Not barefoot in the park

Finally, an intelligent article on this whole running shoes-don’t-really-help thing. It’s very true that when you’re fit and light and biomechanically adequate—let’s just say when you’re young and genetically fortunate—that running barefoot is wonderful. As a kid, when I had to run short and fast, I always stripped off my shoes. Picnic and schoolyard sprints, touch football, that kind of stuff. Oh, that wonderful lifting fleetness I now experience only in memory.

But the idea that modern, urban, middle-aged fitness runners—creaky, heavy, biomechanically inefficient—would be better off slogging their miles in naked tootsies is bizarrely absurd. “Three to five miles on the streets of Cambridge, completely barefoot,” might work out for a particular Harvard professor, but would pretty much guarantee a sudden epidemic of strained achilles tendons if the rest of us took it up, not to mention wonky knees and hips and the inevitable cuts, scrapes, and bruises. (Barefoot on city streets? I’m tempted to say, “are you insane?”—but this is a Harvard professor.)

The article, in this morning’s New York Times, finally talks sense and gets it right, I think.

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