But don't we need cushioned shoes to protect us from injury?

But don't we need cushioned shoes to protect us from injury?

That’s certainly what we’ve always thought isn’t it? The science of running shoes has always been centred around ‘shock absorption’, ‘control’ and ‘support’. But runners suffer multiple and repetitive injury. Runners knee, shin splints, plantar fasciitis… injury is the bane of apparently around 80% of runners’ lives at some point in their running career. It either stops them running altogether or the pain is ‘managed’ long term, with anti inflammatories, orthotics and ever more ‘supportive’ shoes. Hmmm. So, if the shoes science isn’t preventing running injury and pain, something’s not quite adding up.

The optimum gait for running – balls / toes / midfoot first, then heel. So, learning to run barefoot isn’t just about taking our shoes off. It’s about re-learning how to run.

Humans didn’t just evolve with amazing complex feet, they also evolved with rather clever brains. Brains that communicated ‘ouch’ when our ancestors stepped on sharp stones or discarded mammoth teeth and prompted a solution: shoes. Our ancestors wrapped skins or furs around their feet to keep them warm and protect them from the environment. They could feel the ground, but they were more comfortable.

So we need protection sure, but all that cushioning and 'stability' is simply preventing the amazing muscles and bones of our feet from actually doing what they need to do. They're 'splinted' and they don't need to / can't work. We need to strengthen our feet, stretch them and help them re-learn how to do what they're built for - walk.

Of course, in our modern world we can't go barefoot all the time. Let’s get real, it’s not always practical. Or appropriate… It might be natural to walk barefoot, but our modern environment is anything but. Tarmac isn't natural. We need shoes much of the time to protect us from our environment. We need puncture-resistant soles that protect the skin on our feet and we often need some insulation to keep them warm. But that’s really all we need them for.