Before Shoes Humans Ran Safely and Comfortably

The normal heel-to-toe method of running has come under scrutiny over the years because of its damaging effects on the human body. The damaging impacts that occur from heel-to-toe running are equivalent to two to three times a runner’s body weight. Scientists seem to have found a way to keep runners healthy and happy -running barefoot. Professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, Daniel E. Lieberman explains, “People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike. By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. 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. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes.” Lieberman goes on to explain that humans have evolved strong, large arches that we use as a spring when running. By running toe-to-heel we are tapping into the body’s natural ability to excel at running safely and comfortably. However, one should be mindful before taking off their shoes. “Running barefoot or in minimal shoes is fun but uses different muscles,” says Lieberman. “If you’ve been a heel-striker all your life you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles.”

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