Abebe Bikala ran a marathon barefoot and got a gold medal

The marathon is usually a tough distance to run; it is 42 kms of hard running. It is hard on the body, particularly the feet which explains why all marathon runners spend so much consideration to what is on their feet. They will invest a lot of time getting the suitable footwear and plenty of money is involved in running shoes. Back at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, the Ethiopian, Abebe Bikala showed up for the marathon and 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 often widely acclaimed as a remarkable achievement. In recent years there's been a community of runners that are implying the running shoes are not all they are promoted to be and are promoting that running should be done barefoot, the same as nature intended. After all, we were not born with footwear and historical humans were required to run great distances without running shoes to stay alive as animals had to be hunted on foot over long distances. Athletic shoes are actually only a relatively recent creation.

Those who promote the barefoot method of running love to point to the achievements of Abebe Bikala as additional validation that we do not need running shoes. There are certainly a number of other justifications both for and against barefoot running, with almost no scientific research supporting it. Whilst Abebe Bikala getting the gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics without running shoes certainly suggest that it is possible, what those who like to tout his successes as evidence often leave out that he later went on to get the gold medal and set a world record in the marathon at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. Abebe Bikala was able to set the world record on this occasion wearing running shoes; to put it differently he could actually run faster when he was wearing 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 Abebe were incredible, using him as proof that it is better doesn't stack up to critique.