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The marathon is a tough event; it is 26.2 miles of hard running. It's hard on the body, in particular the feet which explains why all marathon runners spend so much attention to what is on their feet. They will spend a lot of time deciding on the correct footwear and plenty of money is involved in running shoes. Back at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, the Ethiopian, Abebe Bikala arrived for the marathon where there were no shoes left in the teams kit that would fit him, so he ran the marathon barefoot and won the gold medal. This is widely acclaimed as a tremendous accomplishment. In recent years there has been a group of athletes that are implying the running footwear is not all they're believed to be and are promoting that running must be done barefoot, the same as nature made us for. After all, we were not created with footwear and historical humans were required to run long distances without running shoes to live as animals needed to be hunted on foot over long distances. Running shoes are actually only a quite recent invention.

Runners who promotee the barefoot approach to running like to point out the achievements of Abebe Bikala as being a good reason for being able to run barefoot without using running shoes. There are certainly a number of other justifications both for as well as against barefoot running, with almost no scientific research underpinning it. Whilst Abebe Bikala obtaining the gold medal at the Rome Olympics barefoot obviously suggest that it is possible, what those who like to promote his achievements as proof often leave out that he subsequently went on to get the gold medal as well as break the world record in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. Abebe Bikala was able to set the world record this time wearing running shoes; in other words he could actually run faster when he was wearing running shoes. We might well have evolved to run without shoes, but we also evolved in an environment prior to concrete and hard surfaces emerged. While the achievements of Abebe were remarkable, making use of him as evidence that barefoot is better doesn't stack up to critique.

Did Abebe Bikala run a marathon barefoot?
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