Throw away your running shoes?

For most runners, picking up niggles and injuries is all part of our sport. For years we’ve turned to science and ever more cushioned and supportive running shoes to solve our running ills but maybe we should have been looking further back into our evolutionary past for a solution.

In 2004 biologist Dennis Bramble and anthropologist Daniel Lieberman made the front cover of the illustrious scientific journal Nature. By identifying 26 anatomical markers they concluded that, as a species, modern humans evolved to run long distances as persistence hunters. If we evolved to run, though, why do modern runners get injured so often?

For some the finger of blame began to be pointed at the shoes on our feet. In 2009 the ‘Barefoot Bible’, Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, was published and since then the debate has raged. Look for an answer on the internet and you’ll find passionate and zealous views in both camps and heated forum debates.

Trying to find out if barefoot running is for you, whether you should ditch your cushioned and motion controlled shoes or if it’s just tree-hugging hippy nonsense is almost impossible. In response to the barefoot and natural running movement many shoe manufacturers have begun to produce stripped down minimalist shoes that allow your feet to behave more as nature intended.

As a runner these are confusing times. How and when can barefooting be incorporated into my training? Is it safe? What about dog mess and broken glass? Aren’t minimalist shoes just for lightweight racing snakes? Running on tarmac is hardly natural – how can a natural approach apply?

Runners confused or intrigued by this debate, plagued by injuries or who just want to pick up some top tips on running faster should head down to the Showroom Cinema on Friday to the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival’s Running Expert Night hosted by leading Sheffield-based running store Accelerate. Guest speakers will include leading Bio Mechanist Colin Papworth, Saucony’s Paul Heywood and Key-speaker Matt Brown, part of the design team at Inov-8.

There will also be a screening of running films, including Indulgence: 1000 Miles under the Colorado Sky, which features ultra-runner and minimalist guru Anton Krupicka. See www.shaff.co.uk

Nik Cook