If you're a runner, you've no doubt heard lately of the new trend to run barefoot. Well, it might not be so new--think Zola Budd in the 1984 Olympics--but it's certainly gaining a lot of press these days. Mostly the trend is being spurned on by the book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. The book, written by a guy fairly new to running, maintains that we are meant to run barefoot. McDougall bought into the theory after spending some time running the mountains of Mexico with a group of indigenous Indians who run miles on end barefoot. McDougall found that after switching to bare feet, he no longer suffered the injuries that he had as a runner in shoes.
Now, I can buy into the theory that our bodies were made to support running barefoot. Obviously our ancestors did plenty of running barefoot when in pursuit of game, and modern running shoes weren't even around until the late '70s. But in our modern world, where glass and other debris litter the roads, is it really practical? I run many of my runs in the pre-dawn hours and there is certainly no way to see potential dangers on the roads at that hour. In addition, after a particularly nasty bout of plantar fasciitis last year, my podiatrist recommends that I never go barefoot--not even to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. So just the thought of running without shoes makes my plantar fasciia ache.
And what about those who severely pronate? Motion control shoes seem to be a good idea. Or those who just want a bit of stability to correct issues that might turn into injuries? Again, the modern running shoe seems to have a role here.
Maybe there's some middle ground out there to be found, however. For those who can run in the daylight and are game for giving barefoot running a try, by all means go for it. Maybe you'll have the last laugh. But for those of us who sometimes need to run on dark, suburban or urban streets, maybe there's a good reason for running shoes. What do you think?