Running barefoot has been on the rise since the 2009 release of the book "Born to Run" and the 2010 study of Kenya's famous Kalenjin distance runners. The idea is that running on your forefeet is the way nature intended; your forefeet absorb the impact that running places on your feet and legs. Traditional running shoes of the last 40 years encourages runners to land on their heels.
A new study by George Washington University tested a group of barefoot runners of the Daasanach people of northern Kenya and found that they actually naturally strike the ground with their heels. Kevin Hatala is a doctoral student in anthropology at GWU and expects his group's research will correspond with that of Harvard researcher's Daniel Lieberman's study of the Kalenjin.
"We found the opposite to be true. In the group we were looking at, the majority of them were rear-foot striking at their preferred endurance running speed," said Hatala in an interview.
Hatala's research was published in the January 9th issue of the online journal PLOS One. He used for his research 19 men and 19 women to run a variety of speeds over pressure plates that measure the impact forces they created. At a high speed some switched from heel-strike to fore-foot strike, but overall, heel -striking was most common among the Daasanach.
Hatala isn't terribly keen on speculating quite yet about why his results are different from the prevailing wisdom. Running style could be the result of information that is transmitted from generation to generation, or it could be the type of surface available for running.
"I guess what we found really interesting about this is it directly shows there is not one way to run barefoot. We have a lot more to learn about how people who run barefoot and what might be the best way to run barefoot," said Hatala.
Lieberman says that his study did find some barefoot heel-strikers as well. The Daasanach are a tall, lanky, group of goat-herding people who don't run nearly as much as the Kalenjin, who hold most of the world's long distance records.
If you are a barefoot runner and have a foot problem, call our Newington, Kensington, or Middletown office to make an appointment.
Craig M. Kaufman, DPM
Connecticut Foot Care Centers
Sports Medicine Podiatrist in CT
Podiatrist in Newington
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