It’s time to swap your running shoes for a pair of…high heels? A recent article in Scientific American reported that not only does wearing running shoes cause increased joint torque at the hip, knee, and ankle but even jogging in high heels is better for joints. So much for those fancy running shoes.
A study in Nature found 70-80% of runners who wear shoes land heel-first, whereas barefoot runners usually land toward the middle or front of the foot. (See pictures in the Scientific American article.) Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard University professor and an author of this study, remarked, “People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike.” Well, so what?
Barefooot runners reduce impact by pointing their toes more at landing, preventing a sudden stop. On the other hand (or foot in this case), landing on the heel when running without shoes is painful and can translate into a collision force 1.5 to 3 times the runner’s body weight. With the development of cushioned shoes, this initial pain has disappeared, and a high-impact, injury-inducing running style that human physiology cannot tolerate has emerged.
Christopher McDougall, an avid runner and author of the best-selling book Born to Run, had been plagued by running injuries until he visited the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico, a tribe known for running long distances while only wearing thin-soled sandals. In this article, he argues that running doesn’t inherently cause injuries and that running has only recently become associated with pain and injury. To hear more about McDougall’s story, check out this video.
Despite this evidence, I’m not quite ready to hit the ground running. Looking for a compromise between no shoes and barefoot running, I found FiveFinger footwear. These sock-like shoes allow the benefits of barefoot running while providing protection for your feet. Don’t expect to find me running barefoot in the snow anytime soon, but barefoot running or running with FiveFinger footwear looks promising.
- blog authored by Kelsie Eichel