A recent study suggests that running barefoot may prove safer for your body compared to running with your shoes on. Daniel Lieberman, a professor at the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and lead study author, studied runners from the United States and those from the Rift Valley Province in Kenya whose residents are known to be excellent endurance runners. All of the participants ran an average of at least 20 kilometers or 12.4 miles a week.
The participants in the study have different experiences with using running shoes. Those from the United States were accustomed to wearing shoes and then tried out barefoot running. There are those from Kenya who were used to running on barefoot who also tried wearing shoes to run. The researchers also looked into two groups of Kenyan teenagers with one group growing up never wearing shoes and the other who grew up wearing them.
Lieberman and his colleagues found out that safer running has a lot to do with how the feet lands on the ground while running. Barefoot runners tend to use the "forefoot strike" where the outer ball of the feet lands first before the heel. 75 percent of those who wore shoes tend to land on their heels first. The study suggests that this method is more likely to cause injury.
Landing the foot front first seems to provide a smoother landing with less impact. Those who run barefoot tend to avoid landing heel first to avoid the sharp impact on the heels that can hurt when done repeatedly.
Because of the shoes providing additional cushioning, runners that wear them tend to land on their heels first and not feel the effects. The findings of the study were published in the online journal Nature.