Caption: James Webber, Boston Marathon 2010, Credit: Emily Corwin
Image by: Emily Corwin 
James Webber, Boston Marathon 2010 

Barefoot Running and the Boston Marathon

From: Emily Corwin
Length: 05:57

The recent publication of convincing scientific research has elevated barefoot running from the athletic fringe to a full-on fitness revolution. In these 6 minutes you'll meet barefoot runner James Webber as he runs the 2010 Boston Marathon; you'll get the science of barefoot running from celebrity evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman; and hear the perspectives of a podiatrist, a sneaker salesman, and more. Bonus audio available! See full description. Read the full description.

Dscf0088_small Check out Emily's interview with groundbreaking evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman!  Free for stations to use and exerpt, and well worth a listen for the simply curious. 

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Check out Emily's interview with groundbreaking evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman!  Free for stations to use and exerpt, and well worth a listen for the simply curious. 

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It works for him...

Jimmy's been running barefoot for several years and he has displayed an uncanny ability to avoid road hazards. He says it's almost innate when you run barefoot.

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See Jim Run?

See Jim run? Time was, eons ago, he outran animals that were faster but lacked his endurance. He caught up with them and ate them for dinner.

Nowadays Jim Webber runs the Boston Marathon without Nikes. Yesterday you may have seen him jogging up Heartbreak Hill. He finished all twenty-six-plus miles, landing on the balls of his feet, like his ancestors who didn’t have shoes. He's definitely a cutie.

Actually, for many years this Jim—me, James Reiss—used to run in Nikes and Adidas around the jogging track circling the reservoir in Central Park five times a week. Lately, I've drastically cut back on my running schedule. I'm aware that a good many running enthusiasts prefer to be unshod and, as barefoot boys and gals, are toting up miles in marathons coast to coast from Hopkinton to Nob Hill.

Luckily, at least one Boston podiatrist, Ed Mostone, has questioned the biomechanical benefits of running barefoot on city streets. Many of Mostone’s unshod patients come to him with foot wounds from broken glass, sharp stones and the like. In a wonderful New England accent he asserts that “barefoot running is not the best for people,” especially outdoors.

This Jim (Reiss) completely agrees. Here’s one instance where I favor the intelligent design of, say, New Balance sneakers over the Darwinian evolutionary pattern of hoofing it without shoes over roadways and inner city streets. Thems are my sentiments, though, alas, I'm now only a Runner Emeritus.

Seriously, this cutaway produced by PRX’s very own Emily Corwin won’t give you blisters or shin splints, though it may make you giggle.


At the Athlete's Village on the morning of this year's Boston marathon, thousands of runners mill around in flashy footwear. But there's one guy getting ready for the race-- who looks a little different. He's got the shirt and the shorts on, but. . .no shoes

"no shoes?" No shoes. I am running the marathon barefoot. I don't believe in shoes. got rid of them a long time ago.

The barefoot runner's name is James Webber, and he looks pretty comfortable in his bare-feet. On the other hand some of the runners around him look... perplexed.

It turns out running a marathon barefoot may not be as crazy as it seems.  Daniel Lieberman is an Evolutionary Biologist at Harvard University.  He made headlines in 2004, showing that humans evolved to be spectacular runners.  In fact, we could outrun almost any animal on the planet -- not with speed, but with endurance.  Six years later, Lie...
Read the full transcript

Additional Credits

This was produced with the help of Rob Rosenthal, thanks to AIR.

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