Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Personal health

Barefoot super-athletes?

While exploring this curious (primitive!) idea of going barefoot, and walking barefoot, I remembered about Milkha Singh and spent 15 minutes researching the idea of barefoot running (Note that I have no plans to run barefoot!).

Milkha Singh was very big in our times in India. I was fortunate to see him in my school in Hyderabad (Kendriya Vidyalaya Picket) in the 1970s. Milkha Singh ran the 400 metre race at the MCG in Melbourne in the 1956 Olympics barefoot (he was eliminated in the heats). He later took to wearing shoes, I gather, but most of his skill was acquired running barefoot in army cantonments where he started life as a jawan.

More famous is Abebe Bikila who ran the 1960 Olympics marathon barefoot and won the gold medal. Similarly I found this interesting story about barefoot adivasis who outshine city athletes in marathon

Here's a book that advocates running barefoot: “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen”  by Christopher McDougall. And here's the world's first BAREFOOT half-marathon (13 km) – that took place in Mumbai on 12 December 2010. [Newsreport]

But note this!

Doctors apparently aren't sure that this is good idea. I'd not recommend it – given this is not something I'm going to try. (see New York Times, "Is Running Barefoot Better for You?", 21 Oct 2009)

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Walking barefoot – something to try out

The natural cure of my dry eyes and eye strain problem is holding up very well (not yet 100% cured but pretty much manageable. I was even able to watch a complete movie yesterday [Fiddler on the Roof – outstanding movie], something that has been virtually impossible for me to do for the past eight months due to the intense pain experienced in front of any screen, including the TV). If eye specialists were to use my cure, they'd genuinely benefit their patients. And the world could save BILLIONS of dollars.

But now for another interesting piece of information.

My gym instructor mentioned yesterday that there are many health benefits of barefoot contact with the ground. This is a preliminary post on this subject – to record a few key benefits, based on my instructor's comments, as well as a short internet search. I've not yet started using this general therapy but will provide further comment after trying it out.

The feet of coolies in India (who walk barefoot) were found by experts to be more perfect than that of others."There is no occupation more strenuous for the feet than trotting a rickshaw on hard pavement for many hours each day yet these men do it without pain or pathology"

Electrons transfer from the ground to our body


The detailed website on this is

Body posture is improved

A study entitled, "Shod Versus Unshod: The Emergence of Forefoot Pathology in Modern Humans?" in the podiatry journal The Foot, noted that "prior to the invention of shoes, people had healthier feet."

Among the modern subjects, the Zulu population, which often goes barefoot, had the healthiest feet while the Europeans–i.e., the habitual shoe-wearers–had the unhealthiest. One of the lead researchers, Dr. Bernhard Zipfel, when commenting on his findings, lamented that the American Podiatric Medical Association does not "actively encourage outdoor barefoot walking for healthy individuals. This flies in the face of the increasing scientific evidence, including our study, that most of the commercially available footwear is not good for the feet."


The poor bio-feedback through shoes can cause poor posture and other problems:

 It takes only milliseconds for sensory information from your foot to reach your brain and for your brain to respond by making adjustments to muscles in your legs, back and arms. By contrast, walking in shoes is far more clumsy and inefficient due (in part) to impaired biofeedback. Muscle contractions, impact forces and joint range-of-motion are measurably different when barefoot [Source]

Impact on body of walking barefoot even on steel is virtually zero

My friend Daniel Lieberman at Harvard (the other barefoot professor) has demonstrated in his research that impact forces on the body are virtually zero when running barefoot, even on the hardest man-made surfaces like steel. Thus, the body’s shock-absorption mechanisms are perfectly capable of handling the hardest of terrains. By the way, impact forces are not zero when running on hard surfaces in shoes. [Source]

Ninety per cent of our foot (and many of our spinal) problems are caused by shoes

There is an excellent video interview with Associate Prof. Howell on the top right hand side, here. This professor does not use shoes for most of his daily activities. In addition, here's a youtube clip of his book. 


Medical journal reports on advantages of bare feet

Low incidence of dermatomycotic infection [Samuel B. Shulman. "Survey in China and India of Feet That Have Never Worn Shoes," The Journal of the National Association of Chiropodists, 49, 1949, pp. 26-30] [Source]

More evidence, here.

Testimonials from people who have benefited

Here. This list sounds genuine. No advertisements, for one.

I'm sure this info is good enough to persuade me to abandon my shoes (and thongs/chappals) as much as possible. I'll give it a go.

Happy to hear about your experiments/thoughts on this subject.

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