From the monthly archives:

January 2010

Return to the Running Lab

by Christopher on January 31, 2010

I recently had a chance to return to Dr. Irene Davis’ biomechanics lab at the University of Delaware. Dr. Davis one of the co-authors of the Nature magazine study on barefoot running, not to mention an honest practicioner of her own advice: over the past few months, she’s become a barefoot runner herself. As I describe in “Born to Run,” I first visited her lab as a broken-down ex-runner who was trying to figure out why I couldn’t seem to put together a few months of easy, recreational jogging without suffering some kind of excruciating injury. During that first visit, Dr. Davis videotaped my running stride, and I’ve been trying to drive those images out of my mind ever since. Limbs flailing every direction, feet sailing through the air, heels whomping down like I was crushing cockroaches…  what a horror show. Anyone could see that my running technique, by any measure of artistic grace or biomechanical efficiency, was a disaster. But when I asked Dr. Davis how I could learn how to run gracefully, she essentially shrugged. Back in 2005,  no one was teaching proper running form. No one was pointing out that a forefoot landing was so much gentler than heel striking. (All those “no ones” come with a gigantic asterisk: Barefoot Ken Bob, Dr. Romanov of POSE Method, Ken Mierke of Evolution Running, and Danny Dreyer with his ChiRunning were all teaching exactly that … except few people had ever heard of them, and running authorities and the mainstream press were treating them as sideshow freaks).

But this time, it was a whole different story. When I returned to Dr. Davis’ lab two weeks ago, she fitted me out with sensors and had me run across a force-impact plate. My collision forces were, essentially, zero. Instead of clomping down as I had six years ago, I was now gliding in for a light, flexible landing. The difference was so dramatic, Dr. Lieberman even decided to use my now transformed footstrike in a sample video on Harvard’s barefoot running website. (I’m “Experience Runner Barefoot Striking,” which I think I prefer to Caballo’s name for me: Lumbering Bear).

“How do we know what is true?”

by Christopher on January 30, 2010

“How do we know what is true? Evidence! Evidence! Evidence! NOT tradition. NOT authority. NOT revelation.”

— Richard Dawkins, the great evolutionary biologist and author of “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.”

Barefoot Prof Explains…

by Christopher on January 28, 2010

A Q&A with Harvard’s barefoot professor. Note how he zeroes in on the endlessly repeated “How come elite marathoners don’t run barefoot?” question. As he, and so many other minimalists keep explaining, this debate is about technique, not footwear. Learn to run as if you were barefoot, and you’re good to go — and go fast.

from the Arizona Daily Star:

E-mail Q&A with Daniel Lieberman

Are you a runner?

Yes, I love to run and have run regularly since I was a teenager. I’m not a very good runner in terms of speed, but I do about 20 to 30 miles a week and have run two marathons so far.

Have you run barefoot?

After studying runners in Kenya, I just had to try going totally barefoot. I was finishing a long run and found myself taking my shoes off about a half mile before I got home. Even though I knew all about how it worked, I was amazed at how fun, comfortable and good it felt. Since then I started running more and more barefoot. And then winter hit. Humans evolved to run barefoot, but not in New England winters!

What’s wrong with landing on your heels?

First, when you land on your heel, the foot and lower leg come to a sudden stop as the rest of the body continues to fall. But when you land toward the front of the foot, only the foot stops, and the rest of the leg continues to rotate. In addition, forefoot strikers have much more springy legs, which spreads the impulse out over a longer period of time. It’s like jumping off a chair and landing on your heel with a straight leg or landing on the ball of your foot with a springy leg.

What’s faster?

The world’s fastest runners all forefoot strike. And many of the world’s very best marathoners don’t heel strike.

What’s wrong with the way most people run?

Heel striking generates a big, rapid collision force about 1.5 to three times your body weight. It’s like someone hitting you hard on the heel with a hammer with 250-500 pounds of force with every step.

What about stubbed toes?

I’ve run hundreds of miles barefoot, and have yet to land on my toes. One lands on the ball of the foot.

I live in Tucson, Arizona. Is there a special caution for very hot places with cacti?

Ouch! Our article is NOT advocating that we go barefoot. Simple footwear such as sandals and moccasins have been around for thousands and thousands of years. And for good reason, especially in places with cactus spines.

Preaching bare feet to shoe sellers

by Christopher on January 27, 2010

Back in December, I was invited to sign books at The Running Event, an industry trade show for running gear manufacturers. I bumped into Matt Fitzgerald of Competitor Magazine, who pulled me aside for this interview..

Nature’s own running shoe

by Christopher on January 27, 2010

i’ll be posting choice bits from the Nature paper along with commentary, but for now, the killer quote:

“People who don’t wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike,” Lieberman said in a statement. “By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike.”

Barefoot Ted, doing his thing.

BTR, the Librarian’s Choice

by Christopher on January 27, 2010

The American Library Association just named “Born to Run” to its Notable Books list for 2010.

Notable Books, 2010

wow, the info is coming fast and furious out of lieberman’s lab, now headquarters for barefooters worldwide. Harvard has set up the definitive how-to, why-to, since-when site for barefoot running. The Tarahumara secret now has Harvard’s seal of approval.

Harvard’s Barefoot Running site

The Shoemaker Scramble

by Christopher on January 27, 2010

it’s been fascinating to watch the shoe companies deal with the overwhelming tide of science  that’s been rising in favor of natural running. first, they were silent. then, they went with the silly ‘everyone is an experiment of one’ line. now, they’re talking about ‘whittling down traditional shoes.’ why are traditional shoes the starting point? why not start with nothing, and only add what is needed?

National Geographic News

Breaking Barefoot News, at a newsstand near you.

by Christopher on January 27, 2010

Finally: Harvard docs show bare feet are best.

by Christopher on January 27, 2010

Dr. Lieberman, the Harvard professor who helped develop the “Running Man” theory of evolution, has just published a blockbuster of a study. It’s on the cover of Nature magazine, and makes this conclusion: runners in shoes suffer THREE TIMES the collision forces of barefoot runners.
check out the video:
Nature: The Barefoot Professor