Allie Schnidman writes:

The media is buzzing with the “back to basics” theme. While this trend started with food – from the Slow Food Movement to Michael Pollan’s latest book – this “all-natural” trend seems to taking hold in the world of exercise as well.

While it is far from new, barefoot running has recently gained a considerable amount of media attention.  Runners are learning more about the advantages of running with minimal foot support and testing it with their bare feet, or for those less confident, with Vibram’s ‘Five Fingers‘  or Nike’s ‘Free’.  Runners have joined with scientists and podiatrists to debate the advantages of barefoot running: less impact on the ankles and knees leading to fewer injuries, slower strides with improved running postures and a closer connection to the environment. In fact, one of Vibram’s selling points is “a deepened connection to the earth” with a heightened sense of touch when jumping from one spot to the next.

As can be seen in the food industry, there is an ongoing shift in which the consumer seems, sometimes erratically, to reconnect with the natural environment. The shift in food consumption started with health concerns  but now extends to environmentalism: consumers want to eat for their own sustainability, and also for the environment’s sustainability.

The trend of barefoot running could follow the same pattern: we start by kicking off those shoes for health reasons, but continue for the pleasure of a heightened connection with the Earth. But perhaps this is where the comparison stops. For, sooner or later, the barefoot runner comes up hard (literally) against the experience of the paved city roads.

Certainly, as a runner, that’s the reason for my hesitation. I’m interested in testing this out with The Futures Company’s running team, but have concerns about exposing their fine feet to the streets of London. Perhaps it’s just a prejudice, but I wonder if barefoot running is meant for the countryside while pavement running is safer with a cushioned shoe; I find it hard to believe that running without shoes on paved roads is truly a natural experience. But perhaps readers have had a different experience; if so, I’d love to hear your comments.

The photo at the top of this post is from the Fitness Concepts blog, and is used with thanks.

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