Barefoot running: Why you should consider it to prevent injuries

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The Conversation

(CNN)It was around four to six million years ago when humans first evolved to walk upright. We continued to evolve into superb long-distance walkers and runners, made possible by our arched feet, long achilles tendon, and ability to cool through sweating. And surprisingly, for most of human history this long distance travel was done barefoot.

Some evidence suggests footwear emerged around 30,000 years ago. But it wasn't until about 100 years ago that fashionable footwear was reported to be altering the shape of the foot. Since the 1970s, cushioned running shoes have become synonymous with exercise.
    But a growing body of evidence shows running shoes might actually be doing us more harm than good. Our latest review suggests that wearing shoes changes the way we run and weakens the foot in a way that can contribute to many common sports injuries.

    Barefoot runners can start young

    Previously, our team revealed that we can still run barefoot, especially if we start young. We found that not only could children in New Zealand ages 12-19 run sprint and middle-distance races barefoot, we also found the prevalence of pain in the lower limbs (knees, ankles, and feet) was relatively low compared with children of similar ages from other countries. Other research has also shown differences in foot structure and function in barefoot and shoe-wearing populations.
    These findings prompted us to conduct a global review of running injuries in men and women. We found that between 35 and 50% of runners were injured at any one time. These numbers could be considered high -- especially for a species adapted to long-distance running.