Wearing Sneakers While You Run Won't Harm Your Feet

We may have evolved to run barefoot, but cement surfaces call for modern shoes.

15/06/2016 2:03 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:54 PM AEST
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Your joggers aren't going to make you a lazy runner.

Humans have been running for as long as we've been, well, humans. And up until a few hundred decades ago, that jogging was done barefoot.

A new Australian study has tested the idea that shoes could weaken or harm our body's natural running mechanisms, and found that while the the foot's arch did less work in shoes, muscle intensity actually increased.

University of Queensland study author Luke Kelly said he kept coming across the idea that shoes could be detrimental while working as a podiatrist.

Barefoot running is cool too.

"There are theories from evolutionary biologists that started being talked about five or six years ago that when we run in shoes, we become reliant on the cushioning of the shoe to attenuate some of the impact, and that changes how we run, making us weaker and more lazy," Kelly told The Huffington Post Australia.

"I was interested in looking what was actually going on inside the shoe to determine how shoes influenced the mechanics of the foot right up to any changes in how the brain and spinal cord communicated with the foot."

The results of the study showed that while shoes did cushion some of the impact of running as you'd expect, they also activated foot muscles more intensely.

"The first thing we saw from a movement perspective was that when you run with shoes on, your arch collapses less," Kelly said.

"As the ligaments and muscles stretch when the arch lowers, it's like pulling on a rubber band to stretch and store energy.

"Less compression means less stored energy, so I guess the evolutionary biologists' arguments are right there but the unique thing that we saw was the activation of muscles increased, which is in complete contrast to the argument that shoes make the foot weak."

Kelly said it was the first time a study looked at how a foot's muscles and arch worked together while inside a shoe by implanting tiny metal threads into the foot using a needle.

"These little electrodes gave us a new insight into what's happening inside the foot when we run," Kelly said.

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