Barefoot Running: A Brief History
Minimalist and barefoot running has seen a surge of interest recently, but barefoot running has been a strategy for champions for decades and beyond!
Natural running dates much further back and there have been ancient tribes throughout our long drawn history who have lived close to nature, in every terrain with only the soles of their bare feet doing the talking. In fact this concept of a natural running style has been recently popularised by Christopher McDougall’s book- ‘Born To Run’ based on the Native American tribe The Tarahumara Indians – known for their amazing ability to run barefoot for miles and miles is not some deep ancient hidden secret.
Daniel Lieberman, professor of human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University says:
“Our Feet were made for running. Humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years, but the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1960s. For most of human history, runners have been barefoot or wore minimal footwear such as sandals or moccasins with smaller heels and little cushioning.”
Even in competitive sports history, the first to race an Olympic marathon barefoot was a Tswana tribesman Len Tau representing South Africa in 1904 and then came Abebe Bikila an Ethiopian whose bare feet scorched the streets of Rome to give him the Olympic gold medal in a world record time and making it the most famous barefoot victory in modern history. More recent still, Zola Budd set several World Records in the 1980’s and make a big impact on the running world by training and racing in bare feet.
Benefits of Barefoot/Minimalist Running
Running barefoot forces you to land on your forefoot and midfoot instead of your heel, as you do in the longer strides you take in constructed footwear. The result is more efficient transfer of energy; reduced impact on the joints in your feet, ankles, and knees; and strengthening of the muscles in your feet.
And the one major benefit is the experience of it that stays with you and develops a ‘feel good’ factor, which is incomparable. Running barefoot or minimalist style is hugely liberating as having next to nothing on one’s feet brings you closer to mother earth in every possible way. You are also able to feel the real difference in running between grass, pavement, dirt tracks and every possible terrain. Also the idea that less weight on your feet helps you go faster is not rocket science, nor an ancient secret preserved over thousands of years by lost tribes.
Get Started with Barefoot Running
Whilst minimalist running is the strategy for champions, for most of us the transition from regular shoes to minimalist/barefoot running shoes must be gradual, else it comes with its own set of health warnings. If you have spent most of your adult life in highly constructed trainers then switching suddenly to barefoot shoes requires a certain amount of ‘breaking in’. Your body needs to adjust.
Take your time to first wear them indoors for a few hours each day; go for walks with them and, as you grow more comfortable with the fit and the feel, that’s when you start to begin your ‘minimalist training’ journey. Take it slowly and easily, speed and endurance will gradually follow.
Don’t forget, in nature, even evolution and adaption is a gradual thing. Only fools rush in, as they say
So get started folks and in the next blog – we shall talk about the different types of barefoot shoes.
Adios and happy barefoot running…!