Here is the question, do we really need running shoes, or did evolution already provide us with everything we need for running? Let's get one thing straight from the start, nothing on this subject has been proven. However, there is a growing body of evidence to support the hypothesis that most people do not need running shoes to run if they are willing to adopt good technique. There is also a growing body of evidence that running shoes have actually allowed (or encouraged) people to run with bad technique resulting in more frequent injury.
Here are some of the basic points:
- People have been running since long before the invention of the modern running shoe in 1972. The vast majority of that time most people lived as hunter gathers who probably had to do a fair amount of running and walking in the pursuit of food. As hunter gatherers, humans could not have survived as a species if they sustained injuries from running at same rates we see in modern runners.
- There are still places in the world where people run without the "benefit" of modern running shoes, and those people are able to run as far (or farther) and as fast (or faster) than people who do wear running shoes. Furthermore, these unshod runners seem to run almost injury free. To date no one has ever discovered any significant anatomical or physiological differences that can explain this.
- Most people who learn to run without modern footwear naturally adopt a technique that is very similar to Pose Running Technique, and they almost universally land on the ball of their foot. By the same token, most people who learn to run using modern running shoes adopt a heal first landing. In other words, one significant difference between barefoot runners and those who use running shoes is technique.
Since I have adopted Pose Running Technique, I no longer require running shoes for my training. In fact, I now find it hard to run in anything more than racing flats. I'm also running faster. Not as fast as I ran in high school (when I was 30 years younger), but faster than I was running just prior to adopting the technique.
- Here is a link to the blog "Conditioning Research", which gives a very nice introduction on the subject as well as some great links to other resources - How Did We Manage To Run With No Shoes
- A great link to a site about the science behind this topic - Running Barefoot or In Minimal Footwear
- Another good blog post on the science by Steve Magness - Why Running shoes do not work: Looking at Pronation, Cushioning, Motion Control and Barefoot running
- In the interest of fairness here is a presentation of both sides of the shod and unshod/minimalist running arguments from Runner's World - New Nature Magazine Cover Story Shines More Light on Barefootin'