Run naked

I’ve been thinking a lot about barefoot running recently – which isn’t the real topic of this post, incidentally.

I’m not going to run barefoot any time soon. Even as a kid, I was a tenderfoot. The tiniest pebble made me wince in pain.

However, I have moved to more minimal shoe styles in the last year.

Barefoot running, though, is steadily gaining popularity. At this year’s Boston Marathon a number of people ran without shoes. And online it’s possible to find many advocates of this particular style; in fact, May 6 is International Barefoot Running Day.

Hosted by the Barefoot Runners Society, the day encourages people to run distances of 11 and 15 kilometres unshod. You can find out more here:

Barefoot running isn’t just a fad.

Led by Daniel Lieberman, the researchers at Harvard University’s Skeletal Biology Lab  studied the biomechanics of endurance running. Their research questioned how and why people could and still do run comfortably without modern running shoes.

What they found was “habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike.”

It all comes down to a matter of form. As is well-known now, forefoot and midfoot strikers don’t experience the same slamming motions that heel strikers do. “Consequently,” the scientists wrote, “runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground.

“Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing.”

That research comes with lots of hedges because the scientists don’t want to find themselves on the receiving end of a class-action suit – as recently happened to one well-known minimal shoe manufacturer.

Therefore, along with the summary of their 2010 research, the scientists add: “Please note that we present no data on how people should run, whether shoes cause some injuries, or whether barefoot running causes other kinds of injuries. We believe there is a strong need for controlled, prospective studies on these issues.”

Nonetheless, the barefoot running movement – no pun intended – continues unabated, even though many Kenyan runners are quick to grab trainers the moment they can afford them.

Coupled with the whole paleo-diet trend – the notion that what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate was best [] – it convinced me that in order to experience the best running possible, we should embrace our past.

We need to shed more than our footwear. We need to shed our clothing and our inhibitions.

We need to run free.

We need to run naked.

We need to run, our jiggly bits swaying and wobbling in the wind, free and unleashed.

By running in the nude, we more fully become one with nature and truly experience our hunter-gatherer heritage. The freedom from restrictive technical clothing will allow for previously unimaginable personal bests, as form is improved from the lack of chafing and times come down from decreased wind resistance the fluttering materials cause during races.

For those not interested in the competitive side of running, movement in the buff will impart to them a direct connection with their ancestral past. They will experience the natural flow and personal satisfaction that only running in the nude can provide.

Of course, it will bring new meaning to run streaks.

Naked running will break down barriers between people. No longer will social class distinctions exist because people are able to demonstrate their wealth and status through the gadgets, fabrics and shoes they wear; naked running will create equality.

It will free people from concerns over body image. Naked running is a celebration of the human body in all its shapes, sizes and forms. Joyfully, runners will set dates with each other and gleefully say: I look forward to seeing you.”

Bare feet are only the beginning. Run naked. Run free.


About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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7 Responses to Run naked

  1. SeeAlliRun says:

    The dangers of bare foot running: (warning, some of the pictures are quite gross).

    Alas, I think I will not be partaking in the running naked movement.. clothes for some, are truly a necessity.

  2. Ron St.Onge says:

    Charles.. I am transitioning to running on my mid/fore foot and it takes time, or I am told.. I need to get many 3-4 km runs before i move forward to longer distances. I am hoping it helps in stopping the heal injury but not just yet. The calf muscles have to change from running on heal to forward stance, so this takes time. I am going to try to get many shorter runs in over the next month and hopefully can do more …
    It makes sense, if you go thru the archives of CBC Doc Zone there was a great doc on the science behind barefoot running


    • subthree says:

      Good luck with the transition, Ron. I found I’ve been doing the same, especially since I had my first bout with plantar. I’m not prepared to go full-out barefoot or FiveFingers yet, but I’m wearing much more minimal shoes for runs these days.

      Yes, I saw The Perfect Runner online the day after it came out.

      Thanks for reading.

  3. RunningBear says:

    28 years of Bare Bun Fun Running. You’ve hit on many of the right points. It is a rocky course, but more than a few are barefoot all the way up~ and USTAF cert.

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