The Humanist Hour #55: Barefoot rEVOLUTION?

A new installment of the AHA’s Audio Podcast is available for listening. Keep reading to find out about the guests on this month’s show.

In this month’s podcast, Jes Constantine interviews Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard and Dr. Daniel Howell, author of The Barefoot Book about the benefits of barefoot living and how it relates to humanism.

About Dr. Daniel Lieberman

In Daniel Lieberman’s Skeletal Biology Lab, we have been investigating the biomechanics of endurance running, comparing habitually barefoot runners with runners who normally run in modern running shoes with built-up heels, stiff soles and arch support.

Our research asked how and why humans can and did run comfortably without modern running shoes. We tested and confirmed what many people knew already: that most experienced, habitually barefoot runners tend to avoid landing on the heel and instead land with a forefoot or midfoot strike. The bulk of our published research explores the collisional mechanics of different kinds of foot strikes. We show that most forefoot and some midfoot strikes (shod or barefoot) do not generate the sudden, large impact transients that occur when you heel strike (shod or barefoot). Consequently, runners who forefoot or midfoot strike do not need shoes with elevated cushioned heels to cope with these sudden, high transient forces that occur when you land on the ground. Therefore, barefoot and minimally shod people can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing. If impact transient forces contribute to some forms of injury, then this style of running (shod or barefoot) might have some benefits, but that hypothesis remains to be tested.

About willPower & grace®:

willPower & grace® is a group exercise program created in 1999 in NYC by fitness pro Stacey Lei Krauss. It earned 4 stars from Health Magazine and holds an esteemed ECA OBOW Award.The class is now represented nationwide by skilled, inspirational fitness professionals from around the world.

A formatted fusion of postures and drills, willPower & grace® is the high-energy, cardiovascular solution that mind-body practitioners have been looking for, and the foot-fitness conditioning program that athletes need. This workout is as philosophical is it is physical; a full-body functional workout meets sports psychology. We integrate the smartest and safest barefoot training methods to strengthen your feet while progressively correcting imbalances in your ankles, knees and hips. This unique workout appeals to “morning moms”, sports athletes, and teens, but must be experienced to be understood.

About the Barefoot Professor, Daniel Howell:

Dr. Howell is an Associate Professor of Biology at Liberty University where he teaches human anatomy & physiology. Prior to joing the faculty at Liberty, Daniel performed biomedical research at Duke University Medical Center and McGill University in Montreal. He obtained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Virginia Tech in 1998.

Although Daniel has run over 2,500 miles barefoot, he is an advocate of barefoot living, not just running. He has lived mostly barefoot for years and is author of The Barefoot Book: 50 Great Reasons To Kick Off Your Shoes. Dr. Howell has been interviewed by The Washington Post, USA Today, Popular Science magazine, ABC news and radio shows from New York to New Zealand; he has appeared on MSNBC and the TODAY Show and was even featured in a Korean documentary on “barefooting.”

Links from this month’s episode:

Music from this month’s episode:

  • The Humanist Hour Theme Song: “Sound Scientist” by Bill
  • “Barefootin'” by Robert Parker

Editor’s Note: Though we recommend subscribing to our podcast using a program like iTunes, you can start listening right now by downloading audio file directly:

  • Direct Download: THH55.mp3
    (right click the link to save the mp3 file or left click to listen).