New research led by Harvard and reported in the current edition of Nature journal has shown that people who run in bare feet “avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience.”
“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,” says Daniel E.Lieberman, a professor in Harvard’s new department of evolutionary biology.
Lieberman and colleagues from Glasgow University in Scotland and Moi University in Kenya studied groups of runners from the USA and Kenya, looking at gaits of those who had always worn shoes, those who had converted to barefoot running and those who had converted to barefoot running.
The results were striking: most shod runners experience “a very large and sudden collision force about 1,000 times per mile run”. People running barefoot tend to land with a springy step.
Lieberman hopes the work done in the current paper can not only investigate barefoot running but can provide insight into how to better prevent the repetitive-stress injuries that afflict a high percentage of runners today.