Many runners ask themselves this: should I run barefoot? Generally, speaking the answer is yes because natural selection favored barefoot running in humans.
Millions of years of survival of the fittest by running must have made the foot well adapted to running on the ground without shoes.
Interestingly, the earliest known shoes are only 5,500 years old¹. That means early and modern man have been running barefoot for 99.72% of the time for the past 2 million years.
Should I Run Barefoot?
Certainly there is an advantage to have some protection on the feet. That is why the tribal runners wear thin sandals (shown below), and why I use the minimalistic shoes. The problem started when padding was added to running shoes.
Under Heel Cushioning Breeds Heel Strike Runners
It was the development of the cushioned heel shoe in the 1970’s that forced heel strike running. A runner in the 1960’s or earlier, ran on thin leather shoes and did not strike their heel. They ran on the balls of their feet to avoid the hard impact on their heels just like our ancestral barefoot runners.
- It is the elevated heel of running shoes that forced the runner to strike the heel first.
What is meant by “forced” to heel strike? The thickness of the padded heel is greater than that of the forefoot area, so when swinging your leg forward, the foot is more likely to hit the heel first.
Unfortunately, it is now thought to be the norm, when actually it is abnormal to heel strike. Simply switching to a minimalistic shoe, one that has no extra padding on the heels, will allow a runner to forefoot strike.
All of this evidence has convinced me that man was born to run using a forefoot running style, but it was a hard path to take, especially since I was a heel strike runner all of my life. My body was weak in the areas it was originally designed to be strong. So I had to go through some growing pains to be accustomed to the forefoot running style. If you are committed to make the change too, you may benefit from my initial experiences with forefoot running.
More From Run Forefoot:
7+ benefits of Forefoot Running
More mentions on the forefoot running evolution.
Don’t want to run barefoot? Run in shoes that feel like you are barefoot.
How NOT to treat an Achilles injury.
ITBS in heel strike and forefoot strike runners.
1. (Dindar, Shereen (June 9, 2010). “World’s Oldest Leather Shoe Found—Stunningly Preserved”. National Post (Canada). Retrieved June 11, 2010).