From the Boston Globe:
We were born to run, but maybe not with shoes.
New research led by Harvard scientists shows that people who run barefoot or with minimal shoes -- as people have done for millions of years -- often land on their feet in a way that avoids a jarring impact.
Bare feet slamming down on all kinds of terrain without cushioned soles or arch support may seem like it would be hard on the body. But the new work, published online today in the scientific journal Nature, finds that the way the majority of people run in shoes -- striking heel first -- is not gentle at all.
"It's as if every time you land on the ground, someone hits you on the heel with a hammer," said Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, who studies the biomechanics of running in the lab -- and himself runs with minimal or no shoes. "It's an amazing thing. Running barefoot can be less impactful."
Instead of striking heel-first, barefoot runners tend to land on the ball or middle of their foot. Researchers need to do followup studies to test whether less impact translates into fewer injuries, but the new finding may become yet another example of the way in which evolution has made humans ill-equipped to handle some of the luxuries of modern life. Millions of years of evolution created humans best adapted to an environment lacking recent inventions such as desk jobs, video games, abundant processed foods, and -- perhaps -- the modern running shoe.
*Evolution* created a species that can't survive sedentary living? That can't survive sneakers and Crocs? People who wear expensive footwear don't reproduce as much? Is this the implication?
And how does evolution *create* in the first place? I thought it was a process of development and not an *author*?
Never mind. That's not the subject for this post.
How about that guy above - running near bare-foot in the Boston winter?
Although, the socks are probably gore-tex or something. The story here is *no shoes*.
Now I had never in my life thought much about wearing shoes - about whether or not footwear induced negative side effects until my blog was attacked by a barefoot brigade this past summer in - Is Your Brood Shod?.
But I've been thinking some more on the issue.
You see, while I have a pretty messed up back (1999 car accident, TOS) I also have some banged up knees. Even as a very active child I was told by some orthopedist in 1984, when I was 10, that I had *60 year old* knees. I thought this guy was a jurassic quack; but he insisted I was going to suffer long term problems - something about the cartilage under the knee cap grating when it slid it. Great. Thanks. He told me *no sports* for 6 months, and to do leg raises. I followed this Moron's prescription to no avail.
In 1996 I tore the cartilage and ACL in my right knee playing basketball and eventually had it reconstructed in 2004. Then I re-injured that one pretty badly this September. Now those injuries were exogenous, BUT I am also having problems with my left knee - one that's never even been injured. It's often painful and once in a while slightly buckles. In fact, I really believe it's worse than the other one!
Recently I tried to step up my yoga. I was doing a hard 45 minutes every single day. But ten days into that, both of my knees were killing me - so I had to dial it back. In fact, every time in my life I have tried to STEP-UP my workouts - be they for golf, for basketball, running more, etc. my body has always pushed back on me. I always figured, and still do, that my body was just never cut out for hard core training.
Though that doesn't mean I am going to stop trying to improve my physical state. I tried many things, for many years, before I discovered the benefits of yoga on my achy back.
Here's what I'm going to try now - not barefoot running, but at least spending a whole lot more time without any footwear. Obviously, with homeschooling, blogging, and occasional trading, I'm a home-body. I traipse around most of my day in flip-flops. But no more. Now I'm giving this barefoot thing a try - though it is wintertime and I'm donning socks.
I want to see how my feet react to having no artificial support and no artificial cushioning. Perhaps whatever strengthening or conditioning occurs will filter up into my fragile knees? What exactly do I have to lose with this experiment? (Aside from blackened socks.)
It's not just those hippy foot nudists who descended on my blog - it seems like the yoga crowd is big into barefoot evangelism as well. In the magazine I now get, there are plenty of adds for *yoga sox* and much talk about separating toes - toes that are unnaturally crowded together in shoes.
I mean, it's hard not to see that shoes are a *bailout* for the feet - and like all bailouts, doomed to have serious side effects.
When I was 14 I went to a new school - a Catholic high school where I had to shed my Levis and sneakers for a jacket, tie, and dress shoes. For the first 6 months of my freshman year, my feet, particularly my ankles, were in serious pain. I believe it was because I had never really worn *low-cut* shoes before. For years I had been wearing high-top or high-cut basketball shoes - Kangaroos, the Converse Weapon, etc. And not only did I wear them, like a punk I rarely tied them. (No *fat laces* though!) Obviously, my choice of footwear seriously weakened my feet - though in time, and from wearing shoes with much less artificial ankle-support, my strength came back.
Of course, it's not easy changing a habit like this. I feel awkward, unstable, and *naked* without my flip-flops on around the house.
Paul Mitchell's feet ↑
This is an issue for my wife as well. She's got some really bad feet. One foot in particular has always given her trouble - it has an incipient bunion. Consequently, she absolutely never wants to take her shoes off, even around the house. Mrs. C-Nut says that she just *can't* go unshod. She's seen an orthopedist who did what they always do - prescribe some arch stretches and some expensive inserts - but there has been no progress. Now he says she has *plantar fasciitis*.
But I've been telling her about those barefoot fanatics, she's been listening and receptive. So, while we won't be out there grocery shopping and jogging with naked feet like those bohemians, the C-Nut family is at least giving this no-shoe or less-shoes thing a test run.