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From Cushioned to Barefoot: A Guide to Transitioning Your Footwear

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Have you heard of the Barefoot Professor? He’s a barefoot-running evolutionary biologist from Harvard University, and his name is Daniel Lieberman. 

Lieberman is one of many proponents of barefoot running. We wrote this article in conjunction with “Earthing: The Natural Path To Better Sleep And Health”. Because barefoot running teaches us things about mobility that we haven’t thought about in years. Or maybe ever. 

Is it better for you to run barefoot?

We’re not here to make bold claims or dish out medical advice. We listen to experts in certain fields and present their findings. With that in mind, the experiments conducted by Daniel Leiberman’s lab conclude that barefoot runners run differently than shod runners (running with shoes). 

The main difference is where the runner lands when they plant their foot. Shod runners tend to land on their heels first. This is called a heel strike and its impact is powerful and potentially harmful.

Barefoot runners land on their forefoot and then rotate onto their heels. This style of running prevents heel strikes and reduces the risk of repetitive stress injuries commonly faced by runners. 

Why are we talking about barefoot running?

Because humans have been walking and running barefoot for as long as we’ve existed. And modern running shoes have only existed since the mid-1970s. But we’ve lost touch with our barefoot ancestors and it may not be for the best. 

“The earliest humans who walked and climbed the forests of Africa,” says Lieberman,  “evolved into runners when the forests dried up and turned into savannahs.” They evolved into runners to hunt game and introduce more meat into their diet. Because animals get rid of excess heat by panting, but they can’t pant when they gallop. Humans took advantage of this not by being faster or stronger, but by being persistent.

“Persistence hunting involves chasing a game animal during the heat of the day,” Liberman explains, “making it run faster than it could maintain, tracking and flushing it if it tried to rest, and repeating the process until the animal literally overheated and collapsed.” To learn more about Daniel Lieberman’s work check out “The Evolution of Marathon Running Capabilities in Humans”.

How to start running barefoot (again)

It’s best to do your research, especially before tackling something like barefoot running. Here are some of our reading recommendations. 

Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and movement scientist, wrote the book “Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear”. In it, she focuses on the importance of healthy foot function and the benefits of transitioning to minimal footwear. She guides the transition from traditional, highly supportive footwear to minimal shoes or even going barefoot.

Christopher McDougall’s best-selling book “Born to Run” helped spark a minimalist running movement in America. It encourages people to reevaluate their running techniques. And leaves you pondering the relationship between humans and nature, the benefits of an active lifestyle, and the potential of the human body.

Best minimalist shoes

Companies like Vivobarefoot believe that “barefoot footwear is regenerative to human health”.  And you’re probably familiar with the Vibram Five Fingers who also believe that wearing minimalist shoes “facilitates a deeper connection between your body and the natural environment”.

Best minimalist shoes for men

For functional fitness, primal movements, balance and strengthening workouts check out the KSO EVO Men’s Black

Best minimalist shoes for women

The KSO Vintage Women’s are ideal for everything from casual, everyday use to gym workouts to trail adventures.

Best minimalist trail shoes for men

If you have the means to spend over $250 on a pair of shoes then you should consider the PRIMUS TRAIL III ALL WEATHER FG MENS. These are water-resistant trail runners for extreme conditions and terrains.

The best part is, you don’t have to purchase anything if you don’t want to. Be brave, like the Barefoot Professor, and try running barefoot outside like many of us did when we were younger. And make running fun.

Final thoughts

Undoubtedly there are benefits to back-to-nature and barefoot movements. From the biomechanical wisdom of experts like Daniel Lieberman and Katy Bowman to the diverse range of minimalist shoes on the market, the path to healthy, regenerative movements is within reach.

So, be inspired and dare to step outside… barefoot.

About the author
Picture of Gabe Fontana

Gabe Fontana

A freelance writer who strives for clarity, brevity, and humanity. He takes complex topics and make them approachable and fun to read. Find him online at www.fontanacopy.com to view the breadth of his work.

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