The marathon is a hard even both physically and mentally. It is 42 kms of hard running. It’s hard on the body, especially the feet which is why all marathon runners spend so much consideration to exactly what is on their feet. They will spend considerable time finding the appropriate running shoe and a lot of money is involved in running shoes. Back at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, Abebe Bikala from Ethiopia arrived for the marathon and there were no shoes remaining in the teams gear that would fit him, so he ran the marathon barefoot and went on to win the gold medal. This is commonly hailed as a exceptional achievement. Recently there has been a group of runners that are implying the running shoes are not all they’re claimed to be and are promoting that running ought to be done barefoot, just like nature made us for. After all, we were not given birth to with shoes and historical humans were required to run great distances barefoot to live as animals needed to be hunted on foot over great distances.

Athletic shoes are really only a relatively recent creation. Those who promote the barefoot approach to running love to point to the achievements of Abebe Bikala as even more validation that we do not require running shoes. There are certainly a number of other justifications both for as well as against barefoot running, with not much scientific evidence underpinning it. Whilst Abebe Bikala obtaining the gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics barefoot undoubtedly suggest that it can be done, what those who like to promote his achievements as proof often omit that he later went on to win the gold medal and break the world record in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. Abebe Bikala managed to set the world record this time wearing running shoes; to put it differently he could actually run faster when he was wearing running shoes. We might well have evolved to run barefoot, but we also evolved in an environment ahead of concrete and hard surfaces emerged. While the achievements of him were remarkable, making use of him as evidence that barefoot is better does not stack up to scrutiny.