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Boston Marathon and beyond: Running is ready for a barefoot revolution

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By taking off your shoes, you give your body a chance to reuse some amazingly useful, built-in systems that help you move in a way that need not be jarring nor pounding – regardless of the hardness of the terrain.

It’s a way of movement that more effectively captures and releases stored energy through elasticity in our bodies: the splaying of our forefoot, the arch in our foot, tendons in the lower legs, calves and quads, and form, all positioned ideally to absorb and recoil the energy of movement, smoothly and efficiently.

With barefoot running, your feet and mind are synced-up, communicating in real-time, by tapping into a kind of primordial physical intelligence, which is our birthright. This built in recoil system puts to shame the claims of the marshmallow soft, spring-loaded shoes that capture the imagination of so many.

So, why did we give up our state-of-the-art – and totally free – feet for expensive sneakers? What went wrong?

My hunch is that we got unplugged – detached – from our own bodies, from our own feet. That disconnect has led to gait patterns and running styles that are unique to a generation of runners. We are the first cohort in the history of the world to run distance with cushioned, high-heeled shoes. Such shoes have encouraged us to run the wrong way!

Watch barefoot youngsters run: They know how to do it. Small, quick, light steps, landing on the forefoot, all while keeping good posture. Now watch how some adults run these days wearing $150 sneakers: big, slow, heavy steps, landing on the heel, all while slightly hunched. Ouch. It is even painful to watch.

Our padded sneakers represent a case of the cure becoming worse than the ailment, the ailment being hard surfaces and tired bodies, trying to continue moving when the safe form of moving has exhausted itself and the feet and legs would normally protest about continuing.

Does it have to be this way?

Nope. Learning how to master the fundamental human capacity of running, sans shoes, is a lot easier than you think and does not require a purchase.

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