Here’s the theory: humans have been endurance running for millennia and our bodies are designed for the task. Run barefoot and you’re most likely to strike the ground with your foot’s front or middle.
Studies, chiefly by Harvard human evolutionary biology professor Daniel Lieberman, have shown these super-structured shoes actually counteract the body’s natural running style, encouraging runners to stride out and hit the heel instead of the forefoot.
In a paper in Nature in 2010, Lieberman found that landing on the heel creates a collision-force of 1.5 to 3 times the body’s weight, which could contribute to stress fractures and plantar fasciitis. Barefoot runners landing on the forefoot or midfoot generated lower impacts, even on hard surfaces.But footwear evolved to the point where, according to a 2013 study of runners at the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, 94 percent of runners are heel strikers
When studying a group of barefoot- running Americans, he found 75 per cent landed on their forefoot or midfoot without shoes. That dropped to half when the same group ran shod, suggesting the shoe was influencing running technique.
Biomechanics expert, runner and manager of Auckland University of Technology running clinic Kelly Sheerin says there’s nothing new about barefoot running, especially in New Zealand, where kids routinely trot around without shoes. A young John Walker ran five miles barefoot to school and back, and no-one batted an eyelid when he won an Auckland championship title running barefoot on gravel.
Sheerin agrees that landing on your forefoot reduces impact on the body and running barefoot can help achieve that. Heel striking produces an impact transient spike as the foot hits the ground, which then rockets up through the body. However, the benefits of barefoot running remain inconclusive.
2007 Coast to Coast adventure race, veteran Josh Stevenson states that running barefoot forces you to go from a heel strike and striding out to landing your foot under your hip. Because you run with a better running technique and less impact, you use less energy and you’re lighter on your feet.”