barefoot runners

Why does it seem like barefoot runners are mostly distance runners? My idea (after thinking) sprinters need their feet to hit the ground more often, thus more punishment. Other than Bakila, have any Olympic runners gone barefoot?

Zola Budd, South African turned British citizen, was a 3,000-meter runner who competed barefoot in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Sprinters usually wear longish spikes for greater traction. The spikes dig down into the track to prevent backslip.

On-track and cross-country distance runners may or may not wear spikes. When they do, the spikes are really short, for the power of each pace is far lesser than that of a sprinter, so there is far less slip in traction and therefore no need to dig as far down.

Road runners do not wear spikes because spikes don’t dig into pavement.

If one were to run barefoot, one would have a harder time competing with sprinters because the advantage of spikes would not be available. If one were to run barefoot in a road race or marathon, one would be equally competitive with shod runners because no one would be wearing spikes.

Thus when one comes across a barefoot runner, the odds are that it will be in a competition in which spikes are not used or are not always use, rather than in one, such as sprinting, in which spikes are advantageous.

Although slightly off topic, I have some strong opinions on barefoot running.

In the 70s, when I was into distance running (made it to 17th nationally in cross-country), there were a lot of folks from Africa winning wihtout shoes.

My take on it was that if you are so poor that you can’t afford shoes, and you walk or run everywhere because you can’t afford transportation, then one might expect you to run barefoot, and to continue that way out of habit even upon being able to afford shoes.

My coaches thought differently. They advocated shoeless running due to the weight of shoes.

We compromised, and I ended up running a couple of hundred miles each week wearing shoes with almost no sole padding (e.g. Addias SL). Within a few years my knees and lower back started giving me problems due to cartlidge and disk abuse, eventually forcing me to retire from running and to take up lower impact sports.

Was the problem due to my body, or the number of miles, or the lack of sole padding? Hard to say, but I put in a huge number of miles in kayaking in the 80s, and made it to the national team in another sport in the 90s (telemarking – 17th in the world – I like that number 17), both without any problem what so ever, so I expect that running without shoes with good sole padding is a bad thing.