Should Runners Surrender Their Soles?


"I believe that when you take your shoes off, you run the way you are meant to run," Davis said. "And when you do that you will not land on your heel for one simple reason -- it hurts!"

Davis, herself a passionate barefoot runner, says that whether you believe in God, Mother Nature or evolution, we simply weren't given enough cushioning to get away with too much repetitive pounding on our heels.

She and several colleagues recently looked at Kenyans who are lifelong barefoot runners, U.S. barefooters and those who wear orthodox running shoes to compare running style and impact forces between the three groups.

In a paper they published in the journal Nature earlier this year, the team reported that the rear-foot strike of shod runners is like being hit on the foot with a hammer with about one and a half to three times your body weight, something that would cause a lot of pain if you removed all that supportive EVA cushioning the shoe provides.

In contrast, the forefoot strike of a shoeless runner had virtually no impact at all and their ankles were more flexible than those of the heel-striking shoe wearers which could potentially provide protection against common stress injuries.

More Research Needed on Minimalist Shoes

Though Davis thinks many runners would benefit from tossing aside their expensive kicks and running au natural from the ankles down, even she admits that more study is needed and you should stick with what works for you.

"The people who get injured and give up running, that's who I'd like to see give this a try and who I think can benefit most from going barefoot or trying a minimal shoe," she said.

As for me, I own up to the Muppet remark. I think the Vibrams look ridiculous and trying to sort all of my uncooperative appendages into the right compartments isn't worth the effort. Despite this, I fall squarely in the minimalist camp. I've always worn the lightest shoes I could find my entire running career yet I've barely had so much as a tweaked knee since high school, knock on wood.

My choice is the Plain Jane New Balance 100's. The tread is lighter than a piece of no-carb toast and the outsole is practically weightless. Relative to many other models, they are dirt cheap too.

For the record, Ferber isn't totally against the trend either. He just wants more proof. He's gotten so many questions about it, he's posted a "how to" on his website. Check it out for yourself at Let me know what you think by posting a comment here. And if you do decide to go barefoot, I hope you'll still speak to me.

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