertical. Your feet should be hitting the ground almost directly underneath you, not in front of you.
Keep barefoot running to no more than 10 percent of your weekly regimen, especially at first.
If you’re running completely barefoot, run on a mix of soft and hard surfaces to give your feet time to toughen up.
Finally, don’t try this if you suffer from diabetes or another condition that would affect your ability to feel and respond to sensations from your feet.
“Like any part of your body, you have to build up very, very slowly,” says Lieberman. “If you really pay attention to your body and build up slowly, you’ll be fine.”
If you would like to know more about barefoot running, check out Barefoot Ken Bob’s website.
And of course, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t end with the Boss doing Born to Run.