Like a fleeting image from a recurring dream, barefoot running weaves its way through the modern American consciousness.
It arose in the 1950s, when Australian Herb Elliott twice appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated running shoeless. Then, in 1960 Ethiopian Abebe Bikila stunned the world when he won the Rome Olympic marathon without shoes.
At the 1984 Olympics, Great Britain's barefooted Zola Budd collided with the darling of American women’s distance running, Mary Decker, costing Decker a near-certain medal. And in 2009 Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run argued that traditional running shoes are a scam—and that it is in the human genome to run unshod.
With that latest incarnation, is barefoot running here to stay or will it fade, as happened repeatedly over the last 60 years? Can just anyone run without cushioning, support, and control–the hallmarks of the "traditional" running shoes introduced in the '70s–or is it only for the Bikilas and Budds of the world? Is it safe? Can it prevent injuries...or does it cause them? What insights does science bring to bear on shod and unshod running? And what does barefoot and minimalist running say about the way we live our lives, our relationship with our bodies, and our connections to nature?
IMPACT explores the science, skill, and controversy surrounding barefoot and “minimalist” running, the latter relying on thin, flexible shoes.
Scroll down for glimpses of the film and related content–these updates run from most recent to oldest.
IMPACT: Glimpse 3
In this third quick peek at some of the content from IMPACT, we encounter a controversial assertion: that modern life has strayed dangerously from the ways our bodies evolved to live. That notion is directly tied to criticisms of running shoes leveled by some of the foremost running scientists, coaches, and podiatrists. They argue that from the ways we eat to what we put on our feet, modernity is rife with health- and lifestyle-related pitfalls.
In forthcoming glimpses of IMPACT, we will hear from other scientists and experts in the medical community who insist that shoes, orthotics, and other modern technologies are essential not only to running, but to modern life.
WORLD RECORD ATTEMPT BY
IMPACT BAREFOOT RUNNER
At 5 a.m. on August 13, 2017, elite runner Teage O'Connor set off on an quixotic quest: to establish a new world record for the fastest 100 kilometers ever run barefooted. Teage is a central character in IMPACT (scroll down to view a video profile of him) who frequently trains barefooted and who has set numerous personal bests without shoes. In May, he took third place in the challenging Vermont City Marathon and immediately afterwards set his sights on the most daunting challenge of his running career: racing around a 400-meter track 250 times, averaging less than 7 minutes per mile for the 62.14 mile equivalent 100 kilometers, in the hope of smashing the old mark and making his way into the record books.
This four-minute film of Teage's attempt begins in the quiet darkness of the University of Vermont's track, follows Teage through the drudgery and pain as the hours wore on, and finishes....Well, you'll have to see for yourself whether he completed the distance and established a new record!
IMPACT: GLIMPSE 2
Claire Watts-Webster, featured in this second glimpse of IMPACT, began running in ballet slippers as a radical experiment, hoping to avoid the foot pain she encountered whenever she ran in traditional shoes. Claire went on to complete a 50-mile ultra-marathon shod only in those ballet shoes, yet she was disappointed because that experience, as she says in this glimpse, "didn’t go to my limit." Today, she regularly runs trails barefooted—or “shod” in wool socks during the winter—and coaches beginning women runners eager for a means of self-exploration and self-empowerment.
These glimpses are not trailers, just brief looks at some of the characters and issues from the film, which will be completed in late 2019.
A FIRST GLIMPSE AT IMPACT
The film’s central characters include Vermonter Teage O’Connor, introduced in this brief first look at IMPACT. O’Connor is a cerebral runner, one of the fastest without shoes at distances from 5,000 meters-up in U.S. history. In this three-minute clip, he explains how running—whether shod or not—shapes his entire worldview.