There is no denying that not everyone would gladly remove their shoes and stay barefoot. These could be due to various reasons, like black soles, hairy toes and generally if your feet are ugly. At this point, you should make sure they are covered in socks too. The only people allowed to walk barefoot would be hobbits, but maybe not. Shoes are good and are not the problem here: they keep our feet warm, protect them and sometimes they look cool on us.
Turns out, highly cushioned shoes that arch support do change how we run. If you take a closer look at the shoes you use when running, you will find that beneath the heel is a thick cushioned sole and a stiff insert that helps keep your arches from getting flattened out.
A team of scientists led by Harvard University’s, Daniel Lieberman, did a research on this and their findings were interesting. They found out that if you wear shoes when running, you always land on your heel first, then roll through to the ball of the foot. They called this the “heel strike”. On the other hand, if you run barefoot, you land first on the ball of your foot, which they called the “forefoot strike”. The ground reaction force for the different methods was measured and the team found something interesting.
When you land on your heel as you run, there is a huge spike in force (the “impact transient) that jolts through your heel and up your skeletal frame. This force, according to the researchers, is “equivalent to someone hitting you on the heel with a hammer using 1.5 to as much as 3 times your body weight. These impacts add up, since you strike the ground almost 1000 times per mile!” Just thinking about that hurts, ouch! Thanks to the cushion in your shoes, you don’t notice this.
Running barefoot eliminates that enormous instantaneous “impact transient” force. It essentially means you run nicely with a gradual increase in force and no hammer slamming through your bones. Though definitive research has not been done yet, it’s likely that if you run with “forefoot strike”, chances of injury will be decreased.
And the clincher; since you have to lower your heel to the ground while on a forefoot strike, your calf muscles, arches and tendons are strengthened. You get healthier and stronger feet!
[Sources: www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu, www.nymag.com]