Menu

Addressing The Issues Of The Barefoot Running Argument

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

3. Humans thrived for millennia by running without shoes to hunt for food.

Rebuttal: Persistence hunting proves our ability to run without shoes, not that humans are optimized when running without shoes, and addresses heat dissipation as much as running efficiency.

The evolutionary argument—that we are constructed to run without shoes—is frequently supported using the example of persistence hunters. Before the development of projectile weapons, hunters would chase animals on foot in the heat of the day. The animals could of course sprint much faster than the human hunters, but the hunters had superior endurance and could drive the swifter animals to exhaustion by pursuing them until they overheated and collapsed. Christopher McDougal discussed this at length in his book Born to Run, and anthropologists and other scientists have described the influence of persistence hunting on evolution.

If persistence hunters from before the days of projectile weapons somehow came upon a pair of modern running shoes, would they have failed to catch the animals they pursued? Persistence hunting is a comparison of the relative endurance capabilities of two different species and does nothing to highlight the differences between shod and barefoot running. It only proves that people can run long distances.

Although the fact that humans have been running for much longer than shoes have been around certainly proves that people are physically equipped to run without shoes, persistence hunting centers around heat dissipation in addition to endurance running ability. If an antelope or similar four-legged mammal had sufficient ability to cool itself, persistence hunting might not be effective.

« Previous PageNext Page »Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

FILED UNDER: Barefoot Running / Features TAGS: / / / / / / / /

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.

Get our best running content delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to the FREE Competitor Running weekly newsletter