Research running into danger

SCOTLAND'S rugged runners are doing themselves no favours when they wear expensive trainers and should instead stride forth barefoot. So says evolutionary biologist Prof Daniel Lieberman, of Harvard University.

According to an article in Nature, he and his colleagues argue that running barefoot is better for you, as sports shoes make people more likely to land on their heels, causing more stress to the body than using the ball of the foot or a flat foot (mid-foot). Barefoot running creates a more fluid running movement, reducing impact-shock.

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Now academic research is one thing. Rigorous testing in Scottish conditions quite another. Surely far greater than the hazards caused by stress to the body are the many dangers that await today's intrepid barefoot runner. There's the sharp wee pointy stones that will hurt more than Lego on the stairs, and loose soil that can cause a runner to slip. There's the discarded beer cans and broken Buckfast bottles and the remains of pizza and dog excrement to negotiate. Recent prolonged winter weather has also left roads and paths damaged. As our own Rosemary Gallagher found yesterday, the rhythm of running can be hard to maintain when concentration is broken by such dangers. This may be a starry-eyed vision of how to run on the beaches of Australia or Cape Province. It is a bare-faced danger to most runners here.