Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Barefoot running

Recently this Librarian accepted an invitation from the Podiatry department to attend the 'Natural running - barefoot mechanics and natural sports supplements' lecture by guest speaker Colin McPhail.  When I think of barefoot running, I think back to the 1980s and Zola Budd:

Zola Budd racing barefoot. 1984. [online] Available at: [Accessed November 20 2012].

I wrongly assumed barefoot running was simply running in bare feet and had no idea how controversial it was going to be!  In full Librarian-mode, I noted the references Colin McPhail made to publications and suggested searches to find out more.

The current literature refers to Chris McDougall and his book Born to run: the hidden tribe, the ultra-runners and the greatest race the world has ever seen which takes us back to evolution and minimalist footwear.  McPhail recalled reading an article in The Economist that tells us "barefoot running is not new".  The article comments on "elite runners wearing thin racing flats" and suggests " addition to the obvious muscular development, running barefoot also promotes landing forefoot first, rather than on the heel. This pattern is shared by both elite sprinters and distance runners".

Lee Saxby's website has a section highlighting research on the topic with a forward written by Professor Daniel Lieberman that looks at human evolution, running before the modern running shoe, modern running shoes, heel striking and different foot strikes that is worth a look.

Professor Daniel Lieberman's home page lists 'How humans run barefoot (and why it may be good for you' in his current projects as well as talking about his research with Dennis Bramble and colleagues on long distance endurance running.

Searches in databases such as CINAHL, ProQuest Central and SCOPUS on key authors such as the aforementioned Lieberman, Bramble and McDougall will be fruitful.  Also, try using varying combinations of keywords:

"foot strike patterns"
heel striking OR forefront striking
"barefoot adaptations"

Watching McPhail demonstrate different landing techniques in the lecture was entertaining for this Librarian who describes her running technique as basic with putting one foot in front of the other and a stubborn will to keep going!  At the lively Q & A session at the end of the lecture, the convener concluded that barefoot running is one option of many that might not be suitable for all for everyone but is an interesting topic.

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