A run in the park
“People have been running barefoot for millions of years and it has only been since 1972 that people have been wearing shoes with thick, synthetic heels,” said Daniel Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. Some smaller, earlier studies suggest that running in shoes may increase the risk of ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis and other injuries. Runners who wear cheap running shoes have fewer injuries than those wearing expensive trainers. Meanwhile, injuries plague 20 to 80 percent of regular runners every year.
A growing movement suggests we should run barefoot, but our feet have long become accustomed to the protection of shoes, and it does not take long before our feet are bleeding from running on anything other than the smoothest of surfaces. So why is running shoeless better for us? It allows the foot to flex and absorb shock, says Tony Post, president of Vibram USA, which makes FiveFingers. With thick heels, people lengthen their strides, landing heel-first and letting the shoe absorb the impact of each footfall. You can’t do that barefoot (try it sometime), so your body naturally falls into a shorter stride, landing first on the outside middle or ball of your foot. As you advance your foot rolls inward; the arch flattens and helps absorb the impact; it then springs back up as you lift your foot and push off the ground.
Devotees of this type of footwear claim that they give you much of the feeling of running barefoot, and give the same workout to your arches, Achilles tendons and calves — except you don’t have to worry about injuries from rough terrain. There are drawbacks to running barefoot, and current evidence as to whether it is better for you is inconclusive. However, there are a number of long-term trials taking place .