The results of a study concerning barefoot running were just released in the journal Nature. The principle researcher involved, Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman (Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University) is known for developing the idea that the human body evolved to be an efficient runner and utilized that running ability to eventually dominate its competition (like the Neanderthal man).
His theory, dubbed the endurance running hypothesis, suggests that by being able to run long distances efficiently Homo sapiens was able to take advantage of the wide open plains of the post ice age world.
His latest study centers on the mechanics of running and how being barefoot or wearing shoes affects the body. Their conclusions (that bare forefoot and midfoot running produces less impact than shod heel striking) are significant for his work because they further tie the specialization of the human foot to the endurance running hypothesis. Specifically, longer hind limbs, shorter toes, and a well developed arch led to a much smoother stride.
However, the results are even more significant for the barefoot and minimalist footwear community because it lends further credence to the notion that typical running shoes are less than optimal for facilitating human running. Despite the fact that the research was funded by a company that produces minimalist footwear, CNBC reported that Lieberman disclosed the grant, and said the company had no say in the design and outcome of the study. Besides, Nike has given research awards for other studies that have also concluded in favor of barefoot running as well, so there is certainly room for unbiased research sponsorship.
I suppose it isn’t really all that surprising that some shoe companies made press releases prior to the unveiling of the research. If ground breaking research was about to be presented that would shine a bad light on the efficacy of your product, it would probably be prudent to start firing up the marketing engine. Never-the-less, as more research is done in this area (which certainly will happen) it will be harder and harder for people to deny what the human body has known for thousands of years.