A couple of Dot’s facebook friends have been singing the praises of barefoot running recently, or more specifically of barefoot technology running shoes. I’m a little bit suspicious of barefoot ‘techonology’, which has a vaguely oxymoronic sound to it, but I do remember once seeing this clip on youtube about the mechanical differences between running with and running without shoes. It describes research being done by Daniel Liebermann and others in Harvard (link), and the main point they have established is that runners who wear shoes strike the ground heel first whereas barefoot runners land with a flat foot or on the front of the sole of the foot (either the ball of the foot or the lateral edge). Further, they’ve studied the biomechanics of these different steps and discovered a noticeable difference in how the force of impact is accommodated. Heel-striking takes a sudden upfront impact, which the heel-padding of a modern running shoe is designed to mitigate. Forefoot striking apparently doesn’t involve a sudden impact, as the foot flexes as it meets the ground. The researchers are very careful to say that they haven’t shown that running barefoot leads to fewer injuries, but it seems like a likely corrolary. Now that Dot and I are trying to run a couple of times a week to stay fit, I’ve decided to try to go over to forefoot running. I think I’m doing it properly and I would say it is easier on the knees and shins. On the other hand I haven’t worked my way back up to the sort of distances I was running before and that could certainly account for the difference. I can also report that it really works your calf muscles hard.