Neuroanthropologist Greg Downey recently posted a fascinating article, Lose your shoes: Is barefoot better? It is must reading! (I can’t wait to read more from this brilliant guy!)
Downey touches on many aspects of barefoot running and the evolution of our feet, but one of the primary premises of the piece is: “the ways that our nervous system adapt to different situations, such as having heavily padded feet or being barefoot when we run, illustrates well how even unconscious training is a form of phenotypic, non-genetic, adaptation.”
Is barefoot running really an unconscious activity?
Downey is half-right here—running in padded, expensive running shoes is unconcious. These runners believe their feet are safe and protected and as a result, these runners become less aware of “feeling” the ground as each foot lands. The secret of successful barefoot runners is that their running is done consciously. Barefoot runners are very aware of the ground, “feeling” it with their feet with each footfall, and adjusting to the surface.
New barefoot runners almost immediately change their biomechanics. Is this unconscious or perhaps, a Pavlov-type response to the pain of landing on the ground without padding?
If the almost immediate gait changes that occur in barefoot running are in response to pain, then this new gait is actually a conscious response.
I would love to hear from successful barefoot runners and from those who tried barefoot running and could not “adapt” to it.
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