(not optimistic, but it might work)
"Q. In your lab, you study the phenomenon of barefoot running. How did that become part of your portfolio?
A. About a year after the Nature paper came out, I gave a public lecture where this bearded guy, with only socks and duct tape on his feet, came up to me and said, "I don't like to wear shoes when I run - how come?" He'd become a barefoot runner because his feet hurt in shoes. The man was "Barefoot Jeffrey," a Harvard grad who owned a bicycle shop in Jamaica Plain. What a great question!
Obviously, people had run barefoot for millions of years before shoes, socks, Nikes. I'd sometimes wondered if some of the sports injuries that runners get are related to an issue connected to how people run in shoes - the heel strike, it's called. When most of us run, we land hard on our heels, and that causes a shockwave and it travels up your leg and eventually hits your head, which jiggles really fast. Those of us who wear shoes think that's normal, to land with a big jolt.
So I asked Barefoot Jeffrey to come to the lab and show me how he ran. He ran in this beautiful way that was completely collision-free. Light as a feather. When he hit the ground, he didn't land on his heel. Instead, he landed on the ball of his foot, and there was no shock wave that hit his head. That led us to producing another paper in Nature where we actually studied barefoot runners like Jeffrey.
We also went to Africa and went to people who'd never worn shoes. What we discovered was that people who run barefoot tend to run differently than people who wear modern shoes; they run in a much lighter and gentler way because it would hurt to run the way people do in shoes.
Q. And what's the value to knowing this?
A. To prevent sports injuries. We think that one reason runners crash into the ground is because the shoe makes it possible to hit the ground hard. My lab is currently studying the Harvard track team to measure if runners who use a barefoot style are injured less than runners who land on their heels.
Q. Do you run barefoot?
A. Only in the summer. Obviously, you cannot run barefoot in a New England winter! Then, I use a shoe that brings me more toward the barefoot style. It's called a "minimal shoe," and it's more like a glove for the foot. Some people tell me it looks silly. But I like the way it feels. And I love running barefoot when I can. You get all this wonderful sensory pleasure from your feet. You feel the grass and the sensation of the earth. You get bathed by sensation. There are a lot of sensory nerves in the feet.
Right now, every sports gear company is now developing a line of these minimal shoes. One company, I should inform you, has helped fund some of my laboratory research, though I've not had anything to do with their product."