Running barefoot better than trainers

Tuesday 12th January 2010

As we move into a world overtly obsessed with keeping fit and kitting ourselves out in all the latest hi-tech gear; it appears that rather than moving into a safer, healthier lifestyle we are actually significantly increasing our risks of sports injury. Take for example the Tarahumara Indians, they run up to 150 miles in one day…barefoot! We run a couple of miles a day in our swanky, top of the range running shoes and discover excruciating pain in our knees, hips and ankles. So where are we going wrong?

With up to 90% of marathon runners complaining of injuries each year and knee osteoarthritis accounting for the highest disabling disease in the elderly, researchers decided to investigate. The study published in PM&R: The journal of injury, function and rehabilitation took a sample of 68 people, all of whom were healthy, young adults who ran a distance of 15 miles a week at least. They run in running shoes that are widely available and have no previous musculoskeletal injuries. They were all fitted with a typical running shoe with all the latest characteristics they are available with and were monitored on a treadmill both in these running shoes and barefoot. Shockingly, between the results obtained for running barefoot and in running shoes, the runners were found to have a knee varus torque increase of 38%, knee flexion torque increase of 36% and their hip internal rotation torque increased by 54%. Thus showing that whilst running shoes protect your feet they add unnecessary pressure to other joints, which the researchers put down to raised heels and extra padding in the arch.

The study is perhaps suggestive that we need not listen to sport experts dire warnings of what will happen if we don’t fun in the latest foamy trainers, but more so to the Tarahumara Indians who appear to have the perfect running technique. They don’t just run barefoot but engage in an age-old technique in which they bend their knees and land on their forefeet. Many military forces also engage in a similar style of running and are not kitted out with the latest trainers when they run their marathons. Perhaps it is now more of a question as to who is going to be the first person to run down the street barefoot…

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