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Addressing The Issues Of The Barefoot Running Argument

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Jun. 13, 2011
  • Updated Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:46 AM UTC

Triathlete Magazine senior tech editor Aaron Hersh points out some key oversights in a recent post on the “barefoot vs. shod running” argument.

Written by: Aaron Hersh

Ross Tucker of SportsScientists.com—an excellent blog-format website where he and Jonathan Dugas provide insightful physiological analysis on the world of endurance sports—recently wrote an article arguing that barefoot running or simulated barefoot running in shoes such as Vibram Five Fingers is theoretically better than running in a more typical shoe based on the following points:

1. The shock that the body absorbs upon striking the ground is reduced. Although the total amount of force the foot absorbs is the same, but the rate at which it absorbs it is slower and therefore the impact is less violent.

2. Barefoot running allows the body to use the calf and other support muscles to a greater degree.

3. Humans thrived for millennia by running to hunt for food without shoes and are built to meet the demands of distance running.

Tucker makes it clear that barefoot running may not be practical for many runners despite the sound theory.

The evidence and reasoning supporting these points overlooks a few critical elements of the “barefoot vs. shod running” argument, and we address these issues one by one. For the purposes of this article, I will use the term “barefoot running” to describe running in Vibrams or something similar to eliminate the problem of stepping on glass or other debris.

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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