Barefoot or cushioning? February 24 2015, 0 Comments

Last week, a friend sent me an article from the International New York Times describing the arrival of maximalist, highly cushioned shoes. You might be surprised that such a topic would appear on this website, as we are at the other end of the running philosophy spectrum. I was initially a little reluctant to read it because I was sure that I wouldn't like what I saw. In psychology, this is known as 'confirmational bias' - an acceptance of anything that confirms one's existing beliefs, and rejection of anything which contradicts them.  However, I did read it, and in the interests of open-mindedness (the opposite of confirmational bias...), here is what I found and think.

Born to runOn the basis  of the story of a prominent long-distance runner whose plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the feet, was resolved by using maximalist shoes, they seem to work.  Plantar fasciitis was exactly the issue that plagued Christopher McDougal, author of the best-selling Born to Run, and his cure was to change to barefoot running, so it seems that different approaches can come to the same resolution. The article emphasised that, even with the cushioning, correct running style on the forefoot is important. This uses foot pronation and the gradual lowering of the heel to absorb impact, wonderfully demonstrated by professor Daniel Lieberman at Harvard. 

I guess that each individual has to find his or her solution to their running needs, and this can be different for different people.  For my part, switching to barefoot running (with barefoot shoes) has been life-changing, and I shall stick with it.  And, even in this article, I found a salve for my confirmational bias - the long-distance runner who uses the maximalist shoes still runs shorter distances barefoot to keep his feet strong.  He drily concludes that people who spend more time improving their bodies as opposed to shopping for shoes are the ones who are going to run better.