Monday, October 5, 2009

Barefoot Ken

Just yesterday, I read an amazing article about a man named Ken Bob (otherwise known as "Barefoot Ken") who is a well known evangelist of the art of barefoot running. And when I say barefoot running, I mean barefoot. Not with any of the "barefoot shoes" on the market like the vibram five finger, etc. And so, many of you are thinking at this point, "what the heck does this have to do with me?"

Well, I'll tell you. Barefoot Ken is such an evangelist about running completely barefoot because of his experience running his first (and last) marathon in shoes. Needless to say, the ruined toenails, and blisters on the sides and soles of his feet convinced him that shoes are really not good for the feet. And what he inadvertently discovered in his transition to running barefoot is that the human body is an amazingly elegant structure, designed over millennia to move us across the earth in an efficient and pain free manner.

See, what Ken discovered is that the foot, when unshod, actually is quite an elegant machine. Let me explain, each foot has 28 bones in it which create three different arches to allow the foot to expand and to provide potential energy to help in the upward motion of the leg as it leaves the ground for the next stride. Not only that, but the feedback from the ground helps us to adjust our stepping form so that we come into contact with the ground in the most elegant way (setting the outer front foot down first and then gently placing the rest of the foot on the ground) avoiding injury and expending the least amount of energy.

Using this form eliminates pain in the knee hip, and lower spine as the shock of heel striking common with shoe wearing runners, and steppers, is non existent due to the barefoot form. And this brings us to a very relevant question...Are shoes actually damaging our bodies in a way that goes beyond the foot itself? On the surface this seems ludicrous. Shoes protect the feet and help us to go places that we would otherwise not be able to go and do things that we would otherwise not be able to do. And thats just it. Shoes cause us to do things that are unnatural for our bodies, and because of this, we end up moving in ways that actually hurt us.

For example, the typical shod runner lands heel first whilst for the unshod runner, this would be very painful. While the shock of the heel strike in the shod runner may not be felt strongly in the foot itself, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that since that shock bypassed the shock absorbers provided by the three arches of the foot, the shock is now travelling directly up the leg into the next joint, and the next, and the next, etc. Over time this additional and unnatural shock wears the joints, the lumbar discs, etc. Yes, shoes do cause us to do damage to ourselves because they dull our sense of how we are touching the ground with our feet.

This post is not complete without your input, so I urge you to comment.


  1. Nice article, Manny. I always tell my runner clients that there's a reason the Kenyans kick our butts in the Olympics - do you see them running around with giant padded arch support shoes, shoes with spring contraptions, orthotics, and gel pads? Nope.

  2. Hey Manny, I like your seven day program I signed up for. It has acually made me be aware of my htoiughts and what I want inlife for me and my practice!! Thank you