Among the hottest topics among runners over the past few years has been the emerging phenomenon of barefoot running. This passionate debate has stretched from elite runners to novice runners, and includes every skill level in between. The topic has even prompted doctors, coaches, and scientists to weigh in on the seemingly wide range of opinions regarding the benefit of shoes to runners.
There are truly valid and well researched opinions on both sides of the debate, but one of the most interesting things about barefoot running is the passion with which people have defended their beliefs. It truly shows most of us have a passion to discover a tool to help us run faster, feel better, and perhaps most importantly, stay healthy.
When running exploded in popularity in the 1970s we saw a large number of people begin to take up the sport who had never run before. It truly became a sport for the masses, as the number of local road races exploded with the increased popularity of “jogging”. A cursory look at running shoes in the 1970s reveals an incredibly simple design, with similar shoes used by the majority of runners. As time went by and running transformed into a business; running shoe companies began to modify shoes and include “technology”. The shoe choices for the average runner continued to expand as the demand increased. Today you can buy every variety of shoes, from a flexible piece of rubber which fits snugly to your foot to a large padded shoe which has stability features built in to control the way your foot strikes the ground.
All these choices were made with the goal of decreasing running injuries and thus increasing running enjoyment. Truth be told, the percentage of runners who get injured today is approximately the same as it was in the 1970s. While some might argue that the body type of runners today makes them more prone to injury, it does seem clear that the high tech shoes have done little to decrease the number of injuries among runners.
As people invest time, energy, and money in their quest to find running nirvana, the passion to avoid these injuries increases. Big or small, fast or slow, we are all searching to increase the joy we have as we run, and each person needs to discover how barefoot running fits in to their own training.
Please remember, each person has a different set of needs when it comes to running shoes. Find what works for you, and run with it!