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Running barefoot beats pricey sneakers

health-and-fitness Updated: Jan 28, 2010 17:42 IST

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Toss your expensive sports shoes away and rely on your bare feet! They are better suited to running than when cushioned by sneakers, says a new study.

"Most people today think running barefoot is dangerous and hurts," Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, stated.

"But actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. It might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes."

Lieberman and his group used 3-D infrared tracking to record and study the running and strike style of three groups of runners: people who had always run barefoot, people who had always run with shoes, and people who had switched from shoe to shoeless.

They found that when runners lace up their sneakers and take off, about 75 to 80 percent land heel-first.

Barefoot runners - as Homo sapiens had evolved to be - usually land toward the middle or front of the foot. "People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," Lieberman said.

Without shoes, landing on the heel is painful and can translate into a collision force some 1.5 to 3 times body weight.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that our bodies are still better engineered than new-fangled trainers.

When taking into account our ancient ancestors, "humans have engaged in endurance running for millions of years," the researchers wrote in their study. "But the modern running shoe was not invented until the 1970s."

Another study published recently, by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that a jog in high heels was better for joints than specialised tennis shoes.

Despite the growing movement of barefoot (or more lightly shod) runners, many researchers are calling for more evaluation before all those sweaty sneakers are abandoned, according to a Harvard release.

These findings were published online in the Wednesday issue of Nature.