The Loh Down On Science

Baring It

Running barefoot ... Just do it? Or not?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

When Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia ran the Olympic marathon in 1960, his shoes were uncomfortable. So he took them off, went 26 barefoot, and won!

Fifty years later, barefoot running is making new strides. So says physical therapist Carey Rothschild from the University of Central Florida. She looked into whether baring it all, foot-wise, is better for runners … or not.

After surveying 6,000 runners online, Rothschild found that those who chose the shoeless path feel it improves performance and reduces injury. But those who've never tried it fear the opposite: that performance will worsen and injuries will increase. In reality? It’s a tie.

Research shows that barefoot runners tend to land on their mid- or forefoot, and less on their heel. This leads to a higher number of up-front stress fractures and increased calf pain. Shod runners land mostly on the heel, suffering knee, hip, and heel impact injuries.

You could say, barefoot running is just a matter of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or not.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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