Barefoot Prof Explains…

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.


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