For most of human evolutionary history, before the advent modern running shoes, humans ran either barefoot or in minimal shoes. A comparison of the biomechanics of habitually shod versus habitually barefoot runners suggests that running barefoot is not only comfortable but may also help avoid some impact-related stress injuries. On the cover, the feet of Kenyan adolescents who have never worn shoes and run up to 20 km a day. Their feet are healthy and strong - and until recently, everyone’s feet looked like this.
I was going to leave this until next quarter but since being on the cover of Nature last week barefoot running is attracting even more attention from the media. Nature is actually a little slow to this bandwagon - just this week I've caught two CCS students indulging in barefoot escapades.
Nature have a nice series of short videos that illustrate some of their papers.
This actually reminds me of a story I read recently, in Wired magazine I think. Some researchers were interested in using force platforms to help rehabilitate stroke victims by giving them feedback on balance and forces. The type of force platform that would typically be used, like the one used to calculate the forces on the foot in the study above, can cost well over $10,000. Looking for a cheaper alternative they dismantled the balance board available for skateboarding and balance games on the Nintendo Wii system. They found the accelerometers and strain gauges more than adequate. Thanks to the Internets I can confirm that this half remembered second hand story is actually true.