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yay-5089418 pond5Okay, I didn’t even know about neuroanthropologists until I Googled barefoot running, but now that I do I am impressed.

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.

Source: Lose your shoes: Is barefoot better?

Image Credit man’s feet running on the grass Photos by Pond5

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  • William

    Good article Dr. Nirenberg.

    It takes 10 years before the general population will accepts a new and better idea; so we have a ways to go.

    After reading Born to Run in June 2009 I started using water shoes to run in. Then I started playing tennis 5 hours per week and hiking in them as well.

    – First time I have been able to run since 2000
    – Posture Better
    – Less knee pain
    – Less ankle pain
    – Feet are feeling stronger
    – Better balance
    – No back pain while hiking

    When I started going downhill while running was the hardest part. My calf muscles got very tired. At times my calf muscles get a little sore.

    For some reason I liked going barefoot from the beginning.
    I just have to repair my water shoes with shoe goo every month.

    So give barefoot running a try.

  • themaniacrunner

    barefoot running is the ultimate goal, but to warm up to it the vibram shoes do help.

    I’ve ran in them for the past year and a half and its really helped me stay with the program of running because I wasn’t getting as many joint pains. This site has some decent information:

  • Solent Foot

    I've heard a lot of voices about the benefits of barefoot running for ankle and foot health, must tell you I'm almost convinced to give it a try! :)

  • Dr. Nirenberg

    Go for it!! Start slooooooowwww!

  • remove Palladium Pro

    It hurts my foot:P

  • Barefoot Marc

    I am enjoying Barefoot Running great deal. I run every other day on a beach and am steadily building stamina and strength. With shoes half a mile is a push and I have poor form. Barefoot I can enjoy 3 to 6 mile runs or interval training. It may not be for everybody but for me it is fabulous as a 54 year old male who wants to keep the body-brain system in good shape and enjoy the process

    Barefoot Marc

  • Gareth Field

    Ten miles on asphalt, barefoot, was the best afternoon of my life. There was like half a mile of balance beam that I ran across, and right next to the coast so every once and a while I could scramble downhill to dip my toes. I switched to Vibram Fivefingers to build up the foot muscles, and really like that shoe a great deal, but barefoot wins.