There's plenty of room for debate when it comes to running shod versus bare. Amidst the hype surrounding barefoot and minimalist running, most runners hesitate to forgo the convenience, comfort, safety and, well, hygienic benefits of good-old-fashioned running shoes.
But who could resist running au naturel in Autumn? Fallen leaves from maples, poplars, or oaks cushion the trail with a forgiving crunch between your toes, and the ground underfoot doesn't cook your bare soles to medium-well, the way asphalt does on triple-digit summer days.
Not all of us can renounce our shoes and run like the Tarahumara. Conduct your own experiment and follow these tips to see whether or not barefoot running is the right fit for you.
Hypothesis: Predict what results you will see in your running ability from running barefoot. A team of Harvard researchers led by Dr. Daniel Lieberman hypothesized that humans, before the advent of the running shoe, landed more frequently on the forefoot than the heel. "We suspect," states the research team's website, "that forefoot striking was most common." They conducted a wealth of experiments to test the merits of barefoot running over shod running — particularly the biomechanics of various runners' footstrike, from Harvard students to Kenyan school children. The evidence, though anecdotal, favors barefoot or minimalist running shoes as a means of low-impact and foot strength-building running.