The following is some feedback from barefoot runner Ken Bob:
I enjoyed reading your post. Though it doesn't have any new information, it is a good round-up of the general issue.
I would add, that in the book, "Barefoot Runner"
One of the reasons (may have been speculation on the part of the author) given for Abebe Bikila wearing shoes in the Tokyo Olympic Marathon, was so as not to dishonor his hosts, who presented him with the new shoes. I will be among the first to admit, that Abebe Bikila comes off as a bit naive in this account of his life.
As far as the arguments for support, or feedback - in engineering, any system that benefits from feedback, will be more stable than one that cannot sense it's own outcome. The problem I see with Robbin's and other's writings, is that they are written by doctors for doctors. Running barefoot is very simple. It provides precise feedback, via the thousands of nerve endings in our soles, that help us learn (if we take the time to listen) how to run more gently, and more efficiently.
As for runners who wear shoes because they have problems running barefoot... I suspect the opposite is more likely true, as many of the folks on my email group, have started running barefoot because they could no longer run with shoes. In our society, I suspect there are only a few who would give running barefoot a fair chance, until just these past few months, thanks to Christopher McDougall's book. The problem is, most of us have learned to run, without the benefit of the precise feedback from our soles, and so, if we simply step out of our shoes, and attempt to run the way we ran with shoes, which has in many folks, become a very strong habit, we will say, "Running barefoot hurts!" What we don't realize is that pain is trying to teach us to change the way we run. But, old habits are difficult to break, and few folks want to make changes in their lives, when they can simply pop a pill to kill the chronic pains they suffer from years of poor running technique. And most won't even try running barefoot, especially if it already hurts to run with shoes. So, I suspect, there are a great number of would-be runners, who have given up running, simply because the idea of running barefoot had not occurred to them, or they cannot imagine how it could possibly be better than with shoes.
While many of those who have given it a fair chance, like Barefoot Ted, who could not run more than a few miles with shoes, without severe pains in his knees, back, etc... Now, since he took the time to relearn HOW to run, while barefoot, has successfully completed, not just a few marathons, but also several ultra-marathons, up to 100 miles!
And Ted is not a rare exception, except for his interest in ultra-running and an eagerness to talk, both of which has given him some fame.
Some ten years earlier, there was another runner, who wanted to run, but had all sorts of knee and back pains whenever he tried any significant distance with shoes - and he had tried all sorts of shoes that were supposed to solve these problems. He found my web site, and being a registered nurse, was not only skeptical, but made it his mission to prove me wrong. Now we call him, "Barefoot Larry" and he has completed dozens of marathons, all barefoot.
Well, I could go on and on, but I think you might be better served by asking some specific questions, and I would like to express my gratitude that you, as a DPM, are actually showing an interest in this issue, for as a wise person once wrote, "Some will experience cognitive dissonance when their point of view is challenged." And for a long time, this has been our experience with foot doctors.
I am just another runner, who finding it difficult to run any significant distances in shoes, without ending up with bleeding feet ( I am a rarity in our society - one who never really adapted to running with shoes ), started the Running Barefoot web site, as a means of answering the many questions folks were asking me, anytime they saw, or heard about me running barefoot. I never intended to take on the shoe industry. But, I am happy if a few folks have begun questioning the accepted wisdom of seeking solutions from those whose business is to profit from the same solution. Now, I'm not opposed to making profit, after all, I too work for a living. However, I do believe we, as a society, need to be much more critical of marketing strategies, particularly, in realizing that they ARE marketing strategies, not necessarily gospel truth!
-barefoot ken bob