what happened to barefoot running

What happened to barefoot running?

Barefoot running was a fad that did not last long. This Google Trends graph clearly shows what happened to it:


Despite all the hype and rhetoric and propaganda about it online, runners simply lost interest in it. It did not work for most of them. It did not live up to the promises of the rhetoric and propaganda. It was driven by a lot of “guru’s”, websites, books and running magazine articles and even that was not enough to sustain it. I even remember a tweet that has long been deleted that barefoot running was going to put Nike out of business; such was the blind faith and tribalism that was driving the fanaticism. There was also that claim the the first sub-2 hour marathon was going to be run barefoot. The opposite happened.

It was driven by multiple logical fallacies (eg appeal to antiquity and the appeal to nature) and a lot of false and fake claims about the science and evidence. Now the science has been done and the injury rates between running barefoot and running with traditional running shoes is generally about the same. There is no benefit to it and barefoot running comes with all the downside (eg the technical knowledge and increased injury risk involved in transitioning to barefoot running; and the environmental hazards).

Some of us were quite vocal, in not necessarily being opposed to it, but pointing out those logical fallacies, the lack of science (at that time), all the injures that were occurring with barefoot running etc. I took a lot of heat for that and got hate mail among other things (which speaks volumes about the fanatics). I certainly feel vindicated now.

Having got that off my chest, the legacy of that barefoot running fad has some positive spin offs: such as the variety and range of options in running shoes has increased; we are much more aware of issues such as running technique or form; and I think we know a lot more about tissue capacity and tissue adaptation. They are good things.

Craig Payne Administrator
University lecturer, writer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, science communicator, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger, dad.
University lecturer, writer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, science communicator, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger, dad.

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