20 Barefoot Running with Daniel Lieberman, PhD

My guest today is Daniel Lieberman, PhD

Dr. Lieberman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, and the Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences at Harvard University. He was educated at Harvard and Cambridge. He studies how and why the human body is the way it is, and the relevance of human evolution to contemporary health. His major research foci include the evolution of long distance walking and running abilities as well as the effects of shoes on locomotor biomechanics and injury; he also studies the evolution of the highly unusual human head. His work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and many other groups and foundations. He has ongoing fieldwork projects in Kenya and Mexico. In addition to over 130 peer-reviewed research articles, he’s published several books including "The Evolution of the Human Head (Harvard University Press, 2011), and “The Story of the Human Body” (Pantheon, 2013).

If you’ve read the book “Born to Run”,

then you’re already familiar with his work because that title was actually the title of a cover in the journal Nature that featured his research well before the book of the same title; and my guest is a major figure in the book itself.

In this episode, we explore the evolution of running, the biomechanics of barefoot running, and what shoe cushioning is and does for (and to) us. We make the distinction among barefoot, minimalist, and cushioned shoes and learn about the interesting effect of barefoot running, and possibly minimalist shoe running, on normalizing foot arches.

As always, we wrap up with some actionable answers to fundamental questions in barefoot running when I ask Dr. Lieberman,

- What are the most common misconceptions you see in the running community with respect to barefoot vs shod running?
- Based on all your research, are their compelling reasons to consider barefoot or minimalist running from an endurance performance standpoint?
- Is there any reason to think that someone running ultra marathons would perform better or be less injury prone by switching to barefoot or minimalist running if fully and properly adapted.
- Should runners pay attention to their foot strike or should they just let their bodies do what’s comfortable and allow natural biomechanical adjustments to develop without conscious input?