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The science of barefoot running

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about barefoot running. Maybe you’ve read some articles about it, or maybe you’ve seen someone running around in a pair of weird looking shoes with toes.

So, what’s the big deal about? Why is it so popular to run barefoot or in minimalist footwear? Is there any science behind this trend?

History

Obviously, before shoes were invented, barefoot running was the only type of running, so it’s not a new idea.  In fact, running shoes are quite a recent invention.  The first running shoes showed up about 200 years ago but things only really started to pick up in the 1970s.  Here’s a nice history of running shoes.

The problem

Apparently all this running about has been causing us injuries, and some people suggested that maybe these highly cushioned shoes are actually causing us problems rather than protecting us.  It all got a little bit out of hand when Christopher McDougall wrote his book, Born To Run and the barefoot craze took off based on a health claim without a whole lot of science to back it up.

The conclusion

There hasn’t been a huge amount of compelling research, and nothing particularly conclusive.  The latest findings seem to suggest that footwear has very little impact on performance or injury prevention.