• August 14, 2021

Abebe Bikala ran a marathon barefoot

The marathon is usually a hard event; it is 26.2 miles of hard running. It can be hard on the body, especially the feet and that's why all marathon runners pay so much consideration to what is on their feet. They will spend considerable time getting the correct shoe and a lot of money is associated with running shoes. Back at the 1960 Rome Olympics, the Ethiopian, Abebe Bikala turned up for the marathon and there were no running shoes left in the teams kit that would fit him, so he ran the marathon barefoot and went on to win the gold medal. This is commonly praised as a remarkable accomplishment.

Recently there's been a group of runners who are suggesting the running shoes are not all they can be believed to be and are advocating that running ought to be done barefoot, just like nature intended. After all, we were not given birth to with shoes and historical humans had to run large distances barefoot to stay alive as animals needed to be hunted on foot over great distances. Running footwear are really only a quite recent invention. Runners who advocate the barefoot approach to running love to point to the achievements of Abebe Bikala as additional validation that we do not require running shoes. There are certainly a number of other arguments both for and against barefoot running, with not much scientific evidence supporting it. While Abebe Bikala winning gold medal at the Rome Olympics barefoot obviously suggest that it can be done, what those who like to tout his triumphs as evidence often omit that he subsequently went on to win the gold medal as well as break the world record in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. Abebe Bikala managed to set the world record this time wearing running shoes; in other words he could actually run faster when he was using running shoes. We may well have evolved to run without running shoes, but we also evolved in an environment prior to concrete and hard surfaces emerged. While the successes of him were remarkable, making use of him as evidence that it is better doesn't stack up to scrutiny.