Barefoot running, history and genetics

27 November 2011 - posted by Formthotics HQ

Running barefoot might seem like a “more natural” thing to do, but there are other factors to keep in mind if you have an inclination to follow a back to nature approach.

  1. Barefoot runners in continents like Africa and South America were born to generations of runners – and the lions caught the slow ones. So you could say, ‘survival of the fittest’ meant that only the fastest, with the best foot strength, survived to breed further generations.
  2. Concrete and asphalt were not the predominant running surfaces, and the jarring effects of such hard surfaces were not a factor.
  3. Risks like broken glass and other potential obstacles were not likely to occur underfoot.
  4. When it came to wartime, the flat footed would-be recruits were rejected to stay home and breed. An army marches by foot, so only those with the best foot health were able to enlist.
  5. Cultures like the North American Indians chose to wear light weight moccasins rather than be barefoot year round – providing protection from the weather, potentially painful surfaces underfoot, and a degree of support while running and walking.
  6. Running barefoot requires a total change in technique from how we are used to running in cushioned sports shoes. Making that kind of change should be done very gradually to get the foot acclimatised, build foot strength and avoid the likelihood of injuries. This is definitely not something to embark on overnight.

For more about barefoot running and how Formthotics can assist in transitioning from a fully cushioned and rigid shoe to a lighter weight approach, read this blog post with comments from podiatrist Bruce Baxter.